Ruins come alive

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign

What does that actually mean really? It's a powerful imagery of restoration but sometimes when I sing it, it feels like mere pretty words. What ruins? How do they come to life? Rising up from the ashes is a nice reference to the mythical phoenix but what exactly does it mean for us in our lives?

It brings me to the place in the Bible where there were ruins that 'came alive'. Following the fall of Jerusalem under the hands of Nebuchadnezzar II, the city and the temple was left in desolation. Decades later, Nehemiah felt a burden in his heart to restore the city, and the book of Nehemiah (and to a certain extent the book of Ezra as well) details this restoration of Jerusalem.

As I read through the Word of God written about this particular moment in the history of Israel, there are a couple of things that struck out at me:

1) The wall was restored through rebuilding

Nehemiah did not pray and ask God for the walls to come up and then God magically waved his invisible hands, causing the ruins to reform themselves. He felt the calling, and he went and lead a bunch of people who were also passionate for the cause and together, they built the walls up once again. We cry out for revival, for restoration in our lives and in the Church, but let us realise that we are God's chosen agent's to do His work, we are the solution to the problems. The Church cannot simply ask for God to do something but fail to act herself, the Church must be the people who go forth and rebuild the ruins.

2) The builders faced resistance and were prepared to fight

It started with taunting, but then it quickly got dangerous. The very lives of the builders were under constant threat, so much so that they had to set a watch, and each person carried a weapon with them wherever they went. What stood out for me the most was that each person carried a building tool on one hand, and a weapon on the other. These people never let their guard down. As we push for revival, there will be opposition. It may come physically or perhaps in the form of a spiritual attack, but do not lose hope, do not let your guard down. Continue to rebuild the ruins while fighting the fight of faith. The devil will do whatever he can to stop the people of God from doing His work, so we must be prepared to resist the devil.

Another thing which really stood out for me was in Nehemiah 4:8-9. From the message version, 'They (the enemies) put their heads together and decided to fight against Jerusalem and create as much trouble as they could. We countered with prayer to our God and set a round-the-clock guard against them.' Two things. Prayer, and watchfulness. Sounds familiar? I wrote something on this earlier this year.

3) God is at work, and it will be obvious

There wasn't any amazing signs and wonders in the book of Nehemiah. It was just the people of God coming together to restore the ruins of Jerusalem. Yet when the work was complete, everyone knew that it was only accomplished because of God's hand in it. I do mean everyone, as we see in Nehemiah 6:16 (ESV): 'And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.' When revival takes place, even the opposition has to step back and acknowledge that it is the work of God. It does not need to come in signs and wonders like that of the burning bush or the parting of the red sea, but we will know that God is with us, and indeed if He is with us, who can be against us?

4) Glorious revival

This is a little different from the above three points which I mentioned, in that the above three points were lessons to be learnt about restoring the ruins. This point is about what I saw when I read the Word of God. I'm not going to copy and paste this on this blog because it is long, but look at Nehemiah 7. What do you see?

On some other day, I might have just seen some boring statistics. This time round, I saw revival. This is the desolate city of Jerusalem we are talking about. These are the people who were exiled, coming back to the city of the Lord. A city that was 'large and spacious, but there were few people in it' (v4), transformed completely. And these people didn't just come back to 'Church' but without heart, these people returned and were hungry for God. Look on to Nehemiah 8 and 9. Ezra read the Book of the Law to the entire company gathered, from daybreak till noon. They confessed their sins and returned to seek God and His ways.

I saw an image of this large crowd of people gathering in the sun, desperate for hear from God, desiring nothing but to live for Him. Thousands and ten thousands of people. It was glorious.

And you know something else? It started with one man who had a vision, and the many nameless people who walked alongside him and believed in that vision. It was only after their long, dangerous hard work that there was restoration in Jerusalem. There were times they doubted, there were times they wanted to give up, for all had seemed bleak. Yet they pushed on, and finally reaped the promised harvest.

Glorious ruins is a song about restoration. Do we really know what restoration is though? It sometimes evades me, a fuzzy idea, a word being thrown about. As I sing the chorus of glorious ruins, I will remind myself that this is not ruins that magically come alive, not quite like the phoenix rising up from the ashes. It is instead of the people of God coming together to rebuild the ruins. To pray, to watch, to fight. To press on even against the odds, knowing that God is with us.

Then, we shall see the glory of God.

I'll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I'll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace