Introduction: In 538 B.C., God influenced the Persian King Cyrus II to issue a decree to allow the Jews to return from their Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land (Ezra 1:1-2; 5:13-17). Sheshbazzar led a small group of exiles to Jerusalem and laid the foundations of the second Temple (Ezra 1:11; 5:16). Zerubbabel was the Jews’ leader upon arrival (Ezra 2:2; 3:2). The Jews, however, faced opposition and delays as they tried to rebuild the Temple. In 458 B.C., the seventh year of King Artaxerxes I’s reign, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:7-8). He led the people in restoring proper worship and in restoring God’s Word as the foundation for holy living. In 445 B.C., the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes I’s reign, Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1). Between 445 B.C. and 425 B.C., Nehemiah led the Jews in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. This book focuses on how God used Nehemiah to lead and revitalize the Jews.
Nehemiah chapter 1 focuses on one of the things that made Nehemiah God’s anointed leader, his prayer life. Through his example, God reveals several attributes of an effective intercessory prayer warrior. An effective prayer intercessor should have: (1) a love for all God’s sheep, (2) reverent praise, (3) continual prayer, (4) repentance, (5) gratitude, (6) faith, and (7) service.
First, Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the Persian king, loved God’s people and was deeply grieved and prayed for the Jews upon learning that that the Jews in the Promised Land were in great distress and disgrace. From Nehemiah’s example, God reveals that an effective prayer intercessor loves and prays for God’s sheep. Second, Nehemiah began his intercessory prayer with reverent praise for God. Jesus later revealed in the Lord’s Prayer that an effective prayer warrior begins with reverent praise for God. Third, Nehemiah prayed continually for God’s people. From his example, God reveals that an effective intercessory prayer warrior prays continually. Fourth, Nehemiah’s prayer included a prayer of repentance for all the Jews’ sins. From his example, God reveals that an effective prayer warrior should also repent for the nation’s sins. Fifth, Nehemiah prayed in gratitude for God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. An effective prayer warrior should also gratefully thank God for His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. Sixth, Nehemiah prayed in faith for God to protect him as he planned to approach the King of Persia for assistance. From Nehemiah’s example, God reveals that an effective prayer warrior has faith in God’s power to deliver. Finally, Nehemiah was not afraid to give up his position of influence as the cupbearer for the Persian King for God’s people. An effective prayer warrior should also be willing to sacrifice and use their talents for God.
Nehemiah deeply loved God’s people. Despite living in a place of honor and privilege as the cupbearer to the King of Persia, Nehemiah loved his people and deeply grieved upon learning of their distress and disgrace in Jerusalem: “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and disgrace, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire.’ 4 Now 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.” (Neh. 1:1-4). The name Nehemiah means “The Lord comforts.” God planned on using him to comfort and encourage God’s people. At the time God called him to service, Nehemiah was the cupbearer for Artaxerxes I in the city of Susa, Persia. Esther also married King Ahasuerus “at the citadel in Susa,” (Esther 1:2). Daniel also saw a vision of himself “in the citadel of Susa . . .” (Dan. 8:2). This was the winter palace for the Persian kings, located 150 miles (241 km.) north of the Persian Gulf. The city of “Ecbatana” was the summer palace for the kings. Hananiah was Nehemiah’s brother (Neh. 1:2). Because Nehemiah trusted him, he later “put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.” (Neh. 7:2). Nehemiah showed himself to be a future leader for his people because he loved them. Thus, he first asked his brother for news regarding the people. He then prayed after learning of their distress and disgrace.
