Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 4:1-23, Genesis 28:15, Ephesians 1:18-23
In my second year of college, I flunked out. Well, maybe not “flunked out,” but I was definitely placed on academic probation. I couldn’t take classes at the university for a full year. Humiliated and miserable, I returned home to wait out my year off. I took that year very seriously. With the help of a coach, I learned the value of delayed gratification and self-governance. It was the hardest work I’d ever undertaken, and that hard work paid off when I returned and graduated.
A few years later, I decided I wanted to get healthy. Eating well and exercising were more challenging than I’d expected, and there were several times I wanted to give up. But each time I felt overwhelmed, I remembered the hard work of teaching myself to self-govern and to delay immediate gratification, and how those skills had earned me a diploma. Remembering these things spurred me on toward health.
In Scripture, the command to “remember” certain things is common. The Israelites were instructed to remember God delivered them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 13:3), and they were charged with committing the law to their memory (34:27). Similarly, the New Testament church was instructed to remember the victorious work of Christ on the cross through observing holy communion (Luke 22:7-19). It seems that “remembering” is the bridge that connects the past to the future—a present action that recalls the past and serves to propel us into our future.
The author of Nehemiah is recounting an experience during the rebuilding of the wall, when the circumstances of the present seem to be overwhelming the promise of the future. External forces were devising a plan to obstruct the building of Jerusalem’s walls. The opposition first tried to plant seeds of doubt. They hurled taunts and ridicule as the Jews were beginning their work, yet the Jewish builders persisted. But when they were about halfway through, the naysayers decided to destroy the work.
Understandably, the prospect of battle put fear in the hearts of the Jews who were working, and they began to doubt. Nehemiah assessed the danger and found that it was indeed very real. And so he told the workers to outfit themselves with the accoutrements of battle, and he directed them to “remember the great and awe-inspiring God” (Nehemiah 4:14).
And remember they did. They remembered the battles previously fought and won with Jehovah as their commander-in-chief, and they prepared to fight to protect their wives, their children, and the future of their holy city, Jerusalem. The remembering brought them strength—not just strength to arm themselves, but strength to continue the work.
Today, I’m encouraged to continue the work God has called me to, remembering His faithfulness in my past. The opposition of my present circumstances might be a very real threat—funky finances, a broken relationship, systemic injustice—but today I choose to remember the character and promises of the God I serve.
“Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land,
for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word. She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.