Weeping Over Jerusalem
– Nehemiah One –
Nehemiah felt despair over the condition of Jerusalem. The book of Nehemiah is a part of the story of the Jews return to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon. This return involved rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, rebuilding the Temple and restoring the true worship of the Almighty God. Ezra, the priest, led a return to Israel to restored worship in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah, who was a contemporary of Ezra, led another return. He was a cupbearer to king Artaxerxes. He returned to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Nehemiah did more than just rebuild the wall he helped restore the people from despair to a new walk with God. The rebuilding of the city and the Temple was very important because it was in Jerusalem and at the Temple that God promised to meet with the people of Israel.
Jerusalem was in ruin but with the help of God, good leadership and a willingness to work the wall, the city and the Temple were rebuilt. The book of Nehemiah is the story of a new beginning. It helps us see that lives can be rescued from ruin. In the book of Nehemiah we see the value to depending upon the power and blessing of God instead of human wisdom. Without God’s part this process of rebuilding could never have taken place. The book of Nehemiah teaches us that with God's help we can change ourselves and the world around us. At this time the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates had been burned with fire. It was time to rebuild. In order to accomplish this great task of rebuilding Nehemiah prayed. As he prayed (1) He focused on the character of God, (2) He repented of personal sins, (3) He remembered God's precious promises, and (4) He asked for help to begin this great work.
Sad words concerning Jerusalem -- Nehemiah 1:1-4: Nehemiah is identified as the son of Hachaliah. He served in Shushan, the palace of the king of Persia. This is where Esther had lived and served as queen. (Esther 1:2) This great book teaches us that (1) God really cares about His people, (2) He desires to see His work accomplished, and (3) He wants His people to be faithful and prosper. The story of the Book of Nehemiah is that Nehemiah is allowed to lead a group of people to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall and help restore the city. Hanani, one of Nehemiah's brothers and some other men came to visit Nehemiah. (Nehemiah 7:2) He asked them concerning the conditions in Jerusalem and the welfare of the Jews that were there.
Nehemiah found out that the city was still in disarray, the walls were broken down and the people were facing great difficulties. It had been about 90 years sense the first group returned and still the conditions are this horrible. These problems deeply grieved Nehemiah. The people had returned to rebuild and restore the nation but the goal had not been accomplished. Nehemiah's reaction to the sad word that he heard was, "When I heard this, I sat down and cried. Then for several days, I mourned; I went without eating to show my sorrow, and I prayed." The report that he had received was very disheartening to Nehemiah.
Nehemiah's prayer to God Nehemiah 1:5-7: Nehemiah knew that the first thing that needed to be done was to seek God's help so he prayed diligently. His desire was to please the Almighty. Nehemiah began his prayer by exalting God and His greatness. He said, "Lord God of heaven, you are great and fearsome. And you faithfully keep your promises to everyone who loves you and obeys your commands." Nehemiah honored and praised God for His greatness, power and faithfulness. God keeps His covenant. He shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commands. Jehovah has made great promise to man and He keeps those promises. If the covenant between man and God is broken you can be sure that it was broken by man and not by God. God is a God of mercy. God's nature gives us reason to believe, hope and pray.
The prayer of Nehemiah involved a confession of sin. He confessed his personal sins and the sins of the people. He prayed, "I am your servant, so please have mercy on me and answer the prayer that I make day and night for these people of Israel who serve you. I, my family, and the rest of your people have sinned by choosing to disobey you and the laws and teachings you gave to your servant Moses." Nehemiah begged for God to hear and answer these prayers that he brought before Him day and night.
Remembering God's promise -- Nehemiah 1:8-9: Nehemiah's prayer recalled the promise that God had made to Moses. "Please remember the promise you made to Moses. You told him that if we were unfaithful, you would scatter us among foreign nations. But you also said that no matter how far away we were, we could turn to you and start obeying your laws. Then you would bring us back to the place where you have chosen to be worshiped." This promise is found in several places. Deuteronomy 4:25-31 is an example. Because of evil they would “utterly perish from off the land.” They would be “scattered among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen.” But in the latter days if they would seek the Lord and turn to Him He would, by His mercy restore them to a right relationship with god and to their home land. God had kept His word in this matter. Nehemiah was now asking God to keep the second part of His promise to bring the people home when they repented and bless them again in the land. God has always been willing to forgive sinful people upon the condition of repentance and humble obedience.
A request for mercy -- Nehemiah 1:10-11: Nehemiah was the king's cupbearer. He prayed that he could find mercy from the king to journey to Jerusalem to help to rebuild and restore the wall. He also asked God for help. He saw a great work that needed to be done but he did not proceed until he asked God for help. This request was made on the part of God's people, His servants. These were people that God had "redeemed by His great power and by His strong hand. Nehemiah asked God to answer his prayer and the prayer of other servants of God. These were people who would gladly honor God's name. Nehemiah asked God to help with the request that he would make to the king. He said, "When I serve the king his wine today, make him pleased with me and have him do what I ask." He truly wanted God to bless and prosper him in his request of the king. We will see the request as we continue our study in other chapters of Nehemiah. Nehemiah wanted the king to allow him to go to Jerusalem to help the Jews deal with the problems he had heard about. With God's help this great mission could be accomplished. Our strength and success come from God's blessing in our life.
Will you accept God's wonderful good news that Jesus died for your sins? Will you be baptized into Christ to put on Christ so that your sins can be forgiven by His blood? "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27) Believers contact Christ's saving blood by being baptized into His death. Those that become children of God have reason to rejoice. (Acts 8:39) Following man's response to God's good news man can worship and serve God in spirit and in truth.