Nehemiah: The Good of Jerusalem

Sermon by Cory Brock on April 25

Nehemiah 2:9-20

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We, on Sunday nights, are working our way through the book of Nehemiah and we come tonight to Nehemiah chapter 2, verses 9 to 20, and that’s on page 398 of the pew Bible. And this story, this book, is written about a story that happens in the 440s BC. And this part of the book – Ezra-Nehemiah is all one book originally – and the back half, Nehemiah, is about the rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls and the gates. And we’re about to read it, and when you read it you’ll see, as has been the case already, that it reads like a very ancient story. The rhythms and the movements and the places are not all that familiar and it’s far removed from the modern world, but tonight in this passage there’s something important. There’s a topic that pops up that you see from the beginning of the Bible all the way to the end of the Bible and that’s the relationship and the meaning of good and evil. That’s what our passage is about tonight. And we see here what those words mean, what they meant in Nehemiah’s day in the 440s, and what they still mean for us today in the 21st century. So let’s pray and then we’ll read it together. Let’s pray.

Our Lord, we come tonight and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit as we open up Your Scripture. And we ask for that help in Jesus’ name, amen.

So Nehemiah 2, verses 9 to 20:

“Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’ And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ So they strengthened their hands for the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’ Then I replied to them, ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.’”

This is God’s holy Word.

There are two lessons, two things here tonight for us to see, and the first is the nature of evil and the second is the hope of the good. So let’s dive in and unpack that.

The Nature of Evil

First is the nature of evil. The story so far is that Nehemiah is the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in the middle of the 5th century BC. And Nehemiah is Jewish by bloodline but he has been raised in Persia, in Susa, in the capital. And he hears of the struggles of the Jewish people that have been left in Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been destroyed for 140 years at this point, and when he hears about the struggle of the people that still live in Jerusalem that are of his bloodline, it says that he weeps and he wants to do something about it. And so he prays to God and he says, “God, I want to go back. Will You send me?” And God says, “Yes, go.” And then he goes to the king and he says, “I want to go back. Will you send me?” And the king says, “Yes, go. You can go and you can rebuild the walls and the gates.”

And right there, that introduces the fact of Nehemiah’s name. His name is very important because Nehemiah in Hebrew means, “Yahweh comforts.” And he becomes the comfort to the people in Jerusalem who are still struggling big time, ever since the destruction of Jerusalem so long ago, even after the temple has been rebuilt in the book of Ezra. And the story so far, when you come to our passage, he has now traveled between verse 8 and verse 9, 900 miles. So there’s a lot of time, because it took a long time to travel 900 miles in Nehemiah’s day, and no telling the stories, the campfire songs that were sung in that long journey; we have none of that. All we have is, verse 8, he’s in the capital of Persia, and verse 9, he is in Judah, and that’s a 900 mile gap. And he’s there in verse 9, it says he is “Beyond the River.” And for the Persian, that’s the far west. That’s way away from the capital city.

But if you notice at the very beginning of the passage, he came from Artaxerxes, the king, it says, with troops, with royal troops, with royal officers, with a letter with the king’s seal, the king’s stamp on it. And he’s got the king’s permission, who owns Judah. And he’s got muscle with him, he’s got troops. And he’s got the law behind him. And we already know that he’s got God’s power behind him, and he’s got everything he could possibly need from an emperor to get this done. And he gets there, and in verse 10, the two governors of the region who are servants of Artaxerxes, Sanballat and Tobiah, do not care. They don’t care that he’s got muscle and law and the king’s permission and a letter with a seal on it from Artaxerxes himself. They don’t care at all and they become enemies of this project for the rest of the book. And we’re going to see them pop up over and over and over again throughout this entire series.

And the point of the passage is right there and it’s right up front and it’s obvious when you see the details and you see the immediate opposition – well it’s an enduring Biblical principle that when God calls you, when God calls His people and He sends His people out to do His work, you’ll be opposed. That God’s people doing God’s work is always opposed. And that’s why in verses 12 to 16 he goes out and he’s got a letter from the king saying, “Do this. Build the wall.” And he’s got royal troops that have been sent with him to get it done, but he has to go out at night. And he goes around in 12 to 16 to all the different gates that have been burned down and he only takes a few men and he only has one horse and there’s no parade and there’s no pageantry. It’s secret and it’s quiet and he says that he can only tell very few people because there are so few that he can trust. This is the pattern.

