7th Sunday after Pentecost July 24, 2022
323, 629, 625, 52
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Editor’s Note: Sermon Video 📺 https://tinyurl.com/CLC-MxM-20220724
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Lord Jesus Christ, You have entrusted to Your people the task of teaching all nations. Enlighten with the wisdom of Your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn that the joyous truth of the Gospel may be known in every generation; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Dear fellow children of the heavenly Father, who continues to educate us through His word and calls on us to educate all nations through the teachings of Jesus Christ, Grace and peace be with you all.
There are certain books of the Bible that we don’t spend a lot of time in. We know the big ones like Genesis and Exodus. We know Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are about Jesus. But what about the book of Nehemiah? We might recognize the name of the book, maybe even know that it is in the Old Testament, but what is Nehemiah about?
The book of Nehemiah takes place after the 70 years of exile in Babylon were completed. Nehemiah was sent back to Jerusalem as a governor of the land. Nehemiah was also a builder. He headed up the rebuilding project in Jerusalem.
One of Nehemiah’s big building projects was rebuilding the walls that surrounded Jerusalem, which had been leveled 70 years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. In those days, the city walls were a very important line of defense against attacks. City walls needed to be high and thick to keep the enemy out. Some city walls were so thick that apartments were built in them for people to live in, such as Rahab in the city of Jericho.
Ancient city walls were important to the defense of a city. With no walls, the enemy could walk into the city with ease. Just as the city walls have to be strong to keep the enemy out, the bars of the city gates also must be strong, otherwise you have a weak point in the wall. As Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, he was equally focused on making the gates to the city strong.
This morning, consider how Christian Education is like Nehemiah building that wall with a strong gate. Remember, Christian Education is not just a matter for children, but for all Christians of all ages. It is something Christ Himself commissioned His entire church to be involved in as He calls us to Baptize and “teach everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
The word of God we consider this morning is Psalm 147, verses 12 and 13:
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you. (ESV)
This is the Word of God.
If you were building a city wall, how tall and how wide would you want your wall? I suppose it depends on how concerned you were about enemies attacking you. If you are not really worried about the enemy, you could build a wooden fence like we see in so many backyards. They are about six to eight feet high and only about two inches thick.
When Nehemiah built the wall around Jerusalem, it averaged 8 feet thick and 39 feet high! What does that tell you about how much Nehemiah wanted to protect the citizens of Jerusalem from the enemy? He cared deeply about them and took the threat of the enemy VERY seriously. He secured the gates into the city with beams, bolts, and bars to keep the enemy out and protect the citizens of Jerusalem.
How seriously do you take the enemy at the gate? We’re not talking about national enemies like North Korea, China, or a terrorist cell. We’re talking about the spiritual enemies that surround us. The devil is chief among them. Peter calls him a roaring lion seeking to devour. Paul calls him the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2) Jesus calls him a murderer and a liar. (John 8:44) The devil attacks God’s people by trying to lead them into sin and unbelief. He attacks by lying and twisting the Word of God. How strong is your defense against this enemy?
There is another enemy at the gate. The world bombards us with lies calling what is evil “good” and what is good “evil.” The world pressures us into accepting its empty philosophies and tells us we are unloving and bigoted if we do not accept its principles.
And there is the enemy within each of us. Our sinful flesh that wants to give into temptations and lies of the devil and the world. Our sinful flesh is naturally hostile to the things of God and opposed to His will.
What do we need to defend ourselves against this three-fold attack? Nehemiah would tell us to “build the wall and strengthen the gates!” We need a tall and wide wall of defense that can withstand the assaults of the devil and the world. Brick and mortar will not withstand these spiritual attacks. Paul tells us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4) What God has given us for our defense is His holy Word. His Word is so powerful that when He says, “Let there be light,” there is light. His Word is so powerful that when a storm was threatening to sink the boat of the disciples, Jesus spoke and the wind and the waves listened! His Word is so powerful that it causes the dead to rise, the lame to walk, and the blind to see. His Word is so powerful that it gave you spiritual life and made you a believer in Jesus, even though you were born spiritually blind and spiritual dead in sin.
