Nehemiah is known to be one of the greatest leaders in the Bible because he was used by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Personally, this chapter in the bible holds a dear place in my heart ever since B1G Connect conducted a series on it and I was asked to preach Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah 10 and Nehemiah 13.
Let’s start with a brief background. The King of Babylon took all of Judah into captivity (II Kings 24-25). The Babylonians got to Jerusalem, destroyed everything – the temple, the walls of the city, the fortress areas and anything of value. Everything was in chaos. The city was reduced to rubble while they marched back to Babylon with their captives and seized treasures. Just imagine how terrifying of an experience captivity can be. When people are captured, they are forcibly taken away from their homes and their land and they are then made into slaves. They are then treated with disdain and abuse, which is what exactly happened to the Jews. It was only when Persia conquered Babylon that the Jews were allowed to return to the Promised Land. So you can visualize what it looked like in Nehemiah 1:3.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
Nehemiah wanted to know the condition of his city so he asked his brother about it. When he heard what his city has become, he sat down and wept. For months he mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. We can see this in Nehemiah 1:4.
(1) The burden deep within our hearts can be an indication of what God wants us to do.
No one asked Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, but because he felt the immense burden, he translated it into action. If you want to know where God is calling you to serve or what he wants you to do, it’s usually related to your burden. That burden will carry you and move you through what you need to do. And when you start to feel that burden, the best thing to do is to take the time to pray about it. This was the first thing that Nehemiah did – he prayed.
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
(2) Spend time in prayer to align yourself with the Lord and to seek his guidance and favor.
It took Nehemiah 4 months to pray for his burden. Why do we need to pray? Because we need to align ourselves with want God wants us to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by burdens or desires inside so it’s important that we spend time in prayer. The heart is deceitful above everything else and through prayer, we are covering our desire or burden with protection, that if this is really what God wants us to do, He will go ahead with us. It’s ok to spend a couple of weeks in prayer but it’s also a good idea to put a time table to it.
(3) Step out of Faith
And after the 4 months that Nehemiah spent it prayer, he stepped out of Faith. We can see that in Chapter 2.
I was cupbearer to the king.
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
He was a cupbearer. He was aware of how important his position was and that he had access to the king every day. The king was vital in ensuring that the wall will be rebuilt and Nehemiah clearly understood that he needed to get the approval of the king before he made any moves. So in prayer, he lifted this up to the Lord as well. He took his step of faith and showed sadness in front of the king even though being sad in the king’s presence is considered to be a sign of disrespect. The king could have asked Nehemiah to be thrown into prison or worse, beheaded. But the hand of the Lord was upon him and the king just asked him why he was sad.
And the rest as they say is history. If we look at Nehemiah’s life, we’ll see how God was with him all along. It started with a burden which he lifted up in prayer to the Lord. When the right timing came, he stepped out of faith and from then on, the Lord was able to use him mightily. Sometimes, we just really need to take Nehemiah’s lead and step out of faith. We can’t ignore the fact that we will have to face uncertainty, but if we know who our God is and if we make sure that we have it covered it with prayer, we can rely on the truth that the Lord will always be faithful to us. He can use us mightily for this work.
There is no better privilege in life than to part take in the work of God. We are only his instruments. We are vessels of his love and grace. As we lay down our lives for him, may we grow in our understanding of who God is and live a life of worship.
Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my Nehemiah 1 Sermon in B1G South for the retreat volunteers call. The B1G South ministry is the singles ministry of CCF Alabang. We have service every Saturday at 6pm at the 3rd floor of CCF Alabang. Everyone is invited! I would love to meet you if you have time to visit.