In the days of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, the Persian Empire maintained control over Jerusalem and Judah. Some, but not all, of the Jewish exiles had returned to the Promised Land. Others had made a home for themselves and their families in the midst of the nations of the ancient Near East.
In the fifth century before the birth of the Christ, a Jewish man named Nehemiah, a faithful worshiper of the Lord, was an important official who had the confidence of the Persian king. This Nehemiah received a report concerning the sad condition of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem. The report came several decades after the rebuilding of the temple. Though worship had been reestablished in Jerusalem, the people of God who lived there were in great trouble. The city wall was broken down.
Nehemiah cared. He came before the Lord with true humility, and he took steps not only to be informed about the plight of the Jews but to do what he could to be a part of the solution.
The prayer of this well-placed official was recorded in this opening chapter of the book that bears his name. Nehemiah honored the Lord and confessed the sins of the people in his heartfelt plea for divine help.
Nehemiah was a servant of the Lord making an impassioned plea for all the Lord’s servants. They and their fathers had sinned against God and had brought great trouble upon themselves.
This devout Jewish leader turned to the Scriptures in his time of need. The Law had come to Israel through Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible. This Law of Moses not only told Israel what God required of them, but it also explained how the people might find a way back to the Promised Land again after a time of rebellion.
Nehemiah made his plea before the Lord based on these historic instructions recorded in Deuteronomy 30. The Lord had scattered His people among the nations, but He was very capable of gathering them again in the security of His chosen city if they would repent of their sins and obey Him.
Nehemiah wanted to be a part of the Lord’s answer to the prayer he prayed to the Lord. He would need to have the favor of the king of Persia. Nehemiah could make a plan, but only God could give him success in speaking to the king. If the walls of Jerusalem were to be rebuilt, the head of the Persian empire would need to have mercy when he heard his cupbearer’s distress.
Where do you turn when you need help? Nehemiah knew that the God of the Jews was far above all the leaders of the earth. He knew that the Lord had sent His people into exile, but he also knew that God had made a provision for their restoration. The Lord is full of compassion and willing to move powerfully according to the earnest petition of one of His servants.
Our God is a God of mercy and action. When He sent His Son to die for us, He saw us in our pitiful condition, and He did what was needed, not only for the Jews, but for His chosen remnant from the nations. Jesus, our Messiah, accomplished so much for our salvation. It all started with this fact: He cared. Without His mercy, all that was necessary for our eternal safety would never have even been attempted.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O God, Your church faces great difficulty. We need You. Deliver us from trouble and shame. You are the God of heaven. We confess our sins before You. Please hear us and help us. We return to You now according to Your Word. We cast off all sinful patterns of thinking and living, and seek the gift of Your Spirit in fuller measure. Hear our prayer, and grant us success in our desire to serve You.