39. Lights, camera … action!

Our world craves leadership: a man or woman who could lead in the brokenness and chaos of destruction and disappointment. We need someone to trust, so that we could follow with confidence and work together towards the greater good. The European crisis and the American election threaten to cause panic when terrorists and politics only bring confusion and fear.

One of the most beautiful compliments in the Bible was made to the sons of Issachar.

Of the tribe of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do… [1 Chronicles 12:32]

It my hearts cry for the world. Lord, please give us a Nehemiah who would seek Your face in prayer and would be able to influence the most powerful empire into acting on behalf of Your people. We need that wall, Lord. We have fierce enemies who fight with fear to ruin our cities and values. We live in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit and need a holy, spiritual wall.

Then I heard what the Spirit said to the church. Jesus has called us, His church to be the Nehemiah of this world. We have everything we need to build the wall and make repairs if necessary.

Nehemiah serves the emperor of Persia for many years already. He stayed behind in the palace when the first waves of returning exiles left Persia and returned to Jerusalem. He was in a position of great trust to the King and was often in conversation with him. His sadness over the situation in Jerusalem was noted by the King. The king addressed it, to Nehemiah’s consternation; since one was not supposed to burden the royal pair (he mentions that the queen was also present) with one’s personal worry.

He states his case and receives miraculous favour and support, travels to Jerusalem and meets the local leaders. After his nighttime look-see of the extent of the damage, he inspires the people into an astonishing show of unity and cooperation.

Nehemiah 3 describes this Spirit-inspired unity. It is the church in action with confident and strong leadership. Even in these circumstances, not everybody is on board, but it does not influence the successful outcome. Just listen to this part of the report!

Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. [Nehemiah 3:5]

The chapter reads like an official, detailed report on a triumphant project. Some groups built big parts of the wall, restored the gates, with hinges and capstones up to 450 meters. Other groups built in front of their own dwelling places. Archeologists found a wall of 2,5 meters thick. It was an awe-inspiring task completed with supernatural unity and inspiration.

It is significant that the small contributions of individuals find their place in this report. Every input counted and contributed to the completion, however small compared to the vast scale of the project. In the same way each Christian’s spiritual commitment is part of the whole to stand against the enemy. One person can make a difference. Esther is the shining example of one orphaned girl who was called for a specific time to save her people.

Who dares despise the day of small things… [Zechariah 4:10]

you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, [1 Peter 2:5]

We are part of the whole, and only to the degree that we work together on the whole will our contribution count, however small.

The unity and show of power from the church sent the enemy into an almost comical rage.

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,  and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” [Nehemiah 4:1-3]

It sounds like desperate efforts to discourage, as if they sense the victory in the spiritual realm. The church is the light bearer in the dark world. We build the wall, even just in our own homes. We are the ears that hear what the Spirit says to the church. The church is the lamp stand of Revelation 1. We are not the light – Jesus is – but we are the stand that carries the Light. His voice calls: Lights, camera…. action!

He took the scroll in His hand to roll out the history of the world. He was worthy to break the seals. History is not random. It is part of the plan. Just like the churches in Revelation we need to remove the obstacles to receive the blessing and reward.

How daunting this task may look, we are equipped by the Holy Spirit to stand in the gap.

The wall of Jerusalem had to protect the city. It had to keep the enemy out and through the 10 gates; the right people were let in. We also need to guard our gates to only allow the right influences and people to speak into our lives.

The wall is also our witness to the world. It is the testimony of our restoration in Christ, resurrected with Him into a new life.

The wall is also an awareness of hostility. The devil is satisfied with lukewarm Christians, powerless and neutral. As soon as your intentions of living a powerful God-life is clear, he attacks.

The enemies are clearly defined in these passages.

 

  • During the years of foreign influences the people of Israel oppressed each other. According to the law, a person could be sold into slavery, even his children with him, if he could not pay his debts. Sharp business practices and usury cause many people to serve their own nation. We also make slaves of the people around us with criticism and humiliation, even in the church when we judge and condemn. When our own status and interests weigh heavier than the need of our neighbour, we forget what love is.

I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” [Nehemiah 5:7]

Hear what the Spirit says to the church.

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. [Philippians 2:3,4]

At the foot of the cross the sin of pride and oppression will be rooted out.

