From the 10th to the 23rd August I have been reading the book of Nehemiah. Below are a few of the things that have stood out to me along the way:
A Secret Mission with a few Friends
2:12 The book says that in the middle of the night, Nehemiah and a few men who were with him went to examine the city that he had been commissioned to repair. It says that he had told no one what he was up to. This struck with me, because I tend to be the complete opposite. The moment I have even the slightest inkling of what God might be asking me to do, I go and share it with as many people as I can. There is definitely a time to do this, but I think more often than not, we need to take aside a few friends, pray and examine the situation without the audience.
Content with the Dung Gate
3:14 I will never forget this verse, because I remember sitting down with a Pastor friend, who taught it to me. In the story different people are assigned different portions of the wall to fix. And in verse 14 it says that ‘Malchijah the son of Rehab, ruler of the district…repaired the Dung Gate. He repaired it and set its doors, its bolts and its bars.’
Whatever we are assigned in life, whether it be grand and beautiful in the eyes of man, or hidden and disregarded in the eyes of man, we better do it all to honour God. I love the parallel with the description of the body of Christ in Corinthians. Where Paul says that the parts of the body which are hidden we actually give special honour to. This is how the Church is to function, often though, we get it the wrong way round!
Prayer and Action
4:9 Often times we fall into one of two camps. 1) We pray but don’t act. 2) We act but don’t pray. Neither is good. This verse reminds us that Nehemiah, when face with a very real threat to his work, ‘prayed to our God AND set a guard as protection against them day and night’. I think this is a great image of the Christian life. We are to pray and rely on God’s strength, but we are also to labour and work out our salvation with fear and trembling. One of my faviroute verses which capture this dynamic is Col 1:29. (take a read of it!)
6:9&13 In this part of the story Nehemiah identifies that there are some people who have been hired to tempt, discredit and discourage him and those around him. After reading this I began praying that God would keep me on guard against the things and people that the enemy has ‘hired’ to try and tempt me.
7:64 A theme that I have kept hearing about this last week and then here in this verse is the significance that our names are written in God’s book of life. When I read this I was prompted to thank God for choosing me and persevering with me. I really do not deserve such blessing – I really don’t!
Go back and do the things I used to do
8:17 There is a Matt Redman song, called ‘When my heart runs dry’. I’ve never sung it in Church, but I’ve often reflected on this one line in it. ‘I will go back and do the things I used to do’. He is talking about when his heart no longer has the fire and passion for God it once did. How returning to the disciplines of reading your bible, prayer and worship – even if it doesn’t feel “good” – can be done in faith that God will hear and respond.
When I read this verse about how the Israelites decided to celebrate a feast that they had not done in years, in order to return the joy of their liberation from captivity. I did something similar. I put together a playlist on my music app. Of all the Christian songs and worship songs that I loved to sing when I was 13/14 and first gave my life over to Jesus. Songs like ‘Happy Day’, ‘Indescribable’, ‘Yahweh’, ‘You alone can rescue’ and ‘Awesome God’. I spent a week or so, only listening to this playlist. Not because it was wrong for me to listen to anything else, but because I wanted to re-live the joy of being a Christian when I first found out that God was real and had a plan for me!
This theme also came up in 12:43 where the people offered great sacrifices because of the ‘great’ joy God had given them.
Bless the Lord
9:5 Here the Israelites are told to Stand up and bless the Lord. Sometimes we need someone to do this for us. And tell us, to get over our sin, get over our problems and bless the Lord.
10:32 & 11:2, these passages were on consecutive days and both spoke about willing sacrifice. Whether it was a donation to the temple, or to relocate their family and live in Jerusalem. I spoke to God about the sacrifices I might need to be making and those I might be ignoring.
13:14 After reading this I prayed that I would be able to leave a lasting legacy in the areas that I had sought to honour God especially in my work.