If you go back to Ezra-Nehemiah, the one book of the Old Testament, Ezra-Nehemiah, when Zerubbabel, who was called by God to rebuild the foundation of the temple, went to Jerusalem and he tried to lay the foundation of the temple in Ezra 4, there was nothing; it was all going well and then all of a sudden the text just tells us that “the enemies of Israel came out and mocked him and despised him and bribed the local officials so that he could not build the foundation.” And we don’t know where these people come from, we don’t know who they are, but they just showed up and they mocked him and they despised him and they despised the project of the rebuilding of the foundation.

And then from Cyrus, from Darius, Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia the Ezra-Nehemiah story follows, at every level a king gives permission to do something in Jerusalem, to rebuild something in Jerusalem, and every time as soon as the project gets started somebody shows up. Even some of the bloodline of the Jews, they show up and they mock and they jeer and it says they despise and they shame the people that are doing the work. At every single level there is always opposition. The book Ezra-Nehemiah happens at a similar time, or in the midst of the cycle, is also the book of Esther; it’s happening during the time of early Ezra. And in Esther, you’re back in Persia, you’re back in the capital, and the Jewish people who have traveled from Jerusalem to the capital who are slaves and prisoners in some sense in that city, they’re minding their own business and they’re doing their own work and all of a sudden in the book of Esther, Haman says, “I want to kill every single one of God’s people,” the Jewish people in the city, and in all the empire. And in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, every time God says, “Go and do this,” He calls somebody and He says, “Go and get it done,” great opposition rises up.

And that means that every single time God’s people are sent out and they go on God’s mission, you’ll be opposed. And now the key, however, the inside of the passage is to define exactly what that means. And the nature or the origin of the opposition is right here. And to see it, you’ve got to pay attention to the language really carefully. And in some sense in the English translation it’s harder to see because there is a play-on words here in verse 10 that unlocks what the writer, what Nehemiah is trying to say and show to us. And in verse 10 you’ll see it says this. “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.” Now that word, “to seek the welfare,” at the end of that verse – and it’s worth saying it in the original; it’s the word, “tov,” in Hebrew and that means, “good.” And it’s the word that shows up in Genesis 1 where God looks out and He says, “Tov, tov, tov, tov” – it’s good; creation is good. And when it says that it displeased Sanballat and Tobiah greatly that somebody would seek the good of Israel, “it displeased them greatly” is just one word, and it’s the word, “ra,” and it’s “evil.” And so it very literally can be translated, “it was evil to them that someone came for the good, for the good of Israel.”

And if you look down in verse 17 you’ll see a little bit later Nehemiah says to them, “You see the trouble we’re in? You see the ra we’re in? The evil that we’re standing inside of right now?” And if you look down at verse 18 he says, “But God’s hand is on me for the good.” And later, “And so they strengthened their hand for the good work.” And the very last word of the book of Nehemiah is the word, “good,” “tov,” where he prays and he says, “Lord, count it good for me.” And so the book has a very significant theme from beginning to end about the opposition, the nature, the origin of the evil and the good because Tobiah and Sanballat, who become the enemies of this work, the whole book, it was evil to them to rebuild the gates and the city walls of Jerusalem. And that’s the constant juxtaposition here.

And it raises the incredibly important question in the modern world. In the world that we live in, in modernity, in the 21st century, the question, “What is good and what is evil?” and “How do I know?” is a significant question and a question that humanity has been asking every century but that we’re really asking again in the 21st century. And when you see a passage like this and you see the juxtaposition pop up, it throws the Bible reader, it throws the Christian into thinking about the wider, Biblical construct, duality, between good and evil. And when we think about that – where does it show up the very first time? Genesis 2 verse 9 when God puts a tree right in the center of Eden and the tree is a sign; it’s a real tree and it’s also a sign – a sacrament, lowercase “s” if you will – a symbol of the fact that there is a difference even in the early portions of creation between good and between evil.

