God is looking for partners!
God does his work in this world in partnership with people.
Nehemiah. 2:20a says "I replied, "The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall".
One of the things that brings God into partnership with us is, that we are working on the things that matter to God. In this particular story they are rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, a project which God had laid on Nehemiah's heart. Nehemiah speaks with confidence that the Lord will give them success because he knows they are in partnership. Walls in this story are a picture of security, controls, community, homes all being restored because the walls are rebuilt. Protection and opportunity are back!
Most of what God wants us to do in life is very obvious. You will find a fairly extensive list of some of these in our meditative scripture for today.
1“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel of their sins!
2Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the lord?
6“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the lord will protect you from behind.
9Then when you call, the lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11The lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.
13“Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14Then the lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the lord, have spoken!”
Isaiah 58:1 -14 NLT
You notice he attaches these things to the fasting that he honours. As you meditate on the things He lists, focus on verse 12.
We again find the word rebuild. There is no doubt that there has been destruction and rubble in different areas of our lives, community and world, and we need to rebuild. Where do we start though? It would seem this Scripture tells us to begin with the right kind of fast.
Fasting should be a time of depriving self in order to focus on God and what pleases him. These people were only interested in pleasing themselves and continuing in their sins while putting on an outward show of deprivation. God always looks at the heart and that is where partnership is determined! When we incline our hearts towards God and take seriously a life of faith, and the costs and disciplines it requires you are giving God what he needs to partner!
Now you are ready to partner with God on the things that matter most to him! Your service to him in your home, your community, etc. That is how we will become known as those who rebuild the deserted ruins of our cities, rebuilders of walls, and restorers of homes! This leads us to the best life possible. Hear this quote from Isaiah 58
"then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well watered - garden, like an ever - flowing spring."