Before Nehemiah could begin the process of inspecting the damage to the walls surrounding Jerusalem, he first had to travel there from the Persian capital. Now the newly appointed Governor of Judah, Nehemiah would have to travel through areas, that although were under Persian rule, local rulers and kings would like nothing more than to attack his caravan and loot whatever riches they might be carrying. The only thing that would protect Nehemiah and his party from attack was the threat of swift and sure punishment if the caravan was ambushed while traveling under the protection of the Persian king. For that reason, King Artaxerxes of Persia issued Nehemiah “letters of safe-conduct” to prevent just such a calamity and insure his safety once he reached the holy city (Nehemiah 2:7-9).
The concept of letters of safe-conduct or passage is nothing new to us today; they have been written by monarchs, prime ministers and presidents for hundreds of years and are most commonly issued by a ruling authority in times of war or civil unrest. The mention of them being issued to Nehemiah is one of the earliest historical records of their use. Today the issuance of a passport or visa by the government is a good example of such documents. Nehemiah was embarking on mission authorized by the king but ordained by God and his protection would find its origins with God and not mere men. Just as God had moved King Cyrus to allow the return and rebuilding process to begin, years later Artaxerxes would continue the mission in accord with God’s will.
Much like the returning exiles of the 4th century BC, those who today make the decision to follow the will of God and rebuild their marriages, begin the process by getting right with God and deciding to follow Him instead their sinful ways, which led to their slavery and captivity to sin in the first place. So the decision and commitment has been made, but you look around and see how the protective walls around your marriage and family have been destroyed, so it is time get building again. What walls am I talking about, how about trust, fidelity, selflessness, mutual respect, submission and peace for starters. You have an opportunity to start over because Christ chose you first, before you chose to follow Him. You have received letters of safe passage from God to navigate the treacherous paths that you must travel to arrive at your destination. Rest assured that Satan wants nothing more than for you to fail and is plotting against you every step of the way. But you are traveling under God’s protection, with his Word on you lips and the Spirit of God in your heart. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have (1Peter 3:13-15).” In your journey to renewed happiness and a relationship based on God’s design, the most important decision you will make is to place Christ on the throne of your life and your marriage. You must keep your eye on Him, not looking to the right or left, but remaining focused and committed to following Christ, as your Lord, and King (Proverbs 4:25-27).
Notice in verse 6 of chapter two, that the king asks Nehemiah how long the rebuilding project would take. He didn’t mandate how long his favorite “cup-bearer” turned governor could be gone, but wanted to put the project on a timetable. Being in the construction business, I can attest to the reality that there is nothing more, other than perhaps cost, that a customer wants from his contractor than a schedule for completion and that it be kept. Having a date certain for completion or at least a stated goal has a number of advantages for a couple trying to put things back together. It is easy to procrastinate when what is expected of you is difficult and even potentially painful. By sharing with each other exactly what you are going to do and when you are going to do it, sets up a relationship based on accountability and openness.
Another advantage of setting specific goals and keeping to an agreed upon timetable is that it demonstrates to your husband or wife your seriousness of purpose, that it is priority. It is a way of showing you spouse that they are your highest priority. Another advantage of having a stated timetable for completion is that it provides both of you a way of measuring your progress. It will allow you to evaluate not only how far you have come but how far you still need to go. Also, it allows you to evaluate what changes may be necessary to not only finish the job in a timely manner, but to evaluate if what you are building is what you intended and is according to God’s design specifications.
Plans are great and keeping to a timetable is a noble goal, but as we all know, many of our plans, even if we are committed and willing to work as never before, often fall short. There is any number of reasons; sometimes they are our fault and sometimes the fault of having unrealistic expectations. If a serious sin like substance abuse or infidelity has created a canyon so deep and wide that crossing over safely seems a distant nearly impossible journey, the problem may be that the time it will take to cross over may be greater than you initially estimated. Sometimes in a marriage, forgiveness can be easier to give and be accepted than the healing of your emotions because the wound is so deep and so wide. But as Peter said, do not fear and don’t give up, even in your suffering there is hope if you rely on Christ and the Spirit of God to sustain you. If you are suffering in doing right you will be blessed.
Tool #280 Don’t get discouraged when the progress you hoped for in your marriage comes up short of your expectations. Keep your focus on Christ, stick to your plan and you will be blessed along the way. Be willing to make changes to your timetable but not to your goal of enjoying the peace of Christ in your relationship.