Category: Nehemiah – Mondays with Nehemiah

Mondays with Nehemiah

“Kill the Spider”

image credit: google images

Warren W. Wiersbe tells this story in his book “Be Determined”:
“In a certain church, there was a man who always ended his prayers with, ‘And, Lord, clean the cobwebs out of my life! Clean the cobwebs out of my life!’ One of the members of the church became weary of hearing this same insincere request week after week, because he saw no change in the petitioner’s life. So, the next time he heard the man pray, ‘Lord, clean the cobwebs out of my life!’ he interrupted with, ‘And while you’re at it, Lord, kill the spider!'”

Does that resonate with anyone? It sure does with me. It’s really great to offer up a prayer of confession and thanksgiving to God, as we’ve seen in Nehemiah 9. But what about after the prayer is said? What about after we say ‘AMEN’?

The people of Israel were so serious about following God’s Law and obeying Him. They made a promise and put it in writing with a seal and signatures. I had to think of the German saying, “Wenn schon, denn schon.” It’s all or nothing, not something inbetween,They went all the way, from start to finish!

“Then the rest of the people – the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, Temple servants, and all who had separated themselves from the pagan people of the land in order to obey the Law of God, together with their wives, sons, daughters, and all who were old enough to understand – joined their leaders and bound themselves with an oath…” (Nehemiah 10:28-29a)

They bound themselves with an oath. That was serious business in Israel. There was a LOT at stake if you sealed it with an oath. All of Numbers 30 deals with vows. It says in verse 2: “A man who makes a vow to the LORD or a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do.”

And what exactly was the content of this vow? “They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands, regulations, and decrees of the LORD our Lord.” And a few of these commands, regulations and decrees are mentioned (or singled out, if you will) in chapter 10:

1. Marriage: God did not approve of a mixed marriage. “The danger in mixed marriages was the loss  of faith on the part of the Jewish mate.” (a)

2. Observing the Sabbath: the Jewish Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest and meditation on all things spiritual. The people of Israel disobeyed God greatly when it came to the Sabbath. “This was one reason why God sent them into captivity, that He might give the land seventy years of rest. This would compensate for some 500 years of disobedience on the part of the nation (7×70), one year for each neglected Sabbatical Year or Year of Jubilee.” (a)

3. “We promise together not to neglect the Temple of our God.” (Nehemiah 10:39b) And so they promised to pay the temple tax, bring the wood offering, the offering of first fruits, and the tithes. “We must so love the Lord that generous giving will be a normal and joyful part of our lives.” (a)

“We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.”
(Winston Churchill)
“Wherever your treasure is,
 there the desires of your heart will also be.”
(Jesus in Matthew 6:21)

Lord, don’t just clean the cobwebs of my life, kill the spider, too!

(a) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

Mondays with Nehemiah

Recalling God’s Story in my Life

The long chapter of Nehemiah 9 consists mostly of a prayer. “It is interesting that three of Israel’s great ‘national prayers’ are recorded in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9.” (a) And it’s interesting to me that the history of Israel is recalled in this prayer. God’s greatness, God’s goodness, and God’s grace to the nation of Israel are remembered.

Warren W. Wiersbe lists a few quotes in his book “Be Determined” that I found very helpful:

“History is His story.”
(Dr. Arthur T. Pierson)
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history
is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”
(Aldous Huxley)
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”
(George Santayana)

What an interesting way to pray! To recall one’s history. In the midst of their recollection of their history, the people of Israel say in verse 10b: “You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten.” And they continue to recall one story after the other, and they testify that God was always there for them. In verse 18b they say, “But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”

Again and again they confirm that God “did not abandon them.” Even when they rebelled against God, even when they did not follow God’s Law, “in His great mercy He sent them liberators who rescued them from their enemies.” (Nehemiah 9:27b)

And when I look at Israel’s story, their history in this chapter, I can’t but agree, that my story is so similar to theirs. I can totally see that God did not abandon me or my children. All of our lives He has been there! Even when I did not live according to God’s Word, even when I did not follow Him, He still loved me and cared for me!

This year is a year of milestones for me and my kids. And this chapter is a reminder to include our history in the prayer of thanksgiving! Yes, our history is His story!

