I have enjoyed this walk. It has been refreshing, a breath of fresh air, and music to my ears, just what my soul needed. I have truly loved hanging out with this book of Nehemiah. A blessing that has been on the mark in the season I am in.
Today this walk took me to Chapter 10 of this book. In this chapter the rebuilding of the walls has been completed. The Israelites have rediscovered the place prayer in their lives, they have rediscovered the place for the word of God and they are being transformed by it. This is the natural consequence to walls that are intact; we go back to the Heart of Worship. This is the sole reason I have desired for the Lord to help me rebuild my walls. When my walls are broken, my focus is away from the Lord, from the works He created me for. Yet as the walls are rebuilt, I go back to my first love, Him. And this is what has happened to the Israelites in chapter 10.The covenant
With the walls in place and their prayer life and bible reading in place, the Israelites now know what is important and they therefore decide to enter into a covenant with the Lord. This covenant that will govern who they are; it is the kind of covenant that I got into when I gave my life to Christ; the kind of covenant that we get into daily as we choose to live for God.
What I learn from the Israelites is the soberness and seriousness with which they enter into this covenant. See what they say, ‘Cursed be me, if I don’t fulfill what I’ve just vowed before the Lord and signed with my own hand. I want to be cursed if I don’t follow this through’.
They have no room for mediocrity or double living; their lives will be about living for God.
I find this prayer scary. Yet I love the commitment with which they are entering into this covenant. You see I find double living often has a hold on me. I want to live for God, yet I want to live for self. I find that for many of us, the option of living for God fully, truly surrendering to His ways, is too scary. So often we carry Him as a handbag; a handbag that we carry when it is convenient. When this handbag gets in the way of our perceptions and plans, we leave this handbag behind and do ‘our thing’, our way.
How the Israelites are saying no more double living for us. We will live for the Lord. Wow.
The first covenant
But the thing that really stood out for me today is the first covenant they enter into. “We promise not to let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land, and not to let our sons marry their daughters.
This is the first covenant these guys enter into. They must know something that I need to know. Perhaps they are aware of the seriousness of marriage; how who we marry will impact our faith one way or another and so they will not compromise on this.
This is what God was reminding me today that who I marry will impact where and how the rest of my life goes, one way or another. The Israelites knew that if their daughters and sons married pagans, despite their love for God, or even the zeal with which they had built the walls, it would be in vain.
Solomon was perhaps the best example of this. But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart… and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. (1 Kings 11:1-4)
Many times we imagine that the people we marry will not impact the path we take. Solomon must have thought the same thing. What with him being the King, a wise man even? How could any woman turn his heart away from the Lord he so dearly loved? But true to the warning the Lord has made, they turn his heart away from God. A sad ending to a man who God had destined for great things.
Not a handbag
I suspect that is the power in marriage; that it can make or break who we are, the things God has placed in our hearts.
There are times when my heart wants to get married more than anything else, what with the joys of babies. Surely the life that is my family will be such a beautiful thing. Yet today as I read this, my prayer and cry went to the Lord; ‘please may I never fall into the trap of marrying a man that we are unequally yoked’; ‘may I not ever imagine that I can ensure he gets saved when we are married’; ‘may I never lose focus of what is most important, to live for You God, to live for the things You have called me to’.
What I realize is the heart of this is the question is God a handbag that I pick up when I want to or do I live for Him? The answer to this question will take me back to crying for a man after His heart. I want a marriage that honors God; a marriage whose purpose is to glorify Him.
More than the looking into each other’s eyes and disappearing into the shores of each other’s arms, more than all that, I desire for a marriage that honors God. In a world of shortcuts, in a world where waiting for this man isn’t fun, in a world where my way or the highway rules, I choose God over the other allures. And I tell you these allures are in my face too often; they inspired this blogpost ‘devil wears prada’.
There’s a cost
This Sunday my pastor spoke of how if anything is important to you it will cost you. That’s the reality of life. If anything is important to you, it will cost you something, sometimes it costs time, sometimes money but one way or another it will cost you.
It is the principle of we reap what we sow. So if I reap a man who I am unequally yoked with, I will reap that.
Yet, at the heart of this principle is the question of what is most important to me. It is never an easy question. It is a question that can have many politically correct answers. Yet the heart always knows what is true. What is most important to you? Is it your relationship with God or is it having a guy? Is it your relationship with God or that job whose principles are far from what He would have you be about? Is it the fame that comes with the job or is it pleasing the Lord? Is it living for God or the thunder behind the idea of a married guy? Is it honoring that husband because that is what the word of God teaches or is it being right, that he does not deserve to be respected?
I will be the first to say I falter many times in this resolve of it being God first always. I will be the first to confess that I have waivered too many times to care to count. I will be the first to say sometimes I wonder if the price to pay for following God is too high.
Yet in all that, the reason I always come back to the Heart of Worship, to this my Ultimate Lover is He is the one my heart aches for most. He is the one who is on the cross for me, for my sins. He is the One who is taking beating and thrashing over sins that are mine. He is the One who lifts me up when I am in the middle of the mud. So do I falter, you bet. But my prayer today is Lord, You above all else. My prayer is for the Helper that is His Spirit. My prayer is He holds me in His hands and keeps me there forever.