Nehemiah 1:1-11. NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER-devotional 11-18-19

Nehemiah 1:1-11. NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER-devotional 11-18-19

Nehemiah 1:1-11                           Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 1:11                             11-18-19

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.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.” (NIV)

Lord, thank you for helping us to find comfort, hope, peace and direction in your word. Help me to make meditating and applying your word in my life a daily exercise. I pray that your Gospel may spread across our land and transform this nation to be more Christ-like. I pray that you may help me to learn many lessons from this passage. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Part 1: Nehemiah Reflected God’s Heart For His People. (1-4)

Verses 1-4, “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 citadel, 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, “The 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.” 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.

Who was Nehemiah? He was a Jewish exile living in Susa in Babylon. Nehemiah was no ordinary citizen in the land of exile of the Jewish people, his ancestors. (V. 11) He was born in exile. He was either the son of one of the nobles of the Israelite people, or risen to nobility by being of exceptional intelligence and ability. He had a high position in the court of King Artaxerxes; he was the king’s cupbearer. Not a minor position in the political structure of the Persia, but one of the most trusted and closest attendants to the King himself.

History tells us that men in such a position have everything that a man wants to live securely and to be happy in life. Such men and women are sheltered from the events of life which harass the common people and make them miserable in the insecurity of day to day survival. Nehemiah was cup bearer! He had everything that life could offer.

One day some men–including Nehemiah’s brother–came from Judah bringing news of Jerusalem and the people living there. He must have eagerly awaited any news about them. He wanted to know if they had settled well. If the people had returned to the worship of God at the temple. If their lives were in danger or if they were well provided for. His brother reported to Nehemiah that the condition of the exiles was pathetic. They were in great trouble, and they were in disgrace as well. The walls of Jerusalem remain broken, and the gates have been burned.

Nehemiah was a man of heart…a man of concern. Look at verse 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.” When he heard that the city wall of Jerusalem was broken down, leaving her helpless and disgraced, he sat down and wept. He fasted and prayed. He was different from those who were in such high positions of life. He did not ignore the suffering of his people. He was especially concerned about the exiles who had returned to the promised land and had settled in the city of Jerusalem. He cared about the city, the church and the people who had returned earlier.

Nehemiah was a man of sincere love. The news affected Nehemiah personally. It was as if it had happened to him. He was a like a father mourning over the troubles of his son and daughter. When he loved God’s people and God’s city Nehemiah took it to heart. he made it his own problem. He broke down and cried. Nehemiah was a man of genuine concern.

God’s people, throughout the generations, should show concern about their brethren. When the Lord Jesus taught us prayer, he taught us to pray like this: “give us each day our daily bread.” It was to help us concern ourselves with the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters. Christians need to be concerned about what is happening to God’s people and the church of the living God, around the world. The Christian way teaches us that “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) We too must be concerned about my brother, my coworker, my fellow Christians, my church.

When did I anguish over the suffering of God’s people, in America and Canada and around the world? When did I have anguish about the condition of God’s church? I pray that I may be concerned about God’s people and their physical and spiritual condition. I pray that I may take steps to always encourage.

Nehemiah was reflecting the heart of God. God is concerned over us like our Heavenly Father. He is able to express this concern and act on this concern because we have been brought into a right relationship with God through Jesus and his precious Gospel.

A relationship with God, where his concerning about his people, was not like this. Even in this passage we learn about our human condition prior to being forgiven by Jesus. Look at verses 6b-8, “…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.” Yes, Nehemiah was talking about the sins of his people at that time. But surely it applies to people without Jesus even today. We sure are a lost lot without our Savior. We were actually enemies of God, rejecting God and resisting his while rejecting his word. This made us an enemy of God.

But God did something to stop us from being his enemies. He forgave all of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus. We have become his precious children. We are no longer his enemies. God now has a genuine concern over us. He weeps for us as a father weeps for his children. The Gospel made this possible. Nehemiah was reflecting this great love of God.

Part 2: God Helped Nehemiah to Decide Through Prayer (5-11a)

Verses 5-11, “5 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, 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, ‘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.’ 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.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.”

Nehemiah was moved to do something for his people. He did not know what to do, but he wanted to do something. He would approach the king. This would not be easy. But he decided to risk his job, and even his life, and speak to the king. But first, he prayed.

In his prayer he confessed the sins of his people, and he included himself. The people were living in exile because they had not lived according to God’s word. God had kept his promise to scatter his disobedient people; he was keeping his promise to restore repentant people.

Nehemiah did not know what can be done for the suffering people of God. Nor did he know what can be done for the broken walls of Jerusalem. But God knew what to do and God already had a plan to solve the problem and to remedy the situation. Nehemiah simply had to come to God in prayer for his people.

In the book of Acts God Almighty promises this. He says: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) it was a long-ago prophesy given to the prophet Joel. It has to do with the New Testament church. But God still worked to plant vision into the hearts of his people in Nehemiah’s time.

God was faithful. When Nehemiah wept and fasted and prayed for the suffering people of God, and the broken walls of the city of God, God planted a vision in his heart…the vision to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Later on, he confessed that God had put it in his heart what to do.

We too need a vision in our hearts. We need a vision to know what God has in store for us to do in life. For those who pray with a genuine concern for the Gospel, when they pray with sincere love for others, to those God pours out his holy vision in their hearts, and calls them to serve his purpose. They know what they are to do. They have a vision. Their lives are like Nehemiah’s with a mission that tugs at their hearts until they have fulfilled the purpose of their lives.

Part 3: Nehemiah Was a Person of Humility (11b)

Read verse 11b. “I was cupbearer to the king.” It is not by chance that Nehemiah put these words at the end of his prayer instead of at the beginning. He was a cup bearer to the king. In the world, this position would be the top position in a political or social system. But in spite of his position, he was first a man of God. A servant in God’s house. He was a brother to those who were suffering. He was a father to destitute. And then he was a cup bearer.

It takes great humility for a man or woman to know who they really are. God is the King of the heavens. He is creator and the sovereign over all things. And we are only men and women who have been forgiven of our sin. We are full of weakness in need of a Savior willing to submit to his lordship. To know this is humility— the humility to come before God as a child, as a forgiven sinner, as one who loves God and is deeply indebted to his grace.

It takes humility to move God’s heart to listen and to guide in a way that honors and glorifies God’s name. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Nehemiah did not pray dressed in the splendor of a cup bearer to the king. He prayed dressed with humility and tears. It is the essence of all those who have prayed in history knowing who they really are, and that only God can equip them with what they need to fulfill whatever God has destined them to fulfill in their lives.

May God help us to have concern for God’s house and God’s people, to love them sincerely from our hearts, knowing that this is actually God’s concern for us and his church. May our love for all of God’s people drive us to prayer. When we do God will reveal ways to serve his church. May God Almighty humble us to know who we are, who he is, and what he has called us to do for his own name’s sake.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see my nation’s problems as my own, pray with a humble, repentant heart, and act by faith.

One Word: Reflect God’s heart for his people and his church.

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