That powerful Word is our defense. The Word was the defense that Jesus Himself used when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. When those temptations came, Jesus answered, “It is written… It is written… It is written…”
This is why Christian Education is so important. Christian Education is God educating His people through His Word. Christian Education educates us in the truth as it points us to Christ and His Word. Through the Law and Commandments, God educates us about sin and its serious consequences. The psalmist writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalms 119:9) Through Christian Education we are building the walls of defense and strengthening the gate against temptations to sin.
But the chief purpose of Christian Education is to point sinners to Jesus. Educated through the Word we learn that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can come to Father except through Him. Educated in the Word we have defense against the lies of the devil that cause doubt and fear. Educated in the Word, we hear from God Himself that all our sins are atoned for and that we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Educated in the Word we learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
As we hear and learn God’s Word through the gate of our eyes and our ears, as His Word enters our hearts, we find that it is a such a powerful defense because it is God Himself who is at work. As the psalmist says in our text, “He strengthens the bars of your gates.” He Himself is the one guarding you. So let us praise God for Christian Education!
One of the important topics of education today is protecting our children. It is horrific and almost unimaginable to hear the reports of school shootings that plague our nation. As a parent, I cannot imagine sending my child to school one morning only to receive a phone call such as the parents in Ulvade, Texas received six weeks ago. The safety and security of our children are of the utmost importance to parents.
You can imagine how happy the parents were in Nehemiah’s day when the walls of Jerusalem were finally completed. Now wild animals couldn’t wander into the city at night to scare them. Now enemies would be kept outside the city walls and families would be safe. Having strengthened the walls and gates of the city, the children within the city were blessed.
Dear parents, the enemy is at the gate. The devil and the world is not only a threat to adults, the enemy wants our children as well. Let us pray not only for the physical defense of our children, but even more so the spiritual defense of our children.
We find the world and it’s empty, anti-Biblical philosophies creeping into our children’s lives more and more. It is present in children’s cartoons on television and in Pixar movies. Furthermore, it is being brought more and more into the public educational system. School is no longer just about “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” but about world views and social constructs. Ask any public-school teacher today how much education has changed in the last ten years and they will tell you.
This is why Christian Education is so important not only for adults but also for the young little lambs among us. We want God to strengthen the bars of the defense of our children through His Word.
In fact, this is the very reason Jesus gave pastors and teachers to His church. We heard earlier in our reading from Ephesians 4. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave gifts to His church on earth. He gave the church pastors and teachers who teach the Word. Paul writes that Jesus gave them, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:12-14) We don’t want our children to be tossed about by every new teaching that comes along. We want them to be built up in Christ and in the knowledge of the truth—the truth of God’s Word. This is the purpose and blessing of Christian Education.
Security is important for our children. We want them to be loved and know that they are safe. What better way to give this security to them than through Christ. It is Jesus Christ who loves the little children and says, “let them come to me.” It is Jesus who loved them so much that He died to save them from their sins and rose from the dead to secure the salvation of these little ones who believe in Him. We bring them to Jesus in Baptism and then are called to teach them everything He has commanded. We seek to do that in our home devotions, our worship services, our Sunday School and Catechism Classes. And this especially is why we have Christian Day Schools. We want our children to be secure in the knowledge of Jesus’ love for them and God’s will for them as His children. We want them to have eternal security through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the purpose of Christian Education. As the LORD strengthens the bars of the gates through His Word, our children are blessed.
Nehemiah had some important work in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. He built up the walls of defense around Jerusalem and secured the gates. We pray that the LORD would use our pastors and teachers as Nehemiahs for our children. Please pray that they would teach that powerful Word of God to our children so that they may be led to repentance when they sin and be comforted with Christ’s forgiveness. May we all be Nehemiahs who seek to do the same for ourselves and for our congregation by hearing and learning God’s Word through ongoing Christian Education. Praise the LORD, who strengthens the bars of the gate and blesses our children through Jesus Christ our Lord. Hallelujah! Amen!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.