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Nehemiah's Prayer and Plan

(Nehemiah 1:1-4; 2:4, 5, 13, 16-18)

Lesson 6 -- third quarter 2003
July 6, 2003

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2003, Christian Light Publications

Responding to need

Nehemiah lived far from his homeland, but his heart beat near it. So when he heard of the plight of his people in Jerusalem and the condition of Jerusalem itself, he was moved to grief and distress. When he learned of the homeland needs created by the invasion that left him captive afar, his desire for food was driven from him. But that was not the extent of his response!

When confronted with such great need and the brokenness of his own heart, Nehemiah turned to the One who could help -- "the God of heaven." I suppose he could have steamed and stewed over the situation back home, over what could be done, and over what role he was supposed to have in it all. I imagine he could have fretted and fumed because of his own impotence in the face of destitution of such magnitude. Surely he could have become depressed and irritable because of his own ignorance of what (if any) action he or anyone else could take to remedy those needs. And perhaps he did indeed go through all those responses. But the greatness of the need and depth of his emotional responses did not keep him from his God. Rather, these drove him to God.

Soon after that, the king wondered just what was bugging him. And when he heard the answer, the king had another question: "What do you want?" Now Nehemiah had a different batch of needs, so once again he consulted "the God of heaven." Among other things, Nehemiah needed understanding of the needs in Jerusalem, perception of general solutions, knowledge of specific courses of action, and wisdom to put all this together in a convincing answer for the king. To ask too little would imperil the success of his mission; to ask too much would surely bring a negative response from the king. So Nehemiah naturally went to God to learn for what he should ask and how to present his vision and requests.

Of course, you probably already knew all that. Just like you figured out that all of this is meant to lead up to you and your responses to need. So what's your conclusion about that? May the Lord turn our hearts toward becoming more like Nehemiah in at least this respect: When confronted with need, we too will pray before the God of heaven. When overwhelmed by our grief, frustration, and inability, prayer before the God of heaven will be our natural choice and response.

Of walls and gates

The walls and gates of Jerusalem had been grand and functional. They had been designed to be impressive and beautiful even as they had been meant to provide protection and safety. But the invaders had succeeded in breaching them, destroying their beauty and functionality. No longer could the dwellers of Jerusalem derive from her walls and gates joy, pride, pleasure, security, and peace.

In what condition are your walls and gates? Guard them. Maintain them. Repair them as needed. What do I mean? Listen: "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls" (Proverbs 25:28). I challenge you to discover and consider what God has to say about self-control. Then inspect those walls and gates!

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