Sunday’s Sermon Today: Nehemiah – Vision (Character Counts)

In the pantheon of the comics, Batman, Superman, and Spiderman reign supreme, with the influx of superhero movies adding others like the X-men, Iron Man, and more to the casual fans’ awareness. But one of my top five characters has always been Daredevil.

Daredevil is the red suited hero who fights criminals with his two batons, and various forms of martial arts. He’s super aware of his surroundings but fully human without any truly “super” power. A lawyer by day, he tracks down criminals who escape justice at night.

Daredevil is blind.

In an act of heroism as a young boy, he jumped into the street to rescue an old man hobbling in the way of an oncoming truck. He was hit by the truck and its toxic cargo blinded him.

But Daredevil can see what others can’t. Daredevil’s sight may be damaged but his vision is not.

 

The Prophet Joel says (in Joel 2:28-32): “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens  and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke…. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Vision. Seems pretty crucial here. But it’s more than a dream of something, the spark of a memory of calling. Vision is a character trait of those who follow God. Vision is that thing that drives us, that gives us motivation and direction and guidance. Vision is that thing that we measure our decisions and opportunities against.

To illustrate the importance and purpose of vision, no example seems greater than that of the Prophet Nehemiah.

Nehemiah is the cupbearer to the king. On one hand, he is disposable – his job is to drink every drink the king does first – if it’s poisoned, Nehemiah will die first. On the other hand, he is wildly important – his job is to drink every drink the king does first – if it’s poisoned, Nehemiah will die first. A real Catch-22, right?

So, here is this Jewish slave in the city of his enemy, important enough to be close to the king, yet not important enough to be out of harm’s way. And Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, arrives with news that Jerusalem is in ruins…

Hanani says, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Even though Nehemiah is in great danger as the cupbearer, he sits down and weeps at the news of his homeland because he says the situation of those still in Jerusalem to be worse than his own!

While Nehemiah is an example of Vision, he could just as well be an example of Empathy. He sees the hurt of others before his own needs.

So, Nehemiah mourned, fasted and prayed to God for guidance:

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name’. They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man (Nehemiah 1:5-11).

Spoiler alert: in Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah asks the king for permission to go to Jerusalem and rebuild it. The King grants a slave – a captured enemy – permission to go and rebuild the wall because God grants Nehemiah the vision he needs to accomplish what needs done.

Consider that prayer again: Nehemiah praises God for who God is – and the work that God has already done in the lives of the Israelites.

He follows that by appealing to God to hear the prayer Nehemiah is praying on behalf of the people.

Nehemiah confesses the sins he has committed and those that his people have committed.

And he reminds God of the way that God has promised to redeem the people and bring them back if they would repent.

Finally, Nehemiah asks God to give him success.

Nehemiah had a vision for what God could do because he was familiar with who God was and the history of who God had been in the past. Nehemiah’s vision toward the problem facing Jerusalem included his vision for the possibilities of the solution.

Which makes me wonder, when I see problems, do I see solutions, too?

Do I see what could be — and how God has shown up in the past?

Do I pray, expecting God to work again?

Do I have vision?

While we visit the ophthalmologist or optometrist to have our sight tested, tracking the way our eyes move, focus, and adjust to light, chemicals, and the size of various characters, our vision is harder to gauge, evaluate, and even establish.

When I visit the ophthalmologist, I have two sets of tests: with my contacts and without. My sight is pretty awesome with my contacts, but without them… I’m as blind as a bat. And that’s before they put in those nasty drops that dilate my eyes.

Dilation is the transformation that is understood to be the transformation of something from an image that is the same shape as the original, but of a different size.

It’s what we need – we need to see things from a different perspective. For the things themselves to be the right size, in the right order, and the right priority.

I don’t know about you, but I need help to see things – like a rear view mirror warning – that puts all of the images in the right perspective.

I need my contacts to recognize my wife my five feet away. I need my contacts to read a book or drive my car. I can’t really see without them.

Our vision works that way, too. We can’t see the world the way it is without the illumination of God’s word, and the divine inspiration we receive from the Holy Spirit, and the Biblical tradition that we embrace, and the good counsel we receive from those who love us and love Jesus, too.

Our vision can be 20/20 with help – but we can’t do it on our own.

We will see the problems in the world – whether it’s political, social, financial, or otherwise – but we can’t see what we should do to change them without vision.

We will see the things weighing us down and the pain all around us – but we can’t see how to make a difference without vision.

We will struggle with our own misconceptions about the world – but we won’t be able to overcome them without vision.

Friends, I want to see the world in technicolor – in high definition – in the beauty of the kingdom of God. But I know that I can’t do it on my own. I need God. I need my friends. I need you.

Your vision is only as good as your contacts and your context.

We need to daily ask ourselves, in prayer and Scripture, how’s my vision?

May God above provide the dilation.

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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