The Old Testament prophet, Nehemiah, was a man of faith, he was a man of compassion, he was a man of prayer, and he was a man of action.
It is incredible to see what he accomplished in a short amount of time! He rebuilt the walls and gates of Jerusalem in fifty-two days when others had not done it in approximately 92-93 years. The first exiles returned from Persia to Jerusalem around ninety-three years earlier. It took them twenty-four years to rebuild the Temple. It had been seventy-one years since they completed the Temple, and the city still lay in rubble. Nehemiah was determined to follow through on what God laid on his heart. (We’ll dive into the backstory of how Jerusalem got in this condition in our homework and in our discussion next week.)
52 days is a reminder of what’s possible when we wholeheartedly seek, trust, obey, and follow the Lord. It is incredible to think what we can accomplish when we are obedient to the things that God puts on our hearts. With the Lord’s help—under His prompting, leading, and direction—we can restore, rebuild, renew, refresh the broken things in our own lives, and in the lives of others around us. We can honor God’s Holy Name and bring blessing to His people. We can step out of our comfort zone and into the shoes of others. We can be used as a light for His Kingdom. We can be people of faith, compassion, prayer, and action too!
I’m sure you’ve noticed that our world is very me focused, but from Jesus' words in Matthew 22:37-40, we learn the two greatest commandments, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Nehemiah exemplified both commandments. His focus was not on himself—he devoutly loved the LORD with is entire being and he deeply loved people. And it showed in his life. His heart broke for the things that break God’s heart. He was grief-stricken over the condition of Jerusalem—the city was disgraced; the people were disheartened. His desire and purpose were to rebuild Jerusalem, beginning with restoring its walls and gates—giving them a sense of security, and an identity of dignity. Once that was completed, he began then filling the city with people who would whole-heartedly honor and serve the LORD. He brought life were there was once devastation.
Psalm 15:1-5, “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”
Although this Psalm was written by David, it perfectly describes Nehemiah’s character too. He fully relied on the Lord, and he lived above reproach. Throughout the book of Nehemiah we see that he did nothing on his own. He prayed with all his heart, knowing full well that the Lord heard every word; he prayed in the moment under his breath; he prayed for wisdom, guidance, and a knowledge of God’s will. He prayed for strength to persevere, and for victory over his enemy.
Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
I hope that through the study of Nehemiah prayer becomes a more consistent part of our lives too.
We humans tend to complicate faith, when really God wants to simplify things for us. Nehemiah's powerful faith was beautifully simple.
Micah 6:8 tells us, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Matthew 6:33-34, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Let’s determine to:
Love God, Love Others
Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God
Seek the Lord, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness
Overcome Worry by Walking in Faith and by Coming to God in Prayer
And notice the difference that it makes!
If we want to rebuild lives--our own and others--Nehemiah is a great example for us to follow!
What needs restoring and rebuilding in your own life? What action steps can you take?
How can you help others rebuild the brokenness in their lives?