“And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.’”
Last time we watched as Jews from the surrounding area warned the rebuilders to return to them. Rather than give in to fear, Nehemiah stationed the folk all around the city to defend against attack. Today we watch the governor stand up with dignity (qum) and inject courage into the rebuilders.
When all kinds of reports of attack are coming at a group of people, it is easy to want to turn back. Nehemiah challenges them to not allow fear (yare) to rule before (paneh) the face of their enemies. But instead to bring to mind (zakar) the Lord (Adonay, Adonai) the Master Who is exceedingly high and mighty (gadol). He is the frightening one (yare). The rebuilders, in alignment with God’s will, do not have to be afraid of their enemies because their Master is frightening – the One worthy of reverence.
What a great strategy. One we can use right now too. Do you hear of wars and rumors of wars? Remember Adonai. Are you overwhelmed with political turmoil and division? Bring to mind our Master. Does the lack of dignity given to image-bearers across the world scare you? Me too. Let’s be mindful of our Sovereign ruler.
Putting this practice first keeps the weight of the world on the proper One. And helps us obey the second practice: to fight (lacham – overcome, prevail) for (al – hovering over) the cause. Or: an overcoming attitude hovering over the enemy on behalf of other image bearers.
In our narrative today, Nehemiah is charging the people to fight for their countrymen, families & homes with swords. And there are times when that is the most loving thing to do. But remember, this is to defend against attack. Nehemiah is not saying, “Charge!” but rather, “Overcome!” The people are not to intentionally go start a war, but neither are they to retreat when a fight comes to them.
The same is true for us all spiritually. While we are not arrogantly looking for a fight, there comes a time when a prevailing attitude, rooted in the Majesty of the King, is needed on behalf of others. Fortunately our hope is not misplaced.
We have a King Who can fix a spotlight of a star in the heavens so pagan kings will seek out the birth of a Baby. That same King can pierce the night with warriors of light erupting in praise before simple sheep herders. And that King overcame the distance between us and Him by contractions and blood and a cold, hard stone floor.
The exceedingly high and mighty One overcame by humble birth and humiliating death. His crown came at a cost. And on behalf of all image bearers who would receive.
Let every heart prepare Him room.