(Actually These 14 Days. Oops.)
Golden State Warriors Party
Your 7 Days? Or 14? Whatevs.
“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews…”
Last time we looked in on our Refiner as He uses fire to prove our faith sure. Not to puff us up but to help us bow down.
Today we move on in our narrative, remembering the Samaritan Governor, Sanballat. We’ve already seen him, along with Tobiah the Ammonite official, disturbed when Nehemiah came to seek the beauty of Jerusalem. We have also watched these two nearby leaders mock Nehemiah and his crew as they prepared to rebuild. So it is not a shock to see Sanballat in our narrative again once he hears the men have begun to work.
The first word to describe Sanballlat upon hearing the news is angry – kaas – provoked to anger, indignant, vexed. Something I appreciate about our God is how He doesn’t seem interested in having me learn about a section of the Word without showing me a section of the Word. Anger is something with which I deeply struggle, and I have felt provoked to it, indignant and vexed this very week. Fortunately, the emotion itself is not unlike our glorious God. I’m grateful He doesn’t look upon injustice or violence or sin with a look of calm indifference. It matters deeply to Him – both the victim of injustice and the perpetrator running from their purpose.
However, pettiness will never describe our Yahweh. And it’s the political situation in which Sanballat is invested that is provoking him to anger. He will lose whatever influence he has over Jerusalem with this new governor and a more fortified identity and city for the Jews. So he is provoked to anger.
The second word in our verse to describe Sanballat is incensed, in Hebrew charah – kindled with anger, to blaze up. When do you blaze up? What really triggers your anger and grows it? Speaking of grows, the Hebrew for greatly is rabah – to mulitply, bring in abundance.
As He grows us, what will blaze up our anger will more reflect His heart. His Spirit in us will be incensed at what is obviously not part of His beautiful design for Creation: abandoned children, lonely widows, addiction, war, suffering, supremacy. We are not Him and cannot feel it all in perfect righteousness. But He will be faithful to grow us more and more into His image.
The broken side of this being incensed comes out of our mouths. As James says, the tongue is set on fire by hell. What can blaze me up and multiply throughout my life are things like gossip, superiority, shame and blame. I can take on any of those things or fall under the weight of them. And trust me, it can multiply throughout my life. Yours too? Let’s learn to stop it in His strength before we get to the final verb for Sanballat.
All of this comes full circle for our Samaritan Governor and he once again mocks or ridicules the rebuilders. Ridicule is laag – to scoff, mock, as if imitating a foreigner: to speak unintelligibly/stammer. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do with our hurt and fear and anger, the result is mocking whoever seems to be provoking it. It happens in a split second for me and in those moments I can’t wait for glory to be done with it forever.
How about you? Does your anger or hurt ever spill into ridicule toward another? Or, God help us, look like mocking those who speak a different language in order to feel superior? Let’s have a healthy fear of God when He reminds us such words will multiply throughout our lives. And let’s praise Him that Jesus took it all: all that mockery and ridicule for sinners like us. We don’t have to live in shame or superiority. We can simply praise the One Who took it on the chin for us and ask Him to make us more like Him.
Because He is our only Salvation – day by day.
“Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.”
Last time we leaned in on our God – the Ultimate Authority – bending down in kindness to His children. His perfectly just rules balanced with His perfect mercy. Today we see the final rebuilders listed in chapter 3.
In my Bible, chapter 3 is preceded with a heading “Builders of the Wall.” You may remember we began with the Sheep Gate as we walked through the list of people who threw in on this rebuilding effort. Such diversity, so much we can learn from this section. Today we see the narrative literally come full circle. The builders listed worked all the way up to Sheep Gate.
Seems like a good time to remember that Hebrew word for sheep: tson – flock, lamb. There were no expectations from shepherds that their sheep would know exactly what to do to keep themselves safe. They require a shepherd. So do we. And He is far from begrudging toward us.
The first rebuilder listed is Malkijah, a goldsmith (tsorephi) from the word tsaraph: refine, test, tried, pure. The primary ancient way of refining gold hasn’t changed in our day: a goldsmith heats the liquefied metal and skims off the impurities that rise to the surface.
