The weather here in Maine is warming.
Bright green daffodil leaves, the tiny nose of a hyacinth peeking out of the ground, goldfinches mobbing the birdfeeder, and the sound of spring peepers in the early darkness are all telling me that it’s time . . .
Time to get out my summer clothes.
After a long winter, this should be a joyous occasion, but, um . . .
Did anyone else’s summer clothes shrink in the drawers this year? Ugh.
Now here’s the thing: since I know that the day of reckoning is coming when I will actually have to button that waistband on those adorable navy blue shorts that I picked up at the thrift shop just last summer, I’m motivated toward change. I’ve already started walking the dog a little longer and a little more briskly. I’ve been watching those portion sizes and eating more fruit and vegetables.
Change is a good thing, and we see in Nehemiah 10 that the time for tears is over, and the people of Israel are making resolutions to renew their covenant with God. In her book on Nehemiah, Kelly Minter notes that their national commitment to change covers four very concrete areas:
- Material possessions
As one voice, Israel is declaring, “No longer will these items be seen as ends in themselves, and no longer will they be allowed to crowd God out of our hearts.” All of these reforms are good, and, undoubtedly, all of us could use a little spring cleaning in one or more of these areas.
However, having read the Old Testament a few times, I have an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I read Nehemiah 10 and hear the Israelites’ declaration of intent “to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes,” (Nehemiah 10: 29). My heart remembers their words of a thousand years ago in Joshua 24:24 — “The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey.” The thousand year filling in that declaration sandwich has just been prayed out loud in Nehemiah 9 as the Levites publicly repented of their record of rebellion. Come to think of it, the whole Old Testament has the essence of despair lingering over it because, when the curtain falls at the end of Malachi, the history of God’s dealing with humanity has been a cycle of failure, judgment, and repentance.
John Piper points out that the reason the Old Testament feels so unresolved is that, up to this point, the righteousness of God has always led to judgment, and ultimately to destruction. Until Jesus, there was no basis for mercy in the face of God’s righteousness, but when Jesus held up that cup and announced the coming of a New Covenant in His blood, he ended the hopeless cycle of failure, judgment, repentance . . . failure, judgment, repentance.
Like Israel, I’ve blown it over and over again. Casting aside discipline, patience, and mercy, I’ve failed to admire God’s greatness and tripped over the commands to reverence His holiness time and time again. And yet God has been merciful to me, a sinner.
The question for me (and for you) today is this: Am I living in the reality of the New Covenant? On what basis do I make changes in my life? The answer to my snug waist bands does not lie in my pretty promises for reform. What if my new healthy eating and exercise plan looked beyond the number on the scale or the fit of my clothes? What if my focus was the glory of God, for He is mightily honored when I live in utter dependence on Him, remembering that I am dust.
This is the twenty-third in a series of posts in which I ponder “just one thing” each week from my study of the book of Nehemiah, travelling slowly and thoughtfully through the chapters with my Sunday School class. If you’d like to make a comment or leave a link to your own blog post about your wall-building stories, I’d love to read it. If you want to catch up with previous posts, here’s the link: https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/tag/nehemiah/.
I link up with these communities on a regular basis: Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness
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