Although there were three separate migrations of Jews that returned to the land of their fathers and even after the altar, temple and city walls and gates had been rebuilt, the city itself remained relatively empty. It would appear that not everybody’s enthusiasm was equal to Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s. Nehemiah, chapter eleven provides us the solution that was agreed upon to solve the problem and there is a bit of irony about it. Decades earlier the residents of Jerusalem had been carried off by the Babylonians to live in exile in a land that wasn’t their own or of their choosing. Now the current plan was to separate out 10% of the Jewish population who lived in the area to return to Jerusalem and live within the city walls. It would appear that not everybody was excited to have been selected to move since verse two states that, “The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.” The selection process was by lottery, or casting lots as it was called then, to see who the lucky winners would be.
It wouldn’t be surprising if one of the reasons the people were resistant to moving back into the city was, that although the wall and gates had been rebuilt, their neighbors still were plotting against them. Walls and gates were a means of protection but on the other hand they could be viewed as new and desirable target for their enemies to take aim at. The walls might protect them or could act as a trap or barrier, preventing a future escape if all does not go as planned. The reality was that the new city and temple they had built to replace Solomon’s was vastly inferior in size and majesty, at least according to what some of the old men had said during the rebuilding. Was it because it was inferior to the old Jerusalem or was it something else that troubled those who were resistant to moving back inside the walls?
This sounds a lot like some, who have gone through a bitter and angry struggle in their marriage, only to emerge from it still married, but afraid it will happen again, and that’s a risk they just don’t want to think about. They remember what how it used to be, both the good times and bad, but wish they could go back and relive the good and erase all the scars from the past. For some it means they are just too afraid to recommit and have decided to walk away and avoid the pain of another possible failure. Still others have recommitted, but live with the fear of a possible relapse. Sin, much like some cancers can be cured, but its victims often live the rest of their lives in fear of it returning. But if it does, this time their will be no remission or cure, only suffering and the eventual death of their relationship.
There are any number of reasons why you may be unable to put the past behind you and focus on the future instead, and some of them are understandable and others, not so much. One big issue that is sure to stop forward progress in a marriage that has gone through crisis and come out on the other side intact, is the ability to completely forgive, not your husband or wife, but rather, yourself. Now there is nothing wrong with feeling bad and having regret for your past contributions to the madness and conflict, but there comes a time when you must rid yourself of the guilt, or real joy will always be just out of your reach.
The truth is that, your continued guilt and shame is no longer an act born out of true confession, but has become sinful in and of itself. If you confessed your failings to God and earnestly committed yourself to not becoming a repeat offender, then you have been unconditionally forgiven by God. You also have been completely restored in you relationship with Him, and need not be anxious or fearful for the future. You are completely healed and any remaining scars are only a figment of your imagination or perhaps a lack of faith in what Christ was able to do for you on the cross. Most likely it is Satan, desperately trying to grab hold of you again and separate you from the love of God and your spouse. Keep in mind that the battle you were in has been won for you by Christ on the cross and that it was by your unconditional surrender to Him, and His unconditional love for you, that you have found victory and peace. No one in heaven or on earth can separate you from the love of God, you may fail Him but He will never fail you (Romans 8:31-39).
I heard a sermon many years ago, I was only 14 years of age, and although I didn’t completely understand all that was said, one thing stuck with me. The missionary priest asked rhetorically, “Do you know why Christ was crucified on a cross? It was so that we could hang all the sin we have confessed and been forgiven for, right next to the Son of God, on the cross beam. That way Jesus could see them and know what your needs are and forgive each of them with His blood, just for you.” If you need something to focus on, something to remind you that the past is in the past and the future is where you will find real peace and joy, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Take the guilt and memories of past sin, and hang them on the cross in plain view of your Savior. Jesus will take it from there and the next time you gaze at the cross they will be gone, completely gone.
Tool #289 You must forgive if you wish to be forgiven, yourself included. Matthew 6:14-15; Colossians 3:13, 14