Nehemiah: Day 16

We Resettled Jerusalem


Today's Text: Nehemiah 11:1-21, Deuteronomy 7:9, Hebrews 11:13-16

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 11:1-21, Deuteronomy 7:9, Hebrews 11:13-16

Two summers ago, one of my best friends went to Greece. He didn’t go to see the Acropolis or the Parthenon, or to eat feta and olives by the handful. Instead, he spent several months on the island of Lesbos tending to thousands of refugees who had flooded there from war-ravaged Syria.

He sent pictures of little children, of lines of people waiting for blankets and clothes, of tents, of towers made of life jackets used to keep people afloat after their lifeboats sank. And he sent one picture of a fence post with these words scribbled across it, a holy graffiti: On earth as it is in heaven.

Every text, every story, every picture made me catch my breath and whisper a prayer. If you search online for his camp, you see headlines with words like “trapped” and “welcome to prison,” “horrific” and “languishing.” A few months after he left, his camp burned to ground. Tears flow as I write this, just thinking about it.

The people of God were hardly strangers to displacement. I hesitate to pull a direct parallel to the refugees from Syria, because in reading Nehemiah 11 we see a cautious return to their forsaken home. The Syrian refugees haven’t had that yet (and may not), and it feels odd to use them as an illustration here without being able to do something to ease the tragedy of their situation. But I believe we have to sit in that together, and feel the unease and discomfort.

We know that God’s people felt the pain of being dispersed during the exile. They were torn apart from their families, and they watched their cities burn. But now, at the end of Nehemiah, Jerusalem was ready. The walls were strong again. And yet, the people didn’t come willingly.

Nehemiah 11:1-2 tells us that they had to cast lots to decide who had to live in Jerusalem. They blessed the people who volunteered to live there. Why? Because Jerusalem would be the target of all of Israel’s enemies. John Wesley described the situation so poetically in his commentary on Nehemiah, saying, “This city was the butt of all the malicious plots of their enemies.” The return to David’s holy city wasn’t marked by a parade, by triumphant singing, or by celebration. It was marked by trepidation, a slow and careful entrance into the city that God had given them once again.

I can imagine the Israelites were tired, limping across a finish line that still didn’t seem ideal. They were home, but they still had only the Lord to keep them safe. They knew the walls of Jerusalem had been burned once, and they could be burned again.

Like the Israelites, we are still seeking a safe haven, a homeland. We, too, serve a God who is preparing a city for us—a heavenly city, where there will be no need for walls to protect us because we will dwell with God in perfect peace forever (Hebrews 11:16).

These promises from God remind me of the hymn “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah.” It is the mournful cry of a pilgrim people who know that one day, we will be home.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.

Land me safe on Canaan’s side,
bid my anxious fears,
bid my anxious fears goodbye.


Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.

  • Janna Jackson

    Everyday I am reminded that this world is not my home. While I am on this Earth God has a plan and a purpose for my life. Each day I must go before the Lord and shut out the noise that this world brings and lay everything before the Lord; otherwise, my vision is blurred and I am quickly thrown off course.

  • Just like the author’s friend, I will be traveling to Lesbos to work in a refugee camp in mid-July. This passage of scripture was emboldening this morning. I ask for your prayers as we prepare and go!

    • Vanessa Snyder

      Give Jeremy, the director of the camp, a big bear hug from his home town and an old friend. Tell him the counselors are hoping to come back soon.

    • Sarah S

      Praying for y’all, Elena! What a beautiful work you are doing. I know it will be blessed.

    • Vanessa Pardi

      Will definitely be praying for you Elena.

    • Soraya DosSantos

      All for his glory! May you bring the gospel of God’s everlasting love and promise of Faith and a better home! Amen!!!

  • Sheri Heasley

    “They still has only the Lord to keep them safe” oh dear one, the Lord is the best one to keep us safe!! And pay close attention to these passages and to what is going on now in Israel. It is still His chosen.

  • Terrisa Stewart

    The comparison to the refugees definitely struck me as it is crazy to think that there are people in this world who are truly living similar to those of the ancient times. It is easy to forget when it is not my daily life what else is happening in the world. I am grateful that God’s Word is still relevant today as it was yesterday because it reminds me not to get too caught up in myself and what I’m doing here on earth. There are better days to come.

  • How fitting it is to read about finding a home! My husband and I have been house hunting and looking for a permanent home where we can begin to grow our family. In a competitive housing market, it has been an overwhelming and often frustrating process. I begin to wonder if we will ever find a place and question whether or not this is God’s will and timing for us, despite years of prayer poured into the decision. With this devotional, I am reminded that God is our true home and that everything else is just material. Prayers for guidance and encouragement during this overwhelming process would be greatly appreciated!

