Seeing beyond the Rubble

nnehemiah wall_final


In the mid 1970’s my parents bought a house in my hometown. We had lived on our street for a number of years and in two different houses. The house we were renting at the time was a two-story house with a bit of land. The house my dad was interested in buying was also a two-story house with a bit more land than what we currently had. Sounds good, right? Well what I have yet to tell you is that the condition of the house and land. It was…well, it was in bad shape. And by bad shape I mean really not good shape. It was really old, the grounds had been overgrown with weeds, briars, and other such things. I thought my dad had lost his mind. But the problem was that I was seeing the present condition and my dad was seeing the finished product. My dad saw beyond the rubble. So did Nehemiah. So does God.

We see the present situation while God sees the finished product.

We see spiritual things much like I saw that old house. We see the present situation while God sees the finished product. We need more than ever to see the finished product in spite of the present condition. Nehemiah did this when he saw the walls. He was able to communicate his vision of the finished product to those around him. Lets take a look at Nehemiah, the wall, and the people.

Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” So I answered them and said to them, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.”         – Nehemiah 2:17-20 NASB


Nehemiah was faced with a massive undertaking. The walls of Jerusalem had been toppled. The gates were burned. Complicating things was that Jerusalem was surrounded by folks who hated them. Nehemiah had to perform many tasks just to get to the point of beginning the rebuilding effort.


After replenishing his resources and assessing the need, Nehemiah now recruited workers in verse 17. In some way not mentioned in the narrative, Nehemiah gathered together a large group of prospective partners. Let’s look and see how he put his work force together:

First, he identifies with the workers: “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in.” Nehemiah is passionately involved in the city’s welfare and feels its need as acutely as though he had been living in the desolate city all his life.

Next, he presents spiritual perspectives. They are in trouble – and its not just because Jerusalem is in ruins. He sees their spiritual disgrace. The sight of those collapsed walls for well over a century has created the impression in the pagan mind that the God of Israel has abandoned his people. He recognizes that there are always spiritual issues involved – a building project is more than just brick and mortar. As His people, we have to be aware of the spiritual opportunities and challenges as they present themselves to us.

Then, he invites immediate action. Everybody knows exactly what is required, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace,” and everyone realizes that the task must begin without further delay. Nehemiah is asking a lot of the people. He’s not afraid to ask them to step up to the plate. The sacrifices will be huge. They will have to take time off from work in order to rebuild the walls. Who will protect their families? Before people can respond they need to know that there is someone greater than Nehemiah behind this project.



That leads to the next task – Nehemiah inspired confidence in the people in verse 18. While rebuilding the walls is an important job, the central theme in the book is the sufficiency of God. His mind dwells on the greatness of God and he wants his workers to do the same.

Our growth is important, but the central thrust must be the sufficiency of God.

Listen to Nehemiah’s testimony: “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.” He didn’t reach Jerusalem because he was a skillful persuader, or because the queen was possibly a compliant helper, or because the king was a generous benefactor, but only because God was a sovereign provider. Since God had done all that, He would certainly help them to complete the task of rebuilding the walls.
By telling the people what God had already done, he was firing them up for what He was about to do. His appeal was positive as He focused on the glory and greatness of God. When you think about it, it’s amazing that the people said, “Let us start rebuilding.” Think about what they could have said. They could have been apathetic – they had been living in the rubble for a long time and could have just stayed there. They could have reminded Nehemiah that the Jews had “already tried that” before in Ezra 4 and were stopped by the authorities.
We often face those same two obstacles within the church. Either “we’re content with the way things are” or, “we tried that before and it didn’t work!”

  Someone has defined leadership as “the art of getting people to do what they ought to do because they want to do it.”   I want to do all I can to help us do the things we ought to do because we want to do them – because the gracious hand of our God is upon us.



The fifth task comes almost immediately after the decision to make an impact takes place: He Handled opposition. Whenever we get serious about kingdom work, Satan will oppose us. The first two enemies have already been identified in verse 10. Now Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite are joined by Geshem the Arab. In verse 10, the opponents are “very much disturbed,” now this troublesome trio becomes highly vocal in their attacks on Nehemiah and his work crew.

Let’s look at their tactics:

First, they derided the efforts of the workers. Verse 19 says that they “mocked and ridiculed” them. Verbal onslaughts have always been part of the enemy’s demoralizing tactics. They laughed at the workers and belittled both their resources and their plans.

