Nehemiah One – Part Two
5 I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; 9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ 10 They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.”
Now I was the cupbearer to the king.
Remember that the heart of Nehemiah has been broken by the state of the people of God and the city of God. Now he is crying out to God to get God’s attention. This is not a prayer to help him find the keys to his chariot – not that praying for the small things in life is wrong, but this is about something that has struck him profoundly and deeply and has him very concerned. So how does a man of God pray when something has touched him so profoundly?
- First, he begins with Who God is:
- Beseech – ask (someone) urgently and fervently to do something; implore; entreat.
- He is crying out to God but who is he crying out to?
- The Lord God of heaven – if you need to have an image in mind, I highly recommend Rev 4:3-11closeERROR: The IP key is no longer supported. Please use your access key, the testing key 'TEST'closeERROR: The IP key is no longer supported. Please use your access key, the testing key 'TEST'. This is the person whose heart you calling out to. Does this remind you of another prayer? From Matthew?
- He is a great and awesome God – Take a quick look at Job 40closeERROR: The IP key is no longer supported. Please use your access key, the testing key 'TEST'closeERROR: The IP key is no longer supported. Please use your access key, the testing key 'TEST' – 42 and see the extent of God’s creation. When Job was dealing with God’s position, God reminded Job of His creation. When you see God as Who He is, you don’t attempt to push Him around or tell Him what to do. You beseech Him.
- When we comprehend Who God is, very often the next steps involve our own personal evaluation of who we are NOT. People who speak to God like Nehemiah will very often tend to confess sins.
- Isaiah is a great example of this, when he was in God’s presence, what was his reaction.
- Nehemiah cries out: Please hear me, but he doesn’t present his prayer for the topic of his heart, but rather calls out for God to hear him about his sinfulness.
- His is confessing his sins and his father’s sins and the nation of Israel’s sins. What kind of pronouns are used here? I & we.
- He doesn’t say anything wishy washy about sin. This is not about “if” but “We have”. The things he points out: Acting corruptly & not keeping the commandments, nor the statues, not the ordinances which were given to Moses.
- Next Nehemiah calls on God to remember something God said. He calls out to a God who promised something and now he requests. This is where we call to mind the truth of God’s promises. It not that God needs to be reminded about what He promised in the past, but that we are expressing our faith in His power and ability to keep those promises.
Illustrations from History
I heard the story of an old saint and pastor who had a very tender heart about sin. One night, as the meetings were ending, he asked if he could meet with his elders, he had a sin to confess. Of course, all the elders were concerned. If you knew this man, you would wonder what could he have done to warrant such a confession to the leaders of the church. So the men all gathered around together, had a word of prayer, and then asked the man to share and confess.
The old saint told the story about how at the most recent gathering, he was asked by the ladies in the kitchen to cut the pie for the gathering. So he took one of his favorite pies and began to follow their direction. After cutting, and perhaps even during the cutting, this man decided to cut one piece a little larger than the others because of his great love for this pie. So he cut, and then took a piece that was only marginally bigger than any other of the pieces of the pie. His confession to the board was not that he had that larger piece of pie, but that he purposed in his heart to take advantage of the power that had been entrusted to him. Perhaps an even bigger shame is that although the pie was delicious to him, the dishonor to the Lord ruined any joy he might have found from the pie. The closer you get to God, the more serious you will realize sin is.
Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman told of a distinguished minister, Dr. Howard, from Australia who preached very strongly on the subject of sin. After the service, one of the church officers came to counsel with him in the study. “Dr. Howard,” he said, “we don’t want you to talk as openly as you do about man’s guilt and corruption, because if our boys and girls hear you discussing that subject they will more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but do not speak so plainly about sin.” The minister took down a small bottle and showing it to the visitor said, “You see that label? It says strychnine—and underneath in bold, red letters the word poison! Do you know, man, what you are asking me to do? You are suggesting that I change the label. Suppose I do, and paste over it the words, ‘Essence of Peppermint’; don’t you see what happens? The milder you make your label, the more dangerous you make your poison!”