Walls symbolized order and protection from evil. Nehemiah grieved over the broken walls around Jerusalem (Neh. 1:3). Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the walls in 587 B.C. When the exiles returned to rebuild of the Temple and the infrastructure of Jerusalem, two local officials named Rehum and Shimshai wrote King Artaxerxes I to stop them: “let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem; they are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations” (Ezra 4:12, 23). Solomon revealed that walls were a symbol of order and protection from evil: “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.” (Prov. 25:28). Whenever Jerusalem’s walls were broken, it indicated that evil enemy forces had overrun God’s people: “Then Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and tore down the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate, 400 cubits.” (2 Chr. 25:23). “So all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.” (2 Kgs. 25:10; Jer. 39:8; 52:14; Lam. 2:9). Conversely, the rebuilding the walls symbolized spiritual restoration: “And he [Hezekiah] took courage and rebuilt all the wall that had been broken down and erected towers on it, and built another outside wall and strengthened the Millo in the city of David, . . .” (2 Chr. 32:5). Nehemiah grieved because over 150 years had passed since the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, and the city and walls were still mostly in ruin. Only God’s Temple had been rebuilt. Without the walls, the people lived in fear that enemies could attack at any moment.
Nehemiah grieved over the Jews “distress” and “disgrace”. Nehemiah showed his love for his people by grieving over the Jews’ “great distress and disgrace.” (Neh. 1:3). Ezra also grieved deeply over the Jews’ sins in marrying pagan wives: “When I heard about this matter, I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled.” (Ezra 9:3). A true shepherd loves God’s people and grieves when they are in distress. Do you grieve for those in distress around you?
Nehemiah found strength and direction by depending upon God. Although Nehemiah was a man of great power and influence as the cupbearer to the King of Persia, he let God be the source of his strength through prayer and fasting: “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Neh. 1:4). Prayer and fasting were important for Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 8:21; 9:6-15; Neh. 2:4-5; 5:19; 9:5-37; 13:14, 22, 31). Both depended upon God, not strong leaders. Living without their own king forced the Jews to pray to God instead of depending upon their kings to deliver them as they had done in the past.
God seeks shepherds who love His sheep. The prophet Jeremiah foresaw that God would send shepherds for His sheep: “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” (Jer. 3:15). Ezra and Nehemiah were among God’s promised shepherds. Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of this promise. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (Jo. 10:11). Jesus, however, fulfills this promise today through His leaders. Thus, He told Peter to show his love for Him by being a shepherd to His sheep: “He [Jesus] said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.”’ (John 21:17). “ . . . shepherd the flock of God among you, . . .” (1 Pet. 5:2). “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds;” (Prov. 27:23). Are you a shepherd to Jesus’ lost sheep? Do you pray for those around you trapped in sin, illness, or despair?
Nehemiah began his intercessory prayer with reverence. Nehemiah began by professing God’s awesome power and His faithfulness to keep His covenant promises: “5 I said, ‘Please, Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps the covenant and faithfulness for those who love Him and keep His commandments:’” (Neh. 1:5). Being led by the Spirit, Nehemiah followed what Jesus later revealed to be the model for prayer.
The model prayer should begin by professing God’s holiness. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray (Lk. 11:1), He gave a template for the elements of a model prayer, called today “the Lord’s prayer.” Like Nehemiah, Jesus began by professing God’s holiness: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. . .” (Matt. 6:9). The Greek word “hagiazo” translated as “Hallowed” means “to make, render, or declare as sacred or holy, or to mentally venerate or revere.” Thus, Jesus reveals that your prayer should begin by declaring that God is holy and showing reverence that He is in authority over your life. Do your prayers profess God’s holiness?
God is awe inspiring. Nehemiah professed that God is awe inspiring or “awesome” (Neh. 1:5). The word “awesome” in Hebrew is literally translated as “He is the one to be feared.” (Frank Gaebelein, The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 682). Moses also referred to God as awe inspiring or “awesome”: “You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” (Dt. 7:21). The psalmists also referred to God as being awesome: in glory, power, and majesty: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! . . . .Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.”’ (Ps. 66:3, 5). “O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68:35). “Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness.” (Ps. 145:6; 106:22; Is. 64:3). “For the LORD most high is to be feared, a great King over all the earth.” (Ps. 47:2). “I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,”’ (Dan. 9:4). Many people causally use the term “awesome” to express approval for a good outcome to a situation. But this misuses a word that was reserved for God’s amazing power. In your prayers, are you professing awe at God’s amazing power?