Next, they suggested that they were rebelling against the king – that weapon had worked once before in Ezra 4: “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” This was a cutting allegation to the timid workers.
I love how Nehemiah deals with these bad guys. He doesn’t answer their lies or engage in a conversation with them. Nor does he just ignore them. He first exalts the God who called him to do the work in verse 20: “The God of heaven will give us success.” He wasn’t concerned about their fictitious insinuations – he was concerned that God would get the glory in the project.

Whenever we get serious about kingdom work, Satan will oppose us.

Nehemiah wanted his people to know that God had everything in control. Even though Geshem controlled the southern approach to the city, and the other two thugs patrolled the north and east, Nehemiah was not ruffled. In his reply, he made three things clear:

· Rebuilding the wall was God’s work
· The Jews were God’s servants
· Their opponents had no part in the matter.



The last part of verse 20 says it rather strongly: “We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Their opponents had no past right, not present prerogative to be there, and no future role in the city.
Let me just say that as believers we should expect spiritual opposition and even be thankful for it. It’s a sign that we’ve angered the enemy and encroached on some territory that He thinks is his. If there’s no conflict or opposition, then we’re probably not disturbing the enemy enough. Remember, Satan only shoots at moving targets!

Have you ever looked on a situation as hopeless? Have you ever been intimidated by the task ahead. Sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – we do this because we use only our eyes when looking at problems or issues. When we are faced with obstacles that look insurmountable, we need to see with God’s eyes as much as possible. We need to see beyond the struggle – beyond the problems – and see the goal, the finished product that God sees.

He is Enough

Is Jesus enough to create the world, save me from my sin, and keep me saved in spite of myself?


Contemplating eternity is quite difficult for us. Actually it is near if not totally impossible for our minds to grasp what it means to be eternal. We have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We live from moment to moment. But God does not. He simply is. And grasping that idea is very difficult. But just because it is difficult to grasp does not mean it is untrue. As we continue in our short exegesis and exposition of Colossians 1, lets turn our attention to the final few verses.

 and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:18b-20 NASB

He is the beginning

We saw earlier in this passage that Jesus is the Creator of the universe. He existed before anything else and was the cause that other things exist. So is Paul repeating himself here? No, not really. Remember that we must interpret in context what is being said. We must never lift a verse or two out of the context in which it was written. If we do that then we run the risk of misunderstanding what God has for us.

So to what “beginning” is Paul referring? Well Paul just referred to Jesus as the head of the church so it seems natural to take the beginning as referring to the beginning of the church. So Jesus not only is God, not only is He the head of the church, He is the very beginning of the church. So how is he the beginning of the church. Well I can think of a couple of ways this works. First He is the source of the power from which the Church sprang. If Christ had not come and died, there would be no church. Second, He is THE source of the spiritual life of the church. Without Christ, the church is simply a social club. There would be no spiritual importance or purpose to the church.


He is Firstborn…again

Here we go again with the idea of being firstborn. Remember from our previous discussion that the term used for firstborn (prototokos) has less to do with the order as much as it has to do with the rank or importance of an individual. When we read that Jesus is firstborn from the dead, we know that this can not refer to Him being the first to be raised from the dead. Why? Well, did not Jesus Himself raise Lazarus from the dead? Yep, He sure did. So this must refer to the fact that Jesus is the most important person to be resurrected from the dead. And I do think He qualifies for that. So we see in this passage in Colossians 1 that Jesus has supremacy in creation and redemption.

So not only is He creator, He is supreme in redemption. How comforting it is to have a Savior who reigns supreme in the two most important events in history!


He is the Reconciler

Not only has Jesus been named God, chief in the universe, creator, the head and initiator of the church and supreme in redemption, now we see Jesus as the agent of reconciliation. Now I want to draw your attention to this phrase; “…to reconcile all things to Himself…” Some take this to mean that all people will be reconciled to Himself. But that would be universalism and universalism is false. So what does this phrase mean. Well, I may be on a limb here, but I think this may be referring to the eternal state rather than now. Why do I think this? The way this section ends – through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven – seems to leave out those who are not reconciled through His blood. Do you notice that those who are reconciled are those on earth or in heaven. But there are those who are in “outer darkness” and are not part of the earth or heaven. Could this be what Paul is referencing here. Well I think it is at least possible.

