Mission, from the point of view of our human endeavor, means the committed participation of God’s people in the purposes of God for the redemption of the whole creation. Mission, like salvation, belongs to our God and to the Lamb. We are those who are called to share in its accomplishment.1
The Book of Nehemiah opens with Nehemiah’s inquiry from Hanani, one of his brothers, who visited him in Susa (the land of his captivity where he also rose to prominence) from Judah about the state of affairs in Jerusalem and the wellbeing of “Jewish remnant that had survived the exile” (Neh. 1:2). It is not by chance that the book closes with his prayer; “Remember me with favor, my God.” (Neh. 13:31b, NIV) There is a pertinent lesson in it for anyone that is passionate about fulfilling God’s purpose.
“Remember me” is an expression that erupts from the depth of the soul especially when there has been an antecedent, be it an event or an action. For Nehemiah, the expression of this gusty prayer was the culmination of his unalloyed devotion to God, which reflected in his commitment to initiate, mobilize resources for and see through the shame-reversing project of rebuilding the burnt down gates and ruined walls of Jerusalem, the city of his heritage. Therefore, it wasn’t an ‘anyhow’ remembrance that he craved and prayed for but one that was loaded with God’s favour.
It is pertinent to note that the word that was translated ‘remember’ in that prayer has its root in the Hebrew word zakar, which connotes marking out for recognition and by implication to ‘also mention’. When conflated with the counterpart Hebrew root towb (meaning ‘good’) translated ‘favour’ in Nehemiah’s prayer, the supplication can be rephrased: “My God, mark me out for recognition and mention me (or my name) for good.” This is instructive for every believer.
The first thing that jumps out of this prayer is the indispensability of a personal relationship with God as a precondition for fulfilling our individual purpose in life, with His call for each life at its very core. The account of Nehemiah’s exploits as documented in the entire book is a model of participation in God’s mission which aligns with Christopher Wright’s view of the Bible as “a product of mission in action” i.e. a documentation of God’s mission, in which He demonstrates His continuing grace for reconciliation, redemption, restoration and liberation.
Nehemiah models a missional lifestyle, that places responsibility ahead of prosperity. May we fulfil our ordained destiny in Christ.
(To be continued in Part 2)
1Christopher J. H. Wright, “Word of God and Mission of God,” in Discovering the Mission of God: Best Missional Practices for the 21st Century, ed. Mike Barnett (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 46.