Last week we looked at the great work Nehemiah talked about doing. And maybe you’ve been thinking about great work. But maybe you’ve been looking at the work in front of you and thinking, “It’s well and good to talk about Nehemiah. Of course his work was great. It was God’s work.”
That’s what we see now. That’s what we see through Nehemiah’s eyes.
Other eyes would see differently.
If we were standing 30 miles from the Mediterranean looking east, we would have been reminded of the black-and-white photos we’ve seen of bombed cities. Walls in places, gaps in others. What wood is left where gates once were is charred and worm-eaten. Beautiful houses have lost back walls. The houses least touched, the walls least broken, are in the poorer parts of town, as if they weren’t worth warrior’s notice.
“A fox would topple this wall” is what one skeptic said during the rebuilding process, reminding us that animals have been running this rubble for decades.
This “great work” of Nehemiah’s is a rubbish pile, 900 miles from the center of power, in the worthless wilderness between Greece and Persia. This “great work” is rebuilding the capital of a two-tribe nation, the last remnant of the twelve tribes of Israel. This “great work” was great only because Nehemiah believed it was. Nehemiah and God.
Nehemiah and God and the people. People who had been unwilling subject of a distant-feeling King until they were unwilling subjects of a distant human king. Now that Nehemiah was here to give God-inspired hope, they were hopeful and energetic.
But there was still the reality of the rubble.
When you look at the work that God has in front of you, whether study or children or ashes or dust, it may not appear great.
But appearances deceive.