Nehemiah; Man of God
“They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” – Nehemiah 1:3-4
The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The remnant of God’s people who had survived exile and the Babylonian captivity were now back in the province, yet they had suffered much during their absence. God’s prophet Nehemiah was broken over the spiritual condition of his people along with the physical condition of Jerusalem. It was a tremendously dark chapter within the story of God’s covenant people.
And it is in the opening verses of the book of Nehemiah that we get a clear snapshot into the heart and life of this great Old Testament prophet. After carefully surveying the circumstances surrounding him, Nehemiah responded. First, he responded by taking a seat. Now the action of sitting down might seem rather simplistic to us. Yet so much had happened and taken place, that Nehemiah knew the wisdom in simply being still before almighty God (Psalm 46:10). In that moment, he stopped everything that he was doing, lest there be any distractions; for there was much for him to mentally unpack, and to contemplate. Secondly, this pondering man began to passionately weep over Jerusalem and the people of God. And his tears of mourning led to another great expression of faith in God, namely the spiritual discipline of fasting. In that moment, Nehemiah saw the need to feed upon spiritual food, sitting at God’s banqueting table of fellowship, rather than munching upon physical food. This act of fasting pointed to Nehemiah’s total dependence upon God, and also expressed his broken spirit before God. Fourthly, he fervently and earnestly prayed to almighty God in heaven. What is most interesting about this story is that these are things Nehemiah did simply not a few moments, or even a few hours; the Bible tells us that this was his disposition for days.
There are many lessons of life to glean from this story. To begin with, it addresses how we ought to respond in times of trouble. In those moments, we are to be still, weep, fast, and pray. Sitting down reminds us of the need to stop everything and simply get alone with God. Nehemiah sat down to contemplate and think about that was taking place around him. This is an exercise that ought to be incorporated in the life of every Christian. Trying times will come (James 1:2). But when you are pressed down by the pressures of life, and when you have the weight of the world on you, simply be still before Him. Secondly, just like Nehemiah, we should not refrain from weeping. One of the primary problems with many believers today is that there are too many dry eyes and not enough tears. We ought to weep over the spiritual condition of others. When was the last time that you wept over the spiritual condition of those around you? Thirdly, we saw that Nehemiah fasted. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that few believers practice today. The purpose of fasting is to forsake self and place all your focus on God. During seasons of fasting, He will spiritually feed and sustain you; for He is the bread of life (John 6:35). Finally, all of these actions were done so in a spirit of prayer to God.
This trying time helped Nehemiah become the great leader that he was. Emulating Nehemiah’s response during such a trying time will help enhance and replenish your intimacy with the Lord. If you want to model a man of God, look to Nehemiah. He exemplified how you and I should respond at the crossroads of life.