Last Sunday, Jason Sudan, one of our pastors, spoke on the theme “Love Prays”. He briefly mentioned Nehemiah of the Old Testament, and how Nehemiah was moved with compassion for God’s holy city of Jerusalem after hearing how the Jews were faring in Jerusalem (of Judah) after returning from exile.
I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah lately, even prior to this past Sunday’s talk. What strikes me the most about him is just how faithful he was. Jason called him a “praying man.” This is true from the very beginning of his story. Nehemiah weeps over the fact that the Jews are living in a fallen city filled with destruction, and he turns to God in response:
“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, 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! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 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.’
“The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 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.”
After this (sort of) heavy introduction to Nehemiah, we learn that he is a cupbearer, which is someone who would serve wine in a royal household. It was an esteemed and honorable position only given to those with trustworthy character. It then makes sense why Nehemiah would be asking God for favor with the king, of all people. Why Nehemiah needs favor exactly, we don’t know yet.
As the book continues, we are taken into Nehemiah’s mission of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, (the reason he needs favor with the king). There are many difficult hurdles along the way, and it is not an easy feat by any means - although it was accomplished in an astonishing 52 days.
But notice how, from the beginning, Nehemiah never prayed, “God, would YOU rebuild this city, and would YOU bring into fullness what you promised”. Rather, Nehemiah realizes the burden in his heart and takes action. He prays to God for help along the way, but never demands some miraculous event to take place while he just sits back and watches.
I think it’s important to realize how great a deal of courageous and risky work Nehemiah had to put in to accomplish this feat. Some of you may read this and think, “Should I be doing what Nehemiah did in some fashion?” I think the answer boils down to the fact that God’s servants do not have the same gifts, the same tasks, the same success, or the same degree of divine intervention. It is partly a matter of where we fit into God’s unfolding redemptive purposes. Let God be God, and let’s just be faithful with what’s been placed on our hearts. Nehemiah accomplished such an incredible feat in so short a time because it's what the Lord had called him to - he was operating within the purposes God had for his life.
God can operate in the so-called “natural” course of events. Putting aside the idea that God only encompasses the spectacular or miraculous and who shows up only through signs and wonders, we plainly see in Nehemiah a man who was faithful through prayer and action. Equally important, we see a loving and faithful God who was beside him through the grueling process. Like Nehemiah, when we are faithful in prayer and action to what God has placed on our hearts, we will see God's love and faithfulness as we see his purposes lived out in our lives.
About the Author: Jaret is originally from Sugar Land, TX, but moved to Ann Arbor with his wife after graduating from Texas A&M to be an engineer for Toyota. They now live in Ypsilanti and have a puppy for a child. Jaret loves community and making friends, and can’t get enough of these Michigan summers!