(a) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

Mondays with Nehemiah

In Nehemiah chapter 8 we see people turning from their material needs to their spiritual needs. The walls of the city had been finished. People had moved into Jerusalem again and felt protected. And then the 7th month of the Jewish calendar arrived. It’s a very important month on their calendar. There are 3 special feasts that are celebrated in the 7th month:

– The New Year
– The Day of Atonement
– The Festival of Shelters.

Nehemiah 8:1 says, “In October, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the sribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had given Israel to obey.”

The material needs of the people had been met. Now it was time to address the spiritual needs. “Chapter 8-13 of the book (of Nehemiah) record that spiritual ministry: Instructing the people (chapter 8), confessing sin (chapter 9), dedicating the walls (chapters 10-12) and cleansing the fellowship (chapter 13).” (Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined)

There’s only one way to address the spiritual needs, and that is to get back into God’s Word. Nehemiah and Ezra recognized that. They saw that the people of Israel had not been taught the Word of God (or the Law as they called it) for some time. It was time to do that again and they started out with a great assembly in the city’s square. Ezra read from the Book of the Law and the Levites supported him by instructing the people. The people were very moved by God’s Word and they were weeping. But they had also just observed the Day of Atonement, where they confessed their sins and received God’s forgiveness. Instead of rejoicing in their forgiveness, they kept on mourning and weeping. And we see Nehemiah stepping in again and telling them: “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God… Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:9-10 NLT)

The Day of Atonement was followed by seven days of happy celebration. “It isn’t enough for us to read the Word and receive the Word as others expound it; we must also rejoice in the Word.” (Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”)

And the people followed Nehemiah’s suggestion, they “went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (Nehemiah 8:12) The people heard God’s words and understood them, and that gave them reason to celebrate!!!

This just made me pause and think about they way I hear and receive God’s Word. Just yesterday I heard such a great sermon on “repentance” from Luke 13:1-9, and I understood God’s Word. But I did not take time to celebrate it. Why not? Well, yesterday after church we hurried home to watch the final game of the Eurocup 2012. Yeah, that’s right. A soccer game…

Today, Nehemiah taught me a lesson I hope I won’t forget so soon: Celebrate when you’ve heard God’s Word and when you’ve understood it! And what better way to do it than with great food and drinks, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength”!

Mondays with Nehemiah

An Enemy That Doesn’t Give Up

When reading chapters 6 and 7 of Nehemiah, I have to admire Nehemiah’s leadership, his discernment and his courage in the face of so much conspiracy.

The first conspiracy that Nehemiah encountered was to distract him from the project he had come to do. The enemies united and tried their very best. And what they came up with was an invitation for a meeting. Harmless, right? What could be wrong with that? But Nehemiah was alert and he trusted his God and spend a lot of time in prayer, alone and with his people. He was able to see through this distraction and through this conspiracy.

Bill Hybels applies this to our lives as follows: “Satan is always lurking and luring us away from God’s best plan for our life, forever conspiring to pull followers of Christ away from what matters most. We need to be on guard for this tactic of distraction. It can come in the form of a hobby that consumes us, too much time in front of the TV, obsession with our work – anything that fills our hours and days so that we don’t have the time to do what God most wants us.” (Overcoming Challenges by Bill Hybels with Kevin & Sherry Harney)

When the enemies saw that Nehemiah would not meet with them, they tried a different route: They sent an open letter with false accusations. The purpose of this letter? To spread lies and rumors and with it destroy Nehemiah’s character and reputation. Here is what Nehemiah did: “I replied, ‘There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.’ They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.” (Nehemiah 6:8-9)

So when all this didn’t work, they’ve got something else up their sleeves: “The third type of conspiracy is deception. An old-fashioned clandestine operation was hatched, intended both to damage Nehemiah’s reputation as a leader and tarnish his standing as a man of God. It involved paying off a prophet to deceive Nehemiah with a false message that would pressure him to compromise his leadership. One thing that made this conspiracy possible was that a pipeline of information flowed back and forth between people who wanted to see Nehemiah destroyed and some of Nehemiah’s own colleagues.”  (Overcoming Challenges by Bill Hybels with Kevin & Sherry Harney)

And again Nehemiah was able to see through this conspiracy. He says of himself in Neh 6:13 “They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. They they would be able to accuse and discredit me.”

