June 7. Nehemiah 1
Nehemiah is one of my very favorite Bible characters. He was an amazing prayer warrior. He was an excellent planner and leader. He kept going in the face of opposition and impossibilities. Our podcast this fall is going to include a study of the whole book of Nehemiah. It’s full of practical help for the ordering of our own lives. Today, though, we just barely get introduced to this man of God. Nehemiah is an exile living far from Israel. His job is cupbearer for the king. It was an intimate relationship. Every time the king took a drink – Nehemiah had a sip of it first. If Nehemiah did not die from the drink due to poisoning, then it was deemed safe for the king. So, Nehemiah lived very sacrificially!
Nehemiah was also a man who felt deeply. Did you notice his response to the report that Jerusalem was in ruins even after some of the exiles had returned? He wept. He fasted. He mourned and prayed. And not just once. He did this, the Bible tells us, for days! His love for his home city and the honor of God was that strong and potent. I am so glad he let us in on his prayer to God during this time! He starts with praise. He asks that God notice him. He humbly confesses the great sins of his people and counts himself among them despite the fact that he was probably one of the “good guys” in keeping the commandments. But we all fall short, don’t we? I think Nehemiah was fully aware of that, and so confessed with his people in his prayer.
Nehemiah also gets very specific in his prayer. He had a plan, but he needed the king to do a crazy thing: release Nehemiah from his job and let him go off to rebuild a wall in Jerusalem. If you peek ahead to Chapter 2, you’ll see Nehemiah even asked for the wood necessary to rebuild and a house to live in while he was there. This was not a small request!! Oh, to have the boldness of a Nehemiah and ask BIG! Nehemiah asked that God put kindness into the heart of a pagan king. Wow. I also need to pray for that when I pray for our own leaders today. Lord, help us to pray like Nehemiah!
My verse: Nehemiah 1:11 “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 in his heart to be kind to me! In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.”
My response: First he praises You Lord, then he confesses his and his people’s unworthiness. I love his whole conversational prayer! And then, at the end, comes the request. Soften a heart. You, Lord God, can soften the heart of a KING! And in answer to Nehemiah’s fervent prayer … You did. All glory to You!