Our Shepherd-God does that, too, doesn’t He? He allows various trials in our lives that force us to rely on Him and His strength. To remove what’s unnecessary in order to purify our lives. What will make His image in us shine ever more clearly.
Malkijah repaired a long section, opposite the Inspection Gate. Also called Muster Gate, the Hebrew word is Miphqad – appointed place, designated spot. I like that this comes on the heels of being refined. We are not undergoing the process of purification just for purification’s sake. It is so we can do what is necessary in our appointed places. For the sake of those who need to see Him more clearly. To serve those in need of hope. To display His infinite worth.
May we be found faithful.
“Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, reparied another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters.”
Last time we looked in on two rebuilders & their names’ meanings, remembering to listen as we all belong to each other. And putting our ultimate hope in the One Who hears all. Today we see 3 new names and their corresponding rebuild sections.
First is Hananiah (Chananyah) whose name means “Yah has favored.” It comes from the root word chanan – to show favor, grant graciously, to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior. I’ve been thinking so much about discipline as school is back in session. How desperately kiddos in school need to know we care first, before they’re going to have ears to hear our rules. Especially if they have had any sort of trauma.
Makes me think of the way God worked miracle after miracle on behalf of the Israelites before He gave them His commandments. They needed to know deep down He was for them, not against Him. And because He is always good, His commands are always, only for our best. His people could look back at their track record with Him and trust His heart toward them going forward.
What a God. The ultimate in power and Highest Authority, yet how graciously He deals with His children. How He bends in kindness to us, in love. Any command He gives we can trust. Every wound we can walk through with Him. He really has got this, friends.
This is who I esteem:
He Who is humble and contrite in spirit
And trembles at My Word. (Isaiah 66:2)
I love that I read this morning in Esther about the Queen and Mordecai’s decree when in power in the vast empire of Persia. They sent letters to the provinces calling for yearly remembrance of God’s deliverance for His people – in words of peace and truth.
Peace and truth.
How we can’t neglect one or the other. He has walked me through too much for me to not trust Him and His Word. But no one will want to hear it from me if I don’t have a track record of love and service – or if I feel somehow superior to others (Jesus help me) and have not dealt with that pride by kneeling down in kindness to wash feet. To sit with wounds of others and grieve. To lay down fear. To point to the One Who covers all shame.
Such love came at a cost to Him, you know. True love is always sacrificial. In fact the last rebuilder listed in our verses today is Meshullam whose name comes from shalam – to make amends, to finish, to be safe in mind, body, estate.
Yes. He finished it all. He bore what deserved wrath so we can be ultimately safe. We all know that may not be true right now, here. But it is true in the way of the Kingdom. The Kingdom that has begun now as yeast works through dough, as finders sell all to buy the Pearl of Greatest Price. For the One Who always defends orphans and widows; Whose commands include caring for the foreigner and alien. Who regularly works through the underdog and warns us of pride.
This is our God. Let’s bow down.
Good morning! Have you been praying for Houston?
For those most vulnerable?
For the elderly or those with disabilities?
For those without insurance and those with infants?
And can we pray this unites us? As fellow human beings? For God to be big, the Church to serve, and humanity shine?
All our love right now, Houston. Let’s keep eyes open for practical ways to serve, give, and pray.
“Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs.”
Last time we met the priests who built near their own homes – and focused on ways in which the internal state of our soul affects our outward reach. Today we see two new builders, Zadok and Shemaiah, working on their sections.
First, Zadok (Tsadoq) whose name comes from tsedeq, meaning rightness, righteousness, to be just. What a word for us in our day. It seems that to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God is a necessity right now as Believers. And again we see our rebuilder working right near his house.
But today let’s expand that. Because the truth is those of us who have decided to let go of living for ourselves and committed to follow Jesus are all family. Members of the household of God. We belong to each other simply because we are human beings made in the image of our Creator. But how much more those of us given the right to be called His children?
What if we asked God to enlarge our hearts so that anything affecting our brothers and sisters would translate to something very near our house? In our own strength and capacity, it would overwhelm. But in His strength and by His Spirit? We could look like the global Body of Christ caring for one another that we were designed to be before a watching world.
