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by Ron Rose
Almost a century after Zerubbabel led the first group back to the homeland, the Jews in Jerusalem were still discouraged and weak. Something was missing. There was no sense of identity and no security against their enemies. When Nehemiah, who was still in Babylon, heard of the miserable conditions in Jerusalem, he cried, fasted, and prayed, and God honored his prayers. King Artaxerxes not only sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with a commission to rebuild it, but Artaxerxes provided him with army officers and letters to guarantee his safe passage.
Despite ridicule and threats from the leaders of surrounding regions, the work went well until the wall was completed to half its intended height. Then the enemies of the Israelites threatened war. Nehemiah and the people prayed and scheduled guards on the wall both day and night. In less than two months the wall was completed. There was no doubt, even in the minds of their enemies, that God had protected them and granted them success.
As long as Nehemiah was governor of Jerusalem, he took care of the poor and encouraged the people to follow the Lord, but something was still missing. When Nehemiah returned to Babylon, the people once again ignored Gods commands. The prophet Malachi reminded the people that God still loved them but that he would also judge them for their wickedness. The closing promise of Malachi pictures the time when the heavenly Father would send his prophet Elijah to change the hearts of his creation, to turn the hearts of fathers toward their children and children toward their fathers. Thats what had been missing changed hearts.
Reflection: Its easy to get discouraged when God doesnt respond to our beck and call, when things dont happen as we think they should, or when life seems unfair. When we struggle with discouragement, it usually means we have let our focus slip from God to ourselves. But if we turn our hearts toward his fatherhood, his unquestionable and unending care for his children, then our courage and hope grow despite our circumstances.
Author: Ron Rose
Publication Date: March 30, 2003
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