Our leadership community just took a good look at the story of Nehemiah, his vision and how it relates to planting Axiom Church in Syracuse, NY. The story in Nehemiah is about an Old Testament Church. That might sound odd but Nehemiah is about a Jewish assembly, their leader and their dream of a city. This book foreshadows and hints at the establishment of a future new assembly that spiritually rebuilds cities for the testimony and dwelling of King Jesus. The ethos of the church did exist in the Old Testament because theologically speaking, the heart of what it means to be a church, is to be God’s covenant people rebuilding God’s world. Even the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible uses the word “qahal” to refer to the remnant in Nehemiah which is translated “the congregation of God’s people.” This book is essentially Nehemiah’s personal journal as he followed through with a vision God laid on his heart.
In verse 1 Nehemiah hears the news of the broken down city walls. We noticed that Nehemiah did not immediately get into gear and act on this burden and vision to rebuild the city. Instead he heard the news in the month of Keslev (December) and lays low until the month of Nisan (May). Nehemiah waits almost 5 months until he moves aggressively with vision. For 5 months he prays, he thinks, he brews on what is and what should be. For many Jews this period of time Nehemiah took was called the Teshuvah . Teshuvah was the period of time an individual took after a period of distance to awaken to the awareness of God’s plans and their need to recommit to Him. It was a consecrated period of slowly waking up to God’s activity. Amongst our church planting team we’ve communally embraced a period of Teshuvah; a time to fast, pray, prepare and invite God’s spirit to work beyond our mission statements and plans and instead work in the deepest parts of our soul.
During Nehemiah’s Teshuvah in verse 8 of chapter 2 he recalls a song Moses sung in Deuteronomy 32 called the song of Ha’azinu. Nehemiah recalls when Moses sings to God about waiting for His justice that will fix the earth and establish the Messiah’s throne. Moses sings of these words in verse 11 “like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, and then spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its wings.” In this metaphor, God, the eagle, comes to waken the baby birds in his nest, hovers over them, spreads his wings over them and finally lifts them on his wings in flight through the sky. The hovering of God, the eagle, is referred to by the Hebrew people as the “touching and not touching.” The eagle is able to simultaneously touch and not touch, allowing his fledglings to awaken little by little, in accordance with their ability to grasp his presence and be prepared for what’s next. This is what Nehemiah submits himself to. He allows God to wake him up slowly, allows God to hover over him as he becomes more conscious to the plans of God.
A season of marinating in vision can make people want to jump out of their skin. Doers often want to do stuff, planners often want to plan stuff, preachers often want to preach about stuff and analyzers often want to think through the problems of stuff. But Teshuvah is a confession that even though we see some of the vision, we need to be woken up to more of it. Teshuvah requires patience, intentional slowness and active consecration to make space for God to address some things in us. Our team is leaning forward in embracing this season with hopes of greater intimacy with God and His vision for Syracuse. The infancy of our vision needs time to mature. That’s what this time is about; letting Jehovah mature His plans in us. Nehemiah’s vision inclination begins with a rebuilt city but God ends up making it about a rebuild people. This is our hope during our Teshuvah.