God’s Battle Plan
By The Rev. Kip Gilts
Nehemiah had his Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, three nemeses who repeatedly threatened the good work that he was commissioned to do. Their showdown comes to a beautiful crescendo when the prophet responds to his rivals, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down to you.” (Nehemiah 6:3) I have my own unwelcomed, yet familiar intruders. They are shame, guilt, and futility. Shame often comes to me reminding me of my brokenness, my own prejudice as I seek to eliminate discrimination. Guilt visits me at night, just before sleep is sought playing back in my head all the unhealthy, redemptive things that I said that day, as well as the opportunities that I had to represent God that I sped right past. Futility is the fiercest of the foes. It speaks pessimistically to me that even if I were able to rise above my prejudices and brokenness, and even if I were fully attentive to every kingdom moment that presented itself to me in a single day or string of days, I would only be a pebble in the ocean of hate and fear. Any attempt to address issues of discrimination, human trafficking, fleeing refugees, or environmental concerns will easily agitate my three nemeses into action.
Then I peer into the night sky and see a single star and I remember a story. I go underground into a tiny cave on the outskirts of Jerusalem not too far from where shepherds tend their sheep for the booming economy of the holy city and a smile of hope comes across my soul. One child born to transient parents in the midst of an anxious people. The scriptures tell us that when Herod became aware of the birth of one who could be the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6, he was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him (Matthew 2:3). Soon the newborn is swept away with his parents seeking shelter from the enraged ruler.
And this is God’s plan! This is not how one fixes the problems of the world: with humility, smallness, innocence, obscurity. When this babe of Bethlehem grew up and started preaching, he seemed to point to the same strategy, “He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:2-5) I don’t know what your challenges are or who your nemeses are, but I am familiar with God’s battle plan.
Prayer: Lord, help us to find in this surprise guest in Bethlehem the tools that we need for living in this world today in your name. In the name of the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.