This week we will read Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi - the last of God's recorded words to His people until John the Baptist is conceived some four centuries later. As the nation finally rebuilds her homeland after being humbled by exile, a question hangs in the air: Is the promised restoration finally nigh?
We know that the answer is no. But it's a difficult "no" to swallow when we see Ezra and Nehemiah working so hard to inspire revival, desperately pointing their nation back to her God, trying to build something new and lasting from the spiritual rubble that has made up the hearts of Israel's people for so long.
We know that the purification and dedication to the Law facilitated by Ezra the priest would morph into the ugly self-righteousness of the religious leaders by the time of Jesus' coming. We know that the Levites' careful commemoration of Israel's blotted history would be diluted to legalism in the next 400 years. We know that even Nehemiah's charge to the people to work fearlessly toward the cause of their God would be forgotten, and that Malachi's rebuke of Israel's corruption and arrogance would fall on deaf ears.
Just like their ancestors who first populated the Promised Land a thousand years prior, the newly reestablished Israel has made the fatal decision to forget.
When opposition threatened to snuff out their efforts to rebuild Jerusalem, Nehemiah said to the people,
"Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses."
Remember the Lord, and fight.
The truth of the matter is, we don't default to the tactics of righteousness - we default to the tactics of darkness. Whether it's fear, complacency, discouragement, deception, selfishness, or laziness, we are doomed to succumb, doomed to watch our ministry sink in the mire of darkness and see the coming generations forsake the truth, unless -
1. We remember the Lord
Nehemiah said to "remember the Lord who is great and awesome." This isn't about tipping your hat to God every morning in acknowledgement that He is there; it's about arming yourself with an understanding of His character. Those who forget who He is will invariably treat Him flippantly, and those who treat Him flippantly will walk in darkness.
2. We fight
Armed with our understanding of God (Ephesians 6:17b), we go into the fight prepared, confident, and alert - able to cut through the fog and see the real Enemy. And we don't just fight for ourselves. The spiritual battle is bigger than you or me - we fight so that God's name will be honored in our homes and our families, so that He will be remembered by our descendants after us. We fight so that others can know His goodness and be set free.
Israel forgot the character of her God and grew comfortable with the deceptions and corruption of the evil one. In a couple of weeks in our reading, we will find Jesus weeping bitterly over her for her poor memory.
Does He have to weep over us for the same?
Nehemiah: God of the Wall
Total read time: 1 hour
Malachi: God of Worship
Total read time: 15 minutes
1 Chronicles: God of Judah
Total read time for 1 & 2 Chronicles: 4.25 hours