Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gone but not forgotten

“These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city.”
                                                                                                        ~Nehemiah 7:6

I love the fact that this passage is found within the book of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah’s name means, “The comfort of God”.

COMFORT: 1) Relief from Distress. 2) One that comforts. 3) A state of, or thing that provides, ease and quiet enjoyment.

The City of Jerusalem had been laid to waste and taken into Babylonian captivity just as it had been prophesied, and God’s judgment did indeed fall. This was a God allowed and timed event that had taken place and if you were left amid the rubble, you would have looked around at ruin and bitter tears.

It all goes back to the cycle that we have looked at in previous posts.


 The city is in ruins, the once mighty walls are destroyed and the at one time majestic gates have been burnt with fire. The glory is removed and amid the rubble are a few remaining ragamuffin people who have been reduced to the brunt of every joke that comes from the kingdoms that surround them.

The crème of the crop had been carried off against their will long ago and this was now a time of tears. There had been two previous attempts between the exile and this point to rebuild and restore the city, but both had reached a point where the plug had been pulled. Then seemingly out of nowhere the comfort of God shows up literally in the form of Nehemiah.

Names are very important and the worst thing that you can ever do in your life is disregard the names that God surrounds you with. I have a baby name app downloaded on my phone that allows me to keep a look at just who is in my life. I want to know why God brings the people into my life that He does.
Just as in Biblical times, I believe even today that a person’s name equates their destiny and their purpose in this life.

My name is DANIEL. My name means, “God is Judge”. I find that when I am walking in the Spirit my ability to help others see God’s graciousness as a judge in the circumstances of their life and I also have an extremely easy ability in allowing God to judge the circumstances of my own life. I can advocate for others to be given the benefit of the doubt in times of frustration and I can remain staunchly judgment free because I have relinquished the right to pass judgment to THE JUDGE.

 On the flip side of the coin, when I walk in the flesh I tend to be very quick to pass judgment on others and judge myself by my intentions and others by their actions. The flesh basically allows us the opportunity to take the destiny of our name and twist it to walk in contrast to it. People who walk in contrast to their name are and will always be unhappy, at least that is what I have found.
Your name speaks of destiny and purpose!

So I find it insanely awesome that in this portion of the “Cycle” that the nation of Israel is going through that He provides a walking and talking picture of the “Comfort of God”.

Nehemiah is not a prophet or a priest contrary to popular belief. He is simply a man that has surrendered his destiny to God.
He is a cup bearer in the palace. The kings that conquered Israel unknowingly served God’s purpose and I find it interesting that this king has had the “Comfort of God” in his presence every day.

Nehemiah has been given, by God, the favor with the occupying King to such a level that he has been allowed to re-build the walls to the city of Jerusalem.
That work is completed in 52 days in spite of tremendous opposition and there is no doubt to the people working and those that surrounded them that God performed this.

Then we come to verse six.
“These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity…” ~Nehemiah 7:6

The words, “Came back from the captivity”, are truly beautiful to me; but for the names that are represented over the next fifty nine verses, these words would have represented life itself. Their reason for the captivity was a long term consequence for their rejection of the lord but the term “CAPTIVE” would no longer precede their name on any list anymore. They were free.

 Right at fifty thousand people came back home.

For these coming home, this was a day that I am pretty sure that they considered would only exist in a dream. God used Nehemiah to remind His people that just because they were gone they were not forgotten.

Only one flag besides the Stars and Stripes that represents the United States has ever flown over the White House in Washington, DC.   Only one flag is ever displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. 
That flag is not one that represents an individual state, branch of service, or other select group. It is the POW/MIA (Prisoners of War/Missing In Action) Flag that calls to mind the sacrifice and plight of those Americans who have sacrificed their own freedom, to preserve liberty for all of us. 
It's presence serves to remind us that, while we enjoy the privileges of freedom, somewhere there are soldiers who have not been accounted for and may, in fact, be held against their will by the enemies of Freedom.

Very few people know the story behind this flag, but I feel as though it ties in beautifully with the thought on this post.

Prisoners of War, soldiers captured by enemy soldiers during times of war, are casualties that can all too often be easy to forget.  You can't ignore the image of crosses lined in neat rows at Arlington, and other National cemeteries, that remind us of the high cost of freedom.  In any gathering of veterans, the scars of war wounds and evidence of missing limbs quickly reminds us of the sacrifice of those who have fought for freedom. 
 It is impossible to forget those Killed in Action (KIA) or Wounded In Action (WIA) because the evidence of their sacrifice is ever before us. 