God is faithful. Nehemiah then praised God’s faithfulness (Neh. 1:5). Moses also celebrated His faithfulness: “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “ . . . I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, . . . showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Ex. 20:5-6). “and I will remember My covenant, . . .” (Gen. 9:15). Do your prayers praise God’s faithfulness?
Jesus is faithful. Jesus is also faithful to keep His promises to you: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful, even when we are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). How are you thanking Him?
Respond to Jesus’ faithfulness by obeying His commandments. Jesus revealed Himself to be the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Horeb (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:4)). He warned: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15). Out of love for Jesus, are you voluntarily keeping His Ten Commandments?
Nehemiah prayed continually as an intercessory prayer warrior. Nehemiah prayed continually for God to see and hear the prayers of His sinful people: ‘“ 6a 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,”’ (Neh. 1:6 a). Nehemiah made this prayer because the Jews’ sins had separated them from God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God . . .” (Isaiah 59:2(a)). Without Jesus, everyone faces the same dilemma.
Today, sin can also “hinder” your prayers to God. In the Old Testament, God warned that, as a consequence of the separation caused by sin, He would not hear the prayers of sinners: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). “And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness.” (Is. 59:2-3(b)). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but He does listen to anyone who worships Him and does His will.” (Jo. 9:31; Prov. 15:29; 8:9; Ps. 66:18). In the New Testament, He warns that sin can “hinder” a believer’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Thus, you should always repent of your sins. When you repent and pray in humility, God will hear your prayers: “He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer.” (Ps. 102:17). Is there anything in your life that might hinder your prayers to God?
The effective fervent prayer of the righteous can accomplish great things. God acted upon Nehemiah’s prayers because he first repented. He then prayed fervently and in faith: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Ja. 5:16). In a similar way, God heard Elijah’s prayers to both stop and later restart the rain in Israel: “17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” (Ja. 5:17-18). God also wants you to pray fervently to Him to intervene when you need deliverance.
Plea as an intercessor for God to help others. God later honored Nehemiah’s prayers as an intercessor for the Jewish nation. Another man of great faith, Abraham, also used his faith to plead with God as an intercessor to spare any innocent people in Sodom and Gomorra (Gen. 18:23). God also spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ faithful prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). God again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and 14,700 Jews rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). As an intercessor, Samuel also promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins (1 Sam. 12:23). David also prayed as an intercessor for God to spare the Jews after 70,000 men across all of Israel died in a plague that came about because of his sins (2 Sam. 24:17). Elijah also cried out to God in faith for God to raise a widow’s son from the dead (1 Kgs. 17:21-22). Jonah also made a plea as an intercessor when his disobedience caused the men in his boat to suffer (Jo. 1:12). The apostles also continually prayed for others (2 Tim. 1:3; Col. 1:9; Eph. 1:16). “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, . . .” (1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. Yet, it doesn’t work if you lack faith. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, . . .” (Jam. 1:6). Are you praying as an intercessor for those whose in need?
Nehemiah’s intercessory prayer included a prayer of repentance. Nehemiah’s intercessory prayer also included a confession of the sins of all of Israel: ‘“6b confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have committed 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.”’ (Neh. 1:6b-7). Nehemiah did not attempt to claim that the sins were limited to other people. Instead, he confessed that all had sinned before God.
All have fallen short and are in need of salvation. Solomon, the wisest man on Earth, revealed that none could keep themselves free from sin: “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20). “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9). “[T]here is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Ps. 143:2). Paul later quoted from these verses to reveal two of the central tenants of our faith, universal sin and the need for salvation (Ro. 3:23). If you could be saved because of your works, Jesus died needlessly (Gal. 2:21).
Confess the nation’s sins. Ezra also led the people in a humble prayer during which he repented for the Jews’ sins: “6 and I said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.”’ (Ezra 9:6). In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist also called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17; Lk. 18:13.) If you say that you are without sin, the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Have you confessed your sins? Are you confessing the nation’s sins?