And when God says to Adam and Eve, “Hands off! Do not touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” of “tov and ra,” He’s saying, “I have to teach you what good means. Your job in the Garden of Eden is to grow up and mature as a holy and a righteous man and woman. And you’ve got to learn maturity and faithfulness through Me. I’ve got to teach you what good really is. Before you could ever eat of something, I need to show you.” In other words, eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil meant for Adam and Eve, “I want to determine for myself what’s the nature of good and the nature of evil. I don’t want to wait and have to grow into it. I don’t’ want to have to listen to God and be taught it. I want to know what it is for myself.” You see, the temptation in the Garden of Eden was, “Don’t you know that when you eat it, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And that word there is a word of authority – being able to determine, to say, you can actually point to something and say, “No, no, that’s good for me and that’s evil to me.” In other words, in other words, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, tov and ra, is where you determine what is good based on your personal desires.

And that’s why, in one cheeky way to put it, Adam and Eve were what the first, as Robert Bella, the sociologist in California has put it, they were the first expressive individualists. And that’s because when they ate of the tree they decided that the good and the bad is going to be defined by my individual desires. The construct of my feelings and my emotional life and my wants. That will determine for me what is good. And whatever is evil are the things that I don’t like. And that’s what they did right there in the midst of the garden. And right back here in Nehemiah 2 we have the whole picture in veiled form, in story form, of what evil, the nature of evil. We know from the very beginning then that evil means moral rebellion against God and what God defines as good. You have a passage like Genesis 6:5 where God says, “The thoughts of their heart have become evil continually.” There was no other direction for them to go but down and into the evil because of the moral failure and rebellion of the heart.

But that is not all that evil means in the Bible. The Bible has a more robust, a bigger picture of evil, grounded on the evil of moral failure, moral rebellion against God. And it’s right here when Sanballat and Tobiah say, “It is evil to us to rebuild the wall and the gate. We like it, we think it is good for the gate to be burned, to stay just like it is, to be crushed, for the walls of Jerusalem not to be rebuilt.” And let me give you some more examples of what that word evil means, the way Sanballat and Tobiah are using it. In Jeremiah 24, Jeremiah has a dream where there are two baskets of figs and it says that one basket is “tov,” good, and one basket is “ra.” And what we find out in the dream is that he can’t eat from the second basket because it’s evil, meaning that all the fruit has gone bad. So whenever the fruit, the figs go bad in the basket, Jeremiah says that, “The basket was evil to me.” Or even more clear in Proverbs 25, Proverbs 25 says, “A cracked tooth is a ra tooth,” an evil tooth. And so if you have a cavity, you’ve got an evil tooth, and that means dentists are out there fighting the true fight for us, the true fight against evil! That’s what the Bible says! And Solomon says when he defeats his enemies in one passage in the Solomon story, it says, “I found rest on every side. There were no enemies surrounding me. There was no evil, no catastrophe.”

And you see, in the Bible, evil is moral failure, first, it is rebellion against what God calls good, but it is also anything, any circumstance, any piece of fruit, any tooth that is cracked, any aspect of creation that is not being and doing exactly what God said it should be and do from the moment of creation order, Genesis 1. When God made the world and He said, “This is good. This is how it should be.” Anything that is not like that, that’s what the Bible calls evil; anything that stands against the order of creation itself, that works for chaos. And that’s a cavity in a tooth and that’s a tornado that smashes a house – any catastrophe. It’s moral failure and the world not being the way that it should be. That is what the Bible thinks of as evil.

And that’s why here Sanballat can say, “It is good that the walls are burned,” because it’s chaos. It’s not the way city walls should be. It should be built up. It should be constructed. Even God – and hear this carefully because Jeremiah 18 says that – God says in Jeremiah 18 that “When Israel does evil, I will cause evil upon them.” And you’ve got to hear what He’s saying. He’s saying, “When Israel does moral rebellion and rejection of Me, I will bring judgment upon them, evil, in terms of catastrophe.” It’s not that God does sin; it’s not moral, but it’s the aspect of – “Israel, you are My people. You’re not supposed to be outside of Jerusalem but you have to be because I have to judge you.” And God says that is evil. It’s not the way things should be.

