Hello, lovelies, and welcome to the very first ever #WarfareWeek. Spiritual warfare has been a theme in my walk with Christ, and it even makes an appearance in my first book, The Field. I wanted to do something to honor this theme here on my blog.
The topic for the week is “The Fight of Your Life.” I’m kicking things off today, and later this week I’ll be joined by Author Emerald Barnes and Kandi J. Wyatt, Author. Please join us and share if it resonates with you.
As those of you who have been following me for a while know, my word for 2016 is champion. Most of the things I’ve posted have dealt with the noun champion: a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, especially in sports (Google Dictionary). And while victory is an important part of my year, today I want to talk about the verb champion: support the cause of; defend; advocate (Google Dictionary). And the battle I want to talk about today is not so much one fought in the trenches as it is in a courtroom.
Recently, a verse in Nehemiah struck me: “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this [Nehemiah’s commission to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls], they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites” (Nehemiah 2:10 NIV, emphasis mine). The Israelites had a reputation at that time as far as the rest of their world was concerned: they may have been God’s chosen people at one time, but now they were deserted, desolate, and not cared for, and there’s little question of whether or not they earned their place in the world. Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses warned them: “Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17 NIV). And even as Israel moved further and further away from God, He sent prophets again and to beckon them back, but they weren’t having it: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it'” (Isaiah 30:15 and Jeremiah 6:16 NIV). It doesn’t exactly seem like they deserved to have anyone come along and promote their welfare.
And yet. And yet, that’s exactly what Nehemiah does. When he hears that the people of Jerusalem are in “great trouble and disgrace” and the city’s walls are “broken down” (Nehemiah 1:3 NIV), it causes him distress. Seeking God with the situation opens doors for him to return to Jerusalem with the objective of rebuilding the city and restoring its people (Neh. 1:4-2:10). First, he surveys the damage (Neh. 2:11-17), and then the great task of rebuilding begins (Neh. 2:18). Not only did Nehemiah undertake rebuilding the wall and protecting it from further damage (Neh. 4, 6), he put an end to oppressive practices within the Israelite community (Neh. 5). Then he undertook the most difficult task of all: getting the Israelites back to God (Neh. 8-9), and keeping them on that track (Neh. 13). Nehemiah was an advocate, a champion of restoration for the people of Israel – people known as outcasts, desolate, and deserted – restoration not only to their rightful borders and boundaries, not only to their basic needs, but to God.
Most people probably wouldn’t take that case – the case of the guilty. Sanballat and Tobiah certainly wouldn’t have. So why did Nehemiah? Nehemiah remarks, “The gracious hand of my God was on me” (Neh. 2:8), and I can’t help but thinking that restoration was always God’s plan for the Israelites. After all, Jeremiah says, “The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah as well. All their captors hold them fast, refusing to let them go. Yet their Redeemer is strong; the Lord Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land” (Jer. 50:33-34 NIV). God was just looking for a champion for His people, and Nehemiah – Nehemiah was willing.
This week is Holy Week, and in the Church, we are celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are celebrating that moment when Jesus looked at our guilt in rejecting God and said, “You know what? I’m going to give you the best possible life anyway. Life with My Father.” Jesus died to promote the welfare of a race that rejects God, a race in ruins; He rose again to advocate, plead for, and champion people who can do nothing for themselves, who walk away from Him again and again and again. First John 2:9 says, “If anybody sins, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One” (NIV). We have a Champion – Someone who wants to make it right for us, and everyone around us.
And again, most probably wouldn’t take that case – the case of righting a wrong that wasn’t theirs to begin with. Often, we readily advocate and champion restoration for those we perceive deserving of it, but we often neglect restoration for those who have made their beds and are now lying in them. We would give them a life sentence and leave them right where they are, bearing the consequences of their sins into eternity.
I wonder if we understand how contrary to God’s Word this attitude is. And while Jesus is the Ultimate Champion, I wonder if we understand that God is looking for more of His people to rise up and advocate restoration of the guilty to Him.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV)
In Him, there is no wrong that cannot be made right. There is no sentence that cannot be mitigated – no, lifted.
I believe that for you, and I believe that for me.
Let’s start taking more cases, like Nehemiah and Jesus. Let’s start seeking God about the cases that need our attention, and how we can best go about fighting for them. Let’s get real about the damage, and then let’s get busy rebuilding. Let’s take a stand against oppressive practices. Let’s point people to God. And let’s start seeing Him right those wrongs and lift those life sentences.