Nehemiah, ch 1:1-9 The book of Nehemiah is full of lessons that are very relevant to revival, renewal, and restoration both personal and corporate. The principles we learn in from this great man of God, can be applied by a teenager in school, or a housewife, or a businessman a youth or senior pastor. It is a story of a man and his God or perhaps if you prefer, of God and His man. It is the story of man accomplishing amazing things through the power of God working within Him. Building on this example we can confidently expect to see genuine revival, renewal and restoration, in our own life, in the church, and in our communities. The book opens with with Hanani, visiting his brother Nehemiah in Susa, the capital of Babylon . Hanani reports to Nehemiah that” Those who survived the exile, and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and it’s gates have been burned with fire.” This is not a good report and Nehemiah takes it hard. “When I heard these things I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned, fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Jerusalem is in big trouble. Without walls or gates, it is incapable of defending itself against an attack or even of maintaining justice and order. Thieves , rapists, murderers could all operate with a great deal of impunity because of the lack of wall and gates. Jerusalem is in great disgrace. Her enemies, and she had many, as we will soon read about, held the city and the Israelites in open contempt. They were considered pitiful, disorganized, and incapable of any serious action at all. In many ways the church and many believers are in much the same circumstance as Jerusalem. It has been generations since we have seen a true revival. The church is divided up into many many rather insular denominations. The worldly powers wield the lions share of economic and social influence. Individual Christians are being burned by the temptations of the world. Pornography and vanity and materialism, lust upon lust, have burnt many peoples spiritual gates to such a degree that demons wander in and out of them at will. There does even remain an awareness of how great their sin is. The great walls of Godly standards and morals are crumbling under the assault of an rebellious and anti God culture. Children are turning away from the Lord and from the church, marriages are going under like dominoes. And yet, like in Jerusalem, there is a remnant who are faithful and holding on. Beleagered oh yes. Ridiculed definitely. But beloved of God and faithful. Nehemiah’s story is the story of how God met their needs in a time of crisis and an example of how God will meet our great needs today.
Nehemiah’s response is a model for us to follow. He did not rant and judge and condemn the remnant in Jerusalem. He didn’t pray for them. He prayed for himself and them. He sat down and wept and mourned and fasted for many days. His prayer recorded in Nehemiah 1:5-11 is anexample of pure and powerful intercession. The prayer opens with a reminder of the goodness, faithfulness and greatness of God. The bible says that they who know their God shall do exploits. Nehemiah knew his God in all His glory . He asks God to hear his prayer. Nehemiah is humble before God. He then goes on to identify himself with the people of God in their sin. He considers himself one with them. He prays vs 6 I confess the sins we Israelites ,including myself, and my fathers house have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly against you. We have not obeyed your commands , decrees and and laws you gave your servant Moses. Six times he confesses sin against God using the personal pronouns, I, we, my or myself. Furthermore he clearly confesses the severity of that sin.. We have acted very wickedly. There is no excuse, no minimizing. And finally he makes his confession very clear and specific that they have disobeyed God’s commands, decrees and laws.
Every revival, great and small begins with a full admission of the disgrace and difficulty that a person, an organization or a country has brought upon himself/themself by their sin and disobedience. Effective confession accepts responsibility fully, realizes and declares the severity and extent of the sin, confesses the sins in specific detail, and goes on to repent whole heartedly without reservation. This is the confession that God endorses and responds to and His response is immediate, gracious, generous, and merciful. In 1 John 1:9 we read ” if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Nehemiah understood that for him to be confident of God’s support in his endeavors on behalf of Jerusalem that first of all they needed to be fully forgiven and utterly cleansed from their unrighteousness. Nehemiah understood the governance of God, and the order that things need to be done in for one to be effective with God.. First, he prepared by weeping, mourning and fasting . Then he prayed, presented himself before God with this prayer of confession and repentence. Then he reminds God of His promise in vs 8,9. ” Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me, and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as dwelling for my name.” Preparation, prayer, promise . This is the order of revival.
The great revivalists were all men and women of spiritual preparation. They spent hours each day in devotion, mourning fasting and waiting on God. They were all men and women of intercession standing in the Gap for both the church and the lost. And they were all men and women of faith who were confident that God could be held to His promises. If we will follow Nehemiah’s pattern, as they did, we too will see God being faithful to all his promises to our generation.
Nehemiah A Man with A Plan
In previous chapter on Nehemiah, we looked at how he prepared himself spiritually, how prayed, interceding for the remnant in Jerusalem and confessing with them their sin before God. And we looked at how he looked to God to be faithful to His promise of restoration when Israel confessed and repented. Today we will look at Nehemiah the man with a plan. In ch 1: 11 we read how his prayer concludes..
O Lord , let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” Before we look at the question of ” this man” lets notice that Nehemiah also refers to other people praying, which he describes as ” the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.” I speculate , I think quite safely, that this refers to numerous Israelites in Susa who Nehemiah has asked to pray along with him, much in the same way as Ester asked God’s people to join her in prayer before she went in before the King. Everything in Nehemiah’s plan hinged upon the resp0nse of ” this man” and this man’s favor would be a direct answer to prayer.
Nehemiah goes on to explain. who ” this man” was. . “I was cupbearer to the king.” This man is no other than King Artexerxes the ruler of the Medo/Persion empire, of which Judea was a mere province. Of course there is immense providence in the circumstance that Nehemiah is his cupbearer and had therefore direct access to him. A cupbearer, chose and tasted the wine that the king himself would drink both to assure its quality and its freedom from poisen. To have such a position can only mean that Nehemiah was trusted absolutely by king Artexerxes. How would Nehemiah, an exile from a foreign land and race rise to such a position. We can only assume that on the one hand he must have been a man of excellent character, and of a gracious and noble disposition, and on the other hand he must have had a great deal of favor with the Lord. I would also like to suggest that Nehemiah served the King out of love. Like king David with the king of Gath or Daniel with Nebuchadnezzer Nehemiah was someone whom Artaxerxes enjoyed and trusted. Others served the king out of fear, or ambition, but Nehemiah had a genuine affection for him . Like queen Ester, the Lord raised him up and placed him in such a position for ” such a time as this”. Here we see God and His man. God who forknew, the needs of His people, made preparation for them by enabling His servant Nehemiah to obtain this influential position with the king, so that, in the fullness of time, Nehemiah, would be able to obtain the Kings support for the Lord’s work.
This is such an important lesson, which we must not miss or undervalue. The relationship between Nehemiah and Artaxerxes was God given and key to the restoration of Jerusalem. We could make the case that Jerusalem was restored by the love Nehemiah showed to Artaxerxes. And Artaxerxes was probably not all that easy to love. He was an oriental despot who could do anything he wanted. He could kill any man, take any woman, have anything he wanted. And yet he was still a man with the need to be loved, not for what he could give, or the power he had but simply for himself and Nehemiah alone, of all his servants had the grace through God to love him in this manner. This is our greatest asset as Gods people. We can love in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can raise above fear, and ambition, and personal resentments and racism, and love for Jesus sake. And who knows what future revival may hinge upon the love we show to the people in our lives. Think of the possile relationships, a student with his teacher and principal, a worker with his boss, with his banker.. Lord give us grace to love all people, everywhere, all the time.