Facing Circumstances with Prayer
Context of the Passage:
Nehemiah was a Lay Person!
As the book of Nehemiah begins, we meet an unusual man. He’s a man with a good job – good salary his was an important job – he worked for the state, but not his home state – another state and another leader – actually, his job was something like a bodyguard for the king; only his responsibilities were mainly in area of food – he was the food taster – if food = bad, no allow his boss to eat (maybe enemies try to poison his boss)
One day, his brother came with news from back home; things weren’t so good; in fact they were bad! As soon as he heard the news, he knew he needed to do something; but his job didn’t allow him the chance
All of a sudden the joys of his good job and high standing in the community and unique access to the palace didn’t mean so much because of one interruption that changed his perspective. . . and changed his life!
The man’s name was Nehemiah – and he was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, king of Persia. As the book begins, the children of Israel had been in captivity in Babylon for almost 70 years! When Persia overthrew Babylon, the Persians allowed the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem. Many returned, but Nehemiah stayed. Eventually, he rose to a position of prominence was in a place to be used of God!
The events of this book begin around the year 445 BC.
NOW, through his access to the palace, God had placed him in a position to intervene. Isn’t it amazing how God places His people in strategic positions to be used of God? The name, Nehemiah, means “comforter.” Around 25 years before Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, another Hebrew in Persia was faced with the challenge of making a difference for God’s people. Esther 4:14 records the challenge of Mordecai to Esther, “Maybe God raised you to this position for such a time as this?!” That was true of Esther and it was true of Nehemiah. Their obedience encourages us with the truth that it might also be true for us.
Have you ever had a moment of truth? A moment you know will define you? When the need to act outweighs the comfort of your inactivity! The people of Israel had come through a difficult time – only to find themselves in another one. When they returned to Jerusalem, the walls had been destroyed. That was over 90 years ago! Haggai and Zechariah had encouraged the people to rebuild the Temple. But, that was 70 years ago! Jerusalem had been vulnerable to enemy attack that entire time. It was only the providential hand of the Lord that protected them. Yet, they were still afraid to rebuild. Their fear paralyzed them and kept them from moving on.
But, the fault lines of their broken-down walls dated long before the walls fell. It was their sin that caused their deportation. And it was their sin that kept them from being restored to the God whose Covenant they had broken. The unrepaired walls were merely a metaphor of their broken relationship with God. Soon, Nehemiah realized that more than just the walls of the city needed to be rebuilt.
As chapter one unfolds, the broken walls are met by the broken heart of Nehemiah. And that’s where rebuilding began.
Outline of the Passage
1:1-3 – Nehemiah received a visit from his brother
1:4-11 – Nehemiah’s response to a disturbing report from his brother
Exegesis of the Passage
Vs. 2 – Hanani – “one of my brothers”
- The text seems to suggest that this was a biological brother of Nehemiah
- Hanani arrives with others from Jerusalem, who have come to Persia to seek out Nehemiah and enlist his help.
Vs. 3 – the people are in “trouble” and “disgrace.”
- The word for “trouble” is the word ra’ah, which means, “bad”
- Nehemiah used this word in 2:17 and 13:18 to describe the situation to the people
- The word, “herpah” literally means, “shame,” or “reproach”
- The walls were “broken down” (“meporazet”)
- See 2 Sam. 5:20 – This is the word used by David when as a newly appointed King, the Lord gave him victory over the Philistines. He named the place Baal-perazim
- See also 2 Sam. 6:8 – This is also the word used by David when the Lord struck Uzzah for touching the Arc of the Covenant. David named that place, “Perez Uzzah” (“The breakthrough against Uzzah”)
Eleven times in the book – Bible indicates for us that Nehemiah Prayed
=> More specifically, 7 different circumstances in which prayed!
Chapter 1 – First faced the need – Nehemiah prayed
Chapter 2 (4) – When Nehemiah speaks to King – Neh. Prayed
Chapter 4: 4,9 – Reproached by his enemies – N. prayed! (Get ‘em)
Chapter 6: 9 – threats on his life – N. prayed
Chapter 6:14 – Enemies threaten to attack – N. prayed
Chapter 8 – When Nehemiah leads people in worship – N. prayed
Chapter 13 – 3x in this chapter (2x elsewhere) – Remember me!
Vs. 4 – Nehemiah’s response to the news concerning Jerusalem involved mourning, weeping, fasting, and prayer
- He pled for God the listen
- He confessed their sin
- He Based his request on God’s covenant with His people
- He cited Scripture that emphasized the mercy of God
- Prayed for God to give favor to him in his own circumstances
Vs. 7 – Confess Where My Failure Results From My Sin
- Israel had failed: In fact, they have succeeded in nearly every conceivable means of failure available to them!
- Failed in Battle – lost in battle; defeated => prisoners! (90 yrs. later!)
- Failed in Obedience – failed to rebuild the walls; borders; protection
- Failed in Faith – repent; believe
- In truth, all of their failures were inter-related
- Israel’s failure was sin
- In Deut 8 – Moses addressed the people after taking 40 years to make an 11 day journey – standing on mt. overlooking the Promised land, he challenged them, “don’t repeat your failures!” This is where you could have been …
- Look at Prayer – 1:7 – here’s how we have failed you:
- Commandments – Refer to God’s Commands
- Statutes – Laws/regulations => even Moral Imperatives!
- Ordinances – Legal rulings; decisions of the court
- They had Failed spiritually, morally, and legally
Sermon on the Passage
Ill. – “A praying man will stop sinning and a sinning man will stop praying”
- Nehemiah’s habit of Prayer teaches us that
- Prayer Must Be a Habit and Not a Last Resort
- Prayer Must Be for Me to Hear God’s Heart, Not Just for God to Hear Mine
- Prayer Must Be a Passion and Not Just a Passing Thought
- Nehemiah’s practice of prayer models for us that
- Prayer must acknowledge God’s Character
- Prayer must Confesses our Need
- Prayer must be born out of our humility over our need
- Prayer must grow out of our brokenness over our sin
- Prayer must be Confident in God’s Sufficiency
Ill. 2 Chron 7:14 – “If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”