Thursday, October 3, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Nehemiah 4 and My Own Article on "Friends and Scripture" (Part 9)

Nehemiah 4 – Sanballat mocks the Jews saying, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones at that?” (4:2)

Sounds like a passage that might have inspired “will these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37)

Tobiah the Ammonite mocks the soundness of the stone wall, which at this point is up about half-way (4:6). The mocking turns to anger as the walls go up; they begin to plot against Jerusalem and “cause confusion in it” (4:8).

The strength of the builders is also beginning to wane—“The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves” (4:10).

Nehemiah stations people all along the open places in the wall and tries to encourage everyone. When the threat of attack is passed they go back to work. “From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armor; and the leaders posted themselves behind the whole house of Judah, who were building the wall” (4:16-17). They work with a sword strapped to their side. They worked from dawn to dark, never taking off their clothes. “[E]ach kept his weapon in his right hand” (4:23).

“Friends and Scripture”
This article is one I wrote some years ago and it was eventually part of the book I wrote called Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism. My plan here is just to include a few paragraphs of the chapter each day.

Part 9
Fox goes on in a very depressed state for a long time after this experience, mostly because he sees that he is a creature with a divided heart.  Like the people of Israel, he continues to have a thirst for the comforts and pleasures of the world.  The thirst for freedom, he discovers, is not unequivocal:

“I found that there were two thirsts in me, the one after the creatures, to have gotten help and strength there, and the other after the Lord the creator and his Son Jesus Christ.  And I saw all the world could do me no good.  If I had had a king’s diet, palace, and attendance, all would have been as nothing, for nothing gave me comfort but the Lord by his power.  And I saw professors [professing Christians], priests, and people were whole and at ease in that condition which was my misery, and they loved that which I would have been rid of.  But the Lord did stay my desires upon himself from whom my help came, and my care was cast upon him alone.  Therefore, all wait patiently upon the Lord, whatsoever condition you be in; wait in the grace and truth that comes by Jesus; for if ye so do, there is a promise to you, and the Lord God will fulfill it in you” (Fox’s Journal 12-13).

The journey through the wilderness looks to our worldly mind as if it should be short and direct, but in truth it is long and often circuitous.  It is not a journey of miles, but of mileposts that are spiritual.  We must just go on in childlike trust, seeking God’s presence in the most personal way.  It requires great patience to endure the testing and purging process, which constitutes the work of the law.  The law of Moses which Christians tend to dismiss as unimportant in the ministration of Christ, Fox sees as essential to the progress of the soul.  He does not see it as outward law but as a pure spiritual fire that burns up all that is contrary to God’s will.  The painful inner discernment Fox feels throughout this ministration is the work of the law in him, a law that must be passed through to get to the ministration of the prophets and of Christ:

“The pure and perfect law of God is over the flesh to keep it and its works, which are not perfect, under, by the perfect law; and the law of God that is perfect answers the perfect principle of God in every one . . .None knows the giver of this law but by the spirit of God, neither can any truly read it or hear its voice but by the spirit of God” (Fox’s Journal 15).

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