I was moved by the scenery above when I was walking on top a hill in Turkey and stumbled upon this old wall and this single flower. As I was reading through Nehemiah, I couldn’t help but get this picture out of my head. A beautiful representation of physical and spiritual restoration. The former being worthless without the later. What God wants to do through us is secondary to what he wants to do in us.
[Final Theme Summary - Nehemiah]
Theme: “Enemies and Intercessors”, I will refer to it as opposition and prayer below.
Nehemiah was called and dedicated to a seemingly foolish and near impossible task of building back up the walls of Jerusalem after the exiles returned from Babylon. The book begins as news of the state of his ancestors reaches Nehemiah in Persia, 900 miles away. He was immediately moved to brokenness before God and prayer over a his response. Through prayer, God leads Nehemiah to ask for royal permission and financial backing from the King of Persia and he is granted his wishes. Nehemiah heads to Jerusalem and it is not long before the opposition comes. However, with each opposer the original reader sees Nehemiah respond prayerfully, resulting in an immovable confidence in God’s plan.
Nehemiah is approached by two types of opposition, external and internal. Externally, Nehemiah met opposition from the ruling authorities around Jerusalem. They were not happy to see Jerusalem regain power and therefore lessen their own. They mock the Jews and threaten to stop the project and even kill Nehemiah. Nevertheless, Nehemiah responds in prayer, leaving vengeance to God. He is spiritually dependent on God for answers, yet practically responsible, taking up guard and not responding in anger. Nehemiah’s fierce reliance on God in such opposing circumstances brought fear to the nations when the project was completed. God was on their side.
The second type of opposition came from within the Israel itself as their safety and comfort began to be infringed upon. The people did not like the attention Nehemiah’s project was bringing upon them and did not see the value in rebuilding the city. They were comfortable as they were, simple farmers and merchants with little national identity and hiding from God’s major calling on their lives to be a blessing to other nations. Nehemiah encourages them to remember their great and awesome God, who will fight for them.
With these internal and external opposers, Nehemiah never once stopped the work he was doing. Rather, he would turn to prayer for strength and confidence. God’s faithfulness and the monumental task at hand was the focus of Nehemiah. Although there was opposition, it was never a distraction and it was never central to the story. Prayer enabled Nehemiah to be a person of grace and wisdom, strength and wit, unshakeable from his solid foundation on the Lord’s faithfulness.
[Final Application - Nehemiah]
Nehemiah has met me in the most urgent and practical of ways out of any of the books we have read thus far. It is because I am in a season of my life where I’m trying to figure how God’s truth translates into daily action. How is God’s truth going to transform me into the person He wants me to be? Nehemiah is essentially the journal of a man who has done exactly this. The key to his successful translation of biblical truth and action was his adherence to prayer and communication with God at all times. He had the task in one hand and the word of the Lord in the other.
I have tasks in my hands. But I feel I have never truly filled the other hand with the word of God. Usually I am holding multiple tasks in both hands, leaving little room for intimacy with God. I knew the CBCC was a time for me to dismantle the tasks from my hands and pick up that which gives live and purpose, God’s word.
As I ponder the tasks ahead, I am now focusing on what needs to be in my other hand. For me that looks like prayer. I need to get serious about prayer. I look at Nehemiah’s reactions to opposition and adverse circumstances and see him react with incredible resolve and patience. If I was in that position, I would not be so Christ-like. If our hands are filled only with the task, lacking prayer and intimacy, we become reactionary, fearful, and ungraceful people.
In response to this truth, I am evaluating what God wants me to carry in the next season. The task is to lead communications, seek growth in multi-media communications, and most important and most scary lead and love and believe in the people around me here at YWAM Salem. God is telling me to fill my other hand with prayer. I am going to start using my time more wisely and pray more. At the gym in the morning, instead of listening to music, I will pray. I want to get into bed a half hour early every night and read the Bible and pray and journal. Also, at least once a week I will go to the coffee shop with no computer and no plans other than to journal and talk to God for an hour or so. I will also meditate on Nehemiah’s responses to the situations below:
2:4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
[Nehemiah prays while in the midst of situations.]
4:14 After I looked these things over, I stood up and said to the nobles and the officials and the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your kin, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
[Nehemiah doesn't react, he looks things over and gives wise answers because he takes the time to receive them.]
5:6-7 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After thinking it over, I brought charges against the nobles and the officials; I said to them, “You are all taking interest from your own people.” And I called a great assembly to deal with them,
[Nehemiah is rightly angered, but responds in justice, not vengeance. He didn't react but thought things through.]
6:2-3 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?”
[Fear did not stop Nehemiah from carrying out God's purposes.]
6:14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
[He did not take things personally and hold grudges or get bitter. He left vengeance in God's hands]
7:5 Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy.
[Nehemiah's great ideas were inspired by God. His intimacy with God allowed his mind to be filled with the plans of God.]