Introduction

The book of Nehemiah talks about how he led the 3rd group of Jewish exiles to return to the land of Israel. Nehemiah return with them as he wanted to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem. For he had heard that the city gates are burnt and the walls are still broken

The Book Of Nehemiah also talks about the result of his work .

“So the wall was finished on the
twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two
days. And it happened, when all our
enemies heard of it, and all the nations
around us saw these things, that they
were very disheartened in their own
eyes; for they perceived that this work
was done by our God.” – Nehemiah (Neh 6:15-16)

With the help of God, the Jewish exiles were able to rebuild the city wall in 52 Days and it is by no means an easy feat. Nehemiah had to overcome many difficulties and opposition. Rebuild the wall seems like an impossible task in the eyes of man.

When the enemies saw the completed city wall, they were amazed and afraid. For they can see the hand of God working and helping the Jews. These enemies had been mocking the Jews and hindering their work. Now when they see the wall completed they could see the presence of God with them. Now they are fearful of how God will judge them for their persecution and mockery

Nehemiah is not a prophet or a priest, he is an ordinary Jew living in the kingdom of Persia. Yet he had a heart to serve comparable to the priest and the prophets in his days. Most importantly he had the heart to work for God. He did not just give moral support to the Jews, he used his actions to support them.

Even though building the wall seem to be an impossible task, Nehemiah was able to finish the work. He was able to do it because he knew that it is God’s will that the wall of Jerusalem must be completed. He knew that God will help him no matter how difficult it would be.

There are a few factors which contribute to the success of Nehemiah. These are things we ought to consider, especially today as we are trying hard to rebuild the church and revive the faith of Christians.

1st Factor: Nehemiah realised his commission and he prayed to God for help.

“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.”- Nehemiah (Neh 1:1-2)

Nehemiah was living in Shushan (closed to border to Iran and Iraq) but his heart is in Jerusalem. He had to stay in the palace because he was the cupbearer of the King. He is a Jew of higher status, living a higher quality of life compared to his brethren.

Yet he had not forgotten Jerusalem or his brethren in captivity. Here we can see him asking about the people in Jerusalem. This is something that renew his faith often.

For we often to ask about shares, sports results and places to have fun but we would seldom ask about the house of the Lord. It appears as if we are not concerned and have nothing to do with it.

But a Christian ought to be concern for the house of God for we are part of Gods household. As Paul once said

“For through Him we both have access by one
Spirit to the Father.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers
and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the
saints and members of the household of God, “- Paul (Eph 2:18-19)

Paul reminded us that we have access to the father through the Holy Spirit. We have access to God whenever we gather together for worship in the church.  Even though we may have our fair share of woes and trouble in our worldly life. But the Holy Spirit moves us to come to church and worship God.

Being members of the house of God, we ought to help each other. But it seems that some in the church of  Ephesus were behaving like strangers and foreigners in the house. But if we are members of this household of God, we must be concern for the wellbeing of our brethren we need to find out areas where we can contribute and help.

We need to learn from Nehemiah who asked about his brethren living in Jerusalem.

The Prayer of Nehemiah

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.”- Nehemiah (Neh 1:1-2)

Here it tells us that when Nehemiah heard about the condition of Jerusalem. He sat down and wept for many days. He fasted and prayed before the Lord. For Nehemiah did not ask for the sake of asking, he was genuinely concern about the house of God. He was moved to tears and he cried when he heard the news.

On the surface, it appears as if Nehemiah had the best of life in Shushan. Even though he is physically far from the house of God, but his heart is closed to it. He had a true concern for it and he knew that there is something he could do.

That is why he choose to leave Shushan and return to Jerusalem. This can be seen in his prayers.

“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.” – Nehemiah (Neh 1:5-7)

We often ask ourselves how we could revive the house of the Lord and how could we rebuild the walls of our Jerusalem. Sometimes we feel helpless and we feel that there is nothing we could do about it.

