Lazy Sunday CXXIV: Bible Posts

There are many Biblical commentators out there, each adding their interpretations to Scripture.  I’m very much an amateur in this field, armed with my Pentecostal upbringing and lots of men’s Bible studies.

But that hasn’t stopped me from trying, and I’ve written a few posts attempting to interpret Scripture over the years.  So, with summer rapidly fading—and my prayers going up for a good school year—here are some of those feeble attempts:

  • Nehemiah and National Renewal” (and “TBT: Nehemiah and National Renewal“) – This post was my attempt to shoehorn the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem to the need for America to construct a border wall.  There are some useful parallels though—the construction of Jerusalem’s wall ushered in a period of national renewal in the land, and Trump’s border wall could have prevented further invasion of ours.
  • Nehemiah Follow-Up” – This post went into deeper detail on the spiritual aspects of the story of Nehemiah, which I shamefully overlooked in my haste to equate Nehemiah with Trump.
  • The Desperate Search for Meaning IV: Vanity” (and “TBT: The Desperate Search for Meaning IV: Vanity“) – This post was part of my The Desperate Search for Meaning series, and focused on the idea from Ecclesiastes that, without God, life is meaningless.
  • Psalm 13 and Patience” – Patience is something with which I personally struggle, and it’s very easy to get impatient with God’s Timing.  This post deals with that idea, using one of my pastor’s sermons to explore the idea in more depth.
  • Let’s Get Biblical: The Wisdom of Exodus 22” – My most recent Bible-based post, this one looks at the rules for social responsibility laid out in Exodus 22, particularly the admonitions to take care of widows and orphans—and the harsh penalty enacted for those who abuse and mistreat the same.

That’s it for this holier-than-thou Lazy Sunday.  Sloth is a sin, but perhaps the Lord will forgive this Sunday’s laziness.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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TBT: Nehemiah and National Renewal

In keeping with the unofficially churchy theme of two of this week’s posts (here and here), it seemed like a good opportunity to look back at a post from February about Nehemiah.  In “Nehemiah and National Renewal,” I explored the impact of Nehemiah’s faithful reconstruction of Jerusalem’s collapsed wall in terms of the national renewal it brought (and the spiritual renewal that came with it in a follow-up post):

This past Wednesday, I was asked to fill in for the pastor at the small church I attend.  Being such a small church—our average Sunday morning attendance is about forty—the pastor works another job, and he had a rare business trip.  I suppose he figured he could do worse than asking a high school history teacher to fill in for him.

Fortunately, the lesson was fairly straightforward:  he sent me a handout on Nehemiah 1:1-11, and the focus of the lesson was on the idea of spiritual renewal.

For the biblically illiterate—a shocking number of Americans today, I’m finding (I once had a class full of philosophy students who had never heard the story of the Tower of Babel, which is pretty much Sunday School 101)—the story of Nehemiah is simple:  after an extended period of exile in Babylon, the Israelites were sent back, under the auspices of the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, to Jerusalem.  Cyrus sponsored the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, but the city itself, as well as its walls, remained in a state of disrepair.

There were two waves of Israelite resettlement over the span of a century, but many Israelites remained in Babylon or other parts of the Persian Empire, such as the imperial capital.  Nehemiah was one of those, and would be part of a third wave of resettlement.  He served as cup-bearer to Artaxerxes, the Persian emperor at the time.  The position of cup-bearer was an important and trusted one:  he handled the emperor’s food and drink, ensuring it was not poisoned.

Beyond serving as the royal taste tester, the office carried with it important administrative duties, and gave incredible access to the emperor.  In short, it was a position of great influence, power, and prestige, which positioned Nehemiah nicely for what was to come.

Nehemiah spoke to a fellow Israelite who was visiting the imperial capital, and was distraught to hear of the poor condition of the city and its walls.  He fell to his knees, weeping and crying out to the Lord.  Nehemiah 1 details his prayer to God, calling out in adoration; confessing his and his people’s sins; thanking God for His mercy and gifts; and supplicating God for His Will to be accomplished through Nehemiah.

Specifically, Nehemiah asked God to be used to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  As cup-bearer, Nehemiah was able to present his petition to the emperor, who agreed to send Nehemiah to oversee the construction project.  In addition, Artaxerxes provided lumber from the royal forest, as well as funds to bankroll the endeavor.  He also sent letters with Nehemiah detailing his endorsement of the project.

Nehemiah’s work was not finished there, and it was anything but easy.  Initially, surrounding tribes criticized and mocked Nehemiah, questioning his loyalty to Artaxerxes, and saying that rebuilding the walls was a silly waste of time and effort.

However, once the wall reached half its height, his critics began plotting violence.  The plot to attack the workers reached Nehemiah, so he divided the work crews into those building the wall, and those defending their fellow workers from attack.

Having failed to stage an attack on the workers, Nehemiah’s enemies realized that the man himself was the target—cut off the head, kill the snake.  Again, God revealed this plot against Nehemiah, and he was able to avoid assassination.

Finally, the wall was rebuilt in an astonishing fifty-two days, an incredible feat of organization, ingenuity, and faithfulness.  The naysayers were humiliated, and Nehemiah instituted a period of national and spiritual renewal among the Israelites.  His reforms purified the nation spiritually and even ethnically, as old debts were forgiven and marriages to pagan women were dissolved.

It’s a powerful story—indeed, a powerful bit of history—about trusting in God in the face of extremely difficult odds.  But Nehemiah is also a story about national renewal, and the spiritual revival that came with it.

The wall around Jerusalem served a practical purpose—defending the city and its inhabitants from attack (even though the city was under the protection of the Persian Empire, the ancient Near East was, then as now, notoriously tribal, and the collapse of an empire would lead to dozens of ethnic conflicts)—but it was also a symbol of the Israelite nation.

Indeed, the author of the handout I used Wednesday evening writes that the “enemies of Israel could say, ‘What kind of God do you serve?  Look at the mess of your Holy City?’ It was a terrible witness and was cause for reproach from non-believers.”  The poor condition of the Jerusalem and its fortifications reflected the spiritual decay and corruption of the Israelites—they had intermarried with pagan women, adopting their false gods; they were living in rubble; and their reduced condition suggested that their God—the One True God—was not Who He made Himself out to Be.

It’s a bit on the nose, but I can’t help but recognize the parallels between the United States today and Jerusalem then—and between President Trump and Nehemiah (although I think Trump is closer to Cyrus the Great in terms of his spirituality and outlook).

I’m not suggesting Nehemiah was clubbing with Eastern European supermodels.  But like Trump, he faced overwhelming resistance from other nations to his wall project.  The rest of the ancient Near East feared a strong, renewed Israel.  Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, and the reconstruction of the wall, led to a period of national revival, as the people regained their identity, expelled the corrosive foreign influence in their midst, and renewed their commitment to God.

America is, spiritually and culturally, in similarly dire straits today.  President Trump has presented himself as a modern-day Nehemiah, come to control our borders, enforce our immigration laws, and restore America’s greatness on the world stage.  While he has made great strides in these areas, he meets resistance, duplicity, and mockery at every turn.

The story of Nehemiah tells us, however, that the struggle is worth the slings and arrows our enemies, both foreign and domestic, will lob at us.  To President Trump, I would urge the following:  stay the course, ignore the haters, take it to God, and BUILD THE WALL!

TPP Review: First Half of 2019

It’s been a busy week for yours portly as I’ve been on uncle duty.  The little ones are back to their folks, and TPP is wiping away the baby spittle and Cheerios dust—and, hopefully, getting back on schedule.

This Monday, July 1 will kick off #MAGAWeek2019, which will be a SubscribeStar exclusiveJust subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more to get access to these posts about the men, women, and ideas that made America great [again]!  And don’t forget tomorrow is SubscribeStar Saturday, the day of the week subscribers get a post just for them.

July 1 will also mark the halfway point of this year, so I thought I’d use tonight’s post to do a little looking back.  This post will be the 180th consecutive post, which means I have an entire secondary school academic year’s worth of posts in 2019.  I might should start compiling those into a book—the Portly Manifesto, perhaps?

Regardless, here are the five most viewed posts of 2019 up to this point.  Enjoy!

5.) “Nehemiah and National Renewal” – Not only is this post about Nehemiah, the great leader of the Israelites who coordinated the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s dilapidated walls in the face of overwhelming opposition, a reader favorite; it’s one of my favorites as well.  Nehemiah trusted in God, and when God commanded him to rebuild the walls, Nehemiah did so faithfully.  The parallels with the Trumpean program of building a wall and seeking national renewal are hard to miss.  I also wrote a fairly popular follow-up to this post, which explores the spiritual aspects of Nehemiah more thoroughly.

4.) “Hump Day Hoax” – This post garnered a great deal of attention because I linked to it in the “comments” section of GOPUSA, a conservative news and opinion website.  The site featured a piece on my adopted home town’s mayor, who claimed that the heavy pollen on her car was part of a deliberate hate crime.  You can’t make this stuff up.  In the wake of the Jussie Smollett hoax, it seemed at the time like Her Dishonor the Mayor was grasping for some race-based discrimination fame of her own.  I’m pretty sure my mayor reported the story to Newsweek herself, even though county and State law enforcement confirmed that the mystery substance was, indeed, pollen.  Gesundheit!

3.) “Secession Saturday” – This post explored the totalitarian nature of Leftism, particularly the idea that, should our cold cultural civil war ever turn hot, the Left would never allow for a peaceful separation.  Even though they hate us, part of that hate is due to their unwillingness to let us live our lives as we see fit.  As such, there would never be an amicable parting of ways, because progressives can’t stand for people to disagree with them.

2.) “Gay Totalitarianism” – This piece pulled from—as all of my best posts do—the excellent American Greatness website.  It explored a couple of hoaxes involving gays or lesbians concocting incidents of violence to garner media attention and fawning support, all in the service of pushing an increasingly unhinged queer agenda.  Jussie Smollett’s ability to stage a ridiculously clumsy “hate crime” against himself, then to walk scot-free, shows how being gay, black, and famous serves as a talisman against even criminal prosecution.

1.) “The Desperate Search for Meaning” – The most popular post of this year owes its popularity to clicks from Dalrock’s blog.  I posted the link to it in a comment on one of his pieces, and his superior content and traffic spilled over to this piece, which focused on the antics of a New Age charlatan and her female acolytes.  The posts discusses how people (and, in this context, specifically women) are desperately searching for something deeper than empty materialism, to the point that they will endure abuse and slave-like work conditions for the chance to be close to someone offering spiritual fulfillment, even if it’s counterfeit.

So, there you have it.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog this year.  Here’s hoping I can keep the momentum going.

Happy Fourth of July!

–TPP

Lazy Sunday XI: Walls

Today’s post marks twenty weeks of consecutive daily posts—140 days in a row.  I’ve written so many posts, I’m beginning to forget that I ever wrote some of them.  If you’d to support my daily scribbling, consider subscribing to my page on SubscribeStar.

Walls work.  We understand this fact on a visceral level—humans have been building walls around their cities and kingdoms since the dawn of civilization, and continue building them today.  The Israelites rebuilt the Jerusalem’s walls as a form of national and spiritual renewal.

The only legitimate question regarding a border wall along the US-Mexican border is technical in nature:  how do you build an effective barrier along thousands of miles of varied terrain?  Technical questions are difficult to solve, but that doesn’t invalidate the effectiveness of a wall once it’s completed.  Further, even tricky engineering problems are solvable.

Indeed, many of the questions that plague our nation are not difficult to answer—it’s just that the answers are unpleasant, or politically inconvenient.  When a Democrat argues that the construction of a border wall is not feasible from engineering standpoint, it’s a smokescreen.  The progressives are only concerned about expanding their voting base on the cheap, while supplying their techno-elite masters with cheap, quasi-slave labor.

With that in mind, this week’s Lazy Sunday looks back at my posts on all things wall-related.  It’s a sign of our times that anyone has had to write even this much about walls:

  • Walls Work” – the title says it all.  This piece looked at a piece from American Thinker that pointed out dramatically how effective border barriers are.  When Israel constructed a wall along its border with Egypt, “it cut illegal immigration to zero.”  I emphasize that part of the quotation in the original blog post just to make sure no one misses it.  In cast the Israeli example isn’t convincing enough, consider that the…
  • Hungarian Border Wall is 100% Effective” – yep, Hungary built a fence along its border with Serbia in the second half of 2015.  The number of immigrants entering Hungary fell from 138,396 to fifteen.  Look at those figures again, numerically and side-by-side:  138,396 -> 15.  My knowledge of scientific notation has eroded too much to write out the exact percentage of that drop, but let’s call it 100% – 15.

    Granted, Israel and Hungary both enjoy relatively short borders compared to the southern border of the United States.  But the results speak for themselves.  The billions saved in medicating, educating, housing, and detaining illegal immigrants would be worth the one-time, up-front investment.  Aren’t progressives always lecturing us about government “investments”?  Further, the upward force on wages—no longer flooded with cheap labor from abroad—would create an additional return on this crucial national security investment.

  • Buchanan on the National Emergency” – in order to fund construction of the border wall, President Trump controversially declared a national emergency in February, which then allowed him to shift around existing national security funds to build a section of the wall.  Conservatives were, understandably, dubious and concerned about this executive action, which they feared constituted executive overreach in the vein of President Obama’s “phone and a pen” rule by fiat.

    Pat Buchanan—ever the lucid, original thinker—takes Congress, not President Trump, to task.  As I point out in this piece, Buchanan argues that the president was merely using authority Congress granted him in the National Emergencies Act of 1976.

    And as I argued in the first essay on this list, President Trump has a constitutional duty to protect national security under his Article II powers.

  • Nehemiah and National Renewal” – this essay was the first of a two-part analysis of the Book of Nehemiah, and has been featured on Lazy Sunday lists before.  In this essay, I argue that, just as rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls was an act of national renewal for the Israelites, so building a border wall would be a firm sign of America’s renewed commitment to its values and sovereignty.  Of all the essays on this list, it’s the one I most recommend you read.
  • Walls Work, Part II: Sailer on Walls” – this post covered a book review by Steve Sailer, a recent feature of my “Dissident Write II” list of great writers.  Sailer reviewed Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick, by David Frye, which makes a compelling case that walls protect civilization, allow for civilization, and create stable societies.

    America enjoyed the luxury of two moats—the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—for 150 years, before naval and aerial technology took those natural barriers away.  Now, we face a sinister, because subtle, existential threat in the form of mass illegal immigration.  A border barrier is one key step in stemming the flow—and of preserving our civilization.

    I’m hoping to pick up Frye’s book soon, and plan to write a detailed review of my own.  That review will likely be a SubscribeStar exclusive.

Enjoy your Sunday, and remember that “good fences make good neighbors.”

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

He is Risen!

Happy Easter to everyone!  Today’s post is another short one for this important holiday weekend (it also marks sixteen weeks of daily posts—shew!).

Jesus Christ died for our sins around 2000 years ago, and was resurrected three days later.  Today, Christians all over the world celebrate His death and resurrection, and eagerly await His eventual return.

According to Scott Rasmussen, 74% of Americans will celebrate Easter today, but only 40% of Americans will attend church (but, hey, that’s better than nothing).  He also writes that 67% of Americans believe Jesus Christ arose from the dead—one of the more heartening statistics I’ve read in awhile, considering Pat Buchanan’s recent piece about our declining public morality.

This Easter, I’m praying for national and spiritual renewal for America and the West.  Part of that is the need for revival across our nation.

Enjoy a day of fellowship and family.  And if you have time, check out my old “Lazy Sunday” compilation of pieces about Christianity.

Happy Easter!

–TPP

101 Postmatians – 101st Consecutive Daily Post!

Perhaps it’s a bit odd to celebrate grinding diligence, but I’m proud of myself.  Yesterday’s post on model bills (a bit of a snoozer of a topic, I’ll admit) marked the 100th consecutive daily post on this blog.

I realized in late December 2018/early January 2019 that WordPress tracks streaks once you hit three consecutive days of posting, so I decided to see how long I could keep the momentum going.  Initially, I was just going to try to get through January.  It’s a slow month in the academic year, a rare moment when I have a sliver of extra time to devote to extracurricular hobbies, like music.

Of course, the more I wrote, the easier it became to churn out posts on any number of topics.  Pretty soon, I’d gotten to fifty posts.  Despite Internet outages (within weeks of each other, both times because a Frontier technician incorrectly disconnected my line), I was able to get some posts up (even if they weren’t of the best quality).

So, to celebrate, I thought I’d take today “off” with a classic retrospective (which I already do once or twice a week with “TBT Thursdays” and “Lazy Sundays“)—a written “clip show,” if you will, of The Streak ’19’s Top Five Posts (so far).

The following are the five posts with the most views as of the time of this writing, presented in descending order (most views to fewest):

1.) “Hump Day Hoax” – it seems these local stories do well (my piece on the fight at the Lamar Egg Scramble has turned up in quite a few searches; I’m still trying to find more details about it).  This piece was about the Mayor of Lamar’s claim that her car was vandalized in a racially-motivated attack, and she expressed relief that the vandal didn’t try to kill her and her husband.  When the Darlington County Sheriff’s deputy came out to investigate, he discovered the mysterious yellow substance was pollen!  That didn’t prevent it from making national news, getting a mention in Newsweek.

At first, I thought our mayor was just trying to get some cheap PR and sympathy for herself, but after discussing it with some other folks, the consensus seems to be that she suffered from stupidity, filtered through a conspiratorial, black victim mentality.  Rather than see the sticky substance for what it was—the ubiquitous pollen that covers our fair Dixie—the mayor’s first thought was a racist attack.

That’s a sad way to live.  As I wrote in this piece, the mayor is a sweet lady, and I think she really wants to do her best to help our little town.  That said, this kind of ignorant hysteria doesn’t help anyone or anything, much less race relations.

2.) “Secession Saturday” – boy, this post generated some views.  The focus of this post was a piece from American Greatness, “The Left Won’t Allow a Peaceful Separation,” by Christopher Roach.  It explores whether or not some kind of peaceful parting of ways between America’s two cultures—traditionalists and progressives—is desirable, and revisits questions the American Civil War resolved—at least for a time—with force of arms (“do States have the right to secede?,” for example).

A panicked former student texted me in anguish, worrying about a Civil War II, after seeing this post on Facebook.  I tried to allay her fears.  But the real point of my commentary was on the idea that the Left is fundamentally totalitarian, and will broach no disagreements.  That’s a key insight Roach and others make, and it’s why I reference back to his piece so frequently.

Of course, it also helped that I linked to this guy in the comments of a more successful blog.

3.-4.) “Nehemiah and National Renewal” & “Nehemiah Follow-Up” – these two posts came amid a week in which I found myself immersed in the Book of Nehemiah (one of my favorites in the Old Testament, as he builds a wall to renew his nation).  The initial post sparked some great feedback from Ms. Bette Cox, a fellow blogger (who, incidentally, preceded me in my soon-to-be-vacated position as the Florence County [SC] GOP Secretary).  She astutely pointed out that my first post missed a key point:  in Nehemiah 1, the prophet falls to his knees and asks for God’s Will.

5.) “Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis” – one of the posts from the early days of The Streak ’19, it was also a rare video post from me.  I’ll occasionally embed YouTube videos in my posts, but I tend to avoid writing posts that say, “hey, watch this lengthy video.”

Nothing bugs me more than when I’m out somewhere, having a conversation, and someone thrusts a phone in my face with a YouTube video.  I’ve actually told my friends that if they do this, I will refuse to watch it.  It’s not that I don’t want to share the joke with you; it’s that you’re making me watch a video on a cellphone!  C’mon.  I can barely hear the dialogue (or song, or whatever) on your tinny, bass-less phone speaker.  Furthermore, can’t we have a conversation without resorting to SNL clips?

But I digress.  I made an exception for Tucker Carlson’s powerful monologue about our frigid, uncaring elites.  I’ve definitely jumped on the Carlson populist-nationalist train, and I think he makes a compelling case for preserving—or, at least not actively destroying—small towns and the families they nurture.

So, there you have it—a lengthier-than-planned reheating of my posts during The Streak ’19.

Thanks for all of your love and support.  Here’s to another 100 posts!

–TPP

Nehemiah Follow-Up

Yesterday, I posted about the Book of Nehemiah, and how the reconstruction of the wall around Jerusalem was a practical and symbolic form of national renewal and spiritual revival for the Israelites.  I drew the obvious comparison between Nehemiah’s effort, which his enemies scorned, mocked, and undermined, and that of President Trump’s to build a border wall and to enforce immigration laws.

A good friend and fellow blogger, with whom I share some Nehemiah-Trumpian parallels—for example, we’re both former secretaries for the Florence County GOP—Ms. Bette Cox, of the blog Esther’s Petition, e-mailed me the following comment.  It is reproduced here, in full, with her permission:

Good job with Nehemiah, Tyler. The most critical points, however, are found in 1:4 ff. The wall was, and is, not the most important thing in God’s eyes. Mourning. Grief. Repentance. Intercession. Far more important and essential, then and now. “Ask God what he wants prayed; pray that. Ask God what he wants to do; do that.”

Nehemiah 1:4 (KJV) reads as follows:  “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.”

That’s a key point that I overlooked in my original post, and I wanted to write this brief follow-up to draw attention to this verse, and to thank Ms. Cox for highlighting it.  Indeed, verse 4 is the key to the entire Book of Nehemiah:  upon hearing the condition of his nation and his people, Nehemiah falls to his knees in tears, crying out to God for direction.

Another important detail:  Nehemiah asks, just two verses later, for forgiveness, not just for his people, but for himself.  He confesses his own sins to God, knowing that without full confession and repentance, he cannot follow God’s Will—indeed, he would be unable even to know what God’s Will is!

I don’t know the state of President Trump’s spiritual life, but I do believe he wants what is best for his nation.  Just as Nehemiah wept upon hearing the reduced condition of his people and their holy city, so did candidate Trump mourn (metaphorically) the degraded state of America.

For Christians, we should pray ceaselessly for God to spare the United States and to bring about national, spiritual revival and renewal.  I believe He granted us a reprieve with the unlikely election of Donald Trump, a man that, in his personal life, does not fit the mold of the “ideal” Christian.  What comes next is unclear, but we have to walk in faith, and trust in God—especially in the face of progressive lunacy and violence.

Nehemiah and National Renewal

This past Wednesday, I was asked to fill in for the pastor at the small church I attend.  Being such a small church—our average Sunday morning attendance is about forty—the pastor works another job, and he had a rare business trip.  I suppose he figured he could do worse than asking a high school history teacher to fill in for him.

Fortunately, the lesson was fairly straightforward:  he sent me a handout on Nehemiah 1:1-11, and the focus of the lesson was on the idea of spiritual renewal.

For the biblically illiterate—a shocking number of Americans today, I’m finding (I once had a class full of philosophy students who had never heard the story of the Tower of Babel, which is pretty much Sunday School 101)—the story of Nehemiah is simple:  after an extended period of exile in Babylon, the Israelites were sent back, under the auspices of the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, to Jerusalem.  Cyrus sponsored the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, but the city itself, as well as its walls, remained in a state of disrepair.

There were two waves of Israelite resettlement over the span of a century, but many Israelites remained in Babylon or other parts of the Persian Empire, such as the imperial capital.  Nehemiah was one of those, and would be part of a third wave of resettlement.  He served as cup-bearer to Artaxerxes, the Persian emperor at the time.  The position of cup-bearer was an important and trusted one:  he handled the emperor’s food and drink, ensuring it was not poisoned.

Beyond serving as the royal taste tester, the office carried with it important administrative duties, and gave incredible access to the emperor.  In short, it was a position of great influence, power, and prestige, which positioned Nehemiah nicely for what was to come.

Nehemiah spoke to a fellow Israelite who was visiting the imperial capital, and was distraught to hear of the poor condition of the city and its walls.  He fell to his knees, weeping and crying out to the Lord.  Nehemiah 1 details his prayer to God, calling out in adoration; confessing his and his people’s sins; thanking God for His mercy and gifts; and supplicating God for His Will to be accomplished through Nehemiah.

Specifically, Nehemiah asked God to be used to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  As cup-bearer, Nehemiah was able to present his petition to the emperor, who agreed to send Nehemiah to oversee the construction project.  In addition, Artaxerxes provided lumber from the royal forest, as well as funds to bankroll the endeavor.  He also sent letters with Nehemiah detailing his endorsement of the project.

Nehemiah’s work was not finished there, and it was anything but easy.  Initially, surrounding tribes criticized and mocked Nehemiah, questioning his loyalty to Artaxerxes, and saying that rebuilding the walls was a silly waste of time and effort.

However, once the wall reached half its height, his critics began plotting violence.  The plot to attack the workers reached Nehemiah, so he divided the work crews into those building the wall, and those defending their fellow workers from attack.

Having failed to stage an attack on the workers, Nehemiah’s enemies realized that the man himself was the target—cut off the head, kill the snake.  Again, God revealed this plot against Nehemiah, and he was able to avoid assassination.

Finally, the wall was rebuilt in an astonishing fifty-two days, an incredible feat of organization, ingenuity, and faithfulness.  The naysayers were humiliated, and Nehemiah instituted a period of national and spiritual renewal among the Israelites.  His reforms purified the nation spiritually and even ethnically, as old debts were forgiven and marriages to pagan women were dissolved.

It’s a powerful story—indeed, a powerful bit of history—about trusting in God in the face of extremely difficult odds.  But Nehemiah is also a story about national renewal, and the spiritual revival that came with it.

The wall around Jerusalem served a practical purpose—defending the city and its inhabitants from attack (even though the city was under the protection of the Persian Empire, the ancient Near East was, then as now, notoriously tribal, and the collapse of an empire would lead to dozens of ethnic conflicts)—but it was also a symbol of the Israelite nation.

Indeed, the author of the handout I used Wednesday evening writes that the “enemies of Israel could say, ‘What kind of God do you serve?  Look at the mess of your Holy City?’ It was a terrible witness and was cause for reproach from non-believers.”  The poor condition of the Jerusalem and its fortifications reflected the spiritual decay and corruption of the Israelites—they had intermarried with pagan women, adopting their false gods; they were living in rubble; and their reduced condition suggested that their God—the One True God—was not Who He made Himself out to Be.

It’s a bit on the nose, but I can’t help but recognize the parallels between the United States today and Jerusalem then—and between President Trump and Nehemiah (although I think Trump is closer to Cyrus the Great in terms of his spirituality and outlook).

I’m not suggesting Nehemiah was clubbing with Eastern European supermodels.  But like Trump, he faced overwhelming resistance from other nations to his wall project.  The rest of the ancient Near East feared a strong, renewed Israel.  Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, and the reconstruction of the wall, led to a period of national revival, as the people regained their identity, expelled the corrosive foreign influence in their midst, and renewed their commitment to God.

America is, spiritually and culturally, in similarly dire straits today.  President Trump has presented himself as a modern-day Nehemiah, come to control our borders, enforce our immigration laws, and restore America’s greatness on the world stage.  While he has made great strides in these areas, he meets resistance, duplicity, and mockery at every turn.

The story of Nehemiah tells us, however, that the struggle is worth the slings and arrows our enemies, both foreign and domestic, will lob at us.  To President Trump, I would urge the following:  stay the course, ignore the haters, take it to God, and BUILD THE WALL!