If a nation repents and turns back to God, He will deliver it. God promises to deliver any nation trapped in sin if it repents: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). It is the role of the Church to pray and be His salt and light in leading the nation to repent. Is your church fasting and praying for your nation to repent?
Nehemiah praises God for His faithfulness. Nehemiah then prayed in gratitude for God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises: ‘“8 Remember, please, 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 bring them to the place where I have chosen to have My name dwell.’ 10 They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.” (Neh. 1:8-10). Nehemiah did not ask God to “remember” His promises out of fear that God would forget His promises. Instead, Nehemiah recited God’s promises to boost his own faith as he prayed. He also knew that God had not finished His plan to restore the Jews. God did not mean for the Jews to live in a broken-down city without walls. He wanted the Jews to find order and protection.
God was faithful to keep His promise to return the Jews to the Promised Land. Before the Jews even entered the Promised Land, God revealed to Moses both the Jews’ future exile and His plan to remember His covenant by restoring them to the Promised Land: “I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies-- or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.” (Lev. 26:41-42). “then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. . . The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will be good to you and make you more numerous than your fathers.” (Dt. 30:3, 5). Through Ezekiel, God repeated His promise to remember His covenant to the Jews: “Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (Ezek. 16:60). God’s use of King Cyrus II to return the Jews proved His faithfulness (Ezra 1:1-2; 5:13-17). But God’s restoration was not yet complete.
Know God’s Word and pray for His promises to be fulfilled. Nehemiah also partially quoted from Deuteronomy as part of his prayer: “Yet they are Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.” (Dt. 9:29). Nehemiah demonstrated the importance of knowing God’s promises in the Bible. You need to know them to pray for God to fulfill them: “even though Nehemiah, like all of us, had to come before God empty-handed, with nothing deserving the Lord’s favor or even attention (indeed, just the opposite), he nevertheless did not come uninvited. . . Nehemiah challenges us to prayer based on an understanding of God’s purpose and will as found in His Word. He also reminds us that we can always begin again in our relationship with God if we return to Him in humility.” (Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary, Vol. 10, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 173). “This, no doubt, is the secret to great power in prayer: to plead the promises of God.” (David Guzik on Nehemiah 1) (italics in original). Do you know God’s promises? If so, are you praying in faith over God’s promises to be fulfilled?
Nehemiah’s intercessory prayer for protection before the King of Persia. After praying for months, Nehemiah then humbly prayed in faith for God to protect him as he acted upon a calling that God put on his life to confront the King of Persia: “11a Please, Lord, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and please make Your servant successful today and grant him mercy before this man.’” (Neh. 1:11a). The word “today” shows that God put on Nehemiah’s heart to act at that moment without any delay. Nehemiah was obedient. More importantly, he had the faith to risk his life and position to serve God’s people.
Nehemiah needed faith to overcome the risk of death. Nehemiah prayed for mercy because King Artaxerxes I was the most powerful man in the world. He could have killed Nehemiah for approaching him with an unsolicited request for assistance to help the Jews rebuild. This same king had previously issued an order to stop all building Jerusalem: ‘“So, now issue a decree to make these men stop work, that this city may not be rebuilt until a decree is issued by me”’ (Ezra 4:21). The Persians would have also been suspicious of Nehemiah because he was a foreigner with close access to the king. “Xerxes, father of Artaxerxes I, was killed in his own bedchamber by Artabanus, a courtier.” (Gaebelein, p. 683). After many costly battles with the Greeks and other revolts, Artaxerxes I previously feared a Jewish revolt and withheld tribute. Without God, Nehemiah would have had many reasons to be afraid. He faced death in challenging the king. Having faith is also a condition precedent to God’s willingness to use you: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Do you trust God to protect you when you step out in faith to serve Him?
