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.

Poured Out

I’ve often imagined myself as the Samaritan woman sitting with Jesus by the well. Putting myself in the story of the Bible. Listening to Jesus. Other times I just imagine sitting with Him on a park bench and, in my mind’s eye, seeing what is before me, fields or meadows or flowers. I listen to His still, small voice, which, in a quiet heart, is like a booming burst of love and hope!

As I sat with Him recently, I was pondering being called the temple of the Holy Spirit. What an incredible thought.

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you,

whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”

1 Corinthians 6:19.

In my heart I could see clouds, like a mountain valley full of mist.

Jesus reminded me that I’m seated with Him in the Heavenly places and what I saw was a view from heaven, looking out at the clouds. It was beautiful – like seeing clouds beneath you when you’re in an aeroplane. That sense of awe.

Twice last week friends sent me Romans 5:1-5; such a powerful and wonderful chapter. (Really, they all are!) So, I knew there was a message for me in there. And I loved the new revelation that dropped into my heart. I always marvel at how the Holy Spirit highlights truths I’ve read before and I get to see them in a fresh and exciting way.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5 (NKJV)

One of these highlights was in verse 5, that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts. That really struck me. We don’t have to seek Him ‘out there’, far away. He is in us, right here. Close. When we seek Him, it is not us going somewhere, working at finding Him, slogging to see Him, sense Him, know Him. It’s so much more precious than that. Seeking Him is but a prayer, a breath, a turn of our heart to know He is there. He is in us. Of course, we want to pray and study His Word, to hear His voice, to seek Him. But it is from a place of ‘here’. God with us. How wonderful.

If you are His, bought by His precious blood and saved by His great love, if you are reconciled to Him through His own death on the cross, then know that God’s love has been poured out into your heart! And if you desire this love of God in your heart, you just need to ask Him. Give your life to Jesus and follow Him. It’s His promise to pour His love out to you.

Nepean River and Lakes March 2022

We certainly understand ‘poured out’ at the moment.

Rain! Constant, soaking, flooding, even destructive, as it builds and flows, taking over and building new water courses. Overwhelming.

War. Greed, evil, misunderstanding, fear and stubbornness in poor leadership (world-wide) causing such disaster, heartache, and unnecessary pain. Too much sadness poured out into our world.

But God’s outpouring of love is definitely not destructive or selfish like floods and war. Though the imagery is powerful. How immense is God’s love for us. So overwhelming that it can even wash away the biggest difficulties in our life, it can move our hearts to where he wants them to go, it can create such a shift in our world that we will never be the same. And who wants to be the same? I want to be like Him. I need to be changed, healed, victorious, courageous… These shifts are not usually instant, of course. ‘Suddenlies’ usually come after time and patience, trust and faith. But He is a good God worth all our faith, all of our life, all of our hope. More than a hundred years ago, Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God.” It is still a saying that gives me courage and joy.

Here is a small glimpse of God’s character: His love is patient, kind, everlasting, unfailing, faithful, sacrificial, powerful, cleansing. On any page of the Bible you will see His goodness and grace, mercy and love. We have the privilege of receiving it.

“God is love”

1 John 4:16 (NKJV)

And so, I receive this love poured out. God Himself! That is worth pondering and believing. God, who IS love, lives in me.

This knowledge wasn’t new to me, but it was fresh. And it brought hope. This is the beauty of the Living Word of God.

Like many of us, I have found these last two years difficult. Covid, cancer, fires, floods, mandates, more floods, loss, war… Watching our world disintegrate around us has made me consider and question my place and purpose, my understanding of being God’s person in this world. In some ways I feel helpless. Will God answer my prayer? What can I do to make a difference? What evil is afoot? These questions are good to ask. They refine us, cause us to seek God for deeper answers and meaning. Doors have closed, so what’s next? How do I reconcile God’s goodness with such pain? How do I live a blessed life here while others are suffering? These are questions that have been asked since the beginning of time. And I certainly don’t have all the answers.

But another fresh revelation from Romans 5 also gave me great hope. Even a bit of grunt and excitement to keep trusting God.

“…knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)

As I journalled, I called it the ‘Harvest of Suffering’. I love a harvest, seeing the fruit (or vegetables) of my work in the garden, the dust over the plains as the combine harvesters do their job, the loads of sunflowers growing by the edge of the road. This is what our suffering produces – something worthwhile.

Suffering produces perseverance, making us strong and resilient, which then produces character – faithfulness, being trustworthy, compassion, kindness, courage… Making us like Jesus. Character produces hope – the confidence we have in God’s Word and His faithfulness. Trusting that God will come through for us at the right time. What a joy to know that God uses all of our hard days, all of the trials, our developing perseverance, and our growing character to bring about a harvest of hope. Hope, like faith, is not seen. It is used, like a muscle. It is a foundation to stand on. It is strength to our circumstances.

“And hope does not put us to shame…” (v5 NIV) We don’t have to carry shame – wondering if He will answer us, doubting His love, thinking we are not good enough for his attention and love because of our mistakes. Hope, instead, will wash away any inferiority, fear, disappointment. Verses 6-10 reassure us that God knew full well who we were when He died for us. “Christ died for the ungodly” (v6) “While we were still sinners…” (v8)

This is His great love.

And it is this great love that is in me, poured out through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. So we can stop striving to find, earn or even feel God’s love. Child of God, He is already here. He is in me. He is in you. What an honour. What a privilege. His love, poured out into this temple of the Holy Spirit.

Actions: Read these verses to see some of God’s incredible character: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Exodus 15:13, Deuteronomy 7:9, Psalm 100:5, John 15:13, Romans 5:35-39, Ephesians 316-19, 25-27

In which circumstances will you hope in God? Tell Him. Write your vision and thank Him.

Blessings. Jenni xx