Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 1-3
Today’s Reflection: Nehemiah 1:2(b)-4
2(b) 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.
When Nehemiah heard the tragic report of how his brothers in Jerusalem and the city itself were faring, he was moved to devote tearful days in prayer before God. Jerusalem was not just any city to the children of Israel. It was where God had chosen to make His first earthly dwelling place in the temple Solomon had built, a place God declared He had put His own name making it a place His eyes and heart would be for all time (1 Kings 9:3). Nehemiah poured out his heart to God in fasting and prayer, and God heard and answered his plea.
Nehemiah’s sorrow was not a matter of personal or national pride, but of despair over how far his people had fallen from the covenant relationship they once had with their God. His response, his fasting and his prayer set an example for us all. When we see the fallen state of man, God’s image defiled by sin, it should not be something we shrug our shoulders at and pass by without a thought. Nor should we dismissively condemn the people we see engaging in this behaviour. It should affect us deeply, with great sadness and with a great desire to see man set right with God. It should leave us broken, and knowing that only God can make us and the circumstances around us whole.
Sometimes we remain unbroken because we’re afraid to care too much about people and situations that may not change. Sometimes we remain unbroken because we’re too concerned about our own happiness and comfort. Consider that if Jesus had the same attitude, He never would have given His life to save us. Jesus died the death that was ours so we could have life that was His, life devoted to reuniting mankind with God for eternity. If we don’t feel this desire and don’t feel committed to God’s mission we need to re-examine our priorities and desires where God’s call on our lives is concerned.
A Bonus Point: The writing for May 26 gave four steps to Praying with Power: 1) Recognize God, 2) Remember God, 3) Respect God and 4) Rely on God. This text gives a fifth: Repent before God. In Nehemiah’s prayer (Nehemiah 1:5-11) he follows each of these steps, but spends most time on repentance. Nehemiah recognizes Israel’s fallen state is the fault of their own disobedience and confesses for his own sins and those of his family. He also claims the promises God has made to restore the disobedient if they would only return to Him. We should also recognize that repentance is essential to praying with power because sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The combination of honest repentance and God’s forgiveness and cleansing from sin remove this barrier and bring us back into harmony with Him (1 John 1:9).