In the last few weeks, I’ve seen my fair share of gingerbread house making. From Christmas parties to holiday specials on the cooking channels, I could elaborate on many of the cool tips and tricks out there when it comes to this art form, but, as you can guess, I’ve seen a lot of mess and chaos too! There comes a point in the middle of a disaster, where you just have to look at the mess in front of you and realize there is no going on from here, unless you completely clear the slate and try again! This isn’t just true for gingerbread house making. It’s true for us as human beings too.
We have been reading Nehemiah in our Pause devotions this week, and one thing that has stood out to me is the prayers of this humble servant. Several times, we see Nehemiah declaring God’s goodness, often in comparison with the stubbornness and wickedness of the people. You could say they were a hot mess! Here is a portion of Nehemiah’s prayer in Nehemiah 9:15-21:
“You gave them bread from heaven when they were hungry and water from the rock when they were thirsty. You commanded them to go and take possession of the land You had sworn to give them.
“But our ancestors were proud and stubborn, and they paid no attention to Your commands. They refused to obey and did not remember the miracles You had done for them. Instead, they became stubborn and appointed a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt! But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them, even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies.
“But in Your great mercy You did not abandon them to die in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud still led them forward by day, and the pillar of fire showed them the way through the night. You sent Your good Spirit to instruct them, and You did not stop giving them manna from heaven or water for their thirst. For forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!”
Nehemiah’s prayer doesn’t end here. He goes on and on about the wonderful character of God and the not so wonderful attributes of people. However, in the end of all of this, the people repented and made a new promise to God (Nehemiah 9:38).
But how did Nehemiah lead the people to this point? Through his prayers and petitions and the public reading of God’s Word (Nehemiah 8:1), he caused the people to remember all the Lord had done for them (especially their recent release and return to Jerusalem after years of being in Babylonian captivity). They immediately repented and were restored. It’s necessary to point out that Nehemiah’s goal in all of this was the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, but something had to be rebuilt in the hearts of the people before the Jerusalem walls were rebuilt. The slate had to be wiped clean and their hearts restored spiritually before God could rebuild the city physically!
Perhaps you’ve been waiting for God to do some rebuilding in your life. However that may look for you personally, remember the key words here (in order from Nehemiah’s example) – Remember. Restore. Rebuild. Take some time this week to pause and remember all the beautiful, wonderful, and amazing things He has already done. Allow Him to restore you and make you new. I’m praying that, as you do, you’ll begin to see Him at work, rebuilding and growing things you might have believed to be lost. He’s an excellent builder!
Pastor Kristin Gentry