Another way to look at this is that reconciliation is not just redemption. This view would take the final judgement as a method to reconcile even those who are not redeemed. Scripture does states that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10). Interesting enough, Philippians 2:10 states that this will occur “in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” Hmmm, maybe I’m on to something here.


Is Jesus enough?

Is Jesus enough to create the word, save me from my sin, and keep me saved in spite of myself? When we think of all Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, we must never forget how He accomplished those things. He accomplished these various things as God would – perfectly, for His glory, and for His purpose.

Since both creation and redemption were initiated by Jesus, we can reject any notion that we are here by chance. We can also know that our redemption is secure since it depends wholly on the character of God  rather than our action.

Now how’s that for being secure!

He is Creator

God created the universe, everything in it (whether we see it or not) for His purpose, through Him, and to His glory. That is the plain truth.


Our tour through Colossians continues this week with a look at Christ in verse 16. Here we find out more about our Savior. Not only is Christ the image of God – that is, He is God – not only is he the firstborn (Chief in rank) of creation, but He is also the creator of everything.


For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16 NASB


The Fact of Creation

Let’s soak this verse in for a moment.. He (Christ) created all things. Now when Paul says “all” he means “ALL”. Look around outside when you have a moment. All of it was created by Christ. He did not create some things and leave the rest to chance. Stuff didn’t just happen to come into existence. Jesus Christ – God Himself – spoke it into existence.

We can’t treat this fact too lightly. Darwinian evolution claims that everything we see and don’t see came about through happenstance. We are here through some strange cosmic accident. Their view directly contradicts what Paul writes here. This verse in Colossians regarding creation agrees with what is written in Genesis. Darwinian evolution and the Bible are incompatible regarding the origin of the universe and the origin of life. One must either believe the Bible or the Darwinian evolutionist. There is no way to mix these two. Which do you believe?


The Extent of Creation

Take a look at how Paul qualifies the extent of the creation described here: everything that exists was created by Christ. First Paul states that all things were created “both in the heavens and the earth”. So, how much was created by Christ? Well according to Paul, all that exists in both the heavens and the earth. That looks like everything to me.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, He goes on to say that not only is everything created, but he includes all that can be seen and all that can’t be seen. That cancels out any argument that the Darwinian evolutionist has regarding some evolutionary beginning of this earth being seeded by some other world (known as directed panspermia). There is no wiggle room here. To accept to Darwinian evolution means one must reject this passage.

Paul has stated that Christ has created everything both in the heavens (sun, moon, stars, planets) and earth (the earth itself, all things on earth including life itself). This is a majestic statement for sure. Everything was created by Christ – this would include angels, humans, rulers and the thrones on which those rulers sit.


The Reason for Creation

Paul restates that Jesus created everything. In the last clause of this verse, Paul says “all things have been created through Him and for Him.” There’s a lot packed in this little cause. First Paul states “all things” have been created. There is nothing in this verse – or section – that would limit what is included in the phrase “all things”. Therefore, when Paul states “all things” he means everything. There is no room for compromise.

An interesting Greek syntactical issue is here in this last clause. Whereas earlier in the verse, Paul used the simple past tense (Greek aorist) to describe that Christ had (from Paul’s perspective) already created everything.  In this last clause,  Paul uses the perfect tense. Why did he do this? Well this is a way to show that while creation happened in the past (a completed action in past time) there are continuing results of that completed action. Think of the perfect like this: an action began and was completed in the past but the results of that completed action continue to this day. So what then would the continuing results of Christ’s creative action? Hmmmm.

Well it seems to me that at the very least the continuing result is that the whole of creation stands a a monument to Christ’s work. Furthermore, the creation itself testifies to the glory of God:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6 NASB

The Implications of Creation

As I have stated elsewhere in this article, one must choose either creation of everything by Christ Himself or Darwinian evolution. There is no middles ground and no way to accommodate these two disparate statements regarding the origin of the universe. Which will you choose?

I am a simple six 24-hour day creationist. I see no reason to doubt the Bible or redefine the terms that have been used to describe creation either here in Colossians or back in Genesis. The biblical accounts are  remarkably consistent, though they were written at least 1400 years apart. But if there is no biblical reason to believe evolution, then does science help evolution? While others have given much more detailed and much more eloquent answers, my answer is an unqualified “No”. Then why the arguments?

