Last week we started talking about Nehemiah and how God honors initiative. We saw how God softened King Artaxerxes’ heart toward Nehemiah and gave Nehemiah time away from his role as cupbearer. The king also provided financial assistance to rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Nehemiah turned to God in prayer at each step, seeking His heart and then moving forward, taking the initiative.
This week, Nehemiah takes the initiative again. This time, he ends up realizing something that I think is so important for us today. Let’s dive right into the story – here we go!
Wall reconstruction has been moving steadily along while naysayers gather. They hate what’s going on and mock Nehemiah and his workers. Further, they conspire together with others to fight against what Nehemiah is doing. This pressure is from outside the wall, pushing in. Nehemiah has his workers prepare, arming them with weapons and assigning someone to sound the alarm if something should begin to go down by blowing a horn. Their response was to rush to the sound and be ready to defend and battle.
It’s in the next chapter where pressure mounts not from the outside but from the inside. Jews were financially oppressing other Jews, making it almost impossible to continue the work. The oppressed Jews needed relief. Nehemiah steps in and mediates between the two groups of Jews. He moves them to swear in front of the priests that they won’t oppress their own brothers (Jews) again. Further, he asks them to return back what was taken and then some. God softens their hearts, and they respond to Nehemiah’s request.
It’s the internal schism and disunity that catch my attention. Usually, it’s not the pressures on the outside that take us down. It’s what happens within. Think about it, for any person, church, organization, or country, it’s the internal disunity, divisions, or injustices that ruin (remember Enron?). There are outside forces that push in. I get that. But far more often, it’s the internal health that gauges whether the organization, church, person, or country survives.
Our overall well-being is intrinsically intertwined with our internal health. It’s very much what was going on with the Jews in Nehemiah’s story. Attacks were happening from the outside, but what was going on within the walls could ruin. Let’s take something from the attacks on the outside and mesh it with what was going on within.
So remember how Nehemiah alerted everyone to a potential battle from outside forces? Right! He had the guy with the trumpet sound the alarm, and everyone would run and be ready to help.
We have to set aside our unwillingness to be open, be honest, rip out pride by the root and sound the alarm to those who love us when we’re struggling within. Yes, it’s asking for help! But the alternative, not asking, leads to ruin in some form and a less than abundant life. We need each other and are meant to lean into each other. That right there is sounding the alarm.
Asking for help, even when we don’t want to, is not a sign of weakness in terms of how the world defines strength and weakness. It takes courage, faith, and trust, all three of which grow and produce in us the character God is after. This, in turn, creates a healthier inner life. And the relationships we sound the alarm to become sources of life, and those relationships strengthen as a result.
We need to be ready to fight against what’s on the outside. But we also must be willing to face what’s within and to have the courage to sound the alarm.
You are loved!