What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Surveying the Damage: Cooperation and opposition

Taking a break from our work, we decided to see how things were going along different sections of the wall. In awe, our mouths fall open. Every section of the wall is being worked on. Craftsmen, merchants, goldsmiths, perfumers, nobles, priests, mayors, men, women, children, Temple staff, gatekeepers – everyone – is working on the walls near their places of work or homes.

Eliashib and the other priests are hard at work alongside regular people like us. The people of Jericho are working here, too. They are almost done with rebuilding the Sheep Gate. Some are now working on the wall leading to the Tower of the Hundred and further on some have started working on the wall towards the Tower of Hananel.

The Hassenaah brothers are diligently rebuilding the Fish Gate. They have hung the doors and are trying to get the bars and bolts to fit right. Farther on, we see Benjamin and Hashub working on the wall right outside their front door and next to them, Azariah, Maaseiah’s son, is doing the work near his house. The Sheep, Fish, Jeshanah, Valley, Dung, Fountain, Water, Horse, East and Inspection Gates are all being rebuilt and fitted with new bolts and bars.

We heard from several workers at one point that the local kings, Tobiah and Sanballet, who brought with them their friend, Geshem the Arab, had come to tease and tell jokes about the Israelites trying to rebuild the walls. The workers also told us what Nee had said to them:

“The God of Heaven, the only true, powerful God, will give us success. We answer to Him. We are only doing what He wants us to do. This is His city. We are His people. We are committed to serving Him even if the task seems impossible. Whether we serve God and rebuild the wall or not is not up to you. It is none of your business. And, you can do nothing about it. So, save your breath! We will do what our God asks. He will bring the success. So there!!”

We hurry back to our section of the wall. We can’t wait to continue being part of this great project. We are part of this great thing God is doing . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Surveying the Damage: Taking action

After Nee finished praying with the elders, nobles, priests, and local officials, he told them what he thought would work best in rebuilding the wall. It is quite simple. Each family with dwellings along and near the wall will repair the wall they are near. The people living near the areas that need repair have a vested interest in repairing their part of the wall. Nee counted on that and the family groups agreed. Each family will decide who works where and when on their section of the wall.

There is some murmuring, the family leaders discussing the proposal. They pick a spokesperson, the high priest Eliashib.

“We are ready to do what you suggest. We want to get back on track and overcome the disgrace. We want to do what is necessary to get in right relationship with God, each other, and our neighbors. Nee has shown us the ruins. We now have no excuse for leaving things the way they are.

“We did not want to look at the past damage fearing we would be overwhelmed, unable to change the situation. Nee has come from far away, and given us the encouragement and knowledge we need to do this thing. Let’s get started right now, today!”

We watched as the leaders started to leave, rolling up their sleeves, and sending messengers out to gather all able-bodied men from their families. We also are running off to find our family and our family’s portion of the wall. This is exciting. Yea Nee! Yea God! Nothing can stop us now . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Surveying the Damage: Recruiting the helpers

Groggy. We wake up and look around. The cobwebs of confusion give way to the light streaming in the windows. We remember. We took a walk with Nee in the middle of the night. When we fell asleep, Nee had been laying flat on the floor talking to God. He’s still at it. We hear a bit of what he is saying, “O Master, listen to me, listen to Your servant’s prayer – and yes, to all Your servants who take great pleasure in honoring You – please, make me successful today . . .”

Nee sits up with a sigh. He looks over at us. He asks us to round up the leaders of Jerusalem. He says to be polite but insistent. He wants to end the secrecy. It had not been possible to keep Nee’s presence a secret, but he had not breathed a word to anyone about why he is here. It’s time to fill in Jerusalem’s leaders: the Jews, priests, nobles, local officials, us, and anyone else who would be needed to work on the plan (whatever that is; Nee has not explained it to us either).

With the leaders sitting around him, Nee said another quick prayer under his breath. He takes a deep breath in and slowly lets it out. He begins:

“God sent me messengers while I was in Babylon. They told me about the precarious condition of Jerusalem’s defenses. I could not believe it, but I knew they did not make the trek to Babylon as some bizarre joke. God answered my prayers and my king showed favor toward me. He encouraged my desire to come and see exactly what is going on here.

“I wanted to make an accurate assessment of the current conditions as they reflect the past damage. I’m here to tell you that because we did not deal with the problems of the past, things have continued to get worse. The present conditions require much work to restore Jerusalem’s walls – and Jerusalem itself – to a condition that honors God. We cannot live with the broken walls and burned up gates. We should not live with this disgrace any longer. It is time to do something.

“God has answered my prayers all along the way. I prayed while in Babylon for the king’s favor. The king sent me here with an armed escort, and permits to use the king’s lumber for whatever we need. I prayed when I first arrived in Jerusalem. I was able to go out and secretly assess the damages wrought by the past. I prayed after surveying the damage. God gave me direction and a plan for dealing with the current situation.

“It is time to use the information gathered, and the provision of God, to repair the wall. We are no longer restricted by our past. We are not worthless, useless, hopeless, or disobedient people. Stop living like that. Today I will lay down a plan for restoration. Yes, repairing the walls is part of that. More importantly, God has a plan for restoring us to a right relationship with Him, and a new powerful relationship with our neighboring nations.

“Are you ready to do what God wants you to do? Are you ready to shake loose from the events and situations of your past? Are you ready to allow God to work in your lives? Are you ready to live forgiven and right with God?

“Let’s pray . . .”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Surveying the Damage: Investigating the condition

We spent the first day sleeping and eating. It is so nice to be in Jerusalem again. After the first night of good sleep, one of us kept watch wondering what Nee would do next. Nee’s armed escort had left to return to Babylon. It was easier to hang around Nee without the soldiers guarding him. Nee was now including us in his life. He knew us. We were, after all, the guys that took Nee the update on the state of Jerusalem.

After three days of hanging around we are antsy and bored. It’s the middle of the night, but we hear some rustling within the house. Nee peeks out, sees us, and asks us to get a donkey for him. We are trying to find one, but we don’t understand why. He didn’t tell us his plans for this donkey.

Returning to the house where Nee is staying, we see him waiting for us. It’s the middle of the night. What’s Nee up to? Nee gets on the donkey and signals us to follow him as quietly as we can. Nee is heading toward the Valley Gate, one of several gates leading in and out of Jerusalem. Once outside the walls of the city, we follow the wall around to the Dragon’s Fountain, then move on to the Dung Gate. Nee is upset. It appears to us that he is about to cry.

We watch Nee and notice he is looking at the crumbling walls and the ruined gates. We see what he’s looking at. Stones, big and small, scattered where the wall should be and thick beams for the gates in ashes. We continued around Jerusalem’s boundaries, where walls used to stand. There is too much rubble blocking our path. The rubble makes it impossible for the donkey to navigate. Nee gets off the donkey and we continue on foot. We are getting closer to the King’s Pool. One of the gates should be here, but there are only stones, rocks, and charred wood.

Still dark out, we walk a little further around the wall following the brook that flows here. Nee stops from time to time, and he is doing it again. On his knees, face to the ground, we think he is praying. We know what God did before as the result of Nee’s praying, so we are anticipating something good to happen. Nee tells us it is time to return to his dwelling before the light comes. We follow him back through the Valley Gate and to his room. He isn’t saying anything. He doesn’t tell us what this nighttime walk is about. He prays again, we think. We fell asleep without knowing . . .