Welcome to the book of Nehemiah! In this book we meet another player in God’s rebuilding and restoration plan. Timelines and everything can get confusing, but the 20th year of King Artaxerxes’ reign is mentioned. That would historically place Nehemiah after Ezra.
God’ restoration plan will now focus on the enclosure to the great city of Jerusalem. Rebuilding the wall is the vision God will place on Nehemiah’s heart. Nehemiah is already overcome with emotion thinking that the home of his ancestors lies in ruin, the walls crumbled and unsuitable for protection.
I liked how this book started out more “story-like” in style. It’s so much easier to insert ourselves into the Bible history that way. We hear right away about some eyewitnesses to what is happening in Jerusalem since other folks have already returned and been living there. It’s always best to get firsthand reports.
God was already sparking Nehemiah’s interest; you can tell from the opening scene. Nehemiah was moved by the news. At first, he is distraught and sorrowful at the less than positive report. Nehemiah even says, “for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”
The prayer Nehemiah prayed was very raw and emotional. Nehemiah’s heart-felt cry was powerful in that he didn’t hold back from any blame or guilt. He called it as he saw it, admitting his people Israel had been very disobedient. It will be interesting to see how Nehemiah’s faith carries him through the stories he’s about to tell.
I think Nehemiah is already dreaming of his return to Jersusalem, yet he doesn’t come right out and say it. Instead, he relies on his head knowledge, recalling the words of Moses speaking for God: “But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.”
Take a moment to just think of those words from Moses. Do they still ring true for us today? Yes, indeed! Sometimes I feel like I’m exiled to the end of the earth, not because I’m in Mexico, but because I don’t recognize much of what is happening in the world these days. With the rise in human trafficking, natural disasters close to home, wars and rumors of wars breaking out when we least expect, we are all a bit exiled far from the lovely place God desires for us.
Nehemiah knew what to do when perplexed and sad. He went to the Lord in prayer. That’s a good reminder for us, too, don’t you think? We have been rescued, and according to Nehemiah we are now to be servants. What better way to show our gratitude, love, and devotion?
While our prayers might look a little different than this, look at the elements. Those can fit any circumstance. These prayer elements are simply (1) Show adoration to God, (2) Confession, (3) Ask for what you need or want, and (4) Thanksgiving. Beautiful. It’s a prayer model I’ve been using in my own prayer life for years (not necessarily always in that order)!
Bottom line – NEVER forget to pray – in good or bad times.
Let’s pray … God, you are so great. Your Word continues to affirm what my spirit yearns to hear. Thank you for the people you have used over the years to make things happen to further the kingdom. I pray you will continue to use me. Open my eyes to see all the encounters you have in mind. I love you LORD. In Jesus’ name. Amen.