There was only one time in the history of the universe that restoration was not needed. That time was between Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 3:6, when sin was nonexistent.
God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6
All of creation was affected by the sin of Eve and Adam. Of course, that does not mean that all of creation was guilty of the sin. But even we, though not guilty of Adam’s sin, are affected by it.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:21
Death reigns over this world, so long as sin is in it. The serpent’s goal was to deceive the woman, and through her disobedience, introduce death into the world. The beauty is this: God had a plan all along. To the serpent, God said,
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel. Genesis 3:15.
Though Satan’s goal is to reign over mankind through death, God’s plan is hostile toward death. The key words in this passage are “I will…” Before turning to the woman and the man and detailing their individual punishments, before they had a chance and beg on their knees for redemption, God revealed His will to redeem, to restore, mankind.
Since that moment in the Garden, mankind has known God as the God of Restoration. When creation is separated from its Creator, it is God’s mission to restore. In that moment in the Garden, God revealed that His instrument of restoration would be the “seed” of the woman (i.e., Christ).
Many centuries passed between that moment in in the Garden and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. But even while creation waited for the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4), God continued to reveal Himself as the God of Restoration. When mankind had tainted all of creation with continual sinfulness, God restored the world through a flood and the salvation of one family. When God’s people were held captive by pagan Egyptians, God restored their place of prominence in His plans. When the nation of Israel was corrupted by bad kings and false gods, the true God sent prophets to restore the nation to their first love. When the city of God was in ruins, God sent Nehemiah to begin the long process of restoration. Nehemiah is best known for his work to restore the wall in Jerusalem (Neh. 3; 6:15-19). In addition, however, Nehemiah (and Ezra), speaking for God, also called for the restoration of:
- Confidence in the Lord (Neh. 4:11-23)
- Fairness in trade and care for the poor (Neh. 5:1-13)
- Understanding of the Law (Neh. 8:1-8)
- Holy days and feasts (Neh. 8:9-18)
- Repentance and forgiveness (Neh. 9:1-4)
- Acceptable worship (Neh. 9:5-37)
- National purity (Neh. 13:1-3)
- Tithes (Neh. 13:10-14)
- Sabbath-keeping (Neh. 13:15-22)
- Family purity (Neh. 13:23-29)
A reading through the book of Nehemiah quickly demonstrates that God is the God of Restoration. God sets out a plan, and when His people forget it or are otherwise unable to live out that plan, He provides the admonishment and means necessary for restoration. What is the lesson for us today? God continues to provide a way for and demand restoration when His plans are forsaken.
To build is difficult. To destroy is simple. To rebuild is often the most difficult. In all of the cases that God’s servants called for restoration, pain and sacrifice were required. Money, selfishness, time, personal possessions, friends, and even marriages had to be surrendered. Was it easy? No. Was it painful? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Today, many of God’s plans have been forsaken. Marriages are treated as disposable. Godly parenting is replaced by worldly philosophies and the workplace. The question of salvation is the most confusing question in the religious world. The body of Christ has been chopped, sliced, distorted, and forgotten. Worship has turned inward, where the heart and mind of people are most important. Allegiance has been placed into the establishments of men. Restoration is needed just as badly today as it was in Nehemiah’s time. Is there hope?
We might be tempted to look at Nehemiah and Ezra as privileged, since it seems they were commissioned specifically to the task of restoration. They had “direction” from God. Do we not? What did Nehemiah and Ezra use to call the people to restoration? They brought no new revelation. Instead, they used the Law of Moses, which had already been revealed centuries before.
We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Nehemiah 1:7.
They found written in the law how the Lord had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month. So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem… Nehemiah 8:14-15.
Now the rest of the people… are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of God our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes. Nehemiah 10:28-29
It did not take long after Jesus established His church for selfishness to creep into the body of Christ (Acts 5:1-4). As time went on, the influence of false teachers increased. Many of the epistles of the New Testament were written to Christians who were either already under the influence of falsehood or were at risk. Over and over, the Lord’s disciples were called to go back to what they had first received.
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! Galatians 1:6-8.
Just as in the Garden, where falsehood has influence, restoration is required. People need to return to the original blueprints.
- For marriage, let us return to God’s plan from the beginning (Matt. 19:1-9)
- For parenting, let us return to the simplicity of love and admonition (Eph. 6:4)
- For salvation, let us return to the “pattern of teaching” (Rom. 6:17)
- For unity, let us return to the one body (Eph. 4:4-6)
- For worship, let us return to what God seeks (John 4:23-24)
- For allegiance, let us return to the sovereignty of Christ (1 Tim. 6:13-16)
All of this will require sacrifice. But isn’t that the call of discipleship?
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26.
When people of the 21st century destroy the home, forsake the Lordship of Christ, and denominate the church, God’s word remains the same. The opportunity for restoration is now. Hear the call, heed the call, and then begin to call others.
But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5.