Tired fingers open Holy Words as a weeping heart wipes leaking tears. And the brokenness of the world whispers weakly ---- we need ...
This morning i found comrads as i sat on my couch and opened the leather book again. Letting myself go deep and allowing time to connect where i am to where they were; it was as if two places fit together --- almost perfectly.
When i was a girl, my parent's had those timeless World Book Encyclopedias. We were fascinated by the human body pages, they had the coolest overlay sheets. The first page was simply an outline of the human body. But then one by one each transparent information page was laid over it and the complexity and completeness of the human body came into view. The skeleton, the nervous system, the internal organs, the veins and arteries, each had it's own page. Not until all the transparency pages were laid together could you get the full picture of the miracle of the human body God created.
It's such a familiar picture of what happens in us as we kids of Abba sit with Him and look into His word. We can begin to see m-o-r-e as He lays another overlay page on the one we bring to Him. And the longer we sit in His classrooms of life, the more pages He overlays into us.
King Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing new under the sun”.
When i was younger and read this, i thought him not-so-wise. For to me, at my young age, so many things were new. Ahh yes, my ignorance showed for sure. But, as i celebrate my 53rd birthday --- and youth is no longer my running-mate --- Solomon's words sound very right. Truly, there isn't anything new. All that we experience has been experienced before by others who perhaps thought they too were the only ones to have visited those high mountain-top moments or low-valley journeys. We've all been wrong on this one if we thought we were experiencing something new... instead it's just an “old” thing coming to a new place.
Solomon wasn't being negative --- he was being clear.
There's nothing new under the sun. So what we're facing today, was faced yesterday, and someone will face the same tomorrow. But --- HOW we face it today --- that could be difference.
Terror has emerged again ---- but it is not new. In these wonderful old pages, the revisiting of it's schemes can be seen, and the sureness of its defeat is remembered.
Nehemiah had trouble on his hands.
It's the place where the days of old met my day today on the space of a couch this morning.
I brought my simple outline drawing of me, my life, my heart, my need, as i sat on that early-morning-couch ---- asking for... (too much to list).
I'd read through Chapters 1 and 2 and 3 --- remembering the story from my vacation Bible school days. We'd drawn “the wall” on paper, built “the wall” in skits, read the story, and cheered the words, “I'm doing a great work and i can not come down...” (thank you again God for a momma and daddy who made sure their little ones were in those rooms on Union Hill Road).
But for two days now, sitting in Africa, so far from those sweet days, the Lord has laid another page over my simple outline. And Nehemiah has become ----- a friend to me.
You see, Nehemiah was doing the work the Lord had given him to do. He was “on assignment”. Rebuild the wall. But he had enemies, many of them. Sanballat, Tobiah, Arabs, Ammonites, Ashdodites, Samarian officers... all these mocked Nehemiah and the jews who worked to rebuild the wall.
Overlay page --- “when you obey God, there will be enemies who oppose you...”
Nehemiah's response to this --- he prayed.
“Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked...”
As scoffers criticized and Nehemiah prayed, the work continued and the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city. The Word says the people “worked with enthusiasm”.
Overlay page --- “keep steady at the work donna, no matter what goes on around you.”
Then in verse 7 the Word says those who opposed the rebuilding of the wall were furious because the work was continuing, the wall was being repaired, their threats and criticisms had not hindered the workers. So the enemies made plans to go to Jerusalem, fight against the builders, and throw confusion into the work.
Overlay page --- “sometimes enemies will criticize with words, but sometimes their plans will bring threat of an attack”.
Nehemiah's response to these plans of an attack --- “We prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.”
Their response of old brought another overlay for me today. This one had no lines on it, nothing was drawn, but instead it was a solid color, of the faintest blue. Blue being a that calms. This overlay page of “prayer” doesn't directly respond to any line below it– instead it just covers over everything beneath it – it changes the intensity of the dark lines of enemy-attack-plans --- it weakens them, it speaks of something powerful enough to COVER anything under it.
Imagine with me how tired these workers must have been.
Nehemiah himself, he'd worked and planned, up early and working late, with tools in his hands and plans in his head, he was a man working overtime. He's no different than a man today, working to get the contracted job done, managing many people in challenging conditions. But Nehemiah had enemies breathing down his neck, he was extra tired, for his eyes must have always been on the horizon, watching for the approach of those who would do them harm.
Then verse 10 comes and it became so “real” to me as i read the words. “Then the people of Judah began to complain, 'The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.'” Surely --- we today are like these of old. Working hard. Pressing ahead even when obstacles and enemies distract us. Growing tired. Praying for strength to “guard the city day and night, to protect ourselves, and keep steady at the work”... But in our humanness, we get tired and perseverance grows thin and we begin to ------ complain. Our weary eyes cause us to focus on the “rubble” that needs to be moved instead of the progress of the “wall”. We hear the murmurings of others, the criticisms too, and we lose sight of the race that has been set before us.