The evolution arguments stem not from science, but from rebellion against God. Mankind’s long war against God is not over. The rebellion began against God that began in the Garden of Eden still rages on today. We continue to doubt His word, His goodness and His truth. But our doubt as a people in no way invalidates the truth of His word.

God created the universe, everything in it (whether we see it or not) for His purpose, through Him, and to His glory. Thats the plain truth.

He Is

This truth – that Jesus is God – should greatly affect us.


Just who is Jesus Christ? What did He look like? What did He do? Oftentimes we brush off these questions with a  simple “He’s God, of course.” This is correct but I wonder if a fuller answer would be more proper.

We have such an answer found in Colossians 1:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whetherthrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is alsohead of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.  – Colossians 1:15-20 NASB

Lets take a look at these verses and reintroduce ourselves to our Savior, the Incomparable Christ!

The first thing I notice is the use of “He is”. This small two-word phrase controls the discussion Paul is having with the church in Colossae. Paul repeats this phrase throughout this passage in an effort to stress that Jesus is indeed all these things. We don’t just hope He has these qualities…we don’t just want Him to have these qualities…we don’t just have a Savior who has these qualities. He IS these things!


He IS…

 …the image of the invisible God

What a magnificent way to begin a passage dedicated to establishing the identity of Jesus Christ! Paul states emphatically that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. But what does this mean? Israel knew they could not see God and live. This is the reason God allowed Moses to see His back (see Exodus 33:21-23). But Paul says that Jesus is the image of the unseen God…does this mean that Jesus isn’t God HImself?


The Greek word used here is the word eikon. According to the standard lexicon for New Testament Greek (known as BDAG to Greek students) this word means here in Colossians 1 “that which is the same form as something else; living image.” So the idea of Jesus being the eikon of God is saying He has the same form of God – He is the living image of God. In other words, He is God in the flesh. Essentially Paul is saying to the Colossians “If you have seen Jesus, you have seen God.” This is a weighty theological statement: Jesus Christ is none other than God in the flesh.


When we think of God, we must think of Jesus at the same time. Though they are different persons, they are the same God. Yes that can be confusing. It can give us a headache or two when trying to understand it. But we must not let difficulty in understanding change our view of truth. Since He is God, what does this mean? How does it affect my life? Your life?


This truth – that Jesus is God – should greatly affect us.


The first way this should affect us is in our reverential awe of Him.

So often we marginalize Him. So often we minimize who He is because our vision is set too low. Somehow HIs rank in the trinity affects our thoughts of His ability to answer us. This is so wrong! He IS God, and He IS able!


Another way this should affect us is in our thankfulness for the incarnation, life and death of Jesus.

Since He is God, God came to HIs creation, clothed Himself with flesh, voluntarily gave up the ability to independently exercise some of HIs divine attributes. So God put limits on Himself when He came in the flesh. Think about that for a moment. He did this out of love for us. And when we consider the final act of His love, we are just gonna be awestruck…or at east we should be.


He came to be the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice for sin.

Now this means that there is only one way for sin to be effectively and permanently dealt with. This sacrifice had to be perfect – it just HAD to be perfect. No bull, no goat, no dove would suffice. So God decided to sacrifice Himself for our sins. Yes, you read that right: because Jesus is God, God died for the ones He created. And He died not when those He created were lovely. No, He died for us while we were in the midst of being unholy, unrighteous, selfish and rebellious. Wow. I mean, WOW!


How do you view Christ?

Is He your buddy? Is He your friend? Your Savior? The answer should be “Yes” to those questions. But He is much, much more. Not only is Jesus my buddy – not only is Jesus my friend – not only is Jesus my Savior –  Jesus is God. May we never forget this simple little truth. May we never overlook this in the life He has called us to walk.


God loves me so much that He died for me. He limited Himself (for a time) for me. He loves me so much that He chooses to dwell inside me to guide me into truth and righteousness.

I must understand His deity if I am ever to appreciate HIs sacrifice. Before I can understand His teaching, I must first understand His nature.

When I recognize these truths, my life – and yours –  and outlook must change. When I  understand these truths, my life – and yours –  will forever be changed.


Take some time today to simply give thanks for the incomparable Jesus Christ.