Good afternoon (or, at least it’s afternoon as I write these words), Beloved! I hope that this e-newsletter finds you all doing well. Over the last week or so I have been preparing for the next book that we will be tackling in Plan and Promise: Nehemiah. As I’ve been reading through and meditating on the book of Nehemiah, the faithfulness of the Lord to his covenant people and their response to his faithfulness has struck me time and time again. One particularly beautiful example of this is found in Nehemiah 1-4.
In chapters 1-2, we see that Nehemiah was diligent in his study of Scripture, particularly the book of Deuteronomy. He understood that the people of Israel had been disobedient to their covenant Lord, and because of this disobedience they found themselves squarely in exile; but Nehemiah also understood that exile was not the last word from the Lord. He remembered the promises of the Lord to restore his people, so he prayed for the Lord to remember and act according to his covenant promises. He prayed, and then he approached King Artaxerxes requesting to return to Judah. We are told in Neh. 2:8 that “the king granted me [i.e. Nehemiah] what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” The rest of chapter two describes Nehemiah’s travel back to Jerusalem and his assessment of the city. What he found during his assessment was that the walls had been destroyed and the gates burned, and then he calls the people of Israel to work together in rebuilding the wall and repairing the gates of Jerusalem. In spite of opposition, Nehemiah calls on the people to remember the faithfulness of their covenant Lord, and, in light of his faithfulness, to get to work. In 2:18 we read, “So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”
Now, chapters 3-4 detail the rebuilding of the wall and repairing the gates. It details the people’s response to the call of Nehemiah to get to work. It might seem somewhat monotonous reading, but I assure you it is anything but monotonous. What we see is the people of the Lord working together to accomplish the restoration of city of the Lord which itself protected the temple of the Lord. Each individual was doing the particular work they were called to do, with the understanding that if any part of the wall was not complete the whole would be compromised. There remained opposition to this work, but even in the midst of such opposition the people of Israel continued to build, “for the people had a mind to work.” (Neh. 4:6) Nehemiah reminded them of their commitment to one another and the faithfulness of the Lord in Neh. 4:19-20: “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” The Lord’s people were committed to him and to one another.
We see gospel realities in the shadows of Nehemiah, and in the dawning of the Son we see the substance of those shadows. For us who are united to Christ through faith, we have seen the faithfulness of our God par excellence. We have seen his faithfulness in not leaving us exiled in our sin, but through the sending of his eternally beloved Son, and through his work of redemption we have been brought out of exile, out of bondage to sin. Though we deserve the curses of the covenant because of our sin, we receive the blessings of the covenant because of the work of Jesus Christ. Though exile is rightfully ours, by grace we have been transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved Son (Col. 1:13). In this kingdom, brothers and sisters, there is no work that is too small or of little value; and in this kingdom there is no work that does not impact the rest of the body, for we are all united together to King Jesus by grace through faith (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-27). Let’s rejoice in the work of God in Christ, redeeming a people for his glory, and let’s display our faith to the watching world…a faith working through love for one another (Gal. 5:6), honoring one another, serving one another, helping one another, encouraging one another, laying down our comforts, desires, and even our very lives for one another. This type of love will show the world that we belong to Jesus (cf. John 13:35).
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nate Meece