The mumblings and grumblings of those around us ------ can weigh us down ---- like lead boots in a lake.
And murmuring complaints are as contagious as flu germs passing from mouth to mouth. What a gross picture that is --- we don't want to think of germs jumping into our mouths. But isn't the image accurate? When one mouth murmurs ---- those around it have to steadfastly WORK (at the wall) to not allow those words to jump into their own mouths and multiply off their own tongues.
It's what happened in Jerusalem. Complaints began, people were discouraged and tired, they were weak, the doubting thoughts and strained attitudes were contagious.
Sanballat and Tobiah were not the only enemies at work against the builders on the wall.
The most dangerous enemies are the ones who find a way to sneak inside our “camp” --- and come out of our own mouths.
Overlay page --- “don't let murmuring come from your mouth or sit in your thoughts, don't surround yourself with those who do”.
In the midst of their murmurings, their enemies sent threats, “We will swoop down on them, kill them, and end their work”(V 11). FEAR screams at us when we are already tired --- and threats make their way to our door. More words came, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”(V 12).
There's nothing new under the sun --- is there?
Yesterday, terrorists killed over a hundred people in France. Many more were seriously injured. Today, hundreds of families grieve their loses. And we see threats of terror and attack unfold. Some tremble, some want to hide away in their homes and forget any “wall” they might have been called to build. But others, they step forward like Nehemiah. He had a response to the threats that came in his day. Verse 13, “So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. (14) Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, 'Don't be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord who is great... and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”
Only God could let Nehemiah's strength speak to my tears this morning.
His words spoke straight through from those days long gone to these days before us.
We've been given assignments by the One who knows what is needed ---- He knows where the needs are --- He has a master plan --- He knows what HE IS DOING.
But we kids... we get tired... we hear threats... and we wonder... will we ever be able to finish the work before us...
Then word of terror comes --- and we wonder, will they swoop down on us and kill us and end our work...?
And we doubt ----- ourselves ---- as we doubt ---- the One.
But the Nehemiah's are among us.
They must not be silent before us.
Those anointed by God to speak the same truths to us that Nehemiah spoke as he stood beside the wall and said “Fight for your homes and for those in your care”.
Overlay page --- DO NOT shrink back, do not be afraid – Remember the Lord is great --- fight for what He has given you.
In the moments of morning when the birds begin to sing, it was as if the Holy One breathed in the room, as Nehemiah's words kept coming and Abba's whispers filled air-------
Do not be afraid...
donna – do not be afraid for your sons and daughter.
Wars and rumors of wars will come, that is nothing new--- bullies have always been, and they will always be, until Heaven's doors are opened wide and hell's gates are sealed shut.
daughter – hold steady at the work, FIGHT for what is yours, do not murmur, do not complain, do not whimper in fear or listen to lies of terror. REMEMBER ME, for I AM GREAT... I am with you... I have already won... no matter how things look... Calvary's work is still alive...
(15)”When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. (16) But from then on, only half the men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail... (17)...the laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. (18) All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.”
And i thought of all the laborers i know who remain steady at the work.
I let myself envision all the ones i know who stand guard with weapons --- not literal weapons, but the powerful weapons that flow from “the fervent, effective prayer of the righteous”. The most powerful warriors among us are the ones who have weathered many years. It's not their first rodeo... They can see a more complete image of life, because they've let the Holy Warrior place many overlay pages upon them. They see more, even as their eyes grow dim; their lenses don't focus on the things of this world. They SEE MORE.
And they pray fervently, passionately, powerfully ---- they pray as if victory could unfold in the words they utter --- because they lift those words to the ONE who is over all things.
They know how to draw a sword, because they've had many years of becoming well acquainted with how it feels in their hands, how to sharpen it, how to grasp it firmly and swing it at just the right moment. Their aging, weakened hands can do more damage with the sword they hold because they pull it from the sheath that's between the leather bound pages of power and life. They know the double edged surfaces of the sword they hold; it is heavier than a shaft of iron. It's the “Word of God” and its power shakes the gates of hell and crumbles those trained in terror.
Verse (19)... “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. So when you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!”
Oh my heart – as i read the words -- “we are widely separated from each other along the wall...”
How right Solomon was, there really is nothing new under the sun.
People have been widely separated from those they love --- for ages and ages. But so often, it is what is required --- for the work to be completed.
No matter where we are working. No matter what threats are given. No matter that there are enemies trying to stop the building of the wall of hope and goodness and life and love --- the final word is this ---
“Our God will fight for us!”
(21)“We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard...(23) “During this time, none of us ever took off our clothes...we carried our weapons with us at all times...”
Solomon was right --- “there is nothing new under the sun”.
There is much work to be done ---
Those who can build ---- build.
Those who can pray ---- pray.
Those who can lead ---- lead.
We must not be deterred ---- we must not be afraid!
Final overlay --- “Our God will fight for us!”
|(found this pic on fb -- don't know who to give the credit to --- but THANK YOU to whoever made it!)|
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