Sadly, the same can not be said for those who are Missing In Action or who may have been taken prisoner by the enemy and never repatriated. 
Since World War I more than 200,000 Americans have been listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action.  Less than half of them were returned at the end of hostilities, leaving more than 125,000 American servicemen Missing In Action since the beginning of World War I.

During the 14-years of American involvement in Southeast Asia, and specifically the Vietnam War, more than 2,500 Americans were captured or listed as missing in action. 

The politics of our Nation's most unpopular war could have eclipsed the fate of these dedicated soldiers, were it not for the NATIONAL LEAGUE OF FAMILIES.  As the spouses, children, parents and other family members of soldiers missing in Southeast Asia banded together to keep the plight of their loved ones before the American conscience, the organization grew in strength and influence that reached all the way into the White House. 

Through the League the missing and the imprisoned servicemen had a voice, but by 1971 something more was needed.  Mrs. Michael Hoff, whose husband was among the missing, believed that what the cause lacked was a standard....a flag to remind more fortunate families of those who were still unaccounted for.

It was during this period of time that the People's Republic of China was admitted to the United Nations.  Annin & Company was one of the largest manufacturers of flags in the world, and made it their policy to provide flags for each member of that organization.   One day, while reading an article in the Jacksonville, Florida Times-Union about this matter, Mrs. Hoff decided to contact Annin's Vice President Norman Rivkees about providing a flag for soldiers captured or missing.  Mr. Rivkees quickly adopted the idea, and turned to one of their advertising agencies to consider drafting a design.
That is where a man by the name of Newt Heisley comes into the scene.

Newt Heisley was a pilot during World War II, a dangerous role that accounts for many war-time POWs and MIAs.  Years after the war he had come to New York looking for work.  "It took me four days to find a bad job at low pay," he later said of his introduction to "Big Apple" advertising agencies.  But, by working hard, by 1971 he had gradually moved upward in the industry, eventually working for an agency with many national accounts.
As a veteran, the call for a flag designed to raise awareness of our Nation's POW/MIAs was a personal challenge.  It was even more challenging when he considered that his oldest son Jeffrey was, during these Vietnam War years, training for combat with the United States Marines at Quantico, Virginia.  As he pondered this new challenge a series of events set in motion the ideas that would create a flag unlike anything since the days of Betsy Ross.

First, Jeffery became very ill while training for combat.  The illness, diagnosed as hepatitis, ravaged his body emaciating his face and structure.  When he returned home, medically discharged and unable to continue further, his father looked in horror at what had once been a strong, young man.  Then, as Newt Heisley looked closer at his son's gaunt features, he began to imagine what life must be like for those behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores.  Slowly he began to sketch the profile of his son, working in pencil to create a black and white silhouette, as the new flag's design was created in his mind.  Barbed wire, a tower, and most prominently the visage of a gaunt young man became the initial proposal. 
Newt Heisley's black and white pencil sketch was one of several designs considered for the new POW/MIA flag.  Newt planned, should his design be accepted, to add color at a later date...perhaps a deep purple and white.  "In the advertising industry, you do everything in black and white first, then add the color," he says. 

Mr. Heisley's proposal for the new flag was unique.  Rarely does a flag prominently display the likeness of a person.   None-the-less, it was the design featuring the gaunt silhouette of his son Jeffrey that was accepted and, before Mr. Heisly could return to refine his proposal and add the colors he had planned, the black and white flags were already being printed in quantity by Annin & Company.  (Though the POW/MIA flag has been produced in other colors, often in red and white, the black and white design became the most commonly used version.)
The design for the MIA/POW flag was never copyrighted.  It became a flag that belongs to everyone, a design that hauntingly reminds us of those we dare not ever forget.  Behind the black and white silhouette is a face we can't see...the face of a husband, a father, or a son who has paid with their freedom, for our freedom.  Beneath the image are the words....
"You Are Not Forgotten"
I read that story and as I looked at the silhouette, I was reminded of another silhouette that says the same message.

 It stands in striking contrast to the circumstances at times in my own life. It is the "comfort of God" that showed up to a scattered nation to lead them back home. It was God who showed up into the life of a self righteous hypocrite that had an "down pat" look on the outside going on to lead me back home.

His silhouette stands today to remind me, you, and an entire world that while we were gone, we were  in no way forgotten.

You have been brought back home because of the same “Comfort of God” displayed through the blood shed at Calvary.

The chains have been broken, and through Him and Him alone we can truly walk in the newness of life.

Christ is life!


Climbing with you,




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