  • Oh how I love that hymn.

  • My Daddy was a Naval Officer so we had 9 moves by the time I graduated from high school. It made life an interesting adventure. I loved the variety. Today I struggle with staying put. My husband’s biggest dream was to own a house. Here we are in one place now for 11 years. As we get ready to transition into retirement my husband wants to stay put & just be. I’m ready to sell it all off, buy a truck & travel trailer & hit the road. It’s how we moved from base to base. It will be interesting to see how the Lord will blend these 2 diverse ways. It’s our trust in Him that is our home whatever He leads us into.

  • Jennifer Martin

    Lord, I see the walls I have around me that leave out the people who want to get to know me. You know I have been deeply hurt by two former friends in the past. You know how I struggled to find friends and how lonely I was when I was in college, and how lonely I’ve felt at times during this first year of graduate school. You know about all of my struggles with social anxiety, Lord, because You know everything about me. Lord, I fully believe that You can break down these walls and the chains that still bind me to my past. Lord, please release the hurt I still feel about my past. Lord, please break the chains that are still binding me to my past. Lord, please help me to keep moving towards a better place, one that You have designed for all of us. In Your Name, Amen.

  • I am a travel nurse so I don’t actually have a “home” anymore. I am basically a nomad. I live in a different city and state every 3 months and travel from hospital to hospital starting over every time. It can be stressful, and emotionally difficult sometimes but in every move and every town I know God is with me and he comforts me. He keeps me safe and guides me. I know I am doing what I need to be doing and God called me to do this, so I know that wherever God calls me to be, everything will be ok as long as I keep him at the center of it all.

    • Emily Baudoux

      That must be really really hard. I have no doubt you are doing amazing and impacting work.

  • I absolutely love the descriptions of our devotion writers. They help build community. Thank you for sharing your reflections!

  • Momtomany

    This past year the Lord has entrusted 3 Syrian refugee families to our family for love, support,care- as they transition to a new country to call home. Their stories are heart rending-fleeing from bombs, living in camps where their children went without school, being looked down upon at every turn…fleeing the only place they had ever called home. In one family their young son still wakes in the night and walks around counting to make sure all family members are home before he can sleep. At 10 he has ptsd from the sounds of bombs falling. I cannot even imagine the trauma.

    Likewise I cannot imagine the Israelites—with the threads of hope and trust that still remained that their God promised to be faithful, returning to Jerusalem. O Lord that I, someone who likes “sameness” and not change, may trust in your guidance and be willing to follow wherever you lead.

    • Lexi Martin

      What a blessing you are to those families! Praying for you all! Thanks so much for sharing. ❤️

  • My nephew, aged 30ish was in deep discussion with a friend about a year ago, about football teams… I heard him say… I didn’t even want to support Liverpool, my uncle made me…. I am no expert so I found myself saying… well you may have been ‘forced’/made to’ as a child… you are grown now, you can choose for yourself which team you want to support… His reply makes me smile now, he said I love them, I would support them to the end, they are my team .. end of!
    My thing is, sometimes we have a plan or an image of what, where, who and how… but sometimes, the alternative, the one we would so quickly dismiss is or could be the way forward, the answer, the one we call ‘home’.

    I moved here some 20 years ago away from my family and all I loved for my partners work. I was terrified, lost, confused to the point where I would every Friday pack my children up and travel 130 miles to be with family… I did this for about 9 months… then one day…I realized I/we would be alright and right we have been… I could no more leave here now… this is ‘home’ in this season in this time…

    Remember that Paul Young song from the 80s… wherever I lay my hat … I think wherever my God is thats my home.. It is here I have had the worst happen to me… it is here I have been broken to the point where there was no way for putting back together… But God, has been here one day at a time picking up the pieces until I realized that home, is absolutely where God is… He us my day. He is my song. He is my hope. He is my home. Walls come up, fall down.. rebuild. Rebuild. Rebuild… but if God isn’t in it, isn’t the centre, the hope..
    I’m preaching…, sorry..

    He is my home… just saying!

    Happy Tuesday! Xxxx

    • Sarah

      I love this example, and your heart! Thank you for the encouragement, and sharing! ♥️♥️♥️

  • I am so so SO grateful for this community. Here I am reading through this message and feeling convicted about the possiblity of us moving to a place where I know nothing no one and I read through these comments where everyone’s going through the exact same thing. I don’t know what will happen with this move. Ultimately I hope we won’t have to go through with it, being the selfish human I am. But I have to remind myself over and over again that whatever God has for me is good. Even if it’s nearly impossible for me to see. Trust. It’s a hard thing. I love this part of the message where you wrote, “I can imagine the Israelites were tired, limping across a finish line that still didn’t seem ideal. They were home, but they still had only the Lord to keep them safe. They knew the walls of Jerusalem had been burned once, and they could be burned again.