Looking at Nehemiah, I kind of want to scream: Isn’t that enough of intimidation?!?! How much more will you have to go through? When is this going to end??

And then I am reminded of times when I asked these same questions. There have been times where enemies seemed to come from all sides and corners, and it was not just dripping. No,  it was pouring!

It’s in times like these that I pray more, I read my Bible more, and my faith grows. Last year I memorized some verses from the book of James. And those verses just came to mind:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy.
For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed,
you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4 New Living Translation

Wishing you a Happy Monday and have a great week everyone!

Mondays with Nehemiah

Two weeks ago I wrote about finishing what you started. After taking a break over Easter, I’m back with another look at Nehemiah. In chapter 5 of the book of Nehemiah we see some internal problems arise. Nehemiah was new in Jerusalem. His mind was occupied with the project of rebuilding the wall and keeping the enemies at bay.
And when he thought he had it all figured out, the internal problems came to the surface. “About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews.” (Nehemiah 5:1)

It wasn’t just a complaint, it was a cry of protest. And since not only the men, but also their wives got involved, it was pretty serious. The problem didn’t just happen over night. Things had been going on for a while, things that were wrong. Why did it then surface at the worst possible time?

I honestly believe that a crisis can bring a lot of good, but it can also reveal some pretty ugly things. Here the people of Jerusalem were facing some enemies and their wall was broken down, leaving them defenseless. They united on this project with enthusiasm. But even before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, there were things going on among the Jews that weren’t according to God’s Law. There was a famine, and the poor had mortgaged their land and houses and had sold their children into slavery just to get food and to survive. But these problems were pushed back by the arrival of Nehemiah. There was excitement in the air and the enthusiasm for the physical work distracted them for a while.

But their internal problems did not go away. And so the people raised a “cry of protest against their fellow Jews”.

I’ve seen it over and over again in my family, with my kids. It doesn’t help to get distracted with some busyness or even ignoring it, if there’s a problem with one of my kids. This problem hardly ever goes away. And if I refuse to deal with it now, it will come back to haunt me a few weeks or months from now. And when it comes back it’s usually way bigger than in the beginning. And I always wish I had dealt with it when it first came up. Ever been there?!?!

One of my former bosses would often say: “If you wait long enough, the problem will solve itself.” And sometimes it did. But always at a cost. While he was waiting the problem to go away, to disappear, there were disgruntled people, there were impatient people waiting for him to do something. And with every wait there was loss of respect. Why? Because he didn’t have the courage to confront someone.

I haven’t always had the courage to confront my kids or a problem I was facing. In the end I did have to face the problem. I don’t believe that a problem will solve itself. It gets pushed aside for other things that occupy me in the moment, and when a crisis hits, these old problems surface. Often they are even unrelated to the crisis, and the timing of the reappearance of these problems couldn’t be worse. And then I think, why now? And it’s all because I have not dealt with them when I should.

I’ve got lots to learn from Nehemiah. He was determined, and he was courageous by confronting his people and getting this problem resolved. I had to think about the words God spoke to Joshua in Joshua 1:9:

 “This is my command – be strong and courageous!
Do not be afraid or discouraged.
For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Mondays with Nehemiah

Fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!
Last week I mentioned that this chapter was the most memorable one for me. I had heard this as a Bible story from my parents and grandparents when I was little. It’s the story that goes like this:
Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem were rebuilding the wall. The enemy was not happy. They ridiculed the workers. But Nehemiah and his people defaulted to prayer, and Nehemiah encouraged the people to continue on. He reminded them that they have a great God who’s on their side.
At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.
But the enemy did not stop at just ridiculing them with words. They got furious and started to plot an attack. And again Nehemiah and the people prayed and they “guarded the city day and night to protect” themselves.
10 Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.”
11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”
12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!” 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.
14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”
The threat was real. And Nehemiah showed great leadership skills to encourage the people and continue the work on the wall. He says, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes!” Nehemiah reminds his people that they got their God on their side. Their God is great and glorious!
And another thing that stood out to me in verse 14 is that he tells his people to remember the Lord. We see that quite often in the Old Testament, that people are told to remember the Lord. Sometimes we take our eyes off God and see all the difficulties and our circumstances and we get discouraged. But if we “remember the Lord”, when we think of all the times we saw God’s hand in our lives, we become aware of His presence, we remember the wonderful ways He has led us in the past and we get encouraged again to continue on our journey. “If we look at the problem through the greatness of God, we will have confidence and succeed.” (e)
“To place whole families together – including women and children – put tremendous pressure on fathers particularly. In case of outright attack, they would have no choice but to stay and fight for and with their family members.” (a)
In verse 14 Nehemiah tells his people to fight for their families. The enemy is not just after me, he’s also after my family. Ever since I heard of this verse, I’ve been encouraged to “fight” in my prayers for my family, for my kids.
We see Nehemiah organizing the workers in two groups, half of them were working, while the other stood guard. “What a picture of trusting in God and actively standing strong for God! They prayed and posted a guard. They knew that only God could deliver them, but they also knew that God expected them to do what they could to resist this threat.” (d)
15 When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. 16 But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.
19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!”
21 We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. 22 I also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. 23 During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.
And this is the picture from that Bible story in my childhood: The people worked with one hand while carrying a weapon in the other. I still remember the picture that went with the story. Today, I see prayer as my most efficient weapon. This picture encourages me to work and fight, to work and pray! I just remembered that my parents had this little plaque in their kitchen, it said “Bete und Arbeite” (Pray and Work). It’s a good reminder for me that the enemy is real, that there is a way to work that might not seem very efficient at first glance, but if work and prayer goes hand in hand, my God will give the victory!
Be encouraged and have a great week!
(a) Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck
(d) Bill Hybels with Kevin & Sherry Harney “Overcoming Challenges”
(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

Mondays with Nehemiah

Default to Prayer?

Read chapter 4 of the book of Nehemiah. We have come to a very interesting part in this book. This is the part that I remember most from the Bible stories I heard in Sunday school when I was a child. It is basically THE story that I knew about Nehemiah.

Things had been going well for Nehemiah and the people of Judah. They were making progress in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Chapter 3 describes how they had divided up the sections of the Jerusalem wall and they were all working hard to finish it.

But the enemy was not asleep. Chapter 4 starts out as follows:

1 Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”

 

3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”
Sanballat didn’t hold back with ridicule, did he? He had ridiculed Nehemiah before (Neh 2:19), but this time he chose to do it in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers. First he ridiculed the people working on it (bunch of poor, feeble Jews), then Tobiah the Ammonite chimed in and helped to ridicule the work itself: “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”
“Of course, much that Sanballat and Tobiah said was true from a human point of view, for the Jewish remnant was weak and poor, and the work was too great for them. But they had great faith in a great God, and that’s what made the difference.” (e)We see Nehemiah respond to the ridicule of Sanballat and Tobiah: “Then I prayed…” (verse 4) and later on in verse 9 “But we prayed to our God…”

I am amazed at this first response: prayer! I would love to have this same default, when I’m ridiculed or when I face opposition. To default to prayer, it has to be practiced over and over again. For prayer to become my first response, I have to have made it a habit of praying first and solving the problem later. We see Nehemiah and his people stop for prayer and then they go back to work. “They did not let the harsh and insulting words win the day. They kept the momentum going and got the all built to half its necessary height. Their goal was in sight.” (d)

(d) Bill Hybels with Kevin & Sherry Harney “Overcoming Challenges”
(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

Mondays with Nehemiah

And off to work we go…

Nehemiah chapter 2 finished with Nehemiah’s reply to his opposition, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab. Nehemiah said to them,

“The God of heaven will help us succeed.
We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall.
 But you have no share, legal right or historic claim in Jerusalem.”

And so in chapter 3 we see the people getting to work. All 32 verses of that chapter describe the sections of the wall that people worked on. People from all walks of life repaired the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah seemed to have had a great plan for this project. Verse 5 mentions that there were construction supervisors in place. People worked enthusiastically on this project. It must have been a sight to see!!!

