Nehemiah 12:27-38, 43
Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with rejoicing, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. The companies of the singers gathered together from the circuit around Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall. Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall, and appointed two great companies that gave thanks and went in procession. One went to the right on the wall to the Dung Gate; and after them went Hoshaiah and half the officials of Judah, and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, and some of the young priests with trumpets: Zechariah son of Jonathan son of Shemaiah son of Mattaniah son of Micaiah son of Zaccur son of Asaph; and his kindred, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God; and the scribe Ezra went in front of them. At the Fountain Gate, in front of them, they went straight up by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east. The other company of those who gave thanks went to the left, and I followed them with half of the people on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
In defiance of corruption and falsehood,
we commit to truth and integrity
and we pray for honesty and uprightness
to increase in our world.
In defiance of apathy and hatred,
we choose to be proactive in love
and we pray for understanding and peace
to increase in our world.
In defiance of scepticism and cynicism,
we embrace the mystery of faith
and we pray for humility and wonder
to increase in our world.
In defiance of self-interest and human arrogance
we celebrate God’s salvation
and we pray for compassion and faith
to increase in our world.
In defiance of all that would oppose God’s purpose among us
we choose again to follow Christ,
and we continue to pray,
not just now, but at all times.
Have you been “out” in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question – “What do you expect to do?” You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing.
Continual you revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder – you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a “going out,” building in confidence on God.
“Take no thought for your life . . . nor yet for your body” – take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you “went out.” Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?
Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him – what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual “going out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches; it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted.
They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance.
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Keep us from our self-imposed blindness, Jesus;
hold our heads firmly in your grasp so we cannot look away
from those who are broken;
pull us forward so that we cannot avoid
encountering those who are suffering;
break our hearts, so that we cannot resist
the tears of those who grieve;
Help us, Jesus, to be always seeing;
and seeing, help us to find a way
to act in mercy toward the hurting,
to act in defiance of the corrupt,
and to act in hope for the healing of our world.
“My eager desire and hope being that I may never feel ashamed, but that now as ever I may do honor to Christ in my own person by fearless courage.”
Paul says – “My determination is to be my utmost for His Highest.” To get there is a question of will, not of debate nor of reasoning, but a surrender of will, an absolute and irrevocable surrender on that point. An overweening consideration for ourselves is the thing that keeps us from that decision, though we put it that we are considering others. When we consider what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He does not know what our obedience will mean.
Paul is determined that nothing shall deter him from doing exactly what God wants. God’s order has to work up to a crisis in our lives because we will not heed the gentler way. He brings us to the place where He asks us to be our utmost for Him, and we begin to debate; then He produces a providential crisis where we have to decide – for, or against, and from that point the “Great Divide” begins.
If the crisis has come to you on any line, surrender your will to Him absolutely and irrevocably..
Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!
It would be much easier, Jesus,
to ignore the hard truths around us:
the widening gap
between rich and poor,
the consistency with which the powerful
get their way,
the bending of rules and the self-enrichment
of the connected and influential,
the lack of adequate care, protection and resources
for the most vulnerable among us;
we would rather not see these signs.
It would be much easier if we could just pretend everything was alright,
if we could prophesy goodness and light,
and ignore the darkness and evil;
if we didn’t have to offend the status quo,
or challenge the comfortable;
if we could convince ourselves that the cross,
was just a one time thing –
your calling, not ours.
But, we can’t do this, Jesus, because we know too much;
your Gospel has captured us and opened our eyes,
and we have become slaves to love,
the love that must speak for the voiceless,
the love that must challenge injustice,
the love that draws lines of division
between truth and denial,
between compassion and expediency.
Give us the courage to acknowledge what we see,
to name the signs of the times,
to disrupt the ‘way things are’
in the name of what should be,
to divide in order to heal and restore,
and to be crucified for the sake of love.
Beginning this week, we will be posting inspirations from the collection, Utmost for His Highest. These inspiration insights will bolster your faith and strengthen your peace. Enjoy.
In the times when we give – however generously
it becomes blatantly clear, OGod,
how ridiculous our attempts are to balance the scales;
We cannot repay Your abundance of supply
Your extravagance of grace;
Nor do You require it.
So, why should we expect it of others?
In truth, we cannot.
Like You we can only love – by giving, by serving, by praying.
And so we ask…
Free the score-keepers in our world and in our hearts
Restore the fallen in our world and in our hearts
Strengthen the merciful in our world and in our hearts
Heal the broken in our world and in our hearts
Uplift the lowly in our world and in our hearts
Bring down the tyrants in our world and in our hearts
Erase the lines of division in our world and in our hearts
Create a Christ-guided humanity in our world and in our hearts
And use us to make it so.
In Jesus’s Name.