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…