Covenant of Love

Don’t Be Afraid #14

I’ve been reading the book of Nehemiah. It’s a wonderful testimony of God at work in His people, and of people responding with courage and faith to fulfill what God has put on their hearts. Here is a story of shock, mourning, fasting and weeping, repentance and action. And that’s just the introduction!

Nehemiah stepped out in faith to seek the king’s favour to go and repair the walls of Jerusalem. He was in exile, serving under King Artaxerxes. Even though he was afraid, he acted on his convictions – perhaps in a similar way Esther sought favour with King Xerxes, not knowing whether she would live or die (Esther 4:15-5:3).

Faith doesn’t come without feelings. Nehemiah said, ‘I was very much afraid.’ But it didn’t stop him. He ‘did it afraid’ (Nehemiah 2:2). He did it with faith stirred in his heart, and the ‘covenant of love’ as a reminder, not only to himself, but to the God to whom he prayed (1:5).

This covenant of love is a foundation from which everything springs from. We can stake our lives on it! We can have confidence in this God of love.

A secretive, night-time reconnaissance revealed the extent of the damage, and Nehemiah discussed it, and his plan, with officials, priests and other Jews the following day. They answered him with an encouraging, “Let us start rebuilding.”

Just like that. They said yes, and then went to work. Oh, to be as faithful to the ‘yes’ I give Jesus.

Of course, they are very quickly mocked and ridiculed. But Nehemiah is also quick to answer. ‘The God of Heaven will give us success,’ he declared, and then rebuked them with a reminder of their non-covenant status (2:20). Ouch!

I think we need to be a bit like that these days. Christians are mocked and ridiculed quite regularly. Some have been taken to court for standing up for their faith. Others have lost jobs. And many saints in various nations have lost their lives. May we have the courage to stand firm in our faith and speak up when needed. May we remember the God of Covenant to whom we belong as well as King David, while still a shepherd boy, did. He was quick to speak to Goliath with such covenant-language:

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands…”

1 Samuel 17:45-46

David then described, quite graphically, what he would do to Goliath. And he did! David knew the God of Covenant and dared to make his own challenge against a man, a giant, much more experienced and much more threatening than himself, because he trusted his God. Size wasn’t the issue. The covenant was.

This is the kind of brave I want to be.

So, Nehemiah and the people had the walls half built (4:6) when the two men reappeared to threaten, ridicule and mock, yet again. Oh, and they added name calling. That seems to be the way these days, too. If those who hate you can’t defeat you, they will call you names.

Jesus says to rejoice when people revile you and persecute you (Matthew 5:11-12). Now I’m not into persecution, and many have suffered immensely, but I am so over name-calling that to be called a ‘bigot’ (or similar) these days is almost tantamount to being called an authentic, Bible-believing Christian. We must learn to rejoice, because we are treading on enemy toes. Good.

The ‘two men’, Sanballat and Tobiah, called on some additional help against the Jews and their project. And they added extra anger to their repertoire of threats, plots and trouble. Stirred-up emotion is another ploy of the enemy against God’s people, too. But we are to stay calm and grounded in Him, not responding in kind, but in love, prayer, courage and action, led by Covenant and the Holy Spirit.

Now, the people were afraid. These were not idle threats. So, Nehemiah takes practical, protecting, and assuring action to keep the people safe, without stopping the work. Firstly, they prayed and posted guards day and night (4:9).

Prayer and Posts. This is what we are called to – to take up our posts, watchful and prayerful.

In Jerusalem, the exposed places were covered, the danger zones matched with swords, spears and bows. Nehemiah did all he could to look after the people.

We would do well to mimic this kind of love and care. The ‘work’ of God is important. But so, too, are people. We matter to God. Walls are for the people. If we can protect and encourage others against threats, let’s do it!

Nehemiah, having ‘looked things over’, stood and declared:

Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Nehemiah 4:14

We are covenant people who trust our awesome God. We will be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9). Help us, Lord.

Blessings. Jenni xx

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Morning Mist

Raindrops fall, gentle, sweet

The sound of love on gardens, greet

Deep breath, life! My heart refreshed

Praise to God, I’m heaven-blessed

Birds take flight as morning dawns

‘Off to work’, their squawks assure

Seeds abounding, trees galore

Trusting God for every store

Why I fear, and look to earth,

Trusting man, instead of birth?

