Gracefully Truthful

Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Nehemiah 1:4-11

4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of the heavens. 5 I said, “Lord, the God of the heavens, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands, 6 let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned.

7 We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses. 8 Please remember what you commanded your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. 9 But if you return to me and carefully observe my commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell.”

10 They are your servants and your people. You redeemed them by your great power and strong hand. 11 Please, Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to that of your servants who delight to revere your name. Give your servant success today and grant him compassion in the presence of this man.

The Original Intent

1) What was Nehemiah’s response when “he heard these words”? (verse 4)

Nehemiah already had a heart for Jerusalem, which is evidenced by his inquiry of his brother, Hanani, regarding the city and its people. Hanani and other Jews had just returned from surveying Judah. (Nehemiah 1:2) When he heard about the state of the wall, it broke his heart. He grew weak in the knees and, sitting down, he began to weep and mourn over the situation. David Guzik said, “God was going to use Nehemiah to do something about this situation. But first, God did something in Nehemiah.”

God was already preparing Nehemiah to do the great work that needed to be accomplished. At just the right time, God had placed Nehemiah in the right position as cup bearer to the king in order to attain kingly approval and financial support. God had been working in Nehemiah’s heart, preparing him to walk in obedience so he could soon put into practice the leadership and influence skills from his job.

Nehemiah was ready for the assignment, but when the opportunity came, Nehemiah didn’t run headfirst into the task. Neither did he simply react with his emotions. He first began to fast and pray. He didn’t complain and fuss about the problem, waiting for someone else to correct it, he acted out of his relationship with God; he fasted and prayed.

The Everyday Application

1) What was Nehemiah’s response when “he heard these words”? (verse 4)

Has God been preparing you for a great work? Has he placed a burden in your heart? Has He been teaching you the skills necessary to accomplish the task at hand?

I’ve often been surprised how God uses our past to accomplish His plans. In high school, I was selected as student director of the yearly play. In college, I took a music course, Congregational Singing. Who would have thought that, years later, I would direct more children’s musicals and plays than I can count?

In the King James Version, Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Nehemiah’s God-driven vision was huge! “Through me, God is going to correct a problem that’s been around a hundred and fifty years. Through me, God is going to do something that completely failed before.” (David Guzik, Enduring Word)

If we plan to step out and accomplish something huge, we need a God-sized vision and a goal that comes straight from Him. I am at that point now. God has been preparing me to publish a book of devotions. Now I stand at the threshold of that big step. Putting feet to the vision. (Oh, dear, I just admitted that publicly!) This will require a lot of prayer and fasting.

What threshold are you standing at? Are you ready to step into the next big thing with faith? Have you been fasting and praying? Have you asked others to fast and pray with you about your vision? Let’s all lock arms this year, encouraging and praying for each other as we face the task God has laid on each one’s heart.

The Original Intent

2) How did Nehemiah begin his prayer? (verse 5)

Nehemiah began his prayer in adoration to God, “Lord, the God of the heavens, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps His gracious covenant with those who love Him and keep His commands.” He gave credit where credit is due.

He noted that God was the one in control and called on His character as faithful and true. He acknowledged nothing could be accomplished without Him. David Guzik states, “God will allow you to be fruitless to expose your need for total dependence.” If we look ahead to Nehemiah 6, we see that Nehemiah prayed for nearly 4 months (about 120 days) before acting. In contrast, it only took 52 days to rebuild the wall. (David Guzik, Enduring Word)

It certainly indicates how important prayer is to our success. If our prayers seem to bounce off heaven, perhaps we need to spend more time on our knees than in planning.

The Everyday Application

2) How did Nehemiah begin his prayer? (verse 5)

Acknowledgement and worship of our Great God must be at the forefront of our prayers. I am striving to always come before God in humility; acknowledging He is above all. It’s true that we can now “come boldly before the throne” (Hebrews 4:16), but we must never forget with whom we speak. 

I often use Anne Graham Lotz’ prayers as my model. Her prayers tend to tune my heart, sometimes even pricking my heart and causing me to draw closer to God. Here’s a portion from her Mayday Prayer, I Am: The Unchanging One: “We worship You as the eternal I AM. In a world that is always changing and undulating like the waves of a stormy sea, You never change. You are ever-present and always relevant because You are always current. You are never the I Was or the I Will Be. We are confident that Your greatness and power are the same yesterday in Creation, in the Exodus, in the Cross, in the Resurrection and in the Ascension of Jesus, on the Day of Pentecost, as they are in our day, as they will be at The End of time. Your greatness and power have not been diluted or depleted over the ages. You are our Anchor in the midst of the disasters rocking this planet and this nation. You are I AM.”

