“Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.’”
Nehemiah 4:10 (NIV)
The people of Judah had a song they sang:
“We grow weak carrying burdens;
There’s so much rubble to take away.
How can we build the wall today?”
Meanwhile, the people of Judah were singing a sorrowful song:
Last time we watched as the rebuilders set a guard against the opposition seeking to cause confusion and fight against them. We watched as the group prayed to Yahweh and protected themselves. But today’s verse is sobering. It looks as though the opposition is winning.
We only have to look at our news feeds to feel this way. Rich deliberately hurting the poor. Continued injustice from the top down. More misuse of power and money and sex. We can feel as though we too are laborers – sabbal – carry heavy loads, a burden bearer. And our strength is giving out – kashal – stumble, stagger, bring down.
If we don’t grieve as we walk through this tenure on earth, we are not doing justice to the oppressed. But if we simply throw up our hands and do nothing we are probably very privileged and not living into our call as Believers.
An answer is found in the final two Hebrew words used in our verse for “we cannot rebuild the wall.” We is anachnu – we ourselves – and cannot is yakol – not able, cannot endure, do not have power. No, we in ourselves do not have the power to turn it all around in our own strength. If you now feel permission to never exert your strength in our current situation, please rethink. There is much for us to do.
But we must look to the right place for our strength. Why?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Friends, that is why. He never gets tired. He is always, always able. There is nothing He cannot do. And if we derive our strength from His, we work as though resting. We exert effort without anxious striving. We can even take the time to grieve and lament because none of this rests solely on us.
If Advent is about anything it’s that when we were hopeless, Hope showed up. Love took over and came for us. Not when we were strong and things were going well, but when we were weary and in need and mourning. That’s the kind of strength we all need during our one shot at this. His strength. Power that never fails.
Let’s hope in Him.