Nehemiah 1-3

Now, I’m not entirely clear on why the wall wasn’t rebuilt after the temple. Did they just not have explicit permission to rebuild anything more of the city than the wall and they were too afraid to do so? It would make sense. They were surrounded by some pretty nasty people.

I only wonder because as soon as Nehemiah arrives with his permission and grant for material and gives directions, pretty much everyone in town down the goldsmiths, perfumers, and women picked up tools and started working on that wall.

Anyway, what really sticks out to me, aside form the specific people called out in the list of workers, is one phrase Nehemiah uses in his prayer: servants who delight to fear God.

I’ve talked a bit about what fearing God means. It’s appropriate awe. It isn’t dread or terror or overtly negative. Though I imagine at times, particularly if you happen to be encountering the glory of God in person, it can certainly feel like dread or terror in the moment. But over all it’s meant to be appropriate awe. It’s a knowledge of being so wholly and entirely helpless, wholly and entirely at God’s mercy, wholly and entirely unworthy and yet chosen.

And Nehemiah calls this a delight.

Mostly, humans struggle with insignificance. Mostly, humans rebel against the idea of being wholly at anyone’s mercy. We don’t like full and complete submission. Something in us assumes that means some sort of loss of self, loss of agency, loss of everything.

It simply doesn’t, though. God created us for a relationship. God wants us to be who we are, completely, truly. God wants us to have agency. He gave us emotions, desires, independence. He has no interest in taking that away from us. It is in submission that we become free to fully experience the life he intended for us.

Okay, think about it this way. Raising children. My children have more freedom when they obey the rules. I take freedoms away when they disobey. My children have more of a voice when they use it respectfully. I will sit and listen to everything they have to say, all their disappointment, all their desires, when they are speaking to me with respect. When they scream at me in a fit, they get to sit quietly until they calm down and can use their words. Then they receive comfort. When they obey and show respect, I am more likely to accommodate their desires. And I am a very imperfect parent.

My point is, it is through submission to God that we are able to realize our greatest freedom. It is a delight to fear God, to stand in his presence and recognize his glory and all that he is and all that he wants for us.

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