Augustine, Saint Augustine is very famous for his book, The Confessions. And in book 7 of The Confessions he very famously says – trying to bring all this together – he says in a bit of a philosophical way, “Evil,” he says, “is not a thing. It’s not something that you can taste or see or touch. Instead,” to put it in more modern lingo, he says, “Evil is like a hole in a sock.” It is the absence of something that should be there. What is a hole in a sock? It’s nothing. It’s just a hole; there’s nothing there. But what does it do to the sock? It destroys its purpose. It takes away from exactly the good that the sock was meant to pursue for our feet. Right? And Augustine says that it’s like that. “Evil turns things from what they should be as God has defined them into what they should not be.” They take away the good. They pull the good out of something.

And when you come to the New Testament, we learn that there are, very quickly, three primary powers of evil. Three forces. Augustine said evil is a power not a thing. He gets that from Paul because Paul says there are three powers of evil according to Ephesians 2:1-3. And you know them. They are the world, the flesh, and the devil. And let me just say very quickly, they’re all right here in our passage – the world, the flesh and the devil. Let me show you real quick.

The world. The world for Paul is any cultural pattern or tendency in a place that you live that opposes the good as God has defined it. There are cultural patterns towards idolatry and that’s always been the case. And here, we have the same cultural patterns. Worldly living that we have today, right here in Sanballat and Tobiah’s opposition, why did they call it evil to rebuild Jerusalem? And the answer is because of geography. Sanballat, we learn, is the Samaritan governor appointed by Artaxerxes, just north of Jerusalem; that’s his territory. And Tobiah is the Ammoniate governor, which is just east of Jerusalem. And down in verse 19, we meet Geshem, the Arabiah governor, who is just south southwest of Jerusalem. And yet the reason they don’t want the gates rebuilt is because they are making money. They are in control of Jerusalem. Artaxerxes has put Judah into their hands. And so money and power is the main reason here that Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem do not want to give over to the gates, to the security. They’re controlling the imports and the exports. They’re profiting on all of this. And when principle and truth goes out the window, the cultural forces, the worldly forces of the god of mammon – power, money – seep into the heart. And that’s exactly what has happened here to Sanballat and Tobiah. They won’t even listen to the letter from the king because they don’t want to give up what they’ve gotten.

But not only the world but also the flesh. Tobiah’s name is a Hebrew name, even though it says he is Ammonite. And his name means, “Yahweh is good.” There it is again – tov; built right into his name. Tobiah, “Yahweh is good.” And he’s probably Jewish but somehow he’s become the governor of the Ammonites and he is the definition of a hypocrite. Because what’s a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a person who bears the name of Jesus Christ on the outside but has no interest in Jesus Christ on the inside. And Tobiah goes around saying, “My name is Tobiah. My name is Yahweh is good.” But he hates the things that God calls good, that Yahweh calls good. He bears the name of God on the outside but he’s far away from the inside. And that’s the evil of the flesh – when the desire of the heart overtakes and we become people who may bear the name of God but it’s in name only. It’s nominal. By definition, it’s hypocritical. And that’s Tobiah here.

But thirdly, also, the world, the flesh and the devil. Satan here, Satan, Sanballat, his name is Acadian and it means, “The moon is the creator.” That’s literally what his name means. And his name is saying, “Sure you can worship Yahweh, the God of the Bible, but he’s just one among many.” And the supreme deity for Sanballat is the moon. And there’s a subtle battle here throughout Nehemiah between the true God and the principalities and the powers of Satan. And so the world, the flesh, and the devil – it’s all right here.

Now to close this long point before we start the very short point – two lessons coming out of all of this. And here they are; and I’m just going to rattle them off. First, we learn here where real wisdom comes from and it confronts us as modern people in the modern world because we learned here that it is evil to say that the definition of what is good comes from me and comes from my feelings and comes from my desires, because the power of the flesh, the evil, it’s in my heart. That’s what the Bible teaches us. And instead, true wisdom – knowing good and knowing evil and what it really is – comes by growing into thinking like God thinks; to being saturated in what God calls good and what God calls evil.