Prayer is needed to accomplish any important task for God. The book of Nehemiah is often called a book about leadership. Nehemiah could not rebuild the walls on his own. One commentator observes: “Prayer is essential to leadership. If your vision is so big that only God can accomplish it, then you obviously must pray. If prayer isn't absolutely necessary to accomplish your vision, your goal isn't big enough. It appears that Nehemiah prayed for four months before he did anything. Later, when the work of rebuilding the walls actually begins, it only takes 52 days to finish the job. But that 52-day project had a four-month foundation of prayer.” (David Guzik on Nehemiah 1). Are you in prayer for God to accomplish something that you could not do on your own?
Read God’s Word and pray to let the Holy Spirit guide your actions. Implicit in Nehemiah’s request was God’s response to Nehemiah’s first prayer. God responded to Nehemiah’s prayer by selecting him to be the instrument of God’s will. God also wants you to seek His guidance through prayer and the Word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). When you read God’s Word and pray, the Holy Spirit can speak to you: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:16). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13). Are you reading the Word and praying on a daily basis to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you?
Depend upon God to deliver you and God’s people. Nehemiah prayed in humility. He did not plan on convincing the King of Persia to help him through his own wise arguments. Instead, he put his trust in God to soften the king’s heart. Paul also found his strength by depending upon Jesus, not himself: “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9). Living without a king forced the Jews to pray to God instead of depending upon a king to deliver them as they had done in the past. “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” (Ps. 118:8). “How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.” (Ps. 40:4). Are you turning to Jesus for your needs? Or, have you put your trust in your own abilities, powerful people, or your political party to deliver you?
God exalts those who humble themselves before Him. God wants His leaders to humble themselves before Him, like Nehemiah did, so that He can exalt them: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). God will also humble you before He exalts you: “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam. 4:10). “So that He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (Job 5:11). God will also heal a nation when it humbles itself (2 Chr. 7:14). Are you praying in humility for God’s deliverance?
Nehemiah used his position of influence as an intercessor for God’s people. Finally, Nehemiah stated the least important fact for God’s intervention, his privileged position as a confidant to the king: “Now I was the cupbearer to the king.” (Neh. 1:11b). He knew that he could not boast or claim that he could use his position to do God a favor. Instead, like Moses, Nehemiah had to be willing to sacrifice his position of influence to serve God’s people. Like Esther, God had placed him in a position of influence to help his people, even if he risked his own death (Esth. 4:12-14). God also did not send Moses to live in Pharaoh’s home to bring him comfort while his people suffered. Instead, God prepared him with the finest education in the ancient world to be His future law giver: “And after he had been set outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and nurtured him as her own son. Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.” (Acts 7:21-22).
Use your talents for His glory, not your own. Like Nehemiah, every good and perfect gift in your life is from above. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (Jam. 1:7). “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:48). Are you using the education, abilities, and wealth that God has given you for His glory? Or, are you using God’s gifts to hoard your own treasures?
To find your life, you must be willing to lose it. If the king did not kill him, Nehemiah was ready to give up his life of privilege to serve the Jews. Moses also gave up his life of privilege in Pharaoh’s house to serve the Jews. Paul gave up his privilege and influence to serve Jesus. Jesus also put aside His grandeur to die a humble servant to save mankind: “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:6-7). You must also be willing to lose your worldly life to find Jesus: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 10:39; 16:25). “‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Lk. 9:23; Mk. 8:34). Paul later realized that his prior accomplishments were nothing compared to the value of his relationship with Christ: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:7; same, Heb. 13:13). Do you value most the things of God or your wealth and worldly accomplishments?
God cares for His people and is looking for people like Nehemiah to serve. When He called Moses, God said that He heard the cries of His people (Ex. 2:23-25). God cannot ignore our suffering: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Is. 49:15). But God is looking for people like Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses, and Paul, who are willing to respond without delay to His calls and give up their lives of influence and privilege to serve. “And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”’ (Luke 10:2). Are you willing to put aside your positions of influence and privilege to serve?
God’s Faithfulness in Delivering the Jews from Babylonian Captivity
Evil Merodach (Babylonian)
Resided in northern Arabia
539 Cyrus II conquers Babylon
Cambyses II (Persian)
Of Ezra 4.7,11,23
(one of Artaxerxes’ generals 488
3rd son of Xerxes (Persian)