All Things New - 10.12.2017

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

- Nehemiah 6:3

A Jew living in exile during the 5th century B.C., Nehemiah served as cupbearer to Artaxerxes, King of Persia, then one of the most powerful men on earth. Learning that a remnant of his countrymen back in Judah were without adequate defenses and in great distress, Nehemiah asked Artaxerxes for permission to personally oversee the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls. Amazingly, the king not only agreed; he appointed Nehemiah governor and resourced him generously for the task. 

However, all was not easy for Nehemiah. Arriving in Jerusalem, he immediately faced considerable opposition from Judah’s enemy neighbors. Together, they conspired to sabotage Nehemiah's work, even attempting to assassinate him. In one such attempt, Nehemiah’s enemies called for him to come down from the wall and negotiate terms with them. The ruse didn’t work. Nehemiah stayed on the wall, and sent back a simple message:

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Pestered four separate times, Nehemiah responded this way. The fifth time, he received a threatening letter. Nehemiah remained undeterred, focused on the great and important work of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. 

I don’t know about you, but I admire Nehemiah’s focus. He knew who he was; he knew what he was called to do; and he didn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of him doing it. In an age of invasive communications technology, social media, 24/7 entertainment, and more, it’s harder than ever to stay focused - even on our most important work. Although his pressures were different than ours today, they were no less significant. How did Nehemiah do it? I think there are at least a few things to consider. 

First, Nehemiah knew the cost of not staying focused. Judah’s enemies were significant and threatening. Without a wall, Jerusalem and its people were exposed and practically defenseless. 

Second, Nehemiah knew the blessings made possible by staying focused. The exile was ending. God’s people were returning to the land, and those already there were gaining strength and hope. Nehemiah knew that the wall’s reconstruction was an absolutely crucial phase in securing the future of God’s people in the land. 

Nehemiah’s desire to protect and prosper God’s people focused his energies, and helped him rightly prioritize his life and work. Knowing who he was and what he was called to do, Nehemiah learned to say a resounding “No!” to anything that might compromise God’s great work in him and through him. 

Child of God: To what great work has God called you at home? In school? The workplace? The church? In the community? What is the cost of losing focus? What are the blessings that can come through focus and perseverance? To what will you say a resounding “No!” today, in favor of God’s great work in you and through you? When necessary, be prepared to say “Yes!” to God’s plans by saying “No!” to others. 

You're loved. Don't forget it. 


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