Nehemiah Reflections

Neh 4: A Tool and Weapon

Neh 4:17 – those rebuilding the wall had a tool and weapon…I know what that is like. When you are doing the work of the Lord there are days like this. You are building His Kingdom and fending off enemies or naysayers.

I’d add that those who are truly doing the Lord’s work become enemy #1 for Satan…so I’d be more nervous if you don’t get satanic attacks, honestly.

This is probably the primary thing hitting me in reading through Nehemiah is the amount of resistance and adversity he faced. When we follow Christ this is what we can expect (not as the exception but the rule because Satan wants none of it to succeed). I think all too often we expect ease and comfort and others to go along with us as we follow God’s plans. Let’s remember it will always be the exact opposite and follow Nehemiah’s example. I have really found this book to be amazing so far as well as his example of faithfulness under fire!

I also liked the image about a tool in one hand and a weapon the other. It takes strong conviction to live out our faith like that.

Neh 1: Do We Weep?

I’m so struck and challenged by the visceral response Nehemiah shows over God’s temple being undone. He shakes, cries, repents, fasts, prays, risks his life with the king–all over the agony of knowing God’s temple isn’t built. Now I think about the church as God’s temple today. I look at so much room for God’s people to be built up in Him, and so many areas we’ve missed the mark. Surely there is room for us to weep, pray, fast, risk our lives, like Nehemiah did over the temple needing repair: Do We Weep?

In chapter 9 it talks about how as part of their corporate time of confession they read/listened to the law for 3 hours followed by 3 hours of confession. Seems maybe our churches should look more like this ie anguish vs. entertainment. This is what really resonated to me about the video coupled with what we are reading.

Pray Against Enemies?

I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah praying that God would look upon his enemies and judge them for their blocking God’s ways. At first, my thought was that this all changes post-cross. Jesus himself teaches us to pray for our enemies and forgive, of course (Matt. 5-6). But then I thought about Paul saying something kind of similar in 2 Tim. 4:14, and also see Paul rebuking and calling down blindness on Elymas the Sorcerer (Acts 13:9-12). Both of these are post-cross.

I think the point is thinking about people who are truly being enemies to God’s work…to people receiving the gospel. We should pray they are thwarted. Ultimately, pray that they repent. But if they won’t repent, sometimes God has to use other (harsh) means to get them out of there. Hear me out…we don’t jump to this. I think of it like police officers trained to de-escalate. They are only supposed to use as much force as the situation warrants based on what the person is doing to them and how compliant they are, etc. (and no more). So using their gun is a last resort. Similarly, praying for a sort of judgment to thwart God’s enemies seems like a last resort, and should be Spirit-led. But it shouldn’t be off the table.

I agree that praying for judgement is not something that is off the table. Jesus is a perfect balance of love and justice, equal parts grace and truth. He taught us to pray that his kingdom would come here on earth as it is in heaven, so I think that would mean we would long for the wrong things in this world to be made right.
I think when the balance is altered is where we run into problems (all grace with no truth is soft, all justice with no love is harsh).

Neh 8: Teaching the Bible

I’ve been touched by Neh 8 – there they read the Bible and then “they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8). The result? “All the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, BECAUSE they had understood the words that were declared to them.” (Neh. 8:12)

So simple, yet so under-appreciated: read the Bible, explain what it means. That should be our teaching strategy.

Nehemiah 6:16

When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

I am encouraged in these stories of how pagan people recognize the power of the LORD, even though they don’t follow him.

God’s power is evident when his people fear him and obey. “The fear of the LORD” is something that seems to be mentioned a lot.

Neh 7: Hanani’s Promotion

7:2- Hanani is put in charge “because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.”

It is interesting to think about how different the business world would be if the fear of the LORD was the most sought after quality when hiring someone for an upper management position.

This reminds me of Aristotle’s directions for a midwife:

A MIDWIFE ought to be of middle age…A lady’s hand, a hawk’s eye, and a lion’s heart…But above all, she ought to be qualified with the fear of God, which is the principal thing in every state and condition, and will furnish her on all occasions both with knowledge and discretion.

See https://www.exclassics.com/arist/arist13.htm

Nehemiah 8

This story is in the children’s bible I read to my kids after dinner, and to be honest I wasn’t familiar with it before reading it to them. It is a powerful story. Understanding scripture allows us to repent, and this is cause for celebration!

Neh 13: Rough Dealings

I’ve been thinking a lot about Neh 13:25 ~

I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair…

At first blush, this might seem a bit extreme for him to do.

BUT:

  • we live in a very sanitized and “polished” society compared to a lot of places…in some places, this kind of rough behavior is almost like the “language of the land” you need to use to get their attention (certainly better than killing them or dying under God’s hand for the compromise and idolatry).
  • along these lines, I think Nehemiah may have been acting in a sort of “official” capacity. So you can think of police officers with batons, or Herod with his soldiers who would routinely beat people as a discipline for what they did (we are a society WAY more devoid of corporal punishment than a lot of places…but even in our land, we still allow for a certain level of corporal punishment…I wonder if we could actually curb some really negative things if we used a little more corporal punishment than we do, honestly)
  • You can’t say the Bible doesn’t show the gritty, real-ness of humanity!

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