Sunday, November 10, 2013

Good Walls Aren't Bad.

Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, What they are building--if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!" Nehemiah 4:3

The fox is a beautiful creature. But as a neophyte artist (who has yet to master the 2B pencil), I have found they are difficult to capture in graphite. This is my attempt to sketch a photo without the benefit of blending shades of brown, black, red, and gray.

Also, I began to recall how frequently the fox is referenced in Scripture; almost never in flattering terms as metaphor or a simile…which led me to Nehemiah's walls.

In New England, where I grew up, property lines that divided farmlands were often rock walls. Wandering around in the woods, there have been many times when I have come across them. Long after the old homesteads have turned to dust, and the pastures that once supported crops and livestock that supported a husband and wife and a brood of children had returned to forest, traces of rock walls remained. There is something beautiful and peaceful about them, even when they are no longer functional and tightly fitted together. Sitting with a book on an old lichen covered stonewall, that for decades has survived the brutal bullying of heaving frosts each spring, is an experience I wish upon everyone. Or, you can just sit with your thoughts and imagine what life was like back in the good old days.

Nehemiah looked upon the outer walls that had once protected those who lived within them. No pleasant thoughts came to his mind. The city's ancient walls were a tangled mess. Hewn timbers that once framed the gates were scorched and charred. He was looking upon the judgment of God. Israel, a rebellious people, had long before torn down the spiritual walls God had given them through Moses and the prophets. The debris field he maneuvered around was metaphor of the results. Sowing to the wind, they reaped a whirlwind. Nehemiah felt an emotional storm of grief whip up in his soul. Then, fresh and gentle winds of hope.

Nehemiah remembered that God has also promised that following judgment He still held out the invitation to rebuild the spiritual walls that had once made them his wonderfully peculiar people. If they would, he would gather them from the four corners of the known world to live and worship together, and by Divine intervention bring about physical and spiritual restoration.

We, as God's New Covenant people, have always have been a paradox like our fore bearers. Without thinking, we proudly tear down good, spiritual walls God established to bless and protect us. For sure, there are racial, segregational, denominational, and a long list of other walls that need to come down, but too often we erect new ones without the blueprints of the Divine Architect. Such walls have proven time and again that they are incapable of supporting even the nimble pacing of a foxes feet. Let alone curb the fall-out of our fallen nature. Century after century has proven that godless walls cannot keep enemies at bay, keep the precious protected, or bring about justice, yet we labor on in vain.

Part of the sojourn of every generation of Christ-followers is the prophetic call to rebuild the walls God gave us. Not fully explainable, but nonetheless true, The Trinity will always roll up their sleeves and join that project. It's a struggle to get it right, but it's worth humbling ourselves and asking God, "What are the walls we need to rebuild?"

Not all walls are bad…

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