I can’t help but retype this opening prayer and encourage you to spend a little time meditating on it today:
“O Lord, God of heaven the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
I hope you let that prayer sink into your soul a bit (a lot) today. It’s gorgeous. It’s selfless. It’s an excellent example of “standing in the gap” for whole nations. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to do that. You. Me. We. Us. But namely, you. You as an individual have the resources inside you to stir and move the heart of God, just like Nehemiah, who we learn at the very end of this chapter is the king’s cup-bearer. We can learn a few other things about Nehemiah also just from this first chapter. And while these things are not a lot to go on, they are a good start. First off, it appears we are in about the same time period as where Ezra left off. Artaxerxes is king and has been for a while. However, while Ezra was celebrating many freedoms and victories (through utter hardship, of course), enough time has passed that Nehemiah is seeing a less cheerful picture of how the Israelites are being accepted in Jerusalem (and Judah). And look what else is new: the word Jews appears in verse 2. I don’t recall ever seeing the term Jews before, but I could be wrong, and if I am and you know it, please let me know. Finally, Nehemiah himself is given credit for penning this book, and while we don’t know a whole lot about him right now, we know that he is not in Judah, he has a heart for God and God’s people and he works directly under the nose of the Babylonian king. I already love this beginning.
Writing prompt: beginning
What are your feelings so far about the Book of Nehemiah?