“Then I spoke to the nobles and officials and everyone else: ‘There’s a lot of work going on and we are spread out all along the wall, separated from each other. When you hear the trumpet call, join us there; our God will fight for us.’”
Nehemiah 4:19-20 MSG
Last time we talked about Nehemiah’s strategy to split up the builders – half to work on the wall, half to stand guard. With all the leaders lending their support. Today we see Nehemiah address this whole, positioned crew.
He addresses them all: the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people (am – folk). From those in political and social power to those with none. With newly known death threats in the rebuilders’ minds, Nehemiah reminds them that the work is great (rabah – multiplied, abundance) and large (rachab – broad, vast). As such, they are separated (parad – divided, scattered) from each other (ach – brother, countrymen) as they build their respective sections of the wall.
Oh friends, could this be more timely? Could a verse from Holy Scriptures about being divided among countrymen be more applicable? When it becomes ever more clear the President of the United States asserts overtly racist rhetoric toward countries of People of Color in order to rally his base of supporters, while hurting so many Americans in the process, how can we pretend we don’t understand this vast separation?
And Believers? How could we possibly act like this is only “out there” in the world and not one of the dividing factors in the Church, His Beloved Bride? In our narrative today, the countrymen are separated because of their unified work on a God-ordained project. If only that were the case for us in our day. If only our being far from each other were a matter of physical distance while we each worked whole-heartedly on what God had given us to do.
Something has to change. God is using this cultural moment to refine His Bride. I found it interesting the word for noble was chor from charar – to burn. Like refining metal in the fire, those of us born again are of His Noble birth. He will not rest until we resemble His beautiful, trustworthy character. He is calling us to lay down our idols, our pride, our racial and gender biases, prejudice, & bigotry. Until He becomes all, nothing will change. Until His Kingdom is more valuable than nationalism, we will not be working on a unified project but will be at one another’s throats.
And for those of us all in? Those of us seeking daily to lay down our pride, idols, bigotry and bias and genuinely repent? Those asking Him to help us overcome our selfish wills to submit to His perfect one? Well, when you hear the trumpet, come.
The Hebrew is spectacular in this section. Hear is shama – hear & obey. The implication is trust. The second you hear the sound, drop everything and come fight for your brothers and sisters. For sound the Hebrew is qol – voice, proclamation. You may have seen it written kol – as in Kol Yahweh, the voice of the LORD. And trumpet is shophar or shofar, the ram’s horn used to call the Israelites toward introspection and repentance before the One True God.
When you hear God’s voice laced in the pain of others, drop everything and come. When His voice is the sound of wounded sisters, come. When it’s betrayed nations, come. When it’s grievous sin among the church, come. Really, on this MLK weekend, when there’s any attack on any image bearer, come. Gather (qabats – assemble, meet, rally) because our Elohim will fight for us lacham – devour, overcome, prevail.
Our Creator God will have His way. Fortunately, His way involves beautiful justice, heart-breaking mercy, humility and joy. When you hear Him calling, come. Join us there.