1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the 20th year, as I was in Shushan the palace,
2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
How old Nehemiah was, or how long he had been cupbearer to Artaxerxes, we do not know, but it is apparent that his heart was with the remnant of his people in Jerusalem. The report he received was very saddening. One hundred years had past since a faithful remnant had returned with Zerubbabel when Cyrus destroyed Babylon and proclaimed freedom to go home. After much effort and delay, the temple had been rebuilt after a fashion at the urging and encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah, but things had not prospered. These men reported to Nehemiah that Judah was in great affliction and reproach.
Fourteen years earlier than Nehemiah, Ezra the priest had gathered together another little company of exiles and had gone back with the purpose of teaching and reestablishing the law and the Temple services. But clearly more help was needed. So much was required that Ezra had not the power or authority to accomplish.
When Nehemiah heard of the conditions in Judah, where Ezra was striving against great odds to bring the people back to the way of God, he wept, and mourned, and fasted and prayed for the blessing of his people.
So Four months pass - four months in which Nehemiah continues to pray and plan and form the great determination to leave behind all the meaningless luxury of the Persian court and devote himself to the service and welfare of the afflicted people of God.
He must have known from the beginning that it would be largely a thankless and a hopeless task. But in the deepest sense it was not hopeless, for he was playing a worthy part in the eternal purpose, and though most of the results of his effort were soon dissipated when he was taken away, some of his accomplishments remained and were part of the chain of events that prepared the way for the eventual manifestation of the Messiah.
He built the wall and restored the city. Daniel has prophesied that from this event, the coming of the Messiah should be measured-seventy weeks of years-four hundred and ninety years.*
Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build!
4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the Elohim of heaven,
If we truly desire anything, we will be continuous [day and night v6] and persevering in our efforts and prayers*
5 And said, I beseech thee, O Yahweh Elohim of heaven, the great and terrible El, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
By Nehemiah's efforts the desolated city was reborn to a reasonably secure existence as a center for the development again of Jewish life. This lasted. But his greater task of establishing righteousness and justice among the people did not last. As soon as his back was turned, the dog returned to its vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
That is the sad background that overshadows all the story of the intense, self-sacrificing efforts of this simple, humble, zealous man of God.
"The great and terrible God"-do we realize how great and terrible He is?
A strong and living realization of this is fundamental to a humble and contrite walk.
"Keeping covenant and mercy to"-whom? What two characteristics are necessary?-
"To them that LOVE HIM and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS." *
6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
We find this is characteristic of men of God. They make themselves one with those whom they seek to help. They stoop down to them and seek the mercy of God together with them.
8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
All the faithful through the ages have been united in this desire and prayer-
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee" (Psa. 122:6).
But Nehemiah did not stop at prayer and desire. He gave his life to the service of this divine purpose.
Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build