‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy
I am a Nehemiah fan. I have always seen Nehemiah as a visionary leader and a man of action. As the book opens he describes how his calling has come to him – he hears the report and is drawn to act. For sure he was already seeking and following God in his everyday life and service to the king. That he was “in the Word” is evident. But the news from Jerusalem has dropped an idea in his head and as it swirls around he is lead to prayer. I’m a firm believer that I almost always don’t know the full concept of what I’m thinking until I speak the words. I think Nehemiah began to find his clarity as he spoke to God.
Problem solving begins with learning how we got there in the first place. The bridge collapsed due to inferior building materials; the bank failed due to corruption within; Israel was scattered because they were unfaithful. The remedy for rebellion and sin is repentance. Nehemiah begins there.
Nehemiah confesses his sin and the sins of his people as well. He didn’t just badmouth Israel; he claimed them as his own. In my life confessing my own sin has always seemed the obvious thing to do. It really pushes the envelope to realize “they”, over whom I have no control or influence, is actually “my tribe”. If God is calling me to serve Him it is not for my own personal objectives. He is an inclusive God with an inclusive mission. I would go so far as to say – though I’m not completely thrilled with the concept – holiness is a team sport.
Got some big idea swirling in my head I think might be a God idea? Inspiration is one thing empowering is another. Nehemiah’s conversation leads him to compare his own thoughts with God’s thoughts. What a great idea to help rescue God’s people but if God never said He was interested in that particular thing – well, it’s going to be a bust. You gotta go there. What’s the real point to pursue a passion I think is from God if I’m unwilling to hold it up to the light and look for anywhere it might have holes?
Testing leads to more clarity. It also leads to assurance – which leads to passion – which leads to sustainable action. SUSTAINABLE ACTION should be one word. The trying of one’s faith – (that is what anyone’s calling is predicated upon, you know) – produces endurance says James. To be sure, God’s call will not be smooth sailing, pothole free, or without turbulence. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)
Though it may be my struggle it is God who has promised and He who will accomplish His plans.
…though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.
This could have been a touchstone for Nehemiah. I can feel the God’s power surging through these words. What seems impossible, God plans to restore and all for His glory.
As for me, I’ll paraphrase Moses. “LORD, if you’re not going , don’t let me go either!”