    Like the Israelites, we are still seeking a safe haven, a homeland. We, too, serve a God who is preparing a city for us—a heavenly city, where there will be no need for walls to protect us because we will dwell with God in perfect peace forever.” This speaks to me because the Israelites knew they were home. They knew that ultimately this was a good place they were in. But because of the situation, they were wary. While they knew they were in the place God wanted them to be, they didn’t exactly want to be there. If I move, I really won’t have anything but the Lord **to keep me safe*** This is huge. I know I have God, but so what? I have God to keep me safe, physically but more importantly, eternally. If this move is “safe” for my eternal life, then put me in. I know I will still feel like one of the Jews, wary to enter this unfamiliar place. But I’ll know no matter what that God is preparing a city. He’s preparing a city for me, one that is nothing unfamiliar and yet like nothing I’ve ever known. My God is watching out for me, and I will be with him someday. Amen and amen and amen and AMEN.

    • Gina Glennon

      Yes, yes! He is with you, going with you! Preparing a place, the right place just for you. Plans for good, and not for evil! Jeremiah 29:11. We are downsizing in this next year…where will we land? Only God knows..praying and trusting too.

  • Risk. I can’t get that word out of my head after reading today’s Scripture and devotion. Being a Christ-follower is a risky business, and even to these Israelites who triumphed in their task of rebuilding, it was still a risk to inhabit the city where God dwelled. I too prefer my comfort over feeling “the unease and discomfort” of doing something risky. My fear is often greater than my faith. Lord, help me to realize that your kingdom advances through risk: when I am willing to be uncomfortable, share an uncomfortable conversation, or step out into an uncomfortable world.

    • Lexi Martin

      Amen! I am in an uncomfortable place and will remain here for quite sometime. Knowing that this is where God wants me offers comfort. And reminding myself that in the uncomfortable places is where I normally see God work the most helps too! Thanks for sharing!

  • I have moved my entire life. We’d leave one city for another and then in a short time, leave that one for one more. I’ve spent the bulk of my years, forming new bonds and relationships, and working to sustain old ones from a distance, while rarely ever feeling “at home”. Some cities were easier to leave, whether for the cities themselves or the hardships encountered in them. I remember each moving day nearly as well, as I remember more significant moments because with each one I’d mentally review what I was leaving behind. There is something about standing in a home turned empty house that can make you nostalgic. Our current residence was a move I struggled with. I remember crying nearly every day because I didn’t want to be here. This part of the country is way too close to the area I attended high school and while there was a lot of good in those years, there was also some serious pain and I didn’t look forward to being in a place where it was possible that I could be confronted with that portion on the daily. I feared what the enemy was toying with in front of me and doubted my resilience, and my husband’s resilience to face it and so I limped cautiously into the idea of this place until God in His great love of me gifted me an experience here, prior to the move, that allowed me to fall in love with this place, softening my heart to the concerns and allowing me to ease my defenses and transition smoothly. Now, we’ve been here 5 1/2 years and while we are preparing for another move, this place has proven to be a favorite and though there are days I am reminded I don’t have family here and that I’m not “native”, I know God has been in this and my fears weren’t rational, they were lies placed to rob me of the good things God was doing. God used this place to work out long hidden little parts of me that needed refinement, that needed healing, that needed to be broken down so that they could be built back up again, stronger than ever. As I venture in this world, knowing that I may often feel like a nomad in our home towns, I can find peace in the journey because I know that this place is temporary and any day I feel lonely, any moment I long for something else is short lived compared to the beauty that will be residence in Heaven. Prayerful God blesses the homes of our future on earth and that as we await confirmation of our next move that God blesses our remaining days in Cincy.

    • Tina

      Dearest, prayerful with you … sending hope filled love and hugs wrapped in prayers…. xxxx

    • Churchmouse

      Adding my prayers to Tina’s. Wherever we go we put down some kind of roots- some tentative, some deep. But always He’s doing a watering, a tending to those roots. We simply need to allow it to happen. Your words here show a beautiful growth. You have no doubt put seeds down everywhere you have been and I’m trusting that God has your plantings standing strong behind you now.

    • Melani

      I feel the same.. Many moves, not ever feeling at home in any one and anticipating the next. I’m letting the enemy rob me..I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels and in a constant state of limbo.

      • ~ B ~

        Melani, I have so often thought how wonderful it would be to have another group of women who have moved to surround myself with. It is a way of life that definitely creates a unique set habits and needs. Know that you’re not alone in any of it. Prayerful today that God moves you out of the feeling of limbo and tethers your heart to His so securely that you have joy wherever you reside!

