“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.”
Well, here we are. Our two generations of exiles have committed to obedience and purity in worship by putting away their idols. In this case, marrying with those who do not worship Covenant Yahweh. The investigation is wrapped up in the year 457 B.C.
Now our narrative fast forwards 12 years to the words of a new leader: Nehemiah. Want to know what his name means?
“The LORD comforts.”
How we need His comfort. So much upheaval has gone on with our community of exiles. They are have been rebuilding Temple, coming upon much opposition. They have been encouraged through the words of Haggai and Zechariah. To return to their First Love with all their heart. To put God’s purposes of rebuilding His house above their own personal comfort. To trust His heart toward them in conflict, that He will be a Wall of Fire around them and the work will come not by force nor strength but by His Spirit.
They have been brought to an awareness of His heart behind the Law. How His people will be known as those whose kindness and mercy temper their mishpat: justice. They completed Temple and years later welcomed a second wave of exiles returning from Babylon, along with a new priest, Ezra. He was “firm in his will to seek God’s Law, to accomplish it, and to teach its boundaries, limits, and just verdicts to Israel.”
Not long after Ezra’s arrival, he is weeping in the Temple after learning of the people’s disobedience. Fresh from a long discipline of exile, God’s people immediately return to the sin that led them there. Ezra weeps and prays, thanking God for His unfailing, covenant love. His hesed.
Then he stands up and takes action. The grief has become communal and, as an act of unifying and purifying a set-apart people, Ezra has the offenders separate themselves from their foreign wives.
Yes, this is a group that could use a leader whose name means “The LORD comforts.”
And so are we. In a time when holiness and honor and hesed are not lifted high, we who represent the Most High will face much opposition. The need for us to return to our First Love and His ways is desperate.
We cannot wonder if favoring our comfort or political party or opinions is of ultimate importance. We must lay down our lives for His kingdom.
We cannot worry about how to defend ourselves in conflict or seek revenge or fret over issues that take our eyes off Him. We must daily remember the battle is spiritual and our fight is ultimately against powers and principalities. And can only be won by His Spirit.
We cannot wonder if our desire for mishpat should be tempered with His hesed. It must, otherwise we’re a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.
And we cannot go anywhere, move forward with Him and each other, still clinging to our idols. What cannot save and does not satisfy.
Any pair of eyes who would read this would be guilty at some level of the above. I know I am. In the last 24 hours.
We can never measure up on our own. We were never supposed to. But together, as His Body represented in each local church He calls us to, we can move forward in His strength.
And His covenant loyalty as Prince of Peace is our comfort.