Joining Jesus – 8th April 2019
3. Look Up
The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
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.”
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:
“LORD, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
“They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king. Nehemiah 1:1-11
When we give up to self and realize that we cannot do what needs to be done to fulfil the mission of Jesus we are then able to look up and see God as He really is!
After Nehemiah had finished his period of mourning, fasting and praying, He was able to speak to God in remarkable way. His words reveal the fact that He had begun to see who God really is and what God wants to, and can, DO.
He begins by referring to God as the great and awesome God. As Nehemiah ‘looked up’ he saw that God is not an impotent being who is incapable of changing what seem to be ‘lost causes’. He is great and awesome, words that describe a being who is capable of achieving what we would think of as impossible. While Nehemiah focuses on the problem, he realizes that he cannot change it but when he looks up and sees God, he realizes that God is more than capable, He is GREAT and He is AWESOME. God has no equal, nothing is impossible for Him and, when we see Him for who He is we realize that ‘our God is an awesome God’ and ‘impossible’ situations can be changed.
But then, Nehemiah continues speaking with God and the next words that he uses reveal another great truth that demonstrates that God is not only able to do ‘the impossible’ He is also willing.
Nehemiah says: ‘who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments’.
The great and awesome God is also a loving God who makes Himself small enough to be concerned about people, because He loves them.
When Nehemiah looked up and saw a new vision of a God who can do, and who is passionately willing to do, his response is to ASK.
In his prayer, Nehemiah confesses his weakness and failings! It is clear from the words of his prayer that the things that have led to the tremendous suffering of the people in exile was the result of the failure of God’s people to live as He intended. Nehemiah could not seek to gain God’s help by arguing that he, or the people of God had somehow earned God’s favour. On the contrary, seeing a vision of who God is led him to being absolutely honest and transparent about all of their failings. He acknowledges that the people have been wicked and disobedient, deserving of all the bad things that had happened to them. Nehemiah cannot bargain with God, he can only appeal to Him and His mercy. The tremendous grace of God that would restore his people regardless of how far they had wandered.
As we think about the world that we live in today, we are in the same position as Nehemiah. We cannot seek to persuade God to bless it, we must, like Nehemiah, repent of our own sin and ask him to act not because we deserve it, but because of His great grace!
This week, I encourage you to spend time on your knees!