The Extraordinary Case of the Disappearing Save Point: The Fight to Stay When it is Easier to Go (Nehemiah 1-13)

One of the wonderful things about video games is they can transport you to an entirely new world full of new possibilities and provide you with the tools to create your own story.  One of the not so wonderful things about video games is that they can accidentally erase all of your hard work with one wonky server issue. If you have been playing games long enough, then eventually you have run into this issue in some form.  Maybe it was corrupted data on a memory card or a save file that erased your progress.  Perhaps it was a damaged partition on a hard drive, or in the case we are dealing with today a random server wipe can take all of your enjoyment and investment and replace it with anger and frustration in an instant.

When this gaming disaster strikes, a difficult decision lies in your hands.  Do you choose to rebuild, going back and re-doing all the things that you so carefully completed the first time around?  Or do you give up, trade your game in or banish it to your bookshelf, and angrily unleash your venom in the gaming forum of your choice?  It is a tough call… on one hand you run the risk of the exact same scenario repeating again at some point down the line.  On the other hand, with all that you have already invested it seems like a rash decision to walk away from something you were previously enjoying just because a technical issue has set you back.  Decisions, decisons…
The concept of rebuilding stands on the foundation of experiencing a substantial loss that necessitates a do-over.  Losing is step one of the process.  Personally, I find this process frustrating as it feels inefficient, reflects poor time management, and seems like a waste of resources.  What is the point of rebuilding something that already existed?  Couldn’t it have simply been protected or preserved so the loss would not occur?  Losing is painful enough to endure… it almost seems insulting to have to pick up the pieces of the board game after they were just callously knocked of the table by the classroom bully.  Yet we find this theme peppered throughout Scripture as God’s people frequently found themselves in the rebuilding process, sometimes through their own fault but often times because of events that occurred beyond their control or even before their birth.  Such is the scene we find in one of the most epic reclamation projects found in the Bible… the rekindling  of the heartbeat of Israel under the leadership of Nehemiah.

To do justice to the level of rebuilding that is about to occur we need to fill in the backdrop of the scene.  Many years prior the nation of Israel was overthrown and enslaved by the neighboring Assyrians and Babylonians and the incredible cities that had been built by David and Solomon had been ransacked and burned to the ground.  Jerusalem, the capital, was left in shambles with the walls torn down and everything of value looted.  This is a truly post-apocalyptic setting with only small groups of survivors left to survive in the shell of this once proud city of global importance.  Enter Nehemiah stage right…

Nehemiah was not a descendant  of the royal family, nor was he an obvious choice for leadership when we find him.  He was simply the cupbearer to the king, a position that placed him in proximity to power but reminded him daily of his status as a descendant of a subjugated nation.  Nehemiah receives an unfavorable report on the condition of his countrymen as well as of the city of Jerusalem and immediately goes to battle as a man of God should do… on his knees in prayer.  Unbeknownst to Nehemiah, he just entered phase one of the Jerusalem rebuilding project.

His position may not have seemed to lend itself to a position on the nation building committee, but Nehemiah refused to disqualify himself from the burden he was carrying.  When the king asked him what was on his mind, Nehemiah pulled no punches as he explained the dire situation in his home country and his desire to be part of the solution.  Mind you, Nehemiah had no resources or credentials to support his desire to rebuild.  As a matter of fact, his mere request could have been considered treasonous.  But this was an appointment that was anointed by the Lord and an answer to Nehemiah’s fervent prayer, and the king responded with a level of support that is hard to imagine.

Everything Nehemiah requested was granted… a leave of absence from work, letters of authorization, supplies from the federal reserve, and even a detachment of soldiers to protect him.  Looks like another happy ending is in order… cue the 90’s sitcom ending theme song and group high five frozen in the air.  Unfortunately, Nehemiah chapter two ends with some ominous foreshadowing of the adversaries who lie ahead.

No rebuilding project worth doing will exist without the resurgence of opposition that was willing to lie dormant as long as the renovations were a pipe dream.  As soon as you are ready to put the hand to the plow, you will find adversaries who you didn’t even know existed, and often times appear to have no valid reason to oppose you.  Such is the case here, as three men stand up to mock Nehemiah’s efforts, falsely accuse him of improper motives, and all along the way will do everything in their power to distract him from flying a mission accomplished banner.  Have you ever set your mind to doing the right thing only to have enemies appear out of the woodwork just to make things difficult?  Take the advice of Nehemiah, a man who has been there.  Just start building and stay focused on the Lord.

Throughout the project Nehemiah endured setbacks, assassination attempts, threats and intimidation, but it was all for a purpose just like the rebuilding of the walls and the city itself was.  So now to return to our original questions… why does God allow us to lose things to simply rebuild them?  And through these chapters we find the answers.  It is through the act of rebuilding that the people were brought together both in heart as well as in body.  It was this process that brought them  back into obedience to the Lord and initiated a rebirth of their commitment to His ways.  It unified them and purified them.  It made them a FAMILY, fully embracing their relationships with each other and with the Lord.  And all that they once took for granted was now appreciated in a whole new light, as they all got to participate in the process.

In our gaming predicament, the easy choice is to cut bait and run.  But doing so would mean that you never achieve the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of your labors and the sense of completion shared with all those who have fought the good fight alongside you.  The choose to reload and rebuild is never the comfortable one, but it is often the one that provides the most rewarding result.

Whatever has been torn down in your life, whether it is from the enemy such as the walls of Jerusalem, through events outside of your control like a server error, or perhaps it is a mistake of your own doing like overwriting the wrong save… regardless of how it happened there is a rebuilding solution.  It will be arduous work, and it may feel like you are treading old ground when you could be blazing a new path.  But the rebuilding process itself is a destination, not merely a journey.  It is when we endure and perservere through these setbacks that we prove the level of our commitment and set ourselves up for the richest rewards.  Don’t give up in the middle of your rebuild… you are already closer than you think to the other side.

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