Today’s reading is Nehemiah 1:1-3:14, 1 Corinthians 7:1-24, Psalm 31:19-24, Proverbs 21:4.
When I read the beginning of the story of Nehemiah, I saw the similarities between Nehemiah and Ezra. Both wanted restoration of their beloved city and restoration of their beloved people. They both wanted the people to be restored to right standing with their God. They had been taken into captivity when the Babylonians had overcome them, just as Jeremiah and Daniel had prophesied. True to the prophesy, 70 years after captivity, the Israelites began their return to Jerusalem and the Temple led by Ezra and Nehemiah. The Babylonian captivity had great impact on the nation of Israel and they realized they had been corrupted by idolatry and false gods of the surrounding nations. A similarity of Ezra and Nehemiah that stood out to me was their broken hearts.
We see that both Ezra and Nehemiah began their mission of restoration by being moved with grief when their eyes were opened to the sin that had entangled their people. The wept with regret and sorrow over the sin. This is what we see from Ezra:
While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly.
This is what we see from Nehemiah, when realized the sin of the people:
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
I also noticed that these two did not just point a finger at the sin of others, they took responsibility for their own part in the sinful state of the society.
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fastedand prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gatherthem from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah and Ezra both used the word “we” in their repentant prayers on behalf of the people. They realized that they, too, had sinned, even if the sin had been to simply keep silent. We see the humility of these two who were called to be change-makers and torch-bearers. And God had placed them exactly where he wanted them when the 70 years of captivity were over.
A practical application for us today can surface if we ask ourselves a few questions:
- Are we willing to let our heart be broken by the things that break God’s heart? If we are, then we, too, will come to a point of responsibility for the sin around us; we will confess our sins and pray about the sins of others, rather than point a finger of judgement.
- Are we willing to let that repentance lead us to revival? Are we willing to let God make us an agent of change in the sphere of influence He has placed us?
If we can answer yes to those questions, I believe we will be in a position of readiness to be used by God to effect change in our schools, cities, states, nation, and world. Let’s go!