The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer. (Nehemiah 1)
Having The Heart Of Nehemiah
The grandeur and majesty of Jerusalem had long faded into the distant memories of the few who remembered her golden days. Sprinkled among the burnt ruins and rumble of a once proud city, old men stumble along the forgotten streets of the city of God as they suffer the daily task of finding food and shelter. Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon have been laid waste many years before. The once powerful walls that repelled armies are broken down and crumbling timbers scared by fire is all that is left of the mighty gates put in place by the David and Solomon. Under the leadership of Jeshua, Zerubbabel, and Ezra the temple of the Lord had been rebuilt but paled in comparison to its original form. Jerusalem was a city still suffering from the distress and reproach of the many years of neglect. Far away in a land where the remnants of God’s people have dwelled for seven decades a heart is hearing the news of the devastated city. The powerful nation of Babylon is gone and in its place a more benevolent empire of Persians rules the world. Through the grace of God, Cyrus the Persian king allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and the Temple was rebuilt. But the walls of the city were in ruin and the gates nothing more than piles of burned rubble.
It does not seem probable that Nehemiah had visited Jerusalem in his life being born in the captive land and now serving the Persian king as a cupbearer. The son of Hachaliah writes in the month of Chislev in the twentieth year he inquired of the condition of the city of God from one of his brethren, Hanani. The news was not good. Distress filled the hearts of those who remained in Judah and the city was still in shambles. Hanani explained how desperate the news of the people of God was and this greatly disturbed Nehemiah. He sat down and cried. For many days he could not get the news of his brethren in Jerusalem out of his mind and his heart was broken to know of their plight. He fasted and prayed before the Lord begging for mercy upon the people. The prayer of Nehemiah is a contrite plea of repentance and godly sorrow for the sins of the people including himself and his father’s house. Nehemiah pleaded the promises of the Lord reminding God of the covenant made through Moses for the kindness of grace to be given to Israel once again. It is one of the most powerful prayers in holy writ.
The heart of Nehemiah is remarkable for many reasons. Jerusalem was a city destroyed long before Nehemiah was born. He would never have seen the glory of Solomon’s temple or the grandeur of the once noble city of David. All he would had known of Jerusalem would come from his father telling the stories handed down to him through the generations of patriarchs. He would have heard of the Hebrews in Egypt and God’s mighty deliverance through the Red Sea. The wilderness journeys and conquest of Canaan filled the mind of Nehemiah with the might and power of a benevolent God. Hearing how Joshua led the people to conquer the land and for a period ruled over by judges. Then came Saul, David and the golden era of Jerusalem under the hand of Solomon. Nehemiah learned of the civil war that divided the nation as the tribes of Israel separated from the tribes of Judah. He would have learned of the destruction of Jerusalem and the conquest by the Babylonians as they carried away the remnant according to the word of Jehovah. Ezekiel was a prophet among the captives and Nehemiah would have been riveted by his terse message.
The heart of Nehemiah was completely devoted to a city he had never seen or visited but he knew it better than any man. What filled the heart of Nehemiah was his immense love and devotion to the cause of his Lord. Jehovah was the one that sustained the heart of Nehemiah and it pained him greatly to hear of the distress in Jerusalem. At the time he was not in a position to effect any change but he knew he could pray to the Lord and ask forgiveness and blessings for himself and the people. He poured out his heart in great sorrow pleading for the abundant mercy of God to find a way to bless the people. Hearing the news of Jerusalem caused Hachaliah’s son to sit down and weep and mourn for many days. He fasted and prayed for the city of Jerusalem. It would be three or four months before his opportunity came to speak to the king and seek permission to go to Jerusalem. The king agreed to send Nehemiah to Jerusalem to rebuild it and after arriving the cupbearer of the Persian king completed the walls in fifty-two days. All of this began because Nehemiah cared about the work of the Lord. His heart was filled with the love for the cause of Jehovah. It disturbed him greatly when he first heard the news and through the providence of God he led the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. He had a heart devoted to the Lord.
The heart of Nehemiah is message for the people of God today. Jesus Christ died so that all men could find salvation in His blood. He died and suffered on the cross bringing hope to a world filled with darkness. The church is the kingdom of His Father so that His message could be spread to all corners of the earth. Each first day of the week saints gather to worship, praise, and honor and remember the grace of God. The Bible is a complete book of books outlining the mind of God written in every language known to man. It is available in more forms than ever imagined by man. There is more ease and opportunity to read the Bible, spend time in prayer and share the gospel with neighbors. Transportation is comfortable, warm and cool and convenient. Places of worship have all the modern tools of technology to show the word of God in color with pews padded with comfort and conveniences few have ever experienced. What is missing among the people of God is the heart of Nehemiah. Assembling with the saints is an optional matter of convenience if there is not a conflict. There are no qualms in missing times with brethren for ballgames, work, recreation or visiting company. The modern spirit of devotion to God is from a heart that would never dream of weeping about the condition of God’s people. Fellowship among brethren is rare. Homes are seldom visited by others. Speaking to a friend or neighbor about the gospel is a scarcity among the saved. Churches are dying in many places. And no one is weeping.
Nehemiah was a man of God who wept because of the condition of a city he had never seen. The heart of Nehemiah was filled with the word of God. He asked for God to forgive him and his father for the rebellion of their hearts. His heart took him to Jerusalem and his heart accomplished the incredible task of rebuilding the vast walls of Jerusalem in fifty-two days. Imagine what the church could accomplish today if we possessed the heart of Nehemiah and rolled up our sleeves to rebuild the broken walls of our own neglect in building the walls of the Kingdom of God in our community. Let us begin with a mournful heart and then through fasting and prayer beg God’s forgiveness. Seek from the Lord the opportunity to go teach the gospel and He will make a way. He did for a simple cupbearer and look what he did.