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The daunting task of rebuilding the wall was ostensibly before the Israelites. The audacious opposition from neighboring enemies prevailed against the Israelites. God’s people, the ones called for His Name’s sake, faced an endeavor larger than their abilities, harder than their strength, more hopeless than their possibilities, more relentless than their energy, and more despairing than their will.

Does this new year find you with a new battle, or maybe one that has been tormenting you at your heels for months or years? Can you identify with the Israelites? Does it seem as if you do not have the capabilities, resources, help, willpower, guts, or right perspective to overcome? Does your courage seem lost in the rubble and destruction of your past?

HELP IS ON THE WAY!

Nehemiah (a Jew), while still in Babylon, heard of his people trying to survive in the aftermath of a burned down, broken down city: “‘[survivors]are in great trouble and disgrace'” (Nehemiah 1:3). With a broken and heavy heart, Nehemiah requested the king’s permission to help his own people through the dark time. The pagan king miraculously granted Nehemiah permission to leave his position of cupbearer and return temporarily to his hometown. King Artaxerxes not only let Nehemiah go, but sent him out in the most elite style! This is one of my favorite parts of the story! Just so we get the picture and profoundness and punch and phenomenal of this unprecedented moment, the following are different translations for Nehemiah 2:9:

“Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.” ESV
“The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.” NIV
“The king even sent along a cavalry escort.” The Message
“Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.” NASB
“Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.” KJV

Truly surreal. We hear the word “surreal” thrown around in the media especially during interviews where the interviewee just won a game, match, reality contest, or when something out of the ordinary occurs. It is a moment in time when what just happened or is happening seems unreal or dreamlike. For me, the time that captured the meaning of the word “surreal” was at my oldest daughter’s wedding. She was engaged to the man God ordained for her, and we were blessed beyond measure for the two of them to spend the rest of their lives together. We had planned every detail of the wedding months ahead of time, but when all the guests arrived and lavished the outdoor venue with their attention onto my daughter, the radiant bride, I felt as if I were in a dream. The reality or acceptance that we had the wedding of my firstborn literally took a year for me to comprehend. Makes me wonder what Nehemiah must have felt as he was traveling with the king’s cavalry as his escort, riding in pomp and splendor with the king’s stamp of authority! He brought with him the best the world could offer to the men, women, and families who fiercely needed a rescuer – someone who could see beyond their mess and do something about it. Just a few short months before his royal ride, he was at home in Babylon weeping, fasting, and begging God on behalf of his relatives. He prayed, “let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant…” (Neh. 1: 6). When the time was right for Nehemiah to inquire of the king about leaving and helping the remnant of Jews, he was just hoping to live through it! Now he sits atop the back of one of the king’s horses with the king’s military men surrounding him! God heard and answered Nehemiah’s humble prayers in only the way He can do. Reminds me of Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Sounds like a surreal experience to me! Don’t give up praying! Keep seeking God for yourself or for a loved one or friend. God hears your prayers and is “delighted” in you (Psalm 18:19).

So…without announcing in a grand way his arrival, Nehemiah instead quietly investigates Jerusalem, specifically the destruction of the wall which was in utter ruin and useless to protect. Then, he gathers a group of men and explains why he is there and how “the good hand of [his] God was upon [him]” (Neh. 2:8). It wasn’t about him. It never was. Nehemiah didn’t risk his life for anyone’s sake except the Lord’s. He gave glory to his God and proclaimed what God had done through the king. He had worldly authority and could have taken advantage of his luxuries, but he chose to represent his heavenly Authority and glorify the King of kings.

One by one the men worked under the leadership of Nehemiah to repair and rebuild the protecting wall around Jerusalem. They were working as fast as they could, and at the same time standing guard from the onslaughts and mockery of the nearby neighbors. The Jews hadn’t worked this hard or come together as one in a long time. This was a turning point for everyone. They had a bold leader, determination in their hearts, and able bodies to accomplish what would be a defining task that would mark the Israelites as once again a separate nation. The enemy then dug deep in his bag of tricks to do anything in his little power to emotionally defeat God’s people from prospering. Called them names. Mocked their obedience. Ridiculed their efforts. Belittled their supplies. Accused their abilities. Plotted against them. It almost worked. It almost worked. Satan’s name calling against you, Satan’s mockery, ridicule, belittling, accusations, and plotting are nothing but a bunch of lies. His work is meant to destroy you and keep you from fulfilling God’s purpose and plan for your very life and life of your family. Pray mighty warrior, pray! Enlist other close warriors to pray on your behalf. This is war.

This is the moment Nehemiah gave the pep talk of a lifetime. As the Israelites were at the point of giving up, not having the last bit of strength to keep going, Nehemiah gathered the men together and charged them with these words: “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (NLT).

Don’t be afraid!

Remember the Lord!

And fight!

Nehemiah’s testimony: “So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out” (Neh. 4:21).

May this too be your testimony, my testimony. That we will continue to do “good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph. 2 10) and that we will “hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:16) knowing that God “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:8).

The end of a year and the beginning of a new year seem to conjure up all sorts of remembrances from family memories to celebrity break-ups, births, deaths, songs and videos of the year, and a wide-range of national news. Personally, I enjoy taking moments to ponder moments from the year. It can be these moments that lead one to conjure up new year’s resolutions. Believe it or not, a resolution could be to remember! It is a biblical concept that runs throughout the Old and the New Testament. Some of the calls to remember include –

“Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God…”(Deut. 4:10). “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 5:15). “Remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt…” (Deut.7:18). “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert…” (Deut. 8:2). “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” (Deut. 9:27).”Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the LORD your God…(Deut.11:2). “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt” (Deut. 25:17). “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…” (1 Chronicles 16:12). “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago” (Ps. 77:11). “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering” (Hebrews 10:32). “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:4).

Moses and the other divinely inspired writers remind God’s people to “Remember”! This isn’t limited to just thinking, but also to record, to write down what one remembers especially in regards to what God has said or done on behalf of oneself. I can think of several reasons the act of remembering would be beneficial. 1. It would take our eyes off ourselves and onto our Heavenly Father. 2. It would keep us from feeling alone. 3. It would cause us to be grateful for all He has done. 4. Increase our faith. 5. Encourage us to continue on the straight and narrow.

In Mark 6 the disciples had just witnessed and been a part of the feeding of the 5,000 which was an enormous God-size miracle by anyone’s standard. Then, they got into a boat where a storm came up. When Jesus got in the boat with them (btw…he did another miracle of walking on the water), the storm ceased. Scripture then states, “they [disciples] were greatly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mark 6: 51b-52). Lord have mercy! May this generation of believers, including myself, learn from what God has done and can do!

My favorite reason for remembering comes from Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Another aspect of our ever- so- lengthy job description of parenting is to remember what God has done for us out loud so that our children and grandchildren see the hand of God personally in our lives.

My grandpa, Dr. Charles E. Green, was full of God stories. Every time my family would visit him, then in my adult years when Richard would go with me to visit, Grandpa would recall so many memories of what God had done for him. His stories were incredible. Before he died he was given the amazing privilege of making a record of his life-story in which was published. His autobiography is titled The Lord Heard My Cry. I am so thankful for this gift because now I can pass it down to my daughters.

I am inspired to journal and to speak the good things the Lord has done for me. “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD” (Psalm 102:18).

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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