While visiting my daughter in Colorado, the reality struck us that the Rocky Mountain wildfires were blazing, spewing smoke and ash into the air for hundreds of miles. This severe situation was no longer a photo from headline news. It smelled like a wood fire, as if roasting marshmallows at a campfire, but this was no family wiener roast awaiting tasty s’ mores. It was a raging inferno devouring precious trees, animals, and structures on Cameron’s Peak, and three others. Careless people caused three of the wildfires, while the fourth resulted from a lightning strike. These blazes threatened the very air my daughter and her family breathed in a nearby county. As we drove out of town, leaving her home for the campground, ash fell onto vehicles. The sky was ominously black with a sliver of orange on the horizon. Winds kicked up the ferocity of the fire, ravaging more and more territory. Firefighters wavered under the long, arduous days. We prayed for relief for the firefighters and the flames to be doused. Certainly, scores of others prayed with us.
During this time, temperatures topped 100 degrees in the last two days of our vacation. Everyone in the area gasped at the interesting weather forecast for the day after we left: SNOW. Yes, that is right. Snow, and 39 degrees. People cheered for the unseasonable winter weather. Would this be the relief they needed? As Wildfires ravage the western part of the United States, faithful Jesus followers pray for comfort for those in these places and the flames to be doused, much like what happened with Australia early this year. They received enough relief to assess the situation, then began battling the blazes again with renewed strength.
Main passage: Nehemiah 4
Focus verse: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NKJV
Go deeper! Read Ezra 3-4.
I can’t help but think of times in the Bible when God’s people prayed for relief. How God provided the answer, but His people had to do something trusting God’s faithfulness in response to their prayers. They could never have done the work and be effective apart from the power of God. As we consider the fires I mentioned along with all that ravage the western part of the U.S., the severity of the fires is eerily over the top. Some people have labeled it, “Apocalyptic”. It is with this thought that I would like to take you to Nehemiah 4.
Israel prayed for relief from the rule of other governments while living in exile. After some time, God answered their prayers by allowing them to rebuild not only the Temple but also the city of Jerusalem. It wasn’t easy because there was a lot of work to be done. It had been twenty years since the Temple Ezra rebuilt the Temple. The foreign rulers they served gave permission and funds for these projects. First, Ezra set up proper worship and taught wisdom from the Word of God they rediscovered. As people listened, they realized they had drifted far off course with God and repented. Restoration of their faith was the foundation for what was yet to come. Then, Nehemiah had the Israelites start building the city walls, but it wasn’t without opposition. Other foreign nations didn’t want them to succeed, which threatened to undo everything they worked hard to build. So, Ezra instructed them that one man built with his family nearby, while another watched his back. Then they would switch. The wall to the original city stands to this day. Although the Temple stands, it was damaged during the Jewish revolt against the Roman rule in 70-71 AD. Israel restored their country in the 1950s and has never forgotten what happened so long ago. They never want to live in exile again. They are grateful for God’s faithfulness every day.
Living It Out
When you feel overwhelmed, engulfed in the flames of a situation you can’t get under control, know that you can reach out to the same God who took care of the nation of Israel. Be sure that your wholehearted devotion is to God and nothing else. Clear out any idols that compete for your time and attention to focus on your relationship with God. Repent of any sin issues blocking your prayers. Spend time in prayerful conversation with Him while reading the Bible to gain clarity and wisdom. Genuinely thank Him for all that He has already done for you, and what He is about to do. Watch Him begin changing your circumstances, but be ready to roll up your sleeves and work. More often than not, you must work alongside Him trusting His leading, guidance, and direction. This work could never be accomplished on your own because it is too big for you (Philippians 4:13). He may douse the flames surrounding you, but He might take you through challenging circumstances to refine you. Remember to give God the glory and praise for what He does for you.
Thought for today: God answers our prayers in ways that meet our deepest needs.
Prayer: Almighty God, Maker of all things, this blaze I face is too big for me to handle. Please, refine my heart. Lead, guide, and direct me as I deal with this situation I face. Thank you, so much, Lord, for all that You have already done and will do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 1: Old Testament by Kenneth L. Baker and Jon R. Kohlenberger III. p.p.709-710. Copyright 1994 by the Zondervan Corporation. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.