Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/06/15 Sermon - Labor Day & Nehemiah

LABOR DAY & NEHEMIAH

 

We are currently reading through the book of Nehemiah. Gail read for us chapter 5 and though I had planned to give my message on that chapter, you will have to come back next week to hear it, as in mid-stream I came up with a connection between the building of the wall, and our nation’s celebration of Labor Day and have decided to go with it.

Val and I were having a discussion on the meaning of Labor Day and I decided to look it up and get the facts. While reading about Labor Day the word “labor” struck me as being the very concept of what we have been reading in Nehemiah. The first six chapters of Nehemiah cover the re-construction of the wall, and the remaining chapters cover the re-instruction of the people. While studying the first 4 chapters of Nehemiah we have come to realize the wall symbolizes strength and protection, necessities for those living in ancient times. Both strength and protection were necessities for the Americans who established the first Labor Day and they are still necessities for us today.

God has called humans to labor since He created them. Adam was told by God in Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  In Nehemiah, in order for the walls of Jerusalem to be rebuilt, the Israelites were called to “labor”. Each individual family was instructed to rebuild the wall in front of their dwelling. When everyone worked together, the wall went up. The uniting of labor forces was more effective than any one family could do on their own.

When we look back to when the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union, we discover the concept was similar. By uniting into Labor Unions, workers were able to be more effective than if they remained on their own. The growth of labor organizations in the late 1800’s spread, and so did the desire to set aside a day  to commemorate the worker. Let me read to you from the website of the United States Department of Labor –

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

The article goes on to say, after 23 states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, twelve years later, on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

Being effective as a united force is where the similarity ends.

Nehemiah was adamant that God was the creator of the wall. Sure God used the Israelites,

Those living in Jerusalem,

an Israelite who was a resident of Persia,

as well as the Persian King himself.

But none of the wall would have been rebuilt had not God provided the strength, freedom and leadership.

According to the United States Department of Labor, the American Worker is the hero.

Let me read to you the last paragraph on the history of Labor Day, from the United States Department of Labor’s website:

“The vital force of labor added materially

to the highest standard of living

and the greatest production the world has ever known

and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership —

the American worker.”

And we wonder why our political system is such a mess.

 

We live in a country that focuses on what humans can do, not what God can do. Not so the message from Nehemiah. From the very beginning of Nehemiah’s concern for Jerusalem,

I dare say, even the concern itself,

Nehemiah gives God the credit.

All along the way, we have watched Nehemiah reach out to God for insight, direction, and provision.

The same thing can be said when we need to rebuild the walls of our lives. When we look at the ruins in our own lives, do we see them through the lenses of the world, or through the eyes of God? According to the world, we are to be glorified and rewarded for our hard work and for creating America to be materially one of the highest in the standard of living and providing the greatest production in the world. This may be true, but without God, the walls remain in ruins.

With God, anything is possible.

I grew up thinking that Labor Day was a time set aside to “rest from labor” not to “commemorate the worker”. Don’t ask me how I came up with that thought, but I like it better. Taking a day of rest, is Biblical.

God did it in Genesis, and we are commanded by God, to do so weekly, so having a yearly holiday to take time off isn’t such a bad idea. And tomorrow, if you are able to take time off, this is what I suggest.

 

Take some tips from Nehemiah. Take time to reflect and pray about what is happening in your life.

Are there any walls that lay in ruins?

Or maybe everything is going fine?

Either way, ----- Praise God!

Thank God that He is in the midst.

He is the one who is working things out to be fine, and He is the one who is walking with you through the ruins. God was with Nehemiah and He promises to be with us,

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

And whatever God did for Nehemiah He can do for us,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

The creator of so much of our nation's strength, freedom, and leadership is not the American worker, it is God. And today we come together at the Lord’s Supper to celebrate the creator’s plan to include us in his family.

United States Department of Labor  http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm