We’ve been working our way through the story of Nehemiah on Sundays. This last week we were in chapter 6. The story of how the enemy is at work and God is on the rescue is what drives this chapter. I shared an illustration that really hit home with a bunch of us in the room and I want to share that story with you today. Let me explain what is going on here first.
Nehemiah has been given a very specific task for a very specific purpose. His task: to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. This impossible task was accomplished in a very short 52 days! The purpose took much longer. Nehemiah’s God-given purpose was to rebuild the people of Judah. They were in complete disarray. They were discouraged, frightened by the enemy and lacking almost any confidence at all. They needed to hear a Word from the Lord and they craved a leader that would model that communication for them. And God sent Nehemiah.
When Nehemiah appears on the scene, the enemy shows his face almost immediately. His tactics all revolve around fear and shame. They take their toll on the people but in the end the people do not submit to them. In the end the people follow their leader and submit to God. This is not a story of defeat. On the contrary it is a story of the unbelievable grace and mercy of God and the incredible way He fights for His people, the people He loves.
For this lesson to be learned the people had to get to the place where they could/would submit to God in every area. There could not be any area in their life they retained for themselves. He proved He was their Provider. There was never a night they didn’t have food on their tables. He proved Himself as their Defender. There was not a single enemy they didn’t watch Him put down. He established Himself as their ultimate Caregiver. In their darkest moments their Abba shone through with His mighty love and compassion. As long as they trusted Him, God proved Himself faithful.
Now to the story… In every one of these areas the Hebrew people had to be taught steadfastness. It was their history to remain faithful for a period of time and then let their guard down only to be waylaid by the enemy. Their history looked more like a game of Sorry (back and forth, up and down) than a relationship with the God of Heaven. Steadfastness means staying put. When the waters begin to rise, we don’t run, we stay put and trust God to save us. When the night is the darkest, we don’t hide, we trust the Light no matter how distant or faint. Steadfastness is not choosing to remain in whatever situation you find yourself. Steadfastness is remaining where God has put you; choosing to engage in the place and the calling God has invited you to be a part of.
I likened steadfastness to standing on the beach with your feet in the water. What’s the first thing you do when you go to the beach? You run to the water’s edge and put your feet in, right? You stand there and look at the sunset and dream about how relaxing it’s going to be over the next few days you’ll be there. The longer you stand in the sand the deeper the water gets. If you stand there long enough it can be kind of scary. The tide rises and before you know it you’re up to your waist in water. It can be hard to stay put when the tide is rushing back into the ocean against your legs.
This is an image of steadfastness. God calls us to one place and time to stand with Him. He promises to fight for us, all we have to do is trust Him and stay put. But as the tide rises our job becomes more and more difficult. The higher the water gets the more our fear rises, until we are ready to jump and run. But God says “Stay put. Trust me.” Sometimes He doesn’t come in until the water is up to our neck. In these moments are faith is the most tested. Are we going to trust Him to not let us drown? Will He really keep His word to us? What we find as we trust the Lord over and above our fears is that He will never let us down. He may wait till the last minute, but He is always faithful to rescue us.
Sometimes the Lord doesn’t stay far off. Sometimes He is nearer than our breath. When the tide begins to rise we find the Lord immediately in front of us, blocking the waves. We know He is near enough to hang onto and we do. We hang on with all our might. Even though the waters may rise we know we will be alright. Our fear never rises because the One we love and trust is in the path of the storm.
I don’t know what storm you are facing today but I do know this. The tide rises and falls with each passing day. We will never escape the constant threat of evil in this old world. And I know as long as we trust the Lord God, we will never be alone. That doesn’t mean we will never have questions or be afraid. It means we will never be without rescue. And that means we are never without hope.
I can’t encourage you enough to remain steadfast today. Ask God to come to you in the midst of the storm, then look for Him. He will always be close by.