But even there, in the midst of all the excitement, we find in verse 5 that the people of Tekoa worked on a part of the wall, but “their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors.” I wonder what their issue was? Did they think the same way we sometimes do?

If I don’t get to have a say in it, then I won’t participate.
If I don’t get to be the manager here, then I’ll go somewhere else where my expertise is valued.
If I…
If I…

I’m glad to see that the people of Tekoa did not have the same attitude as their leaders. They willingly submitted to the leadership of the construction supervisors and did the work that we so badly needed.

The leaders of Tekoa could learn a thing or two from their own people. I’m glad to see that they took part in this project despite their leaders’ attitude. The people saw that the need was bigger than the leaders’ issues. The people did not feel safe, they saw the danger every day. It didn’t matter to them that their leaders and the construction supervisors didn’t get along. They saw the need, and they wanted to do something about it. And they did.

Sometimes I got to swallow my pride and my way of thinking and just get down to business, get up from my high horse and get down to work. And yes some things might not get done my way, but who says that my way is the only way?

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do it all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT

Mondays with Nehemiah

Nehemiah’s Faith
We have seen Nehemiah moved by bad news from Judah. We have seen Nehemiah break down and mourn for his people. We have seen him fasting and praying.
In chapter 2 we see the results of his time of preparation. We see that for four months he has been not only fasting and praying, but also planning to do something about the dire situation in Jerusalem. We see that a plan had formed and that he had done some research as well.
Nehemiah “appeared sad” in King Artaxertes’ presence. Whether he was just exhausted from all that had been going on in his mind, or whether he just slipped in front of the King, either way, the King noticed that his servant was sad and asked about the reason. Verse 2 states that Nehemiah was terrified. It was very dangerous for a servant to show any emotions in front of the King. But since it had happened, Nehemiah had to answer the King. Once the King heard of the problem, he asked ,“Well, how can I help you?” (Nehemiah 2:4)
“With a prayer to the God of heaven” (verse 4) Nehemiah replied and brought his request before the King. He showed enormous courage, and once his initial request was granted, Nehemiah got even bolder and added some more requests. He probably thought, “Well, I’ve got his favor already, I might as well ask for the rest!” This shows even more courage. He received what he had asked for: letters from the King to the governors of the territories that Nehemiah would have to pass through on his way to Jerusalem; a letter to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest with a permission for timber. And then we see that the King gave him even more than he asked: he also got army officers and horsemen for his protection on his journey. He must have looked very official when he arrived in Jerusalem with all the permission letters and an army escort.
In verse 8 Nehemiah doesn’t take credit for his cleverness and courage to have received this much from the King. No, he gives credit to God. “And the king granted those requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.” “Nehemiah had position, power, and many good organizational skills, but he acknowledged that God’s gracious hand was upon him. He knew that without God’s strength, his efforts would be in vain.” (f)
I love to organize events. And I am good at it. But I’ve got to learn a lot from Nehemiah. He spent 4 months in fasting and prayer and did his research. He had 4 months of preparation before he took the first step. Once the opportunity was there, he was ready with an answer. And yes, even there, he first sent a prayer, before he answered the King. “This short prayer – whatever its unvoiced words – was built on his praying for four months.” (a) (emphasis mine)
When I think about the Women’s Bible studies that we’ve been organizing, we pray as a team and individually for women to come and sign up. We especially would like to see more women from our own church come and participate in these studies. Often I get discouraged by the disinterest and the comments I hear. And yes, sometimes I even get ridiculed for my passion to see women in the Word of God.
I wonder if Nehemiah knew what he got himself into. Or better said, what God got him into. I wonder if Nehemiah knew the opposition he would have to face. In chapter 2 we see opposition from outside. But later on we will see also some opposition from inside the ranks ofhis people.
When I look at Nehemiah and his leadership skills, I can see that he had the faith to wait and pray. He had the faith to speak up and answer the King truthfully, and then of course, ask the King for the favors he needed. But we also see Nehemiah’s faith when he engages the people of Israel in his plan. “A wise leader knows when to plan, when to speak, and when to work… Leaders must not live in a dream world. They must face facts honestly and accept the bad news as well as the good news. Nehemiah saw more at night than the residents saw in the daylight, for he saw the potential as well as the problems.” (e)
Does opposition scare me? Do I give in to the comments and ridicule I receive? Do I give in when things are just not working out and it seems pointless to continue? Am I afraid of what people might think? Am I certain of my calling, and am I faithful to what God has called me to do? These are all questions I have been asking myself when reading through Nehemiah, chapter 2.
The one main thing from this chapter that I want to remember is this: Everything I want to do has to start with a time of prayer (and fasting, yes, that too!) and a time of preparation.
“When you wait on the Lord in prayer, you are not wasting your time; you are investing it. God preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished. However, when the right time arrives for us to act by faith, we dare not delay.” (e)
Have a great week everyone!
(a) Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck
(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

