The Example of Nehemiah
If we desire to
“rebuild the walls,”
we first need to
“weep over the ruins”
In last Saturday’s email we considered how Psalm 102 shows us that God will arise when His servants cry out over the ruin of His testimony:
You will arise and
have mercy on Zion;
For the time to favor her,
Yes, the set time, has come.
For Your servants
take pleasure in her stones,
And show favor to her dust.
— Psalm 102:13-14
We may feel we are waiting for the Lord to do something, but actually He is waiting for us to rise up in this way, to come to the point where we have no choice but to pray desperately and without ceasing that He would begin His work among us anew. (See “When Will the Lord Arise?”)
One of Isaiah’s laments, when speaking of how the Lord had forsaken Israel, was that
…There is no one who
calls on Your name,
Who stirs himself up to
take hold of You;
— Isaiah 64:7; cf. 2 Timothy 1:5-6
The Lord is looking for some who, instead of passively waiting for Him, will “stir themselves up” to force Him, so to speak, to do something for the sake of His testimony.
In this regard, as is so often the case, the Bible not only teaches us directly, but also gives us an example of what it teaches. And in this instance the example it provides is that of Nehemiah.
Around 445 B.C., while he was in the city of Shushan serving as cupbearer to the king of Persia, one of his brothers, together with others from Judah, came and told him of the poor condition of the people who had returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity:
“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.”
— Nehemiah 1:3
The Scripture takes care to note that this took place in the month Chislev (Neh. 1:1).
Nehemiah could not bear to hear such news, and so we next read of his prayer and repentance on behalf of the Children of Israel:
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 1:4, also verses 5-11
Finally, we are told of how he went in before the king and asked permission to return and rebuild the city and its walls.
“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 2:3
Again we are told when this was, that is, in the month Nisan (Neh. 2:1).
If you look at a table of Biblical months you can see that Nisan comes four months after Chislev. In other words, Nehemiah did not simply make a brief prayer and then go to the king and make his request; rather, he prayed and repented and fasted for four months before he did so. As a result, the king granted his request, even supplying him with the materials he asked for, and he was enabled to do such a great work for the Lord and for His city.
One commenter I read said this shows that, if you want to rebuild the walls, you’d better spend some time weeping over the ruins!
Even so, we cannot afford in these days to be passive any longer. We must allow the poor condition of God’s people and of His testimony to move us deeply, just as it did Nehemiah, so that we seek the Lord desperately until we see Him arise and bring His kingdom to the earth once again.
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— 14 May 2022 —