Lord's Day Evening Meditations March
The last time we mentioned how Nehemiah had a lot
of zeal for the Lord, and a great love for the Lord's people.
Those are two things that should characterize every one of us.
It was that love that caused him such sorrow when he heard that
they were in much affliction and reproach. It was that love for
them also that caused him to weep, and mourn, and pray. His prayer
begins in verse 5. Notice how Nehemiah had a problem, and the
first thing that he did was he prayed. How often, when we have
a problem, we set about solving it, and when things don't work
out, then we think of praying. We went about it just backwards!
Though Nehemiah lived in a different time from
us, yet he prayed with the intelligence of faith, and we can learn
and follow certain things in his prayer. After addressing God
in a way that was suitable for that time (not for our time), he
recognized that God kept "covenant and mercy for them
that love Him and observe His commandments." In other
words, he justified God. He recognized that God
is right in all that He does-He is always right-faith acknowledges
that. The Lord Jesus said, "Wisdom is justified of her
The next thing he did was that he confessed the
sins of the people. This is an important matter; there must be
the confession of that which is not right before making requests.
"Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence
toward God. And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we
keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in
His sight." 1 John 3:21, 22. Notice also that Nehemiah
didn't say, "They have sinned," but he said, "We
have sinned against Thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
We have dealt very corruptly, etc." He identified himself
with the sin and failure of the people. Faith identifies itself
with the people of God and with all their failures. We saw Ezra
do this same thing when he prayed.
After his confession, Nehemiah prepared to make
his requests; I say "prepared" because he was going
to give reasons and motives why God should grant his requests.
The first was, "Remember, I beseech Thee, the word
that Thou commandest Thy servant Moses, etc." God had
said it; now He must do it, for God is ever true to His Word.
God had said that if His people disobeyed Him He would scatter
them among the nations, but He also said that if they repented
and turned back to Him, He would have mercy on them and bring
them back to their land. Remember how Daniel prayed with his window
open toward Jerusalem. Why was that? Because it was written in
the Word, that if when captives in a distant land they prayed
toward the house of God in Jerusalem, then God would hear. It
was faith in Daniel and in Nehemiah that rested on the faithfulness
of God to His Word.
In the Old Testament, God made promises to His
people Israel. We might think that those promises have never been
fully accomplished, and that is true. Most of them have only had
partial fulfillment. However, not one of them will fail; they
will be fulfilled entirely, every one, in the glorious kingdom
of Christ. "For all the promises of God in Him (the Son
of God, Jesus Christ) are yea, and in Him Amen." 2
Cor. 1:20. It is in Christ, and by Him, that every promise of
God will be fulfilled. The Word of God contains many promises
for us also, not for earthly blessings, but spiritual blessings.
Every one of those blessings will be fully realized in Christ.
The next thing Nehemiah did was that he reminded
God, as it were, that the people he prayed for were "Thy
servants and Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed."
He was praying for God's own people in whom He had a special interest.
It is interesting, in this respect to follow the interview between
God and Moses, on Mount Sinai, concerning those same people. Read
Exodus 32:1 - 11. During Moses' absence on the mount, Aaron and
the people made the molten calf and said, "These be thy
gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."
What an insult to God, calling Him a calf! Well, God said to Moses,
"Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou
broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves."
That is, God disowned them, and called them Moses' people. But
Moses wouldn't accept that. He answered, "Lord, why doth
thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, which Thou
hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt?" He handed
them right back to God, for they were His people.
We said that Nehemiah loved God's people; well,
Moses did also. In his intercession for them he said, "If
thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee,
out of Thy book which Thou hast written." This reminds
us of Paul who wrote, "I could wish that myself were
accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to
the flesh." Rom. 9:3. That is very strong language.
Is there any one here who would be willing to go to hell, if that
would mean the salvation of someone you love very much? I don't
think so. However, God has a people today - all the redeemed,
and if there were such bonds of love for God's people in the Old
Testament, how much stronger should they be in the New, where
the love of God has been fully revealed!
Nehemiah's prayer concluded with one final plea
- mercy; "And grant him mercy in the sight of
this man." God is a merciful God, and Nehemiah asked
for mercy in presenting himself before the king, for he says,
"I was the king's cupbearer."
The position of "cupbearer"
was one of great favour and honour, but also of great danger.
The life of a king was often in danger from those who hated him,
and what easier way to get rid of a king than to poison him. Chapter
2:1 says, "I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king."
We are told that the cupbearer had to taste it first and thus
verify that it was safe to drink. Besides, those kings were despots
who got rid of their subjects as they pleased, if they suspected
them of treachery, so the cupbearer could be in a very precarious
Chapter one began "in the month Chisleu,"
whereas chapter two begins "in the month Nisan,"
that is, 4 months later. Nehemiah prayed, and waited, and prayed
four months before he got his answer. This reminds us that when
we pray, we don't always get what we ask for right away. Col.
4:2 says, "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same
with thanksgiving." A sister in the Lord prayed for
her unsaved brother for 40 years before he was saved.
These things which had troubled Nehemiah for so
long could not but show on his face, and the king noticed it,
and asked him about it. "Then I was very sore afraid,"
says Nehemiah, but he answered truthfully, and explained the reason
for his "sorrow of heart." "Why should not
my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers'
sepulchers lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with
fire?" For every faithful Israelite, Jerusalem had
a very special significance which stemmed back to the law in Deut.
12. There God told His people that when they went into the land
of Canaan, they must not do like the people who had been before
them. "Upon the hills, and under every green tree,"
they had practiced their wicked idolatries. God's people were
to destroy all of that, and then there would be a place-one place-in
contrast with the innumerable places of the heathen, which God
Himself would choose. In that one place only were they to seek
their God, and worship Him. Twenty-one times (3 x 7), from Deut.
12 to the end, God repeated, in one form or another, those words,
"The place which the Lord your God shall choose."
That place that God eventually chose was Jerusalem, and that is
why that city was so precious to the faithful Jew then, and also
why Jerusalem is still a bone of contention today. The fact that
it is God's choice of where and how His people meet with Him,
is a very important principle still today. S.L.