But in fact the first and the most important step is to pray for Jerusalem. That is what Nehemiah did , he prayed for Jerusalem, he did not complain about the sins of the others, he included himself among them. For He said “Both my father’s house and I” . He recognised their sin and repent from it. He asked God to forgive their sins first, and he asked God to keep the promise he had given to his people.

For God once spoken through Moses

“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.” – Moses (Deut 30:2-5)

As Nehemiah prayed, he remains hopeful, even though the situation before them is not good, but the promises of God will stand. As long as they repent and return to God, God will fulfil his promise and bring them back.

It is important to have hope when we pray and that hope comes from our faith. For we believe in Gods promise that he will gather them back. From there they are comforted and strengthen.

If we only focus on our difficulties, failures and problems, then doubt will eventually overcome us. It will make us question God why he allowed these to happen. On the worst scenario it will make us think that God had abandoned us and rejected us.

But if we focus on the promises of God, we will continue to have hope, we will wait and we know that God will one day fulfil his promises. Nehemiah realised his commission and he knew how to pray. That allowed him to preserve his faith.

Having Prayers With Objective

There is one more point we can learn from the prayers of Nehemiah

“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.”- Nehemiah (Neh 1:11)

Nehemiah is clear about what he wants from the Lord. He wanted God to grant what he desire and he is open about the help he need from God. What is his objective? What did he desire? Who is “this man”?

He wanted God to help him prosper and to receive compassion from the King. He gave his reasons in chapter 2. Besides praying for forgiveness, Nehemiah had a plan he wanted to do and he wanted the King to grant him permission to do so. He needed the King to agree so that he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.

He had also considered the other difficulties he will face, and how it can be resolved. Some of these requires the help of the King. Even though he is sure of what he wants, but one cannot just walk up to the king and ask him for a favour

That is why he needed God to help him so that his plan would be successful. If the King does not grant Nehemiah the permission, nothing could be done. Therefore Nehemiah did not pray without an objective, he is clear of what he wanted.

It is important for one to tell his request clearly before the Lord. For that will require him to put his thoughts into it and filter his request. He will know those request which are incorrect or not according to the will of God. For such prayer requires us to learn to give up our desires and to fulfil the will of God.

Sometimes when we pray, we speak at our whims and fancies and we do not tell God what we really want. But the prayer of Nehemiah is one with a clear objective. It is also the reason why Nehemiah introduced himself at the end of Verse 11

“For I was the king’s cupbearer.”

Nehemiah did that deliberately to remind himself that he is in the best position to speak to the King. For they needed the King’s help to rebuild the wall,and that is a politically sensitive request. For it will appear as if they wanted to rebel against the King and declare independence from the Persian empire. This would also give his opponents an opportunity to accuse the Jews of rebellion against the King.

Nehemiah needed the Kings approval to do it, and he knew he had the chance to draw near to the King, for he was his cupbearer. That was his opportunity to serve the Lord. Therefore he must take up responsibly and he knew that God placed him in this location to serve him.

Likewise today we need to be like Nehemiah to realise our commission as Christians before God. For we have received much blessing from God and we are blessed with many talents. We need to use this to build up the house of God and not waste them in self indulgence. We need to use the grace of God in the right manner.

2nd Factor: Nehemiah saw the opportunity and seized it. 

“And it came to pass in the month of Nisan,
in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
when wine was before him, that I took the
wine and gave it to the king. Now I had
never been sad in his presence before.” – Nehemiah (Neh 2:1)

Nehemiah understood his commission and he was sad about the condition of Jerusalem. But he was not reckless and impulsive. For as he started praying , he started to plan as well. He waited patiently for the chance to meet the King and he waited for many months.

It was Chislev in chapter 1 and now it is Nissan in Chapter 2. Four month had pasted that was when opportunity came knocking.  For the King saw his sadness and he asked.

