Friday, October 26, 2007

Mercy, Mercy

With my spirit full of Anne Lotz’s teachings, I’ve returned to Nehemiah chapter-by-chapter. What I glean is a lot. In chapter one, Nehemiah is in an intercessor’s posture; he has become cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. While many of his fellow Jews have been taken captive by the Babylonians, he has a peachy job in posh surroundings. His brother and a group of men from Jerusalem come to him to tell him that a remnant of newly returning exiles have found Jerusalem’s walls torn down and the gates burned. He now prays to God that Artaxerxes will allow him to return and help his fellow Jews rebuild the wall and remove their reproach.

I’m often an observer of other’s pain. I sit at my desk in my comfortable neighborhood writing, studying, and then I receive an email or a phone call that someone I know or love is in distress. What is even more troubling than calamity is when I know some insider’s scoop, that the person’s pain was at one point, avoidable; but at a crossroads, they made the wrong choice and fell into a quagmire. That is exactly what has happened to Nehemiah; he references a warning from the Jewish leader Moses and recalls when the Israelites crossed over that line into disobedience. But even in knowing that his neighbors have sinned, he takes the posture of an intercessor meaning that he is confessional on behalf of the whole group. The reason that he can do that is because of his influence among the people and the unity he shares with them. He knows that an exiled people are a humbled people.

It’s very difficult to intercede for a proud person. I find myself asking God simply for mercy. But Nehemiah is repenting for them. That’s a curious prayer. I can repent for myself, but to repent for a whole group takes a shepherd’s burden. I see that burden in my husband, a pastor. Then when I watch a person I love going pall-mall over a cliff metaphorically speaking, I sense that burden creeping into my prayers. It’s painful. I can’t prevent it and no amount of counsel prevented it. I think of how I could spend my prayer time praying for Africa, but no; I’ve got to painfully watch a friend get their ox out of the ditch even though they ran straight into it on a joy ride. Until they decide that they’ve gone the wrong way, I serve as cupbearer to the King. I have to work at not running off the cliff myself on a daily basis.