November 4, 2017 by mattwilcoxen
The Daily Office for Nov. 4th, 2017: Nehemiah 4:1-23; Revelation 7:4-17; Matthew 13:31-35
For the people of God, the life of mission is the “great tribulation” (Rev 7:14) and all must come through it, regardless of their location in time or space (Rev 7:9). The difficulty inherent in their life is because of a calling to the world; the church is an expression of God’s commitment to rebuild something beautiful from the rubble and chaos of human sin (cf. Neh 4:1; 4:6). The task most often looks, and feels, utterly hopeless. If cynicism can’t defeat the mission before it gets off the ground (Neh 4:2), the forces of evil will be furious with more active forms of opposition (Neh 4:7). However, the greatest threat will always be division within the building-community. This division can ultimately be traced to fear. Fear leads the community to embrace a posture of realpolitik in the face of opposition (Neh 4:10-12).
The voice of the church victorious in heaven will be one of celebration of the God who has done the impossible on behalf of weak people: “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!” (Rev 7:12). The godly leader sees this heavenly vision in the present and thus charges the people: “Do not be afraid…Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight…Our God will fight for us.” (Neh 4:14). The people of God must remember that the glorious rebuilding of the whole world is underway because of the crucifixion of one tiny, seemingly-inconsequential seed of Abraham (Matt 13:31-35).
The question posed by the elder: “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” (Rev 7:13), is not rhetorical. Rather, it is paraenetic–exhorting the people of God to persevere. It commands them to band together around the memory, and thus anticipation, of God’s great deeds. It tells them to stay alert, protecting one another for the sake of what they are building for the future. For the sake of what God is building through them for the future! “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). Perhaps one reason they need to wash those celestial robes is because the vigilant work of building together is such an earthy, gritty enterprise (Neh 7:21-23).