And the second lesson is that when you are there and you are growing and you are pursuing that wisdom and when you are loving Jesus and when you have been called and when you have been sent out and you’re seeking the good in your life in a world where the three evil powers – the world, the flesh and the devil – still exists, you will be opposed. And Ephesians 5 tells us that we fight a war not against physicality but against the powers of evil, including that which is inside of us and outside of us. And so J.C. Ryle says, when he writes his book on pursuing holiness, he says, “You’ve got to enter into the fight.” The Christian life is the fight.

The Hope of the Good

Now secondly and briefly and finally – the hope of the good. We not only learn here about the nature of evil but also the hope of the good. The question I think that pops up across the whole book of Nehemiah is, “Why is it good to rebuild Jerusalem at all?” Why is rebuilding Jerusalem the thing that God has decided is the good? And in the end of our passage, verse 19, they confront Nehemiah and they say, “Are you rebelling against Artaxerxes?” And he says, “No, I’ve got the king’s permission.” And then they jeered and they despised and they hated him. And then in verse 20 he stands up and he says, “But God will make us prosper. God has decided that this city is going to be rebuilt. And that’s for the good, and we will rise and we will rebuild Jerusalem’s structures. And you,” he says, “have no portion, right, or claim to this city.” Now those first two words, “portion” and “right,” they are justice words; judicial words. They literally mean, “You have no legal state here. I have an emperor’s letter. You can’t claim the land. It’s now my land. It’s Judah’s land.” But then the third word, you might have a footnote in your Bible, because the word “claim” is literally the word “memorial.” And he says, “Not only do you not have a judicial stake in claiming this city against us, but you don’t have history here. This is a memorial city. God has chosen this land of old and it is for His good as He defines it that it should be rebuilt.”

Now the question is, “Why Jerusalem? Why is it so important to God to rebuild the walls and the gates? Why does He send Nehemiah?” And let me just briefly give you three reasons. We have one right here in the text. Verse 17, Nehemiah says, “It is good so that the people of Israel will not be shamed,” is the word. And that is a simple reference to him saying it is not good that God’s covenant people are living in a city that doesn’t have any walls and the gates are burned down. There’s no security; they’re poor, there’s no food. Somebody else is taking the imports and the exports. This is a reference to the basic, common goods of material life. And it simply tells us that God cares about the material needs of His people here.

But two more significant reasons. The second is this. When you pan out and you ask, “What is the book of Nehemiah doing here?” and “Why rebuild Jerusalem? Why rebuild the city gates?” there’s no other place you can go but to the prophets, because the prophets had prophesied about the rebuilding of the walls and the gates of the city of Jerusalem. In a place like Jeremiah 25, Jeremiah says, “Exile and destruction will not be the end of the story for God’s people.” And just to rattle off a few of the prophecies very quickly. It says – Jeremiah 25 – look to Jerusalem, for the future Messianic king. The only one who, according to Isaiah 11 and Hosea 3, can put away real evil, can destroy the powers of evil. Look to Jerusalem, Ezekiel 40-48 says, for God’s presence to come down fully and finally. Look to Jerusalem, Isaiah 2, the place that will draw all people together as the kingdom of God, as many as are sands on the shores, fulfilling the Abrahamic promise fully. Look to this city. The prophets say the walls and the gates have got to be rebuilt or the prophecies are never going to come to fruition.

But thirdly, finally, you could pan out even farther and you could say something like this. That in the whole Old Testament, Jerusalem is the place that God has chosen to stand as the holy sign of Eden. The symbol, the city that looks most like the hope of the garden come again. The new Eden. Over and over. Anywhere where God puts His temple and His presence and fills it up with His people in the Old Testament, you have a symbol of Eden – the garden of God that was meant to be, the city of God that was meant to be. And when you go to a place like the book of Numbers you have a camp, the camp of Israel. And they talk about how inside that camp is good and it’s symbolic cleanliness. But outside the camp it’s wilderness. Some passages say inside the camp is tov and outside the camp is ra. Symbolically. It’s wilderness. It’s the domain of sin and it’s the garden of God.