(f) Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation

Mondays with Nehemiah

Nehemiah’s Prayer

Last week we looked at Nehemiah’s first response: he prayed. Today we’ll take a look at the prayer itself. Here is what Nehemiah prayed:

5 Then I said,
“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9 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.’
10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.

I like Warren W. Wierbe’s explanation of Nehemiah’s prayer the best. Most of what I’m writing here today, I’ve studied in Wiersbe’s book “Be Determined”.

This prayer of Nehemiah is one of 12 recorded prayers in the book of Nehemiah. For Nehemiah to default into prayer when facing a challenge it is very obvious that he was a man of faith. He knew the Scriptures that were available to the Jewish people at that time.
There are three points in Nehemiah’s prayer:

        The acknowledgement of God’s greatness

        Confession of Israel’s sins

        The request for God’s help

Nehemiah starts his prayer by addressing the “God of heaven” as God was known to the people at that time. King Cyrus used this title for God as recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-2. “Nehemiah began his prayer as we should begin our prayers: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” (Matthew 6:9) (e)

 5 Then I said,

“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands…”
Nehemiah starts with praise and worship. He acknowledges that his “God of heaven” is “the great and awesome God…” He knows that the challenge he is facing will require a “great and awesome God” to get him through this challenge, his God will help him to face the King, and also help him succeed with the plan that was shaping up in his mind.
But Nehemiah also confesses the sins of his people. And he includes himself and his family in this confession.

 “I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.” Nehemiah 1:6b-7

 Nehemiah knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament! He knew that God was a loving and forgiving God. And if his people would confess their sins, God would return them to their land “and restore them to His favor and blessing.” (e)

 When Nehemiah begins his prayer, he knows that he prays to the God of heaven and earth, to the LORD, JAHWEH, the God who keeps his covenant with his people. There is a certain confidence in Nehemiah’s words, that he knows who he is praying to.

 He ends his prayer with a plea for help. He does know that his God is able to help him. And so he brings his specific request for help before God.

11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”

Nehemiah was confident that God would soften the heart of King Artaxerxes and grant him the practical help he and his fellow men needed to complete the project in Jerusalem. “Too often, we plan our projects and then ask God to bless them, but Nehemiah didn’t make that mistake. He sat down and wept (Nehemiah 1:4), knelt down and prayed, and then stood up and worked because he knew he had the blessing of the Lord on what he was doing.” (e)

What do I learn from Nehemiah’s prayer? I would like to include these three components in my prayer as well:

        Acknowledge who my God is (great, awesome, all-powerful, faithful, loving, forgiving)
        Confess my sins
        Bring my specific request for help before God and then
        Go and do the work.

 I’ve just come home from the Winnipeg Film Festival that was running this past week. I’m overwhelmed with the way God has answered my prayers and the prayers of so many others who were involved in organizing this event. I have to say that I’ve never worked on a project or event before that was covered with so much prayer. We prayed at all times of the day and for all things that were happening. It’s been an amazing week of movies, documentaries and discussions. It was incredibly hard at times, but because we knew we were doing the right thing, we got strength and energy day after day.

 I have the privilege to serve an awesome God, who hears my confession and forgives me. And when I ask for His help when doing His work, He does what He does best: He comes through every time and overwhelms me with His response.

Today I give all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ever dare to ask or hope. (see Ephesians 3:20)

 Have a blessed Monday everyone!

 

(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”