December sneaks around the corner and we're ready to proclaim "our word" for the upcoming year. Words like ‘grace’ or ‘powerful’ that have much context to dive into. I'd never felt led to a word or to pray for a word that would encompass an entire year until December 2016. Two words sprang into existence with meaning I'd never thought of before - radical obedience.
Those two words together terrified me because I knew hard decisions would be mine to make. I was turning a corner in my faith journey and it was time to put faith to the test. I had gone through a bittersweet season - years of just Jesus and I, no distractions and lots of healing.
He had won my heart and became the lover of my soul. Now was the time to choose radical obedience, even when my heart broke and especially when it made me uncomfortable.
I'm reminded of Nehemiah's story and the courage he showed in his obedience to rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem.
In Nehemiah 1, his soul was wrecked for the people of Israel. Some had made their way back to Jerusalem from exile but the wall was destroyed. Nehemiah cried out to God in verse 5, “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments,” and continued in verse 11, “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (New International Version)
When we recite who God is, it reminds us what He's brought us from and His trustworthiness. Nehemiah also repented on behalf of all Israelite's and asked for God's favor in approaching the king he served.
While Nehemiah was performing his duties for the king, the king asked what was bothering him. Nehemiah told the king of the trouble in Jerusalem, the king then asked Nehemiah what he wanted. Nehemiah prayed first and then asked the king for his permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. Not only that, he requested the king write letters for his safe passage and provide timber for supplies; what more, the king provided an escort for Nehemiah on his journey.
After being in Jerusalem for three days, Nehemiah started his inspections at night - he didn't mention what God had put on his heart to anyone. After his due diligence was complete, Nehemiah said, “‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.” (2:17-18)
The people got to work rebuilding the walls even while they were mocked and ridiculed by outsiders. The threat to the Jews was growing increasingly strong, but Nehemiah reminded them “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (4:14, NIV)
Nehemiah put a plan together for half the men to stand guard and the other half to finish completing the walls. Once the wall was complete, Nehemiah's enemies summoned him four times to meet, but he discerned that they meant him harm and declined their invitation each time.
Takeaways from Nehemiah's obedience:
- His heart broke for God's people, he asked God to use him to restore the promised land
- Nehemiah was faithful in his current position under the king, God could trust him with His people
- He was honest with the king, and because he trusted God fully and knew He would provide, asked the king for all provisions needed to complete his task
- Nehemiah kept his mouth closed until the right time, not everyone needs to know everything
- He rallied together the people for reconstruction while telling them of God's favor in this hard task
- When the people were afraid, Nehemiah reminded them “remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families”
- Nehemiah used wisdom and discernment in protecting people and himself, he knew when to say “no”
Obedience is flat out hard. From my own life to Nehemiah's story, obedience requires sacrifice and trust in who God is. Every act of obedience shows God our trustworthiness.
In 2017, God challenged me in ways I'd never experienced before. Never had the Holy Spirit led me to fasting and now God wanted me to fast a person. Writing more frequently kept nagging at me also, I welcomed distractions because writing drew out heavy emotions in me. Finally, I sent writing samples from my personal blog to She Leads Daily and started writing for this site.
Hearing God speak and acting quickly is so important on our faith walk. Nehemiah heard God and acted immediately. He worked hard and tirelessly to restore Jerusalem to glory despite attempts to disgrace his name and physical harm to God's people. God could've used someone else if Nehemiah hadn't been obedient, but that's the glory in obedience - seeing what God had in mind all along.
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