 

  • God’s people live lives of virtual insolvency, oppressed by debt and interest. God is our source of financial provision. Debt is not a sin, but the slavery to it, is. Bring your financial decisions to God to submit to His wisdom and provision.

Build the wall with the principle of tithing and the joyful giver of Corinthians.

Hear what the Spirit says to the church.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. [Malachi 3:10]

Be obedient to the Spirit as a joyful, spirit-filled Christian.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [2 Corinthians 9:6,7]

Spiritual insolvency is rife. We cannot feed on what we hear according to hearsay from others. We need to hear God’s voice ourselves. We need to know Him in the power of His resurrection. [Philippians 3:10,11 Amplified]

Do you live in poverty with regards to the spoken Word of God?

Uncommitted Christians will be separated from the true flock, who hears his voice. The fire of crisis will divide the sheep who hears the Shepherd from those who belong to the “synagogue of Satan”. [Revelation 3:9]

God himself will purify his Church. He explained this to his disciples in the parable of the tares. [Matthew 13:30] We are not to judge, only to discern between the true and the false.

In the days of Nehemiah, the Sabbath was violated. To us in these times, the Sabbath is the person of Jesus. It is only in Him that we could ever find true rest. Please read Isaiah 58 to know the blessing of rest in God. Verses 13.14:

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

 

then you will find your joy in the Lord,

    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

God does not fit in with our lives; we change to live in harmony with Him and His principles. There is a wonderful blessing on a physical day of rest and a break in routine to celebrate the goodness of God, even if it is not a Sunday. Hear from God how you must take a Sabbath and be renewed.

The church carries the Light. We have everything we need to build and protect.

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38. Walls, pillars and gates.

The world is a dangerous place – no doubt. If it isn’t murder and robbery, it is terrorism and natural disasters. There is no guarantee for full security and safety. Most of us get into a car everyday for which the risk-statistics are frightening. If we should make a short analysis of the risk of living, we would probably go into a flat panic and move to a castle on a mountain to live behind bars and locks…. to whither and die.

Danger is our companion in life. If we let our thoughts loose, we could imagine all sorts of hazards. My imagination can dish up the worst nightmarish scenario for any activity. I could, if I allow it, live in a constant state of panic. I will get sick and die, maybe faster than in the castle on the mountain. This is no way to live.

Jesus spoke about fear and worry often. He knew exactly how fear could rule our lives. Even more so – He knows of all the perils we cannot even see. He knows the full impact of demonic activity to destroy our peace and joy. He said, do not worry.

I am convinced that, with full insight into the vast love and grace of God, I would one day be dreadfully ashamed of my fear and doubt. If we could only understand how much He loves us, we will never fear and never doubt the answer to our prayers. We will realize that every promise of protection and security is a reality for every moment of our lives. If this were not true, I would have been dead already. I know of a few cases where I was aware of God’s protection. I am convinced there are many that I did not even register.

He knows the bigger picture. His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted by any evil plan of destruction and death. We can joyfully submit to His commandment not to worry and fear, and live full lives filled up by God Himself. (Ephesians 3, The Message)

Trust Him to know the bigger picture and the future plan for your benefit. We are like a little hamster in a cage, fiddling with the door to try and escape. Every time the door jangles the ears of the Jack Russell twitch up. He just waits for the moment the door opens. It will only be one bite. The master of the house sees and secures the door to protect the hamster. We might feel weighed down and locked in, but God has the full view and keeps us safe. Trust Him fully.

Let us visit the returning exiles to see how far they are in the mammoth task of rebuilding Jerusalem. The enemies are active – from within and without. Apart from the mocking of their pagan neighbours, they are downcast by fear and the overwhelming task.

Under Ezra the altar is set on its bases and personal worship is established. The commandments of the Law are being taught again to ensure confession and sacrifices. The restoration of the Temple is completed after many setbacks. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah are called by God to encourage the people to finish the project even if the restored building does not match the Temple of Solomon in splendour. In the midst of whatever you are going through, open your eyes to see the encouragement God is giving you.

Years pass. The events in Ezra cover a time span of 81 years. Eventually the Temple is done but the wall is still in ruins. Any ancient city without a wall is exposed to enemies and can easily be overrun. Human wisdom would have set the people to task on the wall first, but Ezra chose to put the altar in place to ensure God’s protection and establish priority for the people. Jerusalem was safe with the altar in place. For more than a hundred years the priority of Judah was screaming out to all nations – first the altar, then the Temple and then the wall.

