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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