Today’s readings… (Nehemiah 5,6), (Joel 1), (1 Thessalonians 5)
Some of the verses in the final chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians are really appropriate for conditions we live in today. The chapters in Nehemiah are also full of lessons, showing his dedicated effort, despite all kinds of distraction and opposition. He led the people in overcoming these so that the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem were completed in just 52 days (6 v.15). Although the word “faith” is not used (for it is largely a N.T. word), the dedication and faith of Nehemiah is so unshakable; it can be truly said that he was a man who had “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” [1 Thess. 5 v8] as Paul was encouraging the Thessalonians to do.
Paul told them, as he tells us, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”[v.9,10] His words are full of practical advice, “Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient …” [v.13,14]
What an increasing challenge it is to find and maintain inner peace – and outward peace – when the world is increasingly without peace! The world situation is getting steadily worse – and it demands that we note Paul’s prophecy that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them …”[v.2,3] They will only be talking about the urgent need for it – they will not achieve it! How even more vital it will be for us, when that happens, to have on “the breastplate of faith” living in every situation in ways that show, as Paul puts it, we really “are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” [v.5] even though the darkness is all around us, trying to suffocate us.
Let us follow the example of Nehemiah, who, in the face of increasing opposition prayed, “… now, O God, strengthen my hands.” [6 v.9] Let us say the same because we have put on “the breastplate of faith.”