Until the Stars Appeared

In the book of Nehemiah, God’s people rebuild Jerusalem, City of God, after their exile to Babylon and then to Persia. But their enemies are watching in anger and will not leave them alone for long.

Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, regional governors under the king of Persia, are among the troublemakers. They mock the Jews (4:1-3), plot acts of violence and disturbance (4:8), threaten Nehemiah (6:2), and spread false reports to the nobles of Judah to frighten Nehemiah (6:5-6, 17-19).

All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.

Nehemiah 4:8

In response, the people of Judah prayed and “set up a guard against them day and night.” But God’s people were still afraid, so Nehemiah rose up and rallied them. Remember your great and awesome God and fight for one another (v. 14)!

Their plan foiled, Persia’s governors retreated. But from that day on, God’s people carried a weapon in one hand as they built with the other: spears, shields, bows, and breastplates (Eph. 6:10-18).

Jews Defending Jerusalem’s Walls, Miniature from the Alba Bible, 1430

Still, as the work was great and extensive, so the distance between the workers grew, separated as they were on the wall, far from one another (v. 19). So Nehemiah said to them that whatever place they heard the sound of the trumpet, they were to rally to him there. For “Our God will fight for us” (v. 20).

So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared.

Nehemiah 4:21

This celestial suspension appears in other places as well. As Paul is carried prisoner by ship to Rome and Caesar, a storm gathers and violently tosses the vessel. Until the third day, when the pilot and captain throw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.

Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.

Acts 27:20

But that very night, an angel appears to Paul and says, both to him and to us who wait for heaven, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you” (v. 24).

Saint Clare rescuing the shipwrecked – Giovanni di Paolo

God’s people are as the stars of heaven (Gen 26:4), scattered as we work and wait, wearing our spiritual armour. But not lost. No, we are not like wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever (Jd 1:13). Rather, just as those Nehemiah led, we wait for the sound of the great trumpet, when angels will gather together God’s elect from the four winds, stars from one end of the sky to the other (Mt 24:31).

Lift up your eyes! See Who has created you! It is He, the One who leads us all. Our morning star, our Saviour. He counts our number and gives each of us our name (Ps 147:4). And not one of us is missing (Isa 40:26).

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:19


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