However, I am always amazed that I find something new each time I read through the scriptures even though I have read the passage 18 times before. For example, this year I was really struck anew with some amazing simple principles from the book of Nehemiah….
Lessons from Nehemiah:
- Everything permanent starts on a foundation of prayer — It is easy to miss things when reading the Bible. It is a “master of understatement.” However, a close reading reveals that Nehemiah spent more time preparing in prayer before going to King Artaxerxes (4 months) than he did actually building the wall (only 52 days)! In reading this I was struck at how we tack on prayer as a last resort rather than bathing things in prayer on the front hand. In doing so, Nehemiah had a clear blueprint on what God wanted him to do.
- Few things worth doing come without risk & a sense of calling — Imagine, here is a guy who is a cupbearer for the king. Obviously, he is a man of trustworthiness and perhaps a person of influence, but whatever made him think he could undertake a massive construction project? Without feeling compelled by God, he would never have left the comforts of living in the palace and serving the king and queen daily? Without God’s equipping, how could he go from one-on-one service to overseeing the work of an entire nation of people in doing work with which he was unfamiliar? But due to his calling, he obeyed. What is God calling you to do for which you feel ill-suited, unprepared? What is God calling you to do that moves you completely out of your comfort zone and into the battle?
- Overwhelming tasks can happen when each person does their part. This was a big takeaway from Nehemiah 2:9-5:15. If I had been Nehemiah examining the wall in chapter 2, I would have been totally discouraged and never imagined that the piles of rubble could have been rebuilt to protect the city. But the impossible was done as each family took a piece of the project, made it theirs, and worked until it was completed. So much of what we are doing can be accomplished as we do the same — grab a piece, make it mine, see it through.
- Two-fold focus — the work and the battle — Surrounded by enemies, it would have been easy to hunker down into a defensive position. But then the important work of constructing permanent protection would never get done. Nehemiah demonstrates our current reality — we have important work each day, but we must also battle the cultural elements that want to shut down Christian education for our children. Somehow we need to be like the Israelites — working with one hand on the shovel and the other on the sword. Each man did his work with his sword strapped to his side. In our case, we need to be ready to be called into battle to protect school choice, its funding and the freedom to provide Biblical training to our children.
- Don’t exploit your fellow soldiers — Certain things triggered Nehemiah’s wrath: the taunts of the enemy and the Israelite soldier-workers taking advantage of the poverty of their fellow soldier-workers. (Neh. 5:1-9) He not only lectured them and provided them with a godly example of helping meet the financial needs of his poor brethren, but he strongly warned them of consequences if they did not repent. In reading the Bible through each year, this is a very common theme: Don’t take advantage of the poor. Help meet their needs so that they can join the work and the battle. I’m not sure what shape this should take for each of us, but it is the heart of God and we should each be praying that God gives us true ways to do this without being extorted to give to things that do not honestly address the needs.
Those are just a few of the lessons that stood out to me as I quickly read Nehemiah this year. I would like to encourage you to be in the Word daily. Who knows what God wants to call your attention to? Being available and listening and asking questions as one reads can provide encouragement and a foundation in these troubling times. (Matthew 7:24) Your fellow servant-warrior, Christopher