Thursday, June 19, 2014


I have been reading this week in Nehemiah. I love how God uses a seemingly-random passage that I've read many times before to encourage me right exactly where I am struggling today.

Nehemiah was an Israelite who was living in exile and who served as cupbearer to Artaxerxes, king of Persia. When Nehemiah receives news of the horrible condition of his homeland, he is brokenhearted. However, in answer to Nehemiah's prayers, God prompts King Artaxerxes to send Nehemiah back to Jerusalem with an entourage of fellow Israelites, and he tasks them with rebuilding their beloved city.

Back in Jerusalem, Nehemiah inspects what remains of the city walls. The walls have been pulled down and the gates burned. In fact, the wall around Jerusalem was such a pile of rubble that the animal Nehemiah was riding couldn't even pass through the debris at one point.

Soon after arriving back in the city, Nehemiah organizes workers to begin rebuilding the wall. The people are so excited about rebuilding Jerusalem that they eagerly join in the work. Chapter 3 makes me think of a swarm of ants busily climbing about an anthill - these folks are motivated!

But of course, this work cannot long continue unopposed. In Chapter 4, Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite - two Gentile rulers who do not want the Hebrews to become unified or strengthened - show up and begin harassing the laborers. These two stand and hurl insults at the men working on the wall. They jeer and scoff. They behave like bullies on the school playground, belittling and threatening the men who are hauling away debris and stacking new stones into place.

In the face of hostile opposition, Nehemiah again turns to the Lord in prayer. And then he writes...

"So we built the wall." (Nehemiah 4:6)

I love this! Faced with the monumental challenge of clearing away the rubble and debris of the old wall and then building a new wall with new gates - we're talking back-breaking labor and lots of sweat and sacrifice - faced with this great challenge, and then having to endure a constant shower of insults and threats, these people did...

...exactly what they set out to do.

Do you feel called to a particular task? Is the labor before you daunting? Are there people in you life who constantly try to pull you away from the work before you? Are there voices around you who can think of nothing to say but discouraging words about the work you are doing? Do you want to give up? Or at least take a half-holiday to throw a pity party?

"So we built the wall."

Be encouraged by the account of Nehemiah.

Me, I want to write a book, a story that communicates the gospel. But it seems like I have a thousand and one people making demands on my time, pulling me away from the work of writing, distracting me from the task I feel called to do. And there are those who say, "You are not a very good writer" - and they are right - and, "This book will never amount to anything" - and they are probably right about that, too. I find it easy to be discouraged, distracted, demotivated. Sort of like those workers toiling away on the wall around Jerusalem.

"So we built the wall."

I am greatly encouraged. And, so, I will write the book.

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