Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shore up the low points

Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows."
Nehemiah 4:13 (NIV)

Throughout its history, ancient Israel's obedience to God led to blessing and disobedience led to trouble. When the kings of Israel and Judah failed to live up to the kingship covenant that was made with David, God declared through His prophets that He would judge His people's faithlessness.

Consequently, after centuries of repeated disobedience, the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians (722 B.C.), and Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and the southern kingdom of Judah taken into exile in Babylon (587 B.C.). In His mercy, however, God declared that after He judged His people, He would bring them back.

And so it went. The Babylonian Empire was eventually overthrown by Cyrus, king of Persia in 539 B.C. Through the Persian rulers, God brought favor to His people and the exiles not only were allowed to return home but encouraged to practice their own religion. The Jews could at last restore their temple at Jerusalem; work that was completed in 516 B.C.

Fast forward circa 445 B.C. Despite several abortive attempts to construct Jerusalem's city walls, they remained in ruins. (Ezra 4:7-23) Without protective walls the city was vulnerable to numerous enemies. When word reached Nehemiah, who was living away in Babylonia, about the sorry plight of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, the royal cupbearer to king Artaxerxes was distressed at the news. He prayed to God about the situation. Convicted that God wanted him to ask the king if he might be released from his post and be given authority to go to Jerusalem and organize the rebuilding of the city walls, Nehemiah prayed that Artaxerxes' heart might be favorably disposed toward him. God answered his prayer, the king consented, and Nehemiah set out on the 1,100 mile journey home.

Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah made a personal inspection of the city and organized the project. He found the people willing to work; and with his dynamic leadership, people of all sorts--priests, perfumers, goldsmiths and merchants--joined together in the rebuilding. Nonetheless, they faced first ridicule and then blackmail, intimidation and threats from powerful opponents.

Nehemiah's reply to the opposition was prayer and faith, plus practical action: "we prayed...and set a guard...Remember the Lord...and fight." (Nehemiah 4:1-20) His unshakable confidence came from the certainty that "our God will fight for us." A practical man, an organizer and leader, a man of courage, determination and deep spiritual resources to draw on, it took just 52 days, despite all opposition, to build 1.5 miles of wall.

Some days, exhausted and anxious because I've been pushed to my limits, I feel weary clear down to the marrow of my bones. My nerves are shot, my emotions vulnerable; I wonder whether I will ever accomplish anything of value.

It's at those moments that I station my Help at my exposed places. Taking up the Sword, which is the Word of God, I remember the Lord who is great and awesome. And, determined to fight, I dig deep into the spiritual resources of His Truth and declare my longing to remain faithful to what He has called me to.

What trouble do you face today, dear friend? Are you challenged with a difficult decision, hurting from a broken relationship, or drained by a rebellious child? Are you burdened with financial matters, concerned about a health issue, or fretting at the days ahead?

My friend, God answers prayer. He protects those who trust Him. His means of deliverance are never exhausted.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

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