Chapter 21: Rebuilding the Walls

This chapter concludes coverage of the Old Testament in “The Story” and serves as a segue into the New Testament writings. In this story, the Jews, returning from exile, are trying to regain their former glory and status with God by rebuilding the Temple and city walls to honor him as their only God. They face opposition and criticism but complete the project anyway. It should be noted that at this time and throughout earlier and later history, it was common for cities to erect fortress-like enclosures around their territory and perch their city atop a hill to give it an imposing and powerful appearance. This would, hopefully, thwart any threats from outside. But, as we all know, many wars have been fought through the ages to break through the gates and walls of a town to conquer it. Think about the great 10-year Trojan War chronicled in Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” and the deception of the Trojan horse to gain victory for the Greeks and defeat for the Trojans. Better yet is the biblical account of the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6, where God collapses the walls of the city in response to the Jews’ act of faith – walking around the city walls, blowing their horns, and shouting as loud as they could.

It is interesting to note that when Jesus came upon the scene, the rebuilt temple and city walls were up and intact. Less than 40 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, those same walls lay in ruins as a result of the Romans sacking and destroying the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Today all that is left is “The Wailing Wall” – a remnant of the original wall. It seems that there may be some significance to this destruction as the turning point of the Old Testament era transitioning into the New Testament era, where there is no need for walls and boundaries to separate us, as Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-29: “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus…”(Read the whole passage, if you can, to appreciate the full significance of this statement, promoting and heralding a faith without borders.)

For me, the reality and symbol of walls – being built, finished, or destroyed – seem to have different levels of meaning and significance in my own life as I’m sure it has in yours. I am reminded that a wall can be both a good and a bad thing. For why do people or nations build walls, either literally or figuratively? Walls can be used to keep people in and protected or even enslaved, and can also be used to keep people or enemies out. It could be comfortable or constrictive. Depending on what side of the wall you’re on, you might have a feeling of inclusion or exclusion. How do walls affect you? Are they a monument to something or possibly a deterrent or roadblock in your life?

I am drawn to a poem by the late, great American poet Robert Frost, entitled, “Mending Wall”(1914) that talks about how walls can create a false sense of security by keeping distance and boundaries in our relationships. Note the opening, middle, and ending lines of this poem: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…. We keep the wall between us as we go….Good fences make good neighbors.”

The use of the “wall theme” has its musical influences as well, such as the rock group “Pink Floyd” that produced the iconic album “The Wall” in 1979 (dating myself again!) that dealt largely with themes of abandonment and personal isolation, repeating the haunting refrain “just another brick in the wall.” Even Indiana’s own John Mellencamp had his classic hit that spoke about relationships, repeating the line “When the walls come tumblin’ down.”

We can’t forget the 1987 historic occasion in Berlin when President Ronald Reagan dramatically challenged  Russia, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” referring to the Berlin Wall that separated East from West Germany. It finally fell two years later after being there for 28 years. It had stood as the visible symbol of the Cold War and Iron Curtain era.

Then, today, we face the immigration border crisis and the call for a bigger, better wall. We also have the Israel/Gaza conflict and the whole Middle East mess with ISIS. There is certainly much debate currently on all of this without any solutions. Are we up against a wall here?

And what about all the denominational differences that divide the believers within the three major faiths – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam? Talk about walls and wars that revolve around religion. It’s a tragedy.

What’s with all these walls anyway?

It seems to me that, as Christians, we are not into walls even though in times of trouble and persecution we can come up against a wall of resistance. But, we are all called to break down those walls and barriers between us and open the floodgates of God’s love and mercy by being his hands and feet out on the street. It is clear that Jesus came to be Lord and Savior to all, not to an exclusive few. Everyone is welcome at the Lord’s table. This week, identify walls that you keep up between coworkers, family members or even so called “friends” – it is time to break these walls down and walk in the freedom Jesus provides!

Walls are not God’s will for us!

Pat McQuillan

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