Child of God, beloved daughter

Rest in Him, My loving Father

So, as light and mist arise

Raindrops hang like fairy lights

Lord, today, my praise I bring

To my God, my matchless King

Blessings, Jenni xx

A Great Humility

Last night, Maundy Thursday, I had gone to bed as soon as I arrived home in the evening, exhausted. I slept a long night’s sleep, enjoying the rest. But as I woke up this Good Friday morning, I reflected on Jesus’ long night, knowing that, years before, He had spent the whole night after the Passover meal and His time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane being humiliated, mocked, spat at, beaten, whipped, taunted, interrogated, challenged, ‘crowned’ …  Such injustice.

For Jesus, it was His last night on earth as a man. He was probably exhausted, too, being made to stay up all night by the Pharisees. Not only that, so many people had been demanding His attention, expecting Him to rescue them from the tyranny of the Romans, set them free from the harsh religious rules of the Pharisees, heal their bodies (which He happily did), perform miracles like a show pony, prove Himself over and over…  He was misunderstood in His purpose and some were not happy with Him at all. He was a threat to their way of life. Others followed which ever voice was the loudest. One day it was “Hosanna!” The next week it was “Crucify Him!”

Yet He faced this final night with joy and courage, with love for His disciples and expectation for the future. He was happy to eat this last Passover meal with those who had followed Him.

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

Luke 22:15 (NIV)

“…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…”

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

He had the weight of the cross on His heart – the joy, the faithfulness to His Father – but also the pain and suffering to come – the physical agony, nakedness, the spiritual pain, carrying the punishment for all sin, taking on the curses, sorrows, griefs, shame and disease, and the separation from His Father. He faced the cross and the grave, the demons in hell, to win us back to the Father. Such love.

I wondered if He thought He might fail. This was hard.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Matthew 26:75

He asked for a reprieve, at the same time knowing He had to do this. Such faithfulness.

And this faithfulness spoke to my heart, as I am one who fails often: who fails out of fear, procrastination, or avoidance altogether, and who fails due to my flesh rising up – sin. His faithfulness to His Father, and to me, sparked a courage in me again to seek to follow Him well, with a cry in my heart, ‘Lord, help me to be faithful. Help me follow You’.

The week before the Passover meal, after being welcomed to the festival by the great crowd crying, ‘Hosanna!’, Jesus speaks to the people,

“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

John 12: 24
Bernadette Hennelly (used gratefully with permission) Instagram: bernieh.art

I believe He was referring both to Himself dying to produce a harvest of eternal life, as well as to those who would follow Him, that we would lay down our lives to serve Him (v25-26).

Jesus then speaks His heart, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your Name.” (v27-28)

Even in this week of anguish and trouble, leading to His death on the cross, Jesus’ focus was to bring glory to His Father. I’m sure there is much more to be said about this, but my heart wondered what God’s glory looks like. I thought of His love, mercy, salvation and redemption; His forgiveness, power, hope and victory! Is this what Jesus was referring to? Are these not glorious?! What a gift we have been given in these. Or perhaps, if I can appear bold, are we His glory? I wondered this and felt it as a great humility -that we might glorify God, bring Him glory in our believing, in our love and devotion, and even, in the sense of a child to His Father, be His glory, His precious children, His treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18) Please don’t misunderstand me. Just as ‘grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged” (Psalm 90:16), are we like that to God? I know that’s how I feel about my children. For God to allow His precious Son to die that we might be brought back, bought with His shed blood, redeemed by the power of the cross and resurrection, does not that tell us how much we are loved and valued? Like the man who found treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 14:44) and sold all he had for it, are we the treasure that the Father bought?  In my morning meditation I sensed His joy, His deep passion for us. I was reminded again how great the Father’s love is for the sinful, broken, shamed, prideful and weak soul. That our Father would choose us to be His, love us enough to send Jesus to die a gruesome death, and rescue us from an eternity worse than death, is a wonderful gift.

And I pray with the Apostle Paul, that

“you will be empowered to discover…the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is His love! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding – this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

Ephesians 3:18-19 (TPT)

Easter Blessings,

Jenni xx