The nation of Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians. The King of Babylon took some Jews to the capital city to serve in the palace. Among those was Nehemiah; he was the cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah chapter 1 tells us that some people from Jerusalem came to Babylon and Nehemiah asked them how things were going back home. Their answer….. “Not good at all!”
- The people who survived the attack are in trouble.
- They feel great shame.
- The city wall is broken down.
- The gates have been burned.
Nehemiah was heart-broken. What he does next gives us an example to follow when we are troubled by news of a bad situation.
- He wept and mourned. (Nehemiah 1:14) This demonstrates how sad and upset he was. He didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s too bad!” and he didn’t forget their answer. He mourned because he loved his city, it was the dwelling place of his God, and it was in ruins.
- He fasted and prayed. (Nehemiah 1:14) He was so heartbroken that he could not eat and he spent his time pouring out his broken heart before the Lord. He talked to the only One who could help him. He did not run around telling his fellow-Israelites; he didn’t tell the king, and he didn’t post it on Facebook. He prayed. He confessed his own sin and the sin of his people. He was specific in his confession (Nehemiah 1:7) as he listed out all that he and his family and his nation had done. He understood that his people had forgotten God and that was part of the reason that the city was destroyed.
- He reminded God of what He had promised in His word. (Nehemiah 1:8-9) That means that Nehemiah knew God’s word so well that he could refer to a passage in Leviticus 26:33 and remind God of what He had promised. God warned the Israelites that if they were unfaithful, He would scatter them. That’s exactly what happened when the city fell to Babylon and the Jews were taken captive. But, God also promised that if His people return and keep His commandments, that He will gather them together again. Nehemiah started the process of leading his people back to God when he recognized their sinfulness and confessed it to God.
- When opportunity came, Nehemiah had the courage to speak. (Nehemiah 2:5) Nehemiah had spent time praying, confessing sin and seeking God in regard to the broken down wall of Jerusalem. He understood what had caused the situation and God had given him a desire and a vision to solve the problem. Nehemiah did not share his burden with the king until the king noticed that Nehemiah was not himself and he asked why. Once the king asked, Nehemiah was ready with an answer. He obviously had put some thought into his answer because he gave the king a specific list of things that he needed in order to rebuild the wall. He asked the king for permission to leave his post and return to the city; he asked for letters from the king that would allow him to pass through other lands; he asked for timber for the wall, the temple and his own house. When the king asked Nehemiah how long it would take, Nehemiah was ready with an answer. Nehemiah says that “the good hand of my God was upon me,” and the king gave him all that he asked.
- After he knew that he had heard from God with a plan to rebuild the wall, he inspired others to help. (Nehemiah 2:17-18) He didn’t run to his friends for advice and help when he initially got the news that the wall was in disrepair. He prayed first. But once he had clear direction and he knew that God was with him, he rallied the troops and inspired everyone, including priests and politicians to get to work on the wall.
While you may not be tasked with rebuilding a wall back in your hometown, you may be faced with a situation that has broken your heart and needs your attention in order to be made right. Learn from Nehemiah’s example. Run to God, study His word, and boldly follow the path that He puts before you.