“Why is your face sad, since you are not sick?
This is nothing but sorrow of heart.”- King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:2)

Nehemiah became frightened, for it is not good to serve the King with a face of sadness. It may upset the King and he may have to be executed for disrespect. But yet this situation is also an opportunity. For The King asked about his sadness but did not rebuke him.

Nehemiah knew that God was working and he saw this as a opportunity given by God. That is why he replied

“May the king live forever! Why should
my face not be sad, when the city, the
place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste,
and its gates are burned with fire?”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:3)

His words moved the King and the King asked

“What do you request?”- King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:4)

While the opportunity is present, Nehemiah made a quick prayer to God. He had been planning for a long time, but he was not in a rush to tell the King everything. He was praying to God to help him, so that his words would be reasonable and pleasing before the King. He prayed that the King would grant his request.

Nehemiah did not learn to rely on his wisdom solely. he learnt to rely on God as well. This is something that is important.

For there are many who claims that they rely on God but in fact they depended only on their own intelligence. They carried out their own plans, and they act immediately.But Nehemiah was different, he did use his wisdom to prepare and plan for his work. But he also entrusted his plan to God and ask for the help from the Lord. That contributed to his success.

Some fail because of a lack of opportunity and some fail because of a lack of preparation. There are some who failed because they are unable seize hold of the opportunity, they allowed the chance to slip them by because they are unprepared.

When it is time to present the plan, they were unable to talk about them. We need to know that good opportunities do not last forever and time waits for no man. That is why we need to learn from Nehemiah. Even though he is unsure of how God would help him. He believed that God will guide him to complete the work. That is why he thought of the things he will need and the difficulties he will face.

The Importance Of Planning When Serving God

That is why when the King asked Nehemiah his request. he was able to seize the opportunity. For he had prepared himself and he was able to told the King of his plan. Let us take a look at his request in details

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant
has found favor in your sight, I ask that
you send me to Judah, to the city of my
fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.,”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:5)

His first request is to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. When the King ask him how long he would take. He was able to give him an answer (Neh 2:6). Nehemiah knew how long the journey will take and how much time he need to build the wall. So the King was glad and gave him permission.

From here you can see the importance of preparation work.

the second request is this

“If it pleases the king, let letters be given
to me for the governors of the region beyond
the River, that they must permit me to pass
through till I come to Judah,”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:7)

His second request is to ask for the King for the permit to travel across the land. This is an important request. Even though the King may have given him the permission. But the officers along the way may not know of the Kings decree. Therefore he needed a proof of the Kings decree as evidence. That will allow him to past through the land to Jerusalem.

His 3rd request

“and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s
forest, that he must give me timber to make
beams for the gates of the citadel which
pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and
for the house that I will occupy.”- Nehemiah (Neh 2 : 8)

Nehemiah’s 3rd request is to ask the King for a letter to collect the materials for the construction of the wall. This is not a easy request, but a necessary and essential request. For if he were to gather the resources on his own, it would take a long time. But with the Kings help the work would be done easier.

We know that building materials are essential for any construction. Even if one were to pray to God for help, he will not know how God will help. Alternatively he can pray to God to move the King to help. He will need to gain favour before the King.

The king agreed to all the request from Nehemiah and Nehemiah knew that it was the mercy of God that granted him success. But he knew that he need to put in effort and prepare for the work. Therefore we should do everything that is within our ability to, and then ask God to help us with matters that are beyond our control.

There are many Christians who have the misconception that relying on God mean praying and doing nothing. They feel that as long as they have faith, God will provide everything for them. They just have to sit down and do nothing and wait for a miracle to happen. But we know that it is not what the bible tells us.

Conclusion

The bible teaches that we ought to make all the preparation that is within our ability and entrust our plans to God. We need to rely not on our intelligence but to rely on God. We need to ask God for help just like Nehemiah. But Nehemiah did everything that is within his control, he planned and prepared for the work.

That is why when God led him before the King, he is able to finish his work. Let us learn from Nehemiah

Advertisements