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January 17, 2011 – Nehemiah 7

FAITH AND WISDOM

As we’ve gone through Nehemiah this week, you’ve probably noticed how often he holds different aspects of his personality in balance.   During the rebuilding project, he talks of building with one hand and holding a sword with the other. His belief that prayer/praise and fighting can go hand in hand are on display prominently in chapter 4 when he tell the people to “remember the LORD…and fight.” Again, it shows us that the people in the Bible were real people, not cardboard Schwarzenegger characters; they had multifaceted lives and struggles, just like us.

This dual-belief system is again shown in chapter 7, where in verses 6-7 Nehemiah reports that he hired a commander because he (the commander) “feared God more than most men do,” but in the same breath says that the gates of Jerusalem should not be opened until the sun was hot, and then they should be closed early.

KNOCK KNOCK. WHO’S THERE? NOT YOU.

Why the specific instructions, you ask? In ancient times, city gates were usually opened at dawn to allow merchants and townspeople in or out, and closed at dusk. Nehemiah is significantly shortening the time that the gates are open. Why? Because Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies, and Nehemiah wants to make sure that the whole city was up and alert before opening the doors to who knows what.

This is an excellent example of combining faith of a mustard seed with the wisdom of Yoda. It would be difficult for us to find someone with more faith than Nehemiah in the Bible. He left a comfy job with the king to take a bunch of refugees across miles of desert, then tried to organize a group of whiners into a hard working labor force to complete a project that none of the neighbors wanted done. But he believed (and prayed a lot) that God wanted this work done, so off he goes. If that’s not faith, call me a slab of bacon.

But that doesn’t mean that he just threw caution to the wind. Nehemiah understood that God gave us a heart to believe, and a mind to think, and we can use both of them to His glory. There was no reason to test God by leaving the doors wide open like an all-you-can-rob smorgasbord. Jesus himself remarked that we shouldn’t put God to the test; there’s a place for wisdom in the life of a faith-filled believer.

FIREWALKERS AND PUFFERFISH EATERS

This means that we shouldn’t go around putting ourselves in dangerous situations for no reason (paging all snakehandlers). Don’t go to those parties with those people unless you have spiritual backup. Don’t hang out with that person who constantly pulls you into doing those activities. Don’t flirt with that person at work when you have a spouse waiting for you at home. True, the Bible says God can help us in areas of temptation, but it’s unwise to seek temptation out.

What temptation can you avoid with wise choices today?

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