Nehemiah took his pain and stress to God in prayer. Through faith and dependence, he left that pain and stress at God’s throne. Yes! Prayer relieves our stress and sorrow, my friend. Paul told the Philippians, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Original Intent

3) Why does Nehemiah include confession in his request? (verses 6-7)

Nehemiah expressed humility by plainly stating the facts; the Israelites and he, himself, were sinners. They had failed God miserably. He confessed this openly with no excuses. He was expressing their total need for God. He included himself in that failure.

He didn’t say, “If I have sinned”, he prayed, “I have sinned.” Nehemiah was a godly man, but he knew he wasn’t perfect. He admitted to being just as guilty as the rest. This humility opened his life as an instrument God could use. Nehemiah took his confession a step further when he confessed the sins of the nation. This is interceding for others. 

Gregory Brown says, “we must recognize that God does not forgive people apart from their repentance.” When Christ (Luke 23:34) and Stephen (Acts 7:60) asked for pardon for their enemies, it seems their prayers were petitions for God to be merciful and remove His judgment, allowing more time for true repentance.

These prayers align with Abraham interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18) and Moses beseeching God to not destroy Israel (Exodus 32:11-14).

The Everyday Application

3) Why does Nehemiah include confession in his request? (verses 6-7)

Confession is always essential to prayer. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus included asking forgiveness when we pray. (Luke 11:4) We are all rebellious against God. For example, we are commanded to love God and others, however, more often than not, we love ourselves. No one can perfectly obey these commandments because, by nature, we are sinners. Even one single sin results in falling short of God’s standard of perfection. (Romans 3:23)

When we surrender ourselves to Jesus, He gives us a new nature, His. This nature is led by God’s Spirit living within us. He teaches us how to actively reject the pull of sin in our lives. Even so, we will still choose sin when we refuse to submit to the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 10:13Galatians 5:16-17) God is holy and He cannot look upon of sin (Habakkuk 1:13), but when we confess our sin with true repentance (turning away from sin), our relationship with God is restored.

For Nehemiah and the nation of Israel, restoration was fulfilled, restoring the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. Hundreds of years later, a second and more complete restoration came through Jesus, the Messiah, who came to bring spiritual redemption to ALL who would believe. Ultimately, Christ will return to earth and establish His Kingdom forever. Believers will experience complete restoration as we enter into the promised inheritance; dwelling in the presence of God forever.

One day, restoration will be complete as we enter into our promised inheritance of dwelling in the presence of God forever! (Revelation 21:3)

The Original Intent

4) How do we know Nehemiah’s faith was strong? (verses 8-11)

In prayer, Nehemiah reminded God of His previous promises to Moses and the nation of Israel. He pleaded on behalf of Israel according to God’s faithful character of integrity. He quoted from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 30 in his prayer, reminding God of His promise to scatter for rebellion and to heal and redeem for true repentance from sin and confession.

He was claiming the promises of God, standing on the steadfast word of the Lord! He believed the Lord would faithfully act according to His own promises and purpose. Finally, Nehemiah asked God to give him mercy and favor as he approached the king. He asked God to prompt the king to grant Nehemiah’s request. 

Guzik shares, “This is a prayer of a man of action, not a sideline critic.” Nehemiah does not pray ‘God, make it all better’ or ‘God, get someone else moving on this problem.’ Instead, his prayer is ‘God, use me to make it better.’

The Everyday Application

4) How do we know Nehemiah’s faith was strong? (verses 8-11)

Nehemiah took time to remind God of His promises, not because God “forgets”, but because speaking His character back to the Lord bolsters our faith while demonstrating total trust in Him and His Word. This can be done by quoting Scripture.

Reciting what God has done and promised to do stirs up hope in us and helps us hold tightly to the faithfulness of God. Finally, Nehemiah made his request for God to give him mercy as he approached the king. Now that he has “boldly approached the throne of God” and everything is clear between himself and God, he can boldly approach the earthly king’s throne and make his request with confidence.

After approaching the King of the Universe, it would be no problem approaching an earthly king. Even more, He knew God would go before him to pave the way because the Lord Himself was leading Nehemiah.

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