Supporting Your Tribe
by Alex Fittin
Nehemiah is a book often associated with a challenge to build something new, to restart, to change and grow. I was reading through Nehemiah recently though, and God had something different to show me.
Nehemiah 4:16-23 (NIV)
From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.
As an adoptive mom, there is a huge battle for my time, my attention, and my mental capacity. I am constantly fighting to stay engaged and standing in the fire for the cause to which the Lord has called me. There’s a lot of talk about self-care and taking it easy and balance, but how practical is that actually in real life? There are people everywhere who have said yes to hard things, whether that looks like my hard thing or not. We stand in battle to fight for the least of these and you can bet your life that we will face opposition.
Now there is a whole lot of awesomeness in this passage, so let’s break it down.
God does not call everyone to the same fight. Some of us have been called to be missionaries, to run homeless ministries, to be children’s ministers, to adopt, and the list goes one and on. One thing is for certain though, everyone has a fight. Nehemiah describes two fights here. One is the boots on the ground work. It’s the people standing in the gaps between what God has called us to and where we started. The other is the support system. It’s Aaron and Her holding up Moses’ arms for him so the Israelites could defeat the Amalekites (Ex. 17:12-13). It’s the people who bring food, donate, send care packages, babysit, check in even months and years down the road and on and on. One cannot exist without the other. No one was made to fight alone.
Nehemiah goes on to say that the work is extensive and spread out. There is so much Kingdom work to be done. This is why Paul details the description of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. There will always be people to serve and widows and orphans to care for. We cannot assume that every calling is complete and every job is filled.
“Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” Isn’t that beautiful? There’s a 3-step program there:
You hear the sound of the trumpet. This means that we are engaged in the fight. We are tuned into the needs around us. We are not burying our heads in the sand and turning a blind eye to the Kingdom work to be done.
Join us there: We are willing to meet our tribes where they’re at. We aren’t asking to be fed a sugarcoated version of hard things. We are willing to get our hands dirty and serve and support our fellow fighters.
Our God will fight for us! Notice that steps 1 and 2 come first. It’s not that God can’t fight without us. After all, He tells us that if we will not stand up and follow Him then He will summon actual rocks to do it instead (Luke 19:40). He doesn’t need us to win His fight, but He wants us to live our best life by listening, joining together, and trusting Him to strengthen us so we can win.
The last part that I want to touch on is the ending. Our fights will ebb and flow and go through seasons, but they never really end. They last long into the metaphorical night, and our needs do as well. None of Nehemiah’s men put down their weapons. They were always ready to fight and defend and support their brothers. The needs arounds us are not convenient. They aren’t always timely and the hurts and pains continue even when we aren’t tuned into them.
Staying vigilant is Kingdom work. Holding our tribes’ arms up while they are standing in the fire is Kingdom work. Supporting our people as they fight is in turn supporting the least of these, and that is what the body of Christ is all about.