I was teaching my children a Bible lesson about Nehemiah last week and found my own heart convicted as I re-told the story to my children.
Nehemiah 2:11b “…And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem…” God took hold of Nehemiah’s heart and Nehemiah committed to do what God had moved him to do, which was re-build the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah lived in Babylon and had to ask permission from Xerxes, the king of Babylon to go build the walls. God worked in Xerxes heart, and he agreed to let Nehemiah go and build.
God enabled and prepared Nehemiah to do exactly what Nehemiah was meant to do. God surrounded Nehemiah with people to help him in doing the work ahead of him. Even the heart of the king of Babylon was prepared to help Nehemiah do God’s will. Like the famous quote from Joan of Ark: “I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me; and if the soldiers come, I have God, my Lord, who will know how to clear the route that leads to messier the Dauphin. It was for this that I was born!” more simply stated: “I am not afraid; I was made for this.”
We are each a Nehemiah. God has given each of us walls to build, and we are each made and placed here on earth for a divine purpose. Whatever lies ahead, is what God has created us to walk through. He has equipped us with all that we need to do what He has given each of us to do. He will even turn hearts toward or against us as He is fit to bring about His purpose.
There is much comfort in God’s sovereignty….knowing that nothing is by chance…even my life. For me, although there is much I do not know about my purpose in this time and place, I do know what God has laid on my heart to do.
Jews recently celebrated Purim at the end of February. It is a holiday that is completely about God’s sovereignty over the hearts of people and events during the reign of King Xerxes. The book of Esther describes the events in detail. I love the wisdom given to Esther by her cousin Mordecai, when Esther struggled with going to see King Xerxes on behalf of the Jews. Mordecai gently reminded Esther of God’s sovereignty in Esther 4:14 “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Oh to rest in that thought!
God has placed me here in this time, in this place, in this family, with this husband, children, and church…for such a time as this. God has given me the task of living out the gospel in my home, church, neighborhood…basically, in whatever circumstances He has placed me. That, leaning into grace, must be played out in my soul daily. Since, God has also placed me in a specific place in time, spot on the map, marriage to a certain man, mother of four souls, church, and neighborhood. This is the place and time and people I am called to live out the gospel.
And then, there is the state of my own soul. I am called to be a disciple of Christ…to follow Him.. .to rest in His sovereign grace for the continued sanctification of my heart. With that as the foundation for my actions, anything that distracts me from that calling is sin (Nehemiah 6:13).
Like Nehemiah, as I set about to do what God has called me to do, adversaries of God will appose me. The adversaries of God, play on my emotional, human weaknesses to gain foothold in my lives, with the ultimate goal of distracting, stalling, and preventing me from doing the work that has been “put into my heart to do.”
Ammonites, Sanballat and Tobiah felt threatened by the work Nehemiah had been sent by God and his king to do. They and did their best to prevent Nehemiah from building those walls. At first, Sanballat and Tobiah used harsh, unhappy complaints and untrue accusations. When the complaints and lies failed, Sanballat and Tobiah attempted to use fear to deceive Nehemiah into hiding.
I have since pondered the debilitating affect of distractions. There are ever so many! What distractions do I embrace? Is it fear? Do I run and hide, or arm myself as I I continue the work God has set for me to do? What is the enemy using in my life to bring fear, to prevent me from building the walls of my home? From pursuing faithfully in the task the Lord has given me to do? From listening to the calling God has laid on my heart? Lies….always lies…
I Peter 5:8 warns us of the dangers of lack of discernment and distractions. “Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” EHV. Let me indulge this Biblical illustration from nature a bit. A Lion is a very skilled hunter. The lion is a large, loud creature, except when he is prowling. Anyone who has watched a nature documentary has seen a lion go into a stealth, hunting mode. He watches, and waits patiently…eyes slowly studying his prey. The lion seeks out the easiest targets, the young…weak…old…those separated from the herd, the unprotected, distracted, and those who are too engrossed in an activity to be alert….those who lack the wisdom to discern danger.
For a time, part of my calling is to protect four young, and weak little lambs. For me, as the mother, not to be on watchful guard against adversaries, puts my young at great risk. I am also to be alert for my own safety. Staying close to the herd, means being close to other Christians. The Shepherd watches over the herd carefully, and being near Him is also of upmost importance.
Back to Nehemiah… his discernment of the attempted deceit of the enemy is admirable. I believe he was able to make a wise decision because of his confidence in God and what God had called him to do. Instead of running to hide, Nehemiah armed himself and his men and continued to build the walls, ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:18a , Nehemiah 4:21 “So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. I also said to the people at that time, ‘Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.’ So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.”
But even though he was armed, Nehemiah’s enemies were bent on preventing his work from continuing. They made up lies and attempted to drive fear into his heart. Sanballat hoped fear would weaken Nehemiah’s judgement and he would run to hide!
Nehemiah 6:9 “For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” Recognizing lies that are meant to distracts us from the task. Nehemiah 6:10-14 “Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.’ But I said, ‘Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.’ And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.” Nehemiah 6:19 “Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.
So like many other followers of Christ, I find myself constantly distracted from the work God has set before me to do. Sometimes those distractions take place completely in my head as I allow my mind to dwell on thoughts that are untrue or out of my control. Other times, it is a text message, a piece of news…I have found even good things can be completely wrong if that is not what God has tasked me to do! Like Nehemiah, I pray for discernment and wisdom as I am constantly bombarded by the enemy with distractions, fears, and lies that would consume my soul and make me unable to fulfill what God desires I do! I also need to be fully committed, and confident of God’s calling in my life. I will be easily swayed if I am unsure about what God has for me to do. It is possible to be confident in each of our callings. We might not be an apostle like Paul. But we can certainly have the same confidence as we rest in God’s sovereign alignment of circumstances, people, and locations where we are.