I struggle to take days off. My problem is that I feel that if I’m not being productive then the day is not worth it. Without having something to show for myself, I feel that I am somehow failing or that life is meaningless.
This makes for a very weary woman.
But work and striving after projects are pointless unless they are done with God.
There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of this series that I have felt this is trivial. I somehow created the idea of this Bible Study, but lost God’s voice in it. The times of my greatest frustration in writing have been because I have forgotten I am not alone. This is not merely my work, but God’s work in me. If I let him.
Ezra and Nehemiah lived during troubling times and were appointed by the king of Persia to do what could have been menial work. But God stepped in to make it great. Before we can grasp their circumstances, let’s have some historical context.
In 586BC, Jerusalem and Judah fell to Babylon and the people of Israel were shipped away from the land to live under foreign rule while the military and government leaders settled the land. However, in 539BC, Babylon fell to Persia.
The Persians followed a polytheistic religion which honored all of the gods of all of the lands. Part of their political strategy was to appease the many gods of the conquered empires so that Persia would be blessed. Idols of conquered nations were returned and their temples were rebuilt. The kings who ruled Persia believed they could manipulate the gods of the world under their control by allowing people to worship them. Unfortunately for them, no one can control Yahweh.
About 75 years after the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, Ezra returned to bring about religious and judicial reforms. He was followed by Nehemiah who was permitted to rebuild the walls to Jerusalem.
While much time is spent in these books describing the work the people did in rebuilding the temple with the decrees from the Persian king, the purpose of Ezra and Nehemiah is the work God did to restore His people to be a nation for Himself. As He had promised Abram, Jacob, Moses, and David, God was faithful to His people, even in their unfaithfulness.
Ezra and Nehemiah took the opportunity given them and brought about a complete re-commitment to the covenant the people of Israel had with Yahweh. To live under the law, to be set apart, holy to God.
Now, in this renewed covenant, He desired them to live their lives with purpose. In worship. In giving. In Sabbath rest (Nehemiah 3:15-22). In marriage. They were not to seek their own good, but were to live out their relationship with God.
The rebuilding of the temple and the wall of Jerusalem would only have been the reestablishment of walls around empty spaces if it wasn’t for the work of the LORD.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
How do you live your life?
I don’t believe there is always a specific calling on our lives for fancy tasks. But I do believe that in everything we do God can build it into something greater if we are doing it for Him, in worship.
God is present in our lives in both the small and great moments. From wiping butts to providing food for those in need. God can bring glory to any moment through His transforming love in our lives. All we need to do is acknowledge His presence and ask Him to work through us.