    • Hannah

      Thank you for this. We too, are waiting on a move. I’m sad, excited, worried. I don’t want to start over AGAIN. But thank you for reminding of this perspective

      • ~ B ~

        All of the above … sad, excited, worried … It’s funny how those creep up with every move, no matter how well planned or executed. The older I get the less I look forward to starting over somewhere else and I was definitely feeling that this time, but knowing my heart was hurting in the move, God has been faithful to soften my heart to new places and point out the things here I won’t miss. He’s always so good to find ways to help me move on …. pun intended. :) I trust He will do the same for you! Hope the next move is a huge blessing and that you find quick and true relationships!

    • Cynthia Johnston

      We reared our daughters in Cincy and came to love that city. I would love to know where God leads you. If you end up in north Alabama I would like to meet you! Thanks,B for your comments!

  • Churchmouse

    Even though the Israelites knew they belonged in Jerusalem, it was hard for them to leave the familiar. They had homes in cities where they knew their neighbors and the way about the market. They knew their destiny but feared leaving what little safety they had. Jerusalem, though long in history for them, was also long a magnet for their enemies. I get it. It’s hard to leave even a meager familiar for an unknown. Trust is sometimes a very hard step to take, especially when we’ve only recently risen up from the rubble. We’ve picked up the pieces and started to build a future but the walls don’t look that sturdy and the opposition has already come out in force. We’re tempted to just hang back a bit and watch from a distance. See how this plays out before we commit any further. And foolishly we miss the blessing. We fail the test of faith. We leave the hard and holy things to others when we could have locked arms and pressed on together. “Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee. Trust Him when thy faith is small. Trust Him when to simply trust Him is the hardest thing of all.” Amen. Amen.

    • Julie

      This really resonated with me…“Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee. Trust Him when thy faith is small. Trust Him when to simply trust Him is the hardest thing of all.” Yes I wholeheartedly put my trust in the Lord! Amen!

    • Kay

      As usual, you have captured my sentiments so well. “It’s hard to leave even a meager familiar for the unknown…being tempted to hang back a bit and watch from the distance…fail the the test of faith.” Over the course of my life, there have been too many times where this is true. At the end of June I’ll be stepping out in faith as I leave a familiar-safe job and seek opportunities to live for Kingdom. I will “trust Him when my faith is small and trusting is the hardest thing of all…”Thank you for sharing your heart.

    • Tina

      Trust Him when dark doubts assail thee. Trust Him when thy faith is small. Trust Him when to simply trust Him is the hardest thing of all.” Amen. Amen.

      I love this Churchmouse….
      Thank you.

      Blessings and love across the pond… xxx

      • Churchmouse

        I read that little poem in a book by Ruth Bell Graham but I do not think it is her own. I think it’s actually by someone else whose name I don’t recall.

  • Shelby Lynn

    Today as I (finally caught up), I can’t help but think of the broken walls I have placed around myself. Walls that intermittently leave out my husband as I have old hurt from my dad and a precious boyfriend that scarred me. Lord I look to you as the remover of my walls in my covenants; Lord please help me with my hearts walls—help me to bring my husband in. Lord please settle my hearts anguish with releasing a toxic relationship with my dad, Father let me have peace knowing I’m not dishonoring him by choosing not to have a relationship because of how manipulative and negative he is; I have forgiven my dad for the years of child abuse but release that lock on my heart to fully let go of my dad.

    • Tricia Cavanaugh

      Shelby, I too am just caught up.
      I will be praying for you.

    • Katherine Bassein

      Praying for you-

    • Caroline Smith

      Praying with you this morning Shelby!

    • Nancy Stinson

      Praying for your complete restoration, Shelby.

    • Jennifer Martin

      Praying for you, Shelby!

    • I B

      Shelby – praying for you as over past few years I have come to realize how my relationship with my dad Both as a child and as an adult we’re affecting my marriage and parenting —- after reading a great book “boundaries” and some fantastic intense Christian counseling —- I am gaining freedom for myself and blessing those around me —-
      Take the step – do the hard work to break those walls —- God desires for you to live in Freedom and rest in HIS Fatherly arms —-

  • I feel All of this!! As a mom to 6 refugee kiddos, I have hidden, to protect them. God has been Hugely Blessing us, fortifying our walls. I know He has called us out and I feel forced in returning to a more public life. my friends pray for us as enemies already come, though God is there…He is our Sure Path.

    • Tina

      Sarah, beautiful wonderful Sarah, God sees you.. and all you are doing… He will protect you and He will guide you… praying psalm 91 over you and yours…

      I want to say thank you… just thank you…!

      Every blessing to you and yours….

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