As I read Nehemiah chapters 2 through 6, my heart aches to see the struggle. He arrives incognito in the city and assesses the situation. He recruits help from the Jewish officials, but no sooner do they gather together and agree to start rebuilding than the opposition and ridicule begins, and it will not relent.
Did Nehemiah anticipate the obstacles he would encounter as he stepped out in faith to follow his heart’s urging? I doubt it. Do any of us fully understand what will be required to walk into the next season?
When Nehemiah hears of his kinsmen living in squalor, he weeps and cries out. What am I to do, God? Nehemiah decides to return to Jerusalem. His mission? To spearhead a massive campaign to rebuild the walls and secure the city. He’s a cupbearer, for goodness sake, not a construction engineer.
Talk about unqualified.
When we accept God’s call to leave the familiar and move into a new season, we are drawn by hope, knowing it will take obedience to walk it out. We may not possess the experience nor the resources we need, but God will provide.
Nehemiah perseveres in faithful obedience. Can he possibly imagine the many obstacles he will encounter? Do any of us fully understand what will be required to walk into our mission?
How does Nehemiah respond to the conflict? I hear my own familiar complaints. Why have you abandoned me, Lord? You called me to this work, and now people are coming against me. You promised never to forsake me, but where are you? This is not what I signed up for.
Instead of complaining, Nehemiah prays. He calls out to God for intervention. God answers, and Nehemiah comes up with a new plan. He takes half the work crew and replaces their tools with weapons.
“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other.” Nehemiah 4:16-17 (NIV)
These people are scrappy! They have grit and persistence.
“So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, ‘Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.’ Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.” Nehemiah 4:21-23 (NIV)
They do not relent. God has blessed their effort, but they have to do the work. They do not give up, even in the face of severe setbacks.
I hope I would respond with the same persevering spirit when faced with such obstacles. Nehemiah and the people finally finish the walls and gates. Then they step back and realize the houses need to be rebuilt, for the city is uninhabitable.
After weeks of toil and peril, they’re not yet done. They have to keep going.
We don’t get to choose how long it will take to walk out the call, but we do know God will guide. He will provide. He will make a way. At last, in chapter 8, walls and houses standing strong, they celebrate.
“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)
Do you feel called into a new season? Are you struggling to discern what is next? Or perhaps you’re in the middle of the mess, persevering in the space between promise and fulfillment.
We’re praying for you, urging you to ask God the questions on your heart, believing you will hear his reply, encouraging you to take his hand and follow his lead. May the joy of the Lord be your strength.
And even if it’s not exactly joy quite yet, may you heart be filled with expectancy, looking to the fulfillment of what God has spoken.