The words of the Lord should move us when we hear or read them. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The word of God should touch us and evoke emotion from within. For from nowhere else can you be divinely encouraged, comforted, inspired or convicted.
Stiffed-necked…that’s quite a word picture in my head! When your neck is immobilized by a cervical collar, you can’t swivel your head independently without moving your whole body also… for you lack the flexibility and capacity to turn. When we’re stiff-necked towards God, we’re unwilling to turn away from sin…refusing to listen and heed His Word.
We humans have such short memories. When life is going well…we put God in the corner – kind of like disaster insurance…there just in case we need it. And when we get ourselves in trouble, we call out to Him for help…only to quickly forget again when life quiets down. This roller coaster ride isn’t what God desires for us. He wants to be our focus in good times and bad…in happiness and sadness…in calm and chaos.
The Words of the Lord are powerful. They convict and lay bare the sin in our life and cause Godly sorrow. This Godly sorrow leads to brokenness and repentance. For every time we listen to the Word being spoken, it’s an opportunity for the Lord to change us.
The Israelites had gathered together and asked Ezra to read the Law. Many had never heard the reading of the Word, for they had been born and raised in Babylonian captivity. The Lord had been faithful in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem…He had miraculously aided them in rebuilding the crumbled walls…but now it was time to rebuild His people. The Lord is wanting to rebuild His people again…to reclaim, restore, and re-establish Believers for His glory. Now is the time for you to break off the chains of captivity and allow God to begin a new rebuilding project in you.
In only 52 days the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt, securing it from enemy attack. Despite everything their enemies attempted to do to dissuade and intimidate them, the wall was made strong. In less than 2 months time, the people of Jerusalem had done something of super-human ability… and their enemies realized this. Nothing will ever stand in the way of God’s plan…not people…not circumstances…not anything. And this will render the enemy fearful and in awe of God’s great power.
Prayer is good…action is good, but the Lord wants us to do both together in wisdom. In Nehemiah 4: 8-9 it says, “They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to met this threat.” Prayer will give you God’s vision. It will give you courage and resolve to move out in discernment and a clearer understanding of the problem you face. Prayer is good…action is good, but they need to go hand in hand to be the most effective.
King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah what he wanted…but before he responded, Nehemiah prayed. It could be called an “as we go” prayer. This type of supplication doesn’t need to be long… just the length of a deep breath. It doesn’t need to be in depth…a simple “Give me wisdom, Lord!” will suffice. The Lord is with us always…His presence there in the middle of all situations…so why don’t we take a moment to seek His guidance before blurting out something we may later regret.
Nehemiah’s tears were for the ruined city of Jerusalem. His burden for it was immense, for the Lord had laid on him the obligation and passion to rebuild the walls. A burden is a faithful focus of prayer over a long length of time…personal burdens being for family and children. But God also burdens us with other outside issues…things that when we hear about them, we react and ask, “What can I do God?” But the problem arises when we react to everything…and our efforts become scattered and ineffective. We try to do it all, and instead become frustrated, and discouraged. We can’t do everything for everyone…but we can do something. And the wisdom lies in discerning the burden from the emotion.
This week as I was driving to work, I came upon three brood mares grouped together in a pasture, each standing guard over a new-born foal curled up at their feet. It was such a powerful picture that I asked the Lord what it meant. He then gave me this verse in Nehemiah and the analogy that we are all workmen for God during the day…we serve, minister,and help, but we should also be guarding our Jerusalem at night. We should be praying and interceding for our loved ones, and those in authority over us. At night, we should be covering our home, our family, our church, our city, our nation with protective prayer… In God’s army we are to be workmen during day, and guards by night.