Nestled down at the beginning of the biblical book of Nehemiah—one of those books in the Old Testament that is easy to overlook—is a text that is useful to people who live in uncertain, complex times.

It is part of the prayer that the prophet Nehemiah prayed as he began the task of leading his people back to their homeland after years of being captives and refugees. Nehemiah restates his understanding of the people’s relationship with God:

“They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand” (Nehemiah 1:10, ESV).

In this text Nehemiah lays out a five-point reminder of the nature of our relationship to God:
We are the servants of God.
We are the people of God.
We are redeemed by God.
We are sustained by God’s power.
We are held in God’s strong hand.

Let’s look at each point very briefly.

First, we are the servants of God. The prophet restates who we really are: those whose lives become most meaningful when we give service.

Second, we are the people of God—the ones he loves. The ones he thinks of and cares for and watches over.

Third, we are redeemed by God. God has saved us from crisis and the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next. He has pulled us back from danger. He has brought us the freedom that we were once denied.

Fourth, we are sustained by God’s power. Power means strength, or energy, or the means through which strength may flow. One who has power has authority and capacity. Our capacity to respond to the situations we face each day are empowered by God’s power. God’s power is always available to us.

And best of all, we are held in God’s “strong hand.” When this phrase is used in scripture, it is when God is at his strongest, his very best. It is when God’s presence is redefining circumstances by his power—as when he led the children of Israel out of captivity.

Hands are uniquely human. Our God is uniquely aligned with humanity. If God can be said to have hands, be assured that they are strong and have a compassionate, “human” touch.

Nehemiah states it succinctly and powerfully: We are made to serve and to be God’s people. We are saved and energized by his power. We are protected by his strong hand.

Even in times of uncertainty, we are enabled to thrive and grow. Safe in his strong hands, our lives become meaningful and purposeful.