Over the past few days, I have been contemplating the state of our fallen world in light of the most recent terrorist attacks in Paris. With these horrific attacks, we have once again seen what just a few dedicated extremists can accomplish when a society abandons its sovereignty and sacrifices its means to defend itself in favor of political correctness and naivety. I see people all over social media who are obviously eager to “do something”, and so I will attempt to give what I hope is a compelling Biblical perspective on the matter. How should we as Christians to respond to the atrocities that have occurred and the fact that they will continue to occur? I believe we can find a very good answer to that question in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.
When we first meet Nehemiah in chapter 1 of the book, he has just received a report on the state of his native home of Jerusalem, a place he had never seen due to the fact that he was born into Persian captivity. Here we find out a couple of things about Nehemiah right off the bat. First, he is a patriot; which we can see in that the news of Jerusalem’s state of desolation was enough to bring him to have “wept and mourned for days” (1:4). I think we as red-blooded Americans can identify with Nehemiah’s sorrow as we see what is becoming of our homeland in the age of secular-progressivism we now find ourselves living in. Though we as American Christians live free from any real persecution, we can certainly identify metaphorically with the desolation of Jerusalem as it parallels the moral decay of the United States. However, the larger point here is that it is ok to love your country as a Christian. In fact, reverence for God and Jesus Christ are the only things that supersede the reverence for the Jewish homeland detailed throughout the scriptures. God does not have a problem with Jews being proud of their national identity and their land. One’s nationality and heritage is a birthright given from God, and Patriotism is a good thing. We as American believers should love our country in the same way that Nehemiah loved his.
Second, we find out that Nehemiah is a prayer warrior who asks earnestly for God to forgive the sins of his countrymen and return them to their homeland (1:5-11). His patriotism is what moves him to sorrow for the state of his nation, but it is his faith that moves him to prayer for its restoration. We as American believers should be patriots who pray. When we look at the continued moral degradation of our society, we should pray earnestly for God’s mercy on us and our countrymen. We should acknowledge as Nehemiah does that our own households are not blameless and that God is the one who preserves nations according to his will for those who “love him and keep his commandments”(1:5). All too often, we as Christians act like the state of this nation in 2015 is not in large part due to our own turning from God; but I’m afraid that is not actually the case. It is more the failure of God’s people than the actions of the Godless that have brought this nation into decline, just as it was for Israel. When we pray, we should acknowledge this fact and pray for our own forgiveness as much as for the society around us. However we pray, we should do far more of it than we are inclined to in our daily lives if we expect God to move in this nation.
After praying, Nehemiah is given the opportunity to return to Jerusalem with a contingent of his countrymen and begin to rebuild Jerusalem: God answers his prayers. In chapter 4, we find Nehemiah and his group of settlers beginning to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed when it was conquered. It should be interesting to us as Americans in 2015 that Nehemiah’s first move upon returning to Jerusalem was to rebuild a wall around the city. The concept of securing borders in 2015 draws as much ire from the Christian community as it does from the secular left. The fantasy of a world without fences on this side of heaven is not one that we find embraced in Scripture. If the Old Testament Jews had good enough sense to secure their borders from foreign invasion, it’s really baffling that it should be such a stretch for American Christians in 2015; but I digress.
The important thing I want you to notice from chapter 4 is that Nehemiah and his group of settlers faced a threat that we ought to be able to relate to in light of the geopolitical climate we now inhabit. They had to deal with a group of people who didn’t want them to be there, namely the “Arabs, Ammonites, and the Ashodites” (4:7). These folks mocked them and threatened to kill them and knock down the wall that they were so earnestly working to rebuild. It seems they were being… terrorized! So what was Nehemiah’s response? Well, just as before, he prays; but I want you to notice how he prays. He prays “Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You.” Surrounded by enemies, Nehemiah prays that God would (gasp) DESTROY THE ENEMY! Do you as a Christian pray that God would lay waste to Islamic terrorism? If not, why not? I hear a lot of outcries for compassion for these people who would seek to murder our families and destroy our way of life, but precious few calls for God to blot them from the face of the earth. Maybe I’m Old (Testament) School, but I think we need to see far more of the latter in this day and age. Maybe if we prayed for it, God might make it happen.
Also, don’t miss what else Nehemiah and his people do in the face of the terrorist threat: they armed themselves. “Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built… So we carried on the work with half of them holding spear… Each took his weapon even to the water.” (4:17-23) Even as they prayed for God to destroy their enemies, they carried weapons in preparation to defend themselves. These were not soldiers, mind you, but simple families of Jews who took up arms as they labored on the wall. As a result of God’s protection and the fact that they were armed and ready to face their attackers “God frustrated” the plans of their enemies (4:15). It is obvious from the attacks in Paris that none of the victims were able to return fire on their attackers. Paris is a disarmed society that learned the hard way how badly that policy can backfire when evil men with arms arrive to do their murderous deeds. We as Americans (depending on where you live unfortunately) do not have that same problem due to the rights our forefathers (leaning on the Bible, incidentally) guaranteed for us in the Constitution. If you are worried about the possibility of a terrorist attack, or any other worst case scenario for that matter (terrorist attacks are still VERY unlikely, statistically speaking): get armed, get trained, and don’t leave home without your weapon. As Nehemiah says, don’t even “go to the water” without your firearm. That prudent advice is as good today as it was thousands of years ago.
Nehemiah lived in an age of moral depravity and terrorism, much as we do today. He responded to the struggles he faced through patriotism, prayer, and armed vigilance. We as Christians are not facing anything in the 21st century that hasn’t been faced by our forefathers all the way back to Abraham. We should all spend more time on our knees and on the range if we are really as concerned about the situation as we let off on Facebook. There is a time and a place for compassion, but war is not that time or place. Make no mistake, we are at war both physically and spiritually. Pray earnestly that God may drive our enemies before us as he did for Joshua, David, and Nehemiah; until Jesus returns. Then and only then will we find true peace on this earth.