Letâ€™s go through the first chapter of Nehemiah as a quick devotion together. Â First go ahead and read the text.
1:1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the capital, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, â€œThe remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.â€ 4 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. 5 And I said, â€œO Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 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. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, â€˜If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.â€™ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.â€Â Now I was cupbearer to the king. (ESV)
Nehemiah receives word from his brothers that Jerusalem was destroyed, and his response was brokenness over its condition. But this was not a new occurrence; it had sat this way for over a hundred years. Â His brothers bring him the news (again this was not â€œcurrent events.â€) and they also seem to upset â€“ so our first question is why are they upset about something that has been that way for a long time and doesnâ€™t really affect Nehemiah?
His response to the news is brokenness over the condition of the land, his own sin, and the sin of the people as a whole. He goes on to quote Scripture (vv.8-9) that says , if they turn from their sin their land could be restored and they could return. So whatâ€™s keeping the land in itâ€™s current condition and their own exile was how they viewed their own sin.
He begins with consistent prayer, and the prayer is one of confession (v. 7). Â He recognizes that his sin (and the sin of the people) have caused them to be â€œscatteredâ€ v.8. Â He prays specifically for the meeting with the king.
So what do we see here? Nehemiah (and his brothers) is aware of his own sin and then repents. Then his eyes are opened to the spiritual condition of things around him. He can then â€œseeâ€ the condition of how the people are living, and it then breaks his heart. Â So what keeps us â€œblind?â€ â€“ our sin. When we deal with the sin in our lives, we are then able to see the world in a different way.
What was the spiritual condition of Nehemiahâ€™s brothers? They â€œseeâ€ the issue first, and they bring it to their brotherâ€™s attention. God then uses Nehemiah to lead an effort to rebuild the city (and itâ€™s walls in 52 days!)
So letâ€™s look at it graphically: (because I am a visual learner):
(1) Information Received (visit from family)
(2) Broken (made aware of his own and otherâ€™s sinful condition)
â€¢ Recognition of who God is (v. 5)
â€¢ Confession of sin â€“ the condition of man (v.6)
â€¢ A trust/reliance upon Godâ€™s Word (v. 8)
(3) Praying in faith the truths from Scripture
(4) Development of a plan (over days of praying)
â€¢ Nehemiahâ€™s plan begins by talking with the king about his condition and the condition of his people.
(5) The (first) meeting
â€¢ God works in the kingâ€™s heart to assist Nehemiah in the rebuilding project. It is always Godâ€™s heart to â€œrebuildâ€ peopleâ€™s lives and restore them to a proper relationship with Him. But we have to go through a process of dealing with our sin, and realizing that His ways are always best.
Big Idea from Chapter One: It is God in His grace that makes us aware of our sinful condition and the need for change. He promises us in His Word that if we change, he will put us back on a redemptive path (see Psalm 51, and Ezekiel 18). When we deal with sin our eyes will become open to things we have never â€œseenâ€ or cared for before. When we pray and fast God will show us what to do. Then we step out in faith.
May God bless your journey with Him, step out and do something great today.