October is here and our Through-the-Bible-in-a-Year readings now have us in the New Testament! But I can't let the Old Testament go quite yet – let me share from one of my favorite OT books. The work of Nehemiah is centered around serving the king of Persia, but when news about the desperate plight of his country reaches him, his thoughts turn homeward. His beautiful Jerusalem is in shambles and, perhaps many of his friends have been killed. So we are not surprised to see what he does in verse 4, “I sat down and wept and mourned for days.”
We can really relate to his response. Perhaps a terrible crime has ripped apart our community, or a drug raid has exposed the underworld of a local college campus, or an adult bookstore has opened up just blocks away. We weep over our quiet, shaded neighborhoods, pining for the “good old days,” for memories of “once was.” But how many of us do what Nehemiah does next? Because along with his weeping, he fasts, prays and then takes action. It is one thing to leave a prayer in the hands of God’s sovereignty, and think, God will use my intercessions to motivate community leaders into action; he’ll set things right when he is good and ready. It’s quite another to become actively engaged in God’s sovereign plan, volunteering yourself as his agent of change!
Look around us. For want of prayer, fasting, and social action, our nation is crumbling under corruption, materialism, and moral sleaze. Society no longer rallies around a moral consensus comprised of healthy social norms. It is a day not unlike Nehemiah’s. Our sovereign God obviously hears our deep prayers for our country and its people, but will we take the next step? Pray and fast? Then, like Nehemiah, will you get actively engaged in God’s plan to bring about spiritual and social reformation? When it comes to practicing faith with your sleeves rolled up, God isn’t looking for people with degrees in theology or the social sciences – he’s simply looking for cupbearers like you.