Living Happily Ever After

“Oh no! Can’t be!”

Gardeners, do you remember the thoughts and feelings you had when, after you had spent hours meticulously pulling weeds, fertilizing and watering those treasured vegetable plantings, you returned to discover that slugs had destroyed virtually every plant? There was little to no evidence of the hours you’d invested in their healthy growth and survival.  Did you give voice to your feelings? Was there any way to reverse this destruction? Is there a way to prevent it next time?

Planting vegetables hardly compares with the experience recorded in Nehemiah chapter 13. At the risk of diminishing the high value of the story in Nehemiah, there are marked similarities.

photo credit: Gemma Morgan (Flickr)

Nehemiah had invested much—risked his life asking King Artaxerxes for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls and thus re-establish the nation—and faced much opposition. The unbelievable 52-day completion of the wall sent a message to both surrounding nations and “all our enemies” that “this work had been done with the help of our God.”

Then all the people assembled. Ezra read the Book of the Law of Moses and the people responded cognitively, emotional and volitionally. They verbally agreed, wept, celebrated, then repented and worshiped and made a “binding agreement” to follow the Law.

This was a phenomenal revival—much like one we would love to see in our land today!

Both the completion of the wall and the spiritual renewal that followed must have brought great hope for the nation’s future to Nehemiah’s heart. He gave all he had—and to see this all-encompassing blessing of God must have brought unspeakable joy.

On this very high note, Nehemiah returned to his job in Susa.

I admit I love stories with happy, ever-after endings. Probably because I know life on this earth is seldom like that. Reality happens. I like Nehemiah 1-12. It reads like a happily ever-after.

Then comes Chapter 13.  Slugs…ugh!

Nehemiah returns to Judah.  I wonder if he anticipated what he was about to encounter. “I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room.” That room was of course a room in the courts of the house of God—the place where the equipment, offerings and incense were kept. The implications? People were no longer giving to support the Levites and musicians, which meant they had to find other income. God’s house was being neglected. Seemingly all the oaths the people had taken to obey the commands of the Lord were broken.

We see a man react in a way that…well…read on. ”I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair” (13:25).  Excuse me!  Is this appropriate behavior? Righteousness indignation?  Courage?

Certainly pulling hair from beards left a man disgraced. Calling curses is asking God to judge them. Nehemiah knew God well enough to know he would not tolerate sin. And neither could Nehemiah.

Never mind the fertilizing and watering of seedlings.

Never mind the years Nehemiah had invested in restoring the nation by building the wall and Ezra bringing the truth—which resulted in revival and reform. Is it really possible to “never mind” a life-time investment? Is it valid? How does one respond when one seemingly observes his investments and the profits diminish completely? Slugs…everything gone!

A colleague told me recently that she felt all she invested in people in her church was for naught because of her spouse’s insistence they leave that church for another. Her investment of two years was wasted, gone forever.  Is that true? Just because she was no longer able to minister in that place, does that completely wipe out all God did in the lives of people during those two years?

I wonder if Nehemiah ever felt that way. Will Nehemiah, now older, have the energy or will to speak up? Will he let things slide, as Eliashib the priest had? Will Nehemiah neglect, compromise or outright disobey as nearly everyone else seems to have done?

Will Nehemiah finish well?

Nehemiah’s prayers in chapter 13 reflect the heart of a person who cared more about God’s perspective, than human perspective. Certainly we see this characteristic of Nehemiah throughout the book—but chapter 13 may provide the greatest test with the most direct response. Nehemiah undergirds his strong responses with continual prayer to God.

Remember me for this also, O my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love….Remember me with favor, O my God.

Prayers of a person who kept his focus and finished well!

Isn’t that the ultimate “happily ever-after?”

1 thought on “Living Happily Ever After

  1. I am a woman leader in our ministry, Light of Hope Global Ministries in Kenya. I am also a wife of a pastor. I contact seminars for women in Western part of Kenya. I would like to know more about how to minister to women. I there any way you can help get materials on women ministry or attend some seminars women ministry or even come over to Kenya to train us women minister in Kenya. We need to be empowered to reach more women in Kenya and beyond. I have just been built what I have read on this site.

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