June 17 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“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.” ~Nehemiah 4:14

Nehemiah has quite a duty before him. His mission is the restoration of the worshipping community, and his most immediate task is rebuilding the walls. During the construction, Nehemiah faces opposition from political opponents—enemies who are also under the reign of the Persian Empire but who have become jealous regarding their power in the Trans-Euphrates region. Nehemiah’s chief adversary is Sanballat, governor over the adjacent province of Samaria, located between Persia and Judah. The powerful governor creates a contentious political landscape with threats, intimidation, and lies. Further complicating the situation is the fact that some influential Israelites have connected themselves to Sanballat. A policy of outright opposition could cause division within the exiled community (see Nehemiah 6:17-18).

In addition to the troublesome political situation, social problems plague the beleaguered community. Apparently, some are faring better than others under the hefty financial burden of resettling. The wealthier exiles have seized the opportunity to “help” by “loaning” money to the poor and providing an opportunity for them to “serve” (become slaves) in their households.

What a job Nehemiah had. I wonder if he ever dreamt longingly of the days when he tasted the finest wines with the king’s court in a palace adorned with Persian rugs! Yet, Nehemiah prays—and he perseveres—and the wall is rebuilt. In fact, his leadership in the face of difficulty provides an inspiring example for the entire community. He is focused on the mission. Distractions are handled with grit and grace. Criticism is ignored or rebuffed as needed. Internal problems are managed with a can-do attitude and a call to keep to the teaching of Scripture. He is a true servant-leader, one who sacrifices the lifestyle he could enjoy in order to help the worshipping community realize its dreams (see his comments in verses 5:14-19).

Nehemiah never stopped pursuing that dream and he never stopped praying either, certain that God was able to help the community accomplish the mission in spite of imminent threats. His admonition to the workers to carry on with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other meant that masons and stonecutters were ready to lay another course or to turn and protect the people. Faith and fighting (in the best sense of the word) are not mutually exclusive. May Nehemiah’s example inspire all of us as we do whatever God calls us to do. If you are facing challenges, persevere while praying. And have faith while fighting for what you believe in!

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.