Our second rebuilder listed is Shemaiah (Shemayah) which means “Yah hears.” It is from the Hebrew word shama – to listen intently, diligently discern, completely comprehend. Oh yes, this must happen for the above to be our reality. If we want to care about others we must listen. If we truly want to understand how we’re all connected, we have to ask for discernment. If we are going to weep with those who weep, we need proximity and His Spirit to completely comprehend what we are each going through.
But the most beautiful part? It is Yah Who hears. Ultimately, only He can handle every bit of our concerns. Only praying to the One in control can we release our need to fix or manage in our own strength. With this room for the Spirit to move among His people, we will actually listen more attentively. We can lay down any guilt and simply be present to each other. We can lay our guards down and ask Him to show up.
Did you catch what our rebuilder Shemaiah’s job is? He’s the guard at the East Gate. Feel free to scroll back up to the map to see this gate’s location. I have to remind myself that on this map, North is to the left. And our East Gate would be the one facing the rising sun each day. In fact, the Hebrew for east is mizrach – the place of the sunrise. It comes from the root word zarach – to rise, come forth, shine. And Shemaiah’s job? To guard this place. Guard is shamar – to keep, to watch, to carefully attend.
That we as God’s people would carefully attend His glory in this way. What rises and shines forth on this broken, weary planet. And may we guard our calling to reflect His light in this world.
It is a hope desperately needed.
If you’re like me and not a person of color, continually putting in front of your face what you’re learning will be essential. And as we learn, I think it’s important to remember we are only scratching the surface of white privilege’s systemic depth. We keep on learning.
How to move forward?
Sometimes the basics can keep us from getting overwhelmed and give us hope. This is all so do-able. We can be patient with each other and learn. We can certainly pray in Jesus’ powerful name. We can love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We can love our neighbor as ourselves.
“Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house.” Nehemiah 3:28 NLT
Last time we looked at Pediah, the temple servants, and the Tekoites taking their place in the rebuilding effort, remembering how God uses the harsh bondage of this world to show Himself a Redeemer. And we His rescued ones ready to promote His goodness.
Today we see a group of priests each repairing a section of the wall directly across from their own house. Our family is blessed to be in the middle of helping our good friends, two different families, move. One family recently took possession of their new house which is in need of some TLC. Sometimes Tender Loving Care includes demolition, amen?
Sometimes things just need to be broken down so they can be built back up. Other times walls need to come down simply because they’re not needed. Freedom and openness are the goals.
Then some walls we may want to take down but they’re needed. They’re load-bearing, helping to support the weight of the building, keeping it from toppling. Fortunately, the Word only ever points to One able to bear the entire load of this universe. We don’t have to try or pretend to be Him.
But there is a place for us to help each other bear our burdens. There is no way we can be truly loving our neighbor as ourselves if we aren’t willing to help support the load that overwhelms at different points in life. And often that looks like throwing in on rebuilding efforts of a larger scale. We will stand before God and be asked how we obeyed during our time here. May we be faithful seek His face and join with wisdom where He is at work.
Now let’s talk about how each priest – responsible for serving in Temple, interceding for the people, and helping to establish a communal identity among the people – worked directly opposite his own home. This is obviously for practical purposes in the rebuilding effort. There is no way the Temple workers could continue to hold sacrifices and worship each day and work on a section of the wall at the opposite end of the city.
But how about for us? I’d like to suggest if we aren’t focusing on our own home, our own hearts, our rebuilding “out there” will suffer. If you, too, are heartbroken over the gaping wound of racism in our country right now, what kind of work are you doing in your own life? Is there a sense of confusion over how the sin applies to you if you weren’t alive during the beginning? Or can you see your complicity in the present?
What if your eyes have been opened to how you have been part of the problem, but you have bitterness in your heart toward someone for other reasons? Or pride and superiority toward people? Or a sense of entitlement?
Friends, this cannot be. He Himself broke down that wall of hostility on an instrument of torture so we no longer have to torture each other. He took it all. He really did. We can take each other off the hook. We can repent, reconcile. And keep on reconciling.
Believers, we are His Temple now. No walls of hostility needed.