Nehemiah 1:1-4 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, (2) That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. (3) And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. (4) And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
As we begin with our study of Nehemiah, the first subject that comes up is the heart and burden of Nehemiah. Too many Christians today live like they habitate on an island to themselves. This is a very self-centered attitude. But it is God’s purpose for us to be focused on Him first and foremost; and if we are focused on God like we should be, we will be burdened for those in need around us. What tugs on your heart strings today? Is it personal problems or needs? Our vision of God will shape our lives and impact those around us. As we will see, Nehemiah was a man who sought for God to be glorified and His children helped. Let’s look and see three characteristics of Nehemiah and how we can share this same vision and burden.
NEHEMIAH’S BRETHREN – 1:1-2A
There are some facts we know about Nehemiah’s breathern. First, lets notice When They Returned. The remnant of Israel returned in 3 waves. Zerubbabel, then Ezra brought a group and rebuilt the Temple and restored the worship. Now, approximately 14 years later, Nehemiah learns of the deplorable conditions of God’s city and chosen people. The Bible tells us the month was Chisleu, which coincides with our November/December.
Secondly, we notice Who Returned. His brother’s name is Hanani, who we meet again later in Nehemiah 7:2. Hanani was one of the people who returned with the second group led by Ezra. They were struggling without and protective walls after some successful spiritual reform under Ezra. The Israelites had a goal to make Jerusalem a God fearing and worshipping city, but their enemies prevailed in thwarting this by tearing down their protective walls. This is a reminder to us today that we need to build and maintain spiritual walls to protect our testimonies, families, churches, and country. The world today does not want distinctive, separated, sold-out to God Christians and will try to do anything and everything in its power to break down your walls and burn your gates. Think about all the attacks today on families…fundamental, Bible-believing churches…Bible standards (marriage, drinking, worldliness, etc.). We need walls of separation!
NEHEMIAH’S BURDEN – 1:2B
Nehemiah’s burden was two-fold. He was concerned for their Safety. Even though Nehemiah had it very well living and working in the king’s palace, he had not forgotten his people. How was it that Nehemiah developed this burden for the safety of his people? By hearing of their great need.
God often calls men and women to a particular job or ministry by revealing to that person a specific need. We see the same today in our churches when we are blessed to be in the presence of missionaries. These are men, women, boys and girls who have seen a need and received a burden from the Lord to do something about it.
As we will see in Chapter 2, the position that Nehemiah held in the king’s palace gave him a great opportunity to be used by God to help his brethren. God often blesses us and puts us in a position so that we may get a burden for those less fortunate…those who are struggling. Do the blessings that God has bestowed upon you motivate you to help others, or drive you to gather more for yourself?
We also notice that Nehemiah was concerned for their Spiritual Condition. More pressing than the physical needs the remnant of Israel had was their spiritual needs. They had begun to lose hope in God, and Nehemiah was motivated by his great love for God to do something about it. One issue that some have with our churches is that we don’t seem to care about the physical needs of people around them. And out of this, we have many new-age movements under the banner of Christianity, like the Emergent Church and New-Evangelicalism. But one of the main problems with these groups is that they often focus on the physical needs at a neglect to the spiritual. This leads to what is often referred to as a “Social Gospel.” Many people today are more worried about their family’s physical needs and ignore the spiritual.
Do we need to do a better job of sharing the love of God in our community through acts of kindness to those in need? YES. But we do so as a means to share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not a means to an end. I like what I once heard Bro. Scott Pauley say at a preacher’s meeting - Jesus healed many, but always with a purpose. He did not have a healing ministry, but a revealing ministry. We help those in need in order to have the opportunity to reveal to them our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Are you burdened for the spiritual condition of those around you?
NEHEMIAH’S BROKENNESS – 1:3-4
First, Nehemiah receives The Report in 1:3. Nehemiah realized this was not just an attack on God’s people, but an attack to God and His Glory. But many times today we are so self-absorbed that we never even realize the need around us.
Now, we notice The Response in 1:4. Nehemiah’s response was three-fold:
- Consecration – or wholly set aside for God. Nehemiah was fully set aside for God’s use and glory. The first step in consecration is repentance. Originally, we are all selfish in nature, and we need to repent of that selfish sinfulness and turn fully and completely to God. But most Christians never feel God lead them to do something great for Him because they are distracted with their own life – their own needs – and their own plans to hear. When we cannot obey God in the basics of our faith, we should never expect God to do extraordinary.
- Compassion - He was moved with compassion and he wept and mourned over the terrible report. Nehemiah’s compassion was not just directed at the struggle of the Israelites, but he had great compassion for the glory of God. If we are sincere in our love and compassion for God, it will break our hearts to see His children in need and suffering. We are so hard-hearted to the needs around us that we dishonor the name of God to those we live amongst. As God’s children, we ought to be the first in line to help others, not Missing In Action.
- Continued Intercession – When we look at Nehemiah 2:1 and compare the months, we see that he prayed for 4 months. This is what separates good Christians from great Christians – Intercessory prayer. As we will see starting in the next blog post, Nehemiah was one of the greatest men of prayer. Would to God that we would have some men and women today who would dedicate themselves to prayer and fasting on behalf of others!
As we close this blog post, let us consider some question:
Are we concerned for the glory of God?
Are we concerned for those around us?
When we see the need, when we see them struggle, how do we respond?