I know. Another Old Testament prophet. But, if you felt like the text in Hosea was challenging, you’ll be pleased to know that things move a little more smoothly in Nehemiah. Still, thirteen chapters about rebuilding a wall might feel potentially tedious to some.
The good news is that Nehemiah is about so much more than bricks and mortar. It’s actually a remarkable story about God using regular, God-fearing folks – not just the big, important leaders – to accomplish His redemptive purposes.
Nehemiah will teach us about compassion, community, repentance, covenant, and conviction. And it doesn’t end like you might expect. Join us?
Trouble and Shame
Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11a
Think back to when you first moved out of your parents’ house. (And if you can, try to remember a time when you didn’t have access to news and status updates in the palm of your hand.) Your family comes to visit for a long weekend and as you sit down for lunch together, you ask how things are going back home.
Only rather than “same old, same old” or “so-and-so’s having a baby and the Jones’s just put in a new swimming pool”, you hear, “Honestly? Things are really bad. Everyone you knew growing up is either dead or wishes they were dead. Your hometown is falling apart. Our police force has been destroyed and the whole city is absolute lawlessness.”
It absolutely breaks your heart, right?
This is where we meet our man Nehemiah today. He has just received word that the wall of Jerusalem (his hometown) was broken down and the gates destroyed by fire. The people he loves – his fellow Israelites with whom he and his family go way back – are in “great trouble and shame”. Things are low. Really low.
Look at how Nehemiah responds with compassion for his people. Even though he is 800 miles away, safely and comfortably out of harm’s way, testing wine and food for the king’s table; just knowing that his people are hurting lays him low. Really low.
The Bible tells us that when Nehemiah hears this news he weeps and mourns for days. His people and his home may as well be on the other side of the planet, yet knowing that they are without protection has him fasting and praying and confessing on their behalf.
We have a lot to learn in our study of the book of Nehemiah. But even in this first day, even in setting the stage for what is going to need to be accomplished in the hearts and lives of the people of Israel, the sovereign God is showing us something awesome about biblical compassion.
Lord, rend our hearts for the hurting today. Let us not allow our own comforts or safe distance from pain prevent us from seeing and loving others as you see and love them. Move us. Break us. And build us back up for your glory.
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