Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11
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 this: “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 breaks your heart, right?
This is where we meet our man Nehemiah today. He has just received word that the wall protecting 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 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 be accomplished in the hearts and lives of the people of Israel, the sovereign God is showing us something awesome about biblical compassion: it is not characterized by platitudes; it is characterized by action.
Lord, rend our hearts for the hurting today. Let us not allow our own comfort 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. Amen.