Words Have Power... but Words Add Burdens.

Devotional thoughts for the month of July 2019

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When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:1–3, NIV)

Nehemiah returned to Israel and led a band of determined people in one of the greatest projects of all time — rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. With God’s protection and provision, the people came together, performed works of skill and strength, and in fifty-two days repaired the breaches and re-hung the gates that surrounded God’s holy city — a city whose devastation he had previously allowed.

These were not the heady days of Kings David and Solomon. Israel was still in captivity, Jerusalem was unfortified and the remnant in the land had little hope that Israel’s restoration would occur on their watch… but along came God. God energized Nehemiah, softened the heart of king Artaxerxes and bolstered the hearts of those who were willing to return to Jerusalem.

But when word got out — especially to Sanballat — that this little band of workers sought to rebuild the city’s fortifications, Sanballat and his friend Tobiah mocked and threatened the Jews. In so doing, they added a burden to the project — one which did not stop it — but one which forced them to lose their single focus… and that could have stopped the project right there.

You see, the mere words of Sanballat and Tobiah made Nehemiah shift his resources to address an eventuality which did not come. Without adding any personnel, his builders also became an army — an expense which few of today’s countries choose to do without. So in a way, we have armies because we have words… whether or not those words become actions.

In America, anyone who has a family, home or a car, pays a substantial portion of their income on insurance. Here, we spend money to protect ourselves from a possible but unlikely eventuality. Now, none of us wants to use our insurance…. but we shift money from other legitimate expenses and bind ourselves these liabilities anyway because the threats are real.

Now, I do not advocate abandoning insurance. I just want us to see that it exists because the world is evil because men threaten… because they use words to hurt — and because of them, Nehemiah had to divert God’s resources from the mission-critical job of building the wall.

The kingdom of God will ultimately prevail, but the enemy wins a battle every time we divert a resource “for nothing.” But when Jesus returns, the Living Word will be with us again. At that time he will demonstrate the efficiencies of righteousness. Words will be positive and meaningful again. And once free of sin, no word will ever take our focus off Christ.

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