The Temptation To Focus On The Short-Term
We live in a pretty chaotic moment of history which necessitates there is much rebuilding that needs to occur around us at almost every level. Our age is one where a man can win an NCAA championship competing in women’s sports.1 Seemingly, we have degraded to a point where many cannot even define basic concepts of reality such as male and female. In response to these issues, we can be tempted to only focus on the short-term. To be clear, there are short-term objectives that need to be hit. We need to criminalize abortion . . . immediately. It should not be legitimate for a man to compete in women’s sports and that should change now. So, yes, fight those battles which need to be waged in our present hour.
However, while engaging with those issues we could fall prey to neglecting the long-term which would be a detrimental error. Truth be told, we are facing a multi-generational crisis that most likely will take more than one generation of individuals to reverse. That being the case, we need to not only be involved in the issues of our day, but also strive to prop up the next generation so they are more prepared to grab the baton continuing the work. What we need is an example of how to rebuild. How is it that we begin this difficult task filled with multiple facets both in the short and long-term? We find a prime example in the biblical account of Nehemiah’s life.
Rebuilding The Wall
Nehemiah took up the task of rebuilding and reforming the city of Jerusalem once the walls had been burned by fire (Nehemiah 2:3-5). Now, pause right there a second, here we are just recounting his story and we see the profound lesson immediately that Nehemiah understood the issues and was willing to take action. For many of us, we often have one of two problems in our life which stop us from taking steps to bring reform. First, we don’t see the issues of our day accurately. Metaphorically speaking, we don’t even see that the wall around the city is in a pit of a flaming fire, but instead, think it is gleaming beautifully in the sunlight. If that’s you, then you need to spend time reading the Word of God so that you will see all things through the lens of biblical clarity. Scripture is the authority which gives us clear vision. Secondly, many of us don’t take the opportunity to rebuild because we aren’t willing to get our hands dirty while constructing a wall. Life in the West is comfortable at many points, so long as we don’t feel the pain, we are willing to sit back and let the city burn. Here again, Nehemiah understood he needed to get involved and was eager to serve as God had called him. We need to realize Christ has called us to be His ambassadors while living on this earth, so we need to be diligent about the work He has placed before us.
Fast-forwarding in the story, the wall is in ruins, after both planning and inspection Nehemiah begins rebuilding. However, he faces enemies, so he has to adapt his strategy. He not only has individuals involved in building but now has to station some of the people with weapons in case there is an attack (Nehemiah 4:13). Nehemiah took confidence in God knowing He would fight for them giving them strength (Nehemiah 4:14). Whenever you begin rebuilding anything according to the plan of God you can rest assured you will face opposition from the enemy. If you are proclaiming the Gospel, unbelievers will oppose you. Are you involved in fighting against the atrocity of abortion? Without a doubt, you will be staunchly opposed by its advocates. Here is the pivotal question, will you continue the work ready to fight as God calls like Nehemiah, or will you abandon the project to the opposition? So many of us start well, we build and get the wall up at least 3-feet high. But, then we see the enemy coming and we tuck tail running. We need to stand with confidence in the will of God knowing that if He has called us to this work, then we must place our hand to the plow regardless of the opposition. Whatever wall it is that God has placed you on to rebuild, work at it with confidence in Him.
In our own day, we might think of “walls” needing to be rebuilt like the family, academia, vocational jobs, the government, and other realms. These are not literal walls, but they are in many ways the gatekeepers of a healthy society. For example, healthy, biblically functioning families seek to raise their children in Christ which means these young ones grow up being informed by a biblical worldview. They then go forward applying this foundation seeking to pass the baton to the next generation. The goal is for that torch to keep going from generation to generation by God’s grace. Biblical families raise men who are strong and courageous willing to fight when evil arises. They equip women to be feminine exercising their role before God. As a practical example, if strong families raise courageous men, then when evil nations act aggressively, that society will be ready to stand because it is filled with men who will fight to their death to defend their loved ones. The simple act of rebuilding families results in a society with a “wall” built around that is strong and powerful.
Reforming The People
Nehemiah did not only rebuild the wall, he also sought to reform the people. Rebuilding the wall most certainly helps to keep the enemy outside the camp from coming in, yet, if you don’t reform the people inside the city, then they will destroy the wall just as easily. In Nehemiah’s day, the rich individuals amongst the Jews were oppressing those who were poor (Nehemiah 5:1-5). Nehemiah, knowing the fear of God, sought to change this issue and even went so far as to not partake of his allowance as governor of the food portions (Nehemiah 5:14). Consequently, he not only brought reform, but he also exemplified it in his life. If we are going to call others to act biblically, we must always be bringing ourselves increasingly into submission to the Word seeking to set the example.
As we continue forward, we find that the wall is rebuilt, and now Ezra begins to read the Book of the Law of Moses filled with the commands of God (Nehemiah 8:1). The people listen to the reading of the law, then they worship God (Nehemiah 8:6). Then Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites tell the people to go on their way feasting in celebration unto God (Nehemiah 8:9-18). Then, in Nehemiah 9, the people confess their sin in repentance. They were being called back into obedience to the law of God as their standard, God was working amongst them. You cannot reform a people without declaring the authoritative revelation of God, the Scripture, and calling the people to obey it. The Gospel and the entire counsel of Scripture must be central in the work of reformation for it is the very standard by which we are called to live.
In our own day, whether it be issues of justice, personal matters, or governmental leaders, we need to be proclaiming God’s Word calling people to obedience. We need to shine the light of the Gospel that they might be saved and empowered to serve Christ in submission to the Scripture. Our objective must not only be to rebuild the major walls, but also to invest in the people who inhabit the nation. Both in one on one conversations and in public settings, if we are going to be involved in the work of rebuilding we must seek to counsel individuals according to biblical wisdom in all of life. However, we must set the example by living consistently according to God’s Word ourselves with a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others.
In the middle of a culture aflame, my friends, it is not the time to bury our heads in the sand but to start rebuilding. Start with yourself by repenting as you need to, and striving to be more obedient to Scripture. Invest in your family impacting their lives by loving them and encouraging them to be biblical. Pour into the local church edifying your fellow believers that they might know more of Christ living for His glory. Dive into your community seeking to be a righteous influence acting according to a biblical worldview declaring and applying the truth of Scripture. And, as God calls you to specific “walls” in your life, battles which you must face, do so with courage and trust in Him. Don’t back down, slow down, or shut down, instead march forward with joy in the triumphantly risen Lord!