And we know that the people on the inside were full of sin and evil, but it stood as a symbol. And that’s why in Leviticus 16 on the Day of Atonement, in the camp they would take a lamb and they would put all the sins of the camp, the people, the city of Jerusalem, onto the lamb’s head, and they would say, “Now lamb, you take that sin and you go out into the wilderness of Azazel,” a word for “demon,” a word for “Satan.” “You take sin and you take it to the wilderness. We don’t want it in the holy city, the city of God.” It’s the symbol that Jerusalem was the place, the place that was meant to be the new Eden. And you’ve got a passage like Zechariah that says, “All the nations will come to meet God in the holy city when it’s walls are rebuilt.”

Now Nehemiah has a point, and it’s at the end of the book. At the end of the book if you have read through it you know the walls get rebuilt and the gates get rebuilt and Nehemiah walks through the city and the priests are corrupt and the people are breaking every one of the Ten Commandments and nobody is holy. At the end of the book of Ezra, they rebuild the temple, the holy temple, and the people come to it and what do they do? They weep because it’s not what it once was. It’s small and it’s weak. And neither Ezra nor Nehemiah ends in any good way. There’s no hope. They rebuilt the walls and they rebuilt the city and they say, “Where are the prophecies? Why does it not look like what we read about in Jeremiah 25 and Zechariah and Ezekiel 40-48 and why is it like this?”

And all we can say is this. The point, the point is that you’ve got to wait 430 more years for the point. And in 430 more years – why did the walls have to be rebuilt? The walls had to be rebuilt so that God’s true Prophet could be taken outside of them and be crushed. The walls had to be rebuilt because outside the walls the domain of sin and wilderness, and so 430 years we had to wait so we could put our hands on the Lamb and say, “Get out of the holy city and go into the wilderness and die for us! Carry the sin outside!” If the walls are never rebuilt, Jesus never dies outside of them. And that’s the point. Nehemiah and his people could never bring Jerusalem to be what Jerusalem was meant to be. Only Jesus could. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the symbol of the city of God, Jerusalem Himself. God says to Nehemiah, “Rebuild the walls,” and God says, “I will send My Son outside the gate for you.” And that’s the real point that Nehemiah could never see.

Now three sentences to close. Three points of application. What we have to walk away with tonight is this. The world, the flesh, and the devil. These powers are still present, but if you believe in the Man who was cast outside the wall, the Son of God for you, the world, the flesh and the devil do not have a chance again you because you are part of the city of God. You are in union with Jesus Christ. It’s an uneven war. And so they do not have power. You have been pronounced judicially victorious over the world, the flesh and the devil, if you believe in Him tonight.

Secondly, but it’s still a fight. It’s still a fight in this life. It’s still a fight. God’s hand is for the good and we have to do what Nehemiah called the people to do. He said, “Strengthen up your hand for the good.” And we have to, tonight, we are called tonight to strengthen our hands for the good. Seek the good as God defines it. That is our calling as we leave this place. We have to love what God loves and love and call good what God calls good and we’ve got to be saturated in it because the thousands of decisions we make every single day are not neutral. They are for good or for evil as God has defined it. And so with Paul, we’ve got to put on the mind of Jesus Christ and seek the good in our lives as God has defined it.

And then finally, lastly, Galatians 4 – Galatians 4, Paul says that the earthly Jerusalem whose gates were rebuilt in this book, is fulfilled in the heavenly Jerusalem where Jesus Christ is now seated, and one day will be fully fulfilled when the heavenly Jerusalem comes down to earth. That’s the true city of God. But Paul says there that the heavenly Jerusalem is, he says, our mother. He says the earthly Jerusalem was the mother of the old covenant. The heavenly Jerusalem is our mother today. She is who nurtures us. She is our true city. And Calvin, picking up on this, simply says this. That today, temporarily, where do we seek the good of the new Jerusalem, the city of God, today? And Calvin says, “It is when we seek the peace and the purity of the Church of Jesus Christ on this planet.” And so we are called to put on the wisdom of God, see the good as God has defined it. We enter the fight. And we love Jesus’ Christ’s body and we serve the work of the Church – her peace and her purity, both institutionally in this room and outside the walls and gates.

Let’s pray together.

Lord, we ask that You would help us to enter the fight for new obedience tonight, that we would love what You say is good and hate what You say is evil, and that we would put away the flesh and fight against the world and the devil, and that we would know we are victorious in Jesus. And we pray this all in Jesus’ name, amen.

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