At this point in time we meet Nehemiah – 24 years after the Temple has been restored. Ezra and Nehemiah cover a time span of 110 years. In the Hebrew Bible the two books are one under Ezra’s name. The translators of the Bible in Latin (the Vulgate – Latin for “common”) divided the period and separated the books under names of the main characters. Nehemiah means: Yahweh comforts.

Nehemiah introduces himself as the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes of Persia. The cupbearer was a very important position of utmost trust in the palace. He had to make sure that the king is not poisoned. His close proximity to the ruler made him a confidant of the king.

He receives the news of the sad situation in Jerusalem, the struggle to rebuild with so many enemies and general misery. The wall is still in ruins after so many years and it looks as if leadership is lacking to get the restoration process back on track. Nehemiah is deeply troubled.

 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4, NKJV)

Nehemiah’s prayer is beautiful. He pleads to the “Lord God of heaven, oh great and awesome God” to forgive the sins of his people and think about the promises to Moses concerning the land. His first and foremost reaction to bad news is prayer. Shattered dreams make him reach out to God and think about the miracles and promises of the past.

It is without a doubt the best response to pain and despair.

The king sees his sadness. This could have had disastrous consequences. The monarch was the one to be served. You could not in any way let him see your own pain. You could loose your life when you displeased or burdened the king. You had to hold your pose in all circumstances. Nehemiah obviously had a very close and trusting relationship with Artaxerxes. They discuss his worry over Jerusalem – highly unusual.

In the moment that he addresses the king, he prays (2:4). Nehemiah is the master of the “shooting prayer” – the instant cry of the heart to God to intervene immediately. This is our glorious urgent request for on the spot assistance, available to all His saints. Nehemiah needs wise words to state his case before the king.

The king is immediately involved with this unimportant outpost of his empire – a city left in ruins by a previous conqueror. It is precious and powerful how God moves the heart of this mighty ruler to provide abundantly for Nehemiah’s need.

Equipped with letters to all the governors of the provinces through which he had to travel, to supply all the raw material for the rebuilding of the wall, Nehemiah departs Persia. He arrives in Jerusalem and keeps quiet about his mission. Under cover of darkness, he makes an assessment of the project, so that he could face the leaders with accurate facts. He strategizes and plans. He is aware of the fact that he is a newcomer and could face opposition from his own people. His tactical approach is designed to inspire, rather than offend.

The project is accepted with enthusiasm, especially with regards to the mighty testimony of the favour of the Emperor of Persia. (2:18)

The enemy also takes note.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?” (Nehemiah 2:19)

Have you had this experience before when you were inspired to work hard and create something good? That sinking feeling of being met by a long face reciting a list of potential problems and even hostile opposition, mocking your ambition. Sometimes burocracy can drain all inspiration and creativity – endless paperwork, frosty faces spelling out more hassle and costs. You can name this process for future reference – the Sanballat-procedure!

Nehemiah’s reaction to all this is his promise from God. (2:20)

So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

 Pebble pal, your process might have a name, but your God has a name. He is called the God of heaven – almighty and like no other.

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? (Malachi 3:2)

In the name of Jesus all things are possible.

If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:14)

With God’s promise in place, the building started. This is the order of things. First prayer, receive the promise, deal with the enemy and then start. The prophet Zechariah gave the underlying principle for this plan of action. He was active during the building process to encourage.

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’

Says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)

The huge project was divided into segments. Gates, pillars and segments of wall were given to teams of builders. The high priest and a team of priests started the building. What a wonderful example. The church at the forefront, taking the lead. Pray, build, pray, build – so it started and so it continued. As soon as they got to the next gate, they consecrated the segment and then continued.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. (Nehemiah 3:1,2)

The Cross of Jesus gave us the ultimate weapon against our enemy. We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony – all the promises of God in His Word. (Revelation 12:11)

We might not even know how weak our wall is. God knows and He strengthens us in the realm of the unseen, since we are citizens of His invisible Kingdom on earth. Our God is called the God of heaven!

Nehemiah’s prayer in the Amplified: (1:5.6)

“Please, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You, day and night…