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Return from Exile

The Bible in Art: Return from Exile   

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Verses for Consideration: Nehemiah 4:13-18

13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

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The meeting room buzzed with conversation. A momentous hour in the history of their church was at hand. Would the voters proceed with the building committee’s proposal to erect a new church, or would they reject the plan?

Everyone had his own opinion. The pastor was nervous as he sat beside the chairman at the head table. For months he had attended planning meetings and given his wisdom.

For years he had watched as the church attendance outgrew the old church building and fellowship activities were forgotten because there wasn’t any room. Finally, all the talk was coming down to a single vote.

But the pastor wondered how the vote would affect congregational unity. A vote to build would please most of the leaders, but it would displease others.

The preceding scenario has played itself out in countless Christian churches since Pentecost. Christ has given the command to build the church by the proclamation of the gospel, but nowhere has he told us how to build the buildings in which converts will worship. And so there are controversies.

But consider how blessed we are, compared to the Jewish people in the days of Nehemiah. Our congregations don’t have to station armed guards at the church doors or ring the church with cannons. We can thank God that outsiders opposed to our faith don’t try to chase us away with threats of violence, as they did in Nehemiah’s day.

If we would have to face opposition, though, we could find encouragement in how Nehemiah handled the situation. Though threatened with death, Nehemiah knew that he and the Jewish people were working under God’s command, and he forged ahead with confidence. And God did bless his people’s work.

He will bless us also. There may be controversies and there may be opposition, but God will see that the work of his church continues.

Prayer: Lord, keep me from self-pity when times are difficult. Grant me a healthy perspective that trusts you and treasures the blessings you have given me. Amen.

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Title: Nehemiah 4:1-18 (1859)

Artist: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld