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

For more “Don’t Be Afraid” posts, check out my Misty Gullies Facebook page.

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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

Poured It On

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.

Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume: she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

John 12:1-3 (NIV)

Here we have Jesus’ friends, serving a dinner in His honour. They were the ones who had experienced and witnessed the resurrection power of Jesus, when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

John 11:25

I can feel the joy and gratitude in their hearts as they once again share a meal with Jesus. I feel that same joy in my heart, that same gratefulness for all he has done for me. My Saviour. My friend. This is my Jesus – the One who is close, relaxed, joyful, attentive, personal.

I wrote about this in https://mistygullies.com/2022/03/16/poured-out/

At this dinner we see Lazarus and his sisters pour out their love on Jesus. Firstly, Martha is serving. Pouring her love on Jesus through her love language of hospitality.

I am reminded of an earlier interaction with Jesus, where in her desire to serve, Martha complained and found fault with her sister. At that time, Jesus reminded her,

You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.

Luke 10:38-42

I’m hoping she learned from that and is now serving with a grateful and cheerful heart. Or is there another possibility? After all, in John 12:2 it merely says, Martha served. No commentary at all. Was there nothing more to say of her serving? Was this love poured out, or was she just fulfilling cultural norms?

You know – those expectations we place on ourselves because ‘that’s just the way it’s done’. Or was this an expression of her deep love for Jesus, now she, too, had learned to ‘sit at his feet’, as her sister already had? Was busyness still a struggle for Martha or had her lesson with Jesus taught her to serve with a heart of love and fellowship instead of anger or angst or other’s expectations?

Sometimes I find it hard to know why I am doing what I do.  I am a people pleaser. I don’t like being in trouble. I like things to be nice. I love to bless, but I don’t always have the energy to do them all ‘in love’. Sometimes they just feel like chores.

Perhaps, we need to see what the ‘many things’ are that we are worried about and remember there is just ‘one thing that is needed’. Is it time to remove some of those things (stuff, activities, the wrong people in your life, wrong attitudes or focus…) or just a time to re-evaluate and put in perspective?  Whatever our roles in life, we have a choice in attitude toward them and the people they effect.

None of us have ‘arrived’ and we all carry a mixture of motives and attitudes. Hopefully, Mary had adjusted hers. I hope to adjust mine, also.

Next, we read of Lazarus, reclining at the table with Jesus – such a lovely picture of fellowship, friendship and intimacy. I can’t imagine a person with more gratefulness than one who has been raised from death – to be given a second chance, more time with loved ones, and now the privilege of sharing this Life with those around him.

And yet, this is our story. We have been saved from death, raised to life. We, too, can have grateful hearts. The gift of eternal life is for us all. Our lives, in the hands of the Saviour can be safe, redeemed, rescued from death.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

Now it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Lazarus. He also became a target along with Jesus because of his experience and devotion. (John 12:10).

We too, are targets for the enemy. Which is why we must stay close to Jesus, resting in Him, fellowshipping with Him. He is our strength, our sustenance, our protection, our friend. We can trust Him.

Finally, we see Mary, taking perfume to pour out on Jesus’ feet. She took the place of a servant to anoint her Saviour. To declare her love. To anticipate His death. Instead of waiting for a funeral to express her love, she now poured out that which was prepared for His burial (verse 7). This was costly. A year’s wages saved to buy this oil.

Not everyone understood. Not everyone agreed.

Some will misinterpret our love poured out on Jesus. But He won’t. Some will be angry or envious, greedy or critical. They will twist our gifts into something selfish. They will demand that we should have used our resources, love, or giftings in a different way. Man’s judgement can be cruel.

No matter what ‘they’ say, let us pour our love out on Jesus today and every day, serve Him with all our hearts and sit at His feet, fellowshipping with Him. Let’s take the time. Let’s save and spend our resources in the honour and love and worship of our great Saviour, Redeemer and Lord.

He is worth it all.

Blessings,

Jenni xx

Actions:

  1. Read about fragrance in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
  2. Listen to Cece Winans beautiful song, Alabaster Box https://youtu.be/Z3RO7n7a03g

Credit: Bread image from Bing Images