Walls Unmade, Walls Restored

Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 12.43
43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. 

Joshua 8.6-10
6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”

8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!”

Reflection: Walls Unmade, Walls Restored
By John Tillman

When the people of Israel came into the promised land from their sojourn in Egypt and forty years of desert wandering, their first act in the land was the destruction of a wall.

Except for the blowing of trumpets, they walked in grim silence around the wall of Jericho. The inhabitants of Jericho were terrified. On the seventh day of walking, the walls of Jericho were unmade. They collapsed along with any hope the city had for survival.

In Nehemiah, the Israelites are returning to the promised land. They have sojourned under the rule of foreign kings. They have wandered, geographically and spiritually. They have been leaderless and without a wall to protect them. After the physical labor of remaking the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah assigns the spiritual labor of dedicating all they had done to the Lord.

Nehemiah’s dedication ceremony has echoes of the march around Jericho. The people march, led by priests with trumpets. This time, however, they march on the wall not around it and they are not a silent, threatening army. They are a praise-filled glorious choir.

This was a solemn moment for the people because they, better than anyone, realized that the same God who had unmade the walls of Jericho had unmade the walls of Jerusalem. Without the blessing of God, any bulwark is mere boasting. Without God’s sustaining influence, any affluence is insufficient. Without his protection, any practical self-defense measure will fail.

In joy, they circled the city with praise. In reverence, they marched upon the wall God restored. Through prayer, they raised a greater line of defence than any stone wall.

As you end this year, where do you find yourself in this story? Perhaps you feel like you have been wandering in the wilderness? Perhaps circling a wall that needs to come down? Perhaps treading the top of a wall, praying it doesn’t collapse? Have some things you had faith in been unmade? Have you struggled at reconstructing your faith? 

In their ceremony, Nehemiah circled the wall one way and Ezra the other. Find your Ezra. Partner with them in accountability and responsibility. Spend some time circling yourself, your home, your relationships, your work with worship and prayer. Recommit yourself to the future and to relying not on your own cleverness or strength but on God. Rejoice in what God restores and let your rejoicing be heard.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God. — Psalm 90.1-2

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 12 (Listen 6:30
Revelation 21 (Listen 4:34)

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 13 (Listen 5:57Revelation 22 (Listen 3:59)
Genesis 1 (Listen 4:55John 1 (Listen 6:18)

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God’s Presence After Failure

Scripture Focus: Joshua 8.1, 33-34
1 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.

33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.

34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: God’s Presence After Failure
By Jolene Davidson Crouch

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” initially seems an odd way for God to start instruction but, after Joshua 7, this statement is assurance that His presence is still with Israel. In Joshua 7 we read of Achan’s sin and the consequence the Israelites faced because of it. They fail in battle and God tells Joshua He will not be with them anymore until the people consecrate themselves. Atonement was made, God “turned from his fierce anger” (v. 8) and this is where chapter 8 begins. How often have I messed up, repented, and needed to know God’s presence was still with me?  

It’s difficult for me to do something after I’ve failed. Anxiety creeps in with “What if I fail again?” “What if I didn’t hear God correctly?” Reading Joshua 8 I am jealous God gave the Israelites detailed instructions and let them know they would succeed! Yet he provides me with instructions in his word. I am instructed to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). I am instructed “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 6:18). I am instructed “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). I find myself jealous when God lays out an obvious path for others, but I don’t always follow the path God put in front of me.

The beauty of Joshua 8 is found in God’s provision for his people. The final verse of Chapter 8 shows Joshua reading the law, the blessings and the curses to the entire assembly of Israel.  Men, women, children, native born Israelites, and the foreigners living with them were all invited to share in God’s Covenant. When we think of the Nation of Israel, we tend to forget those who were grafted in as they came through Canaan. Israel’s faith was opened to converts, such as Rahab, and outsiders who desired to know God. God’s love is not for one group. God’s love has always included any individual who wants to enter a relationship with Him.

We can trust that God forgives those who repent. His presence never leaves us. Second, we can continue inviting others to be a part of our community, encouraging them to graft into the True Vine by experiencing salvation in Jesus Christ.  

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. — Psalm 13.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joshua 8 (Listen – 5:55)
Psalm 139 (Listen – 2:26)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.


Read more about Between Gerizim and Ebal
God does not abandon us to the curses we choose. Jesus took the curses of Ebal and he brings to us the blessings of Gerizim.

Our Least Favorite Commandment

Psalm 137.4-6
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

Reflection: Our Least Favorite Commandment
By John Tillman

When violence or injustice harms those close to us, we typically react with admirable compassion toward the victims. “Even sinners do that.”

What is more revealing of a heart shaped by Christ is how we act toward perpetrators. Down in the comment streams below fundraisers and bake sales, you will also find our baser instincts. You will find those vowing violence against the perpetrators. You will find those calling for merciless application of the fullest extent of the law’s punishment. You will find those wishing prison rape on the attackers.

All hearts shaped by our violent culture react this way. Even Christian communities react this way—sometimes when they have only been attacked with harsh words. There is, perhaps, no commandment of Jesus that we flout with more impunity than, “do good to those who hate you.”

Our first instinctive thought regarding injustice is, “someone has to pay.” And we prefer “justice” done by our own hands, in our own way. 

In scripture there are often violent men and calls for violent actions. Psalm 137 has long been struggled over by faithful believers as almost too terrible to exist in the same Bible with Psalm 139 that speaks tenderly of life in the womb. (Yet, even Psalm 139 calls for the death of the wicked.)

Speaking of this most violent of Psalms, Charles Spurgeon recognized that as bitter as the psalmist’s cry is, he still is relinquishing his own anger to be tempered by God into the sword of justice and administered by God at a time of his own choosing. 

“We may rest assured that every unrighteous power is doomed to destruction and that, from the throne of God, justice will be measured out to all whose law is force, whose rule is selfishness, and whose policy is oppression…shall despots crush virtue beneath their iron heel and never be punished? Time will show.” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Injustice is before us, behind us, beneath us, and above us. Yet we rest assured that Christ who is before us, behind us, beneath us, and above us sees it too. God has given judgment to the Son and he will carry it out. All “whose policy is oppression,” will answer to the judgment of Christ.

The next time we think, “someone has to pay,” may we also hear the voice of Christ speak within us saying, “I will pay. It is finished. Forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness. — Psalm 103.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 7 (Listen – 4:58) 
Psalm 137-138 (Listen – 2:13)

This Weekend’s Readings
Joshua 8 (Listen – 4:58), Psalm 139 (Listen – 2:26)
Joshua 9 (Listen – 4:58), Psalm 140-141 (Listen – 2:44)

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Read more about Killing With our Hearts
Some of the most popular sayings of Jesus are here in Matthew’s fifth chapter. So are many of the most ignored sayings of Jesus.

Readers’ Choice Submissions
It is once again time for us to seek out the voices of our readers and hear from you about posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Readers’ Choice posts will be republished during the month of August and periodically throughout the Fall.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Feel free to fill out the form multiple times for multiple submissions. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

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Read more about Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
We cannot continue posting and liking things that are resentful, quarrelsome, and the opposite of gentle, yet expect to represent Christ and the Gospel in the world.