HOJN Edge #3

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HOJN Edge #3
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"The Edge" features creative perspectives and reflections associated with the subject matter presented on the Current Lesson page.


Study Series: HOJN
Historical Overview of the Jewish Nation

Edge #3: July 1, 2000

Scriptural Background

Nehemiah's Prayer

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, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 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. I said, "I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 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. 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. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; 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.' They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. 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.  (Nehemiah 1 NASB)

Nehemiah's Prayer Answered

And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart." Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, "Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?" Then the king said to me, "What would you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, "If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it." Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, "How long will your journey be, and when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, "If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go." And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.  (Nehemiah 2:1-8 NASB, emphasis added)

Back in the time of Nehemiah, a city's walls reflected its strength.  Without a wall, the city was vulnerable to its enemies.  In a similar sense, without the wall of protection that God Himself provides, we too are vulnerable to our enemies.  "Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit." (Proverbs 25:28 NASB)   We looked last time at how we ourselves place a king over us so that we are in a sense blinded to what God truly wants to do in our lives.  The only way out of exile is via the Lord, the King of kings.  Nehemiah was a man of prayer.  Though we often say there is power in prayer -- the true power is from God and in God's answers to our prayers.  We are in a sense powerless, but God has so much that He wants to show us if we would only yield to Him.  When it comes time to face whatever king is in our lives, how should we handle it? Nehemiah gives us such an exemplary illustration of how to approach a king.  In seeking to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, he simply prayed.  He beseeched, or earnestly made his requests known to God.  And through it all he gave Him praise and adoration and confessed his own wrongdoing.  He also knew the Bible, and boldly approached the throne with the confidence he held in God's promises.  "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him."  (1 John 5:14-15 NASB, emphasis added)

In a world of immediate gratification, we often expect immediate answers to our prayers.  It was four months (from Chislev, corresponding to our November-December, to Nisan, corresponding to our March-April) before Nehemiah's prayer was only beginning to be answered.  When facing the earthly king, he never left the presence of the heavenly king as he "prayed to the God of heaven" in the midst of it all.  The "king" had every reason to refuse his request, but the "King" in all His sovereignty not only ensured that Nehemiah had permission from the earthly king, but He provided him with all the time needed for completion of the wall, protection during the rebuilding, and the essential resources for the undertaking.  Sometimes His answers are immediate yet sometimes we have to wait, which shows us from whom the power truly comes from, by whose provision, and in whose perfect timing.  Oftentimes by waiting, we see even greater blessings!

"Violence will not be heard again in your land, Nor devastation or destruction within your borders; 
But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise.  (Isaiah 60:18 NASB)

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Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission.