[by Sandy McIntosh] Nehemiah is a leading character in the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, and an important character in Jewish history. He lived long before Jesus, and his calendar did not start with a new year on January 1. It didn’t even have a January. For sure he never specifically wished anyone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year at the end of December.
Or did he?
If we can get past the superficial materialism and drunken partying, there is wisdom from God for this time of new beginnings in December, and Nehemiah was a great teacher on that subject.
Nehemiah was a rich and successful man, who had a burning desire to really make a difference. He was already successful and he didn’t have to care, but he risked it all to do one great thing. His great project disrupted his career and almost got him killed, and made some strangers into his life-long enemies.
Nehemiah understood the business of God.
On March 19, 1813, a boy named David was born in the town of Blantyre Scotland; a small town in a small country. He was born in a tenement for factory workers, one of seven children, and he started working 12 hour shifts in a textile mill at the age of 10. There is more to this story, but David Livingstone’s burning desire was to end slavery in Africa, and that is what he did. David Livingstone was a devout Christian.
He was another man who knew the business of God.
Ebby (Edwin) Thacher was a sick alcoholic who often spent time in mental hospitals for his affliction. Once he was taken to court after a serious drinking bout, and got off because three Christians from the Oxford Group took him into their care. The Oxford Group members were Christians from traditional churches who believed in personal conversion, new beginnings.
The three sponsors housed Ebby in a rescue mission run by an Episcopal (Anglican) church in New York, and somehow he was converted to a new life, without alcohol.
Later Ebby visited his friend Bill Wilson, another hopeless drunk. Bill expected a friendly night of drinking, but he was shocked to find his friend Ebby completely sober. This happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and it’s another long story. The conclusion is Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step programs. Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith, an Oxford Group member, are acknowledged as the founders of AA.
New beginnings are the business of God.
And where are we? If we know God, do we know His business? I believe when we know better, there is a chance we will do better. In the next few weeks I want to write several articles about “What Nehemiah Did, and How You Can Do Anything.”
I am a Christian who often works with projects, and I am sure we need to know better. At Christmas we remember that God made something new, and at New Year’s most of us try to do better things.
Please join me as we learn how to do God’s construction work, following Nehemiah’s step-by-step instructions. It’s time to make a difference.
Nehemiah probably knew these words; “But there will be no more gloom … The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, you shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in your presence as with the gladness of harvest.” (Isaiah 9:1 to 3)
Read more in this series: