by Sarah Howell
The book of Nehemiah, at first glance at least, seems more like a long list of names and numeric figures than an in-depth story. However, the verses I read last night hit an unexpectedly deep chord within my heart, especially in regards to the pro-life work that I, and so many that I know, spend days on end working to accomplish.
There’s a passage in chapter 4 where the Israelites are working to rebuild the wall of Judah. If you are unfamiliar with the book, Nehemiah, the author, requests permission from King Artaxerxes to travel to Judah and rebuild the wall after hearing news that his people were in “great distress and reproach.”
At this point in their history, the Israelites have only just been released from 70 years of captivity under Babylon. Those who have survived are scattered, disorganized, and unprotected. Nehemiah comes to set all of that right, and, as usual, there is a lot of opposition from their less than friendly neighbors. Which brings us back to chapter 4….
As the Israelites are working hard to rebuild the wall and gates of their city, they hear tell that their ‘neighbors’ are conspiring to form a sneak attack and stop them. Nehemiah reacts immediately – first, by stationing men at the exposed parts of the wall, and, second, by reminding the people Who it is that they serve and toward what goal they are always moving. Nehemiah says to his people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” (Neh 4:14)
Then he goes on to recount that:
“From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. 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.” (Neh 4:16-17)
What a fantastic picture of trust and determination: this small group of survivors, easily outnumbered and only just beginning to remember what it feels like to be a nation of their own, can be seen from a distance rebuilding this wall with one hand, and holding their sword with the other. Any onlooker should quickly get the message: we will rebuild this city or we will die trying. Or in more modern language, “Come at me, bro.”
As many of you already know, pro-life work is not just about fighting against abortion. On a grander scale, it’s about building something new – a culture of Life. It’s about confronting the rubble and destruction that this world’s captor, Satan, constantly leaves behind when the heart of man buys into his destruction.
Just like the Israelites working away in Judah, each day we devote one hand to the building of a new foundation and our other to a battle that ceaselessly rages to claim the life of preborn children. We build and we battle. We battle and we build. It’s exhausting work, of course, but it’s what we know the Lord has called us to.
A few verses later, Nehemiah once again encourages the people, saying: “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” (Neh 4:19-20)
There it is. The only game plan the Israelites have ever needed. Nehemiah knows that they are unprotected and outnumbered – that’s almost always been the case. But he also knows that God is mighty, and that He has sent him to rebuild this wall and restore order among the people. If a million men came marching up to Judah looking for a battle, or even two million, Nehemiah would offer the same answer: Our God will fight for us.
When you’re in the pro-life movement, there is ample opportunity to feel unprotected and outnumbered. Those who support abortion have more money, more political influence, and more legal history (i.e. Roe v. Wade) all in their favor. Yet, for all their power and intimidation, they cannot figure out how to win. Even now, the horrors of the late-term abortion industry are finally making their way into the mind of the public; abortion clinics across the nation are being shut down continually; long-time pro-abortion leaders like Cecile Richards and Nancy Keenan are scrambling for new ways to build momentum, especially with the younger generation.
Why? Because the same truth that was true in the day of Nehemiah is true in this nation: the glory and righteousness of God is beyond compare and without challenge. Our God fights for us. That doesn’t mean we leave our swords at home. We show up at every event, at every prayer vigil, at every abortion clinic sidewalk absolutely ready for battle. We bring our Bibles and our prayers. Our life-saving literature and our worship songs. We bring the incarnate presence of the Lord – the body of Christ in the body of His people. Then we stand witness as He overcomes the enemy, again and again and again.
That’s the work of a pro-life Christian. Underdogs in the world’s eyes, but more than conquerors when the power of Christ shows up and shows out.
The Israelites, by the way, are never attacked by their enemies while they rebuild the wall. They finish the wall and the gates, unhindered, and then begin to rebuild their nation, gathering those who survived captivity into the city of Judah once more.
That’s what we will do, too. In the midst of the tyranny and violence that accompanies abortion, we will take our stones in one hand and our swords in the other, we will look to God, and we will keep building. Until the job is done, and the name of our God is made known throughout this entire nation. Be encouraged, friends! As Nehemiah said, “Remember the Lord who is great and awesome…and fight!”