“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion, For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even forevermore.” Psalm 133
The overflowing anointing, the abundant blessing, the rich dew of God’s very Presence is found where we live in unity with our brothers. Maybe that doesn’t sound so very hard, but, OH! how difficult it can be for those of us who were born sinful, selfish and self-serving. Our hope to discover true unity lies with this Nazarene they call Jesus, who changes everything; especially us.
This blog walks through the Life Journal readings. This weekend we are finishing up in Luke and getting into Nehemiah:
- 10/9: Nehemiah 1-2; Psalm 133; Luke 22
- 10/10: Nehemiah 3-4; Luke 23
- 10/11: Nehemiah 5-6; Psalm 146; Luke 24
As we read these chapters in Nehemiah we see that the remnant of God’s people returning to Jerusalem had accomplished much in the rebuilding of God’s House and in the building of their own houses too. Through hard work and dedication they were slowly bringing Jerusalem back to life.
When we give our lives to the Crucified and Risen One, we too enter a holy order of people who are building something precious. We join together to build a Kingdom that’s not of this world; a Kingdom unseen, powerful, and which can (quite truthfully) change everything.
But the key to our building success is unity. It was that way in Nehemiah and it is that way now as we band together to be the very Body of Christ on earth. When I was reading Psalm 133 (above) I wondered, “How do we live together in unity?” Because, If the key to building God’s Kingdom is unity, then what is the key to unity?
As we look for the answer to this question in both Luke 22-24 and Nehemiah 1-6, I think we find this:
To live in unity, we need to keep the main thing, the main thing.
In Nehemiah whenever the people started to look too much around at the opposition, or to think about how hard the work was, or to focus on their concerns, the enemy was able to sneak in through spies and cracks and stir up trouble.
If we want to live in unity and not in trouble, we must remember what we are living for.
When Nehemiah’s people were reminded of what they were living for (not for comfort but for break-through) they strapped on their swords and went back to work.
When Jesus gave His life for us on the cross He did it to bring down the wall of separation between us and God, and also the walls between us and others. But He also erected a new wall, so firm it cannot be brought down, between us and the enemy.
We must remember where the walls are: Jesus’ blood tears down the walls between us, and places them around us.
God’s people had to build a wall around themselves to keep the enemy out. Nehemiah purposefully led them to tear down any walls that stood between each other. It is important that we remember who our enemy is. The enemy is not the lost, the broken or the hurting. The enemy is not even the “frozen chosen” among us. The enemy is not flesh and blood at all. Instead we realize that all flesh and blood was worth the spilling of His Divine blood. Jesus’ death on the cross shows us where the walls should be erected… around us, not between us. He loves every crazy-messy person with His life! Have our hearts fully absorbed this?
Because when they do, suddenly Jesus’ saving grace becomes the main thing to us too. No longer do we need to scramble for self-promotion or self-preservation. Instead we pour out our lives to continue Jesus’ work on the earth: to save, to heal, and to restore.
I watched a video about the fleeing Middle East refugees and I couldn’t stop sobbing. They’ve never heard about the Blood, the Grace, the Hope of God’s Son! As they flee a place of virtual captivity, they have nothing. And yet they are gaining a freedom. A freedom to hear the Good News and a freedom to walk away from the enemy’s death grip. What are we, if not the people entrusted with that message? What if we carried it? What if sometimes it first comes in the form of water bottles, food, blankets, clothing, and simple love to a homeless refugee?
But sometimes we forget. What happens if we forget and start looking after our own interests above others’ again? I did something like that two weeks ago and it has made me heartsick ever since. It never works out like we think it will in the moment. It always brings pain. The lie is that if we don’t look out for ourselves, no one else will. But the truth is that God is looking out for us. And that by serving the kingdom’s interests first, we will in fact be far richer.
In Nehemiah, the Jerusalem nobles were found to be taking advantage of their poorer countrymen by exacting high interest rates to profit during the famine. Nehemiah was appalled, calling them to change this immediately. He reminded them of the main thing.
“As far as possible we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet because they could find nothing to say.” (Nehemiah 5:8)
The main thing is that we are already bought with a price (redeemed!), and it is our job to partner with Christ to buy others back (to redeem them!) from captivity too. It is never, ever to sell our brother’s out. The main thing is the work of Christ on the Cross (Luke 22-24). His blood changes everything! It turns us from a rag-tag group of refugees into an army, a team, a Kingdom, that has the power of God resting upon it to do His work here on earth: to rescue, to restore, and to redeem. The remnant who returned to Jerusalem were there to restore their land, restore their people, restore their worship. Whenever we forget our main purpose, we must remind ourselves what it is:
The right battles to fight in life are those that save what was lost, fix what is broken, or heal what is hurting.
We get tired. We get frustrated. We get confused. And sometimes we fight the wrong battles. The enemy looks for cracks to sneak in and whisper taunts of doubt and fear so we will turn on each other, instead of turning against him. And sometimes after battle weariness has set in, and our souls feel rattled and battered, we do turn on each other out of pain and frustration. We slip back into self-promotion and self-preservation. And that’s when Nehemiah reminds us to:
- Know who your enemy really is (and “don’t be afraid” of him!).
- Remember who you belong to (“Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”).
- Fight for each other, not with each other. (“fight for your brothers…”)
“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
4. Ask God for strength. (“But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9).
Because He has given us a purpose in this life, and when we remember what that is, life makes more sense. This verse and prayer of blessing reminds us who we are, Whose we are and what we are really living for:
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them, the Lord, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” (Psalm 146:1-9a)
Life isn’t really about how much we gain, but how much we give. God bless you.
If you would like to help feed, clothe and bless refugees there is a solid way to donate RIGHT HERE.