Today’s reading is from Nehemiah, chapters 1-2.
Nehemiah had received some disheartening news in regard to the state of Jerusalem and those of the Israelites who were left behind after the rest of the people were carried off into exile by the Babylonians. The city was in ruins and those that remained were vulnerable to the surrounding nations. They were in trouble. It broke Nehemiah’s heart because this was his country – his people -who were suffering. It was also a reminder to him of the continued unfaithfulness of his people that led to the situation they now faced. The news of the condition of the city and those left behind that brought Nehemiah to his knees.
Ch 1:1-6: As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.Nehemiah understands the power of prayer and to whom he is presenting his petitions. He trusts in the power, love and faithfulness of his Lord.
Nehemiah confesses not only the sin of his people, but also his own sins. He correctly points out that they have acted in disobedience to God’s command and are deserving of the punishment that they are receiving. He also “reminds” God of the promises He had made to His people – a promise to restore them to their land, no matter where they may be, if they would be faithful to God’s command. Nehemiah was praying day and night for the restoration of his people. Finally, four months after receiving the news of the dilemma that the
remnant found themselves in, Nehemiah had the opportunity to present his request before the king.
Ch 2:1-6: In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.
There was a danger in approaching the king with a rejected look. Servants in the king’s presence were always to be “on their game.” Additionally, Nehemiah was asking for something huge. Some would consider his request to be a backhanded condemnation as to the way that this ruling family had handled the situation in Jerusalem. Regardless of the potential danger, Nehemiah took the opportunity to make his request and the king responded in the affirmative. Not only that, he also granted Nehemiah’s request for letters to allow for safe-conduct through the region and supplies for his rebuilding program.
Most, if not all, of us have had situations in our lives that just broke our hearts. We find ourselves on our knees praying for hope, healing or maybe that the situation would be completely different. Nehemiah was well aware of his past and the past of his people that led them to the predicament that they were in. He also knew that his God remained true to His promises, loved His children and never stopped being involved in their lives, whether in Jerusalem or in exile. God never left them. Knowing this about God gives us comfort and reassurance that we can go before Him 24/7 and present the things that are on our heart, the celebrations and the struggles. God loves His children and He is active in answering prayer – maybe not always the way we had hoped for or in our timing – but He is always answering prayer.
Phillipians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.