You know that whole “knock, and the door will be open to you” thing that Jesus talked about? I’m wondering how many times we stand on that same threshold with the door finally open, but are too scared to step over.
Which makes this story of Nehemiah so informative to me.
The land of the Hebrews, God chosen people, lay in utter ruin and desolation, as predicted. The people, those who survived, are in exile, servants of the foreign king. Nehemiah lands the job of cupbearer of this pagan king himself, not particularly a posh position, since at any time the royal loses his cool, Nehemiah could lose his head.
Nevertheless, our hero has a heart for his own God and people:
“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.”
Listening in here is revealing…
- He got the facts straight.
- He interpreted the facts in light of history and truth.
- He mourned. This comes in different ways to different personalities, BTW. But, as we are soon to see, his mourning took on positive action, not merely a depressive wringing of hands. First, however, he mourned to the point of repentance.
- He included himself in the problem. I find this interesting. I live in a culture (21st century America in particular, but the human race in general), that wants to lay personal responsibility on someone else. Not Nehemiah. He chose to identify intimately with the guilt.
- He acknowledged Who God is. This puts things in proper perspective. Yes, He is formidably awesome, but also the One Who keeps His promises.
- He reminds God of His promise of restoration. Not that God needed to have His memory jogged, but there is a benefit to us in reminding ourselves, and voicing it, since there are other spiritual entities that need to be put on notice. This is also an act of faith, because why would you “remind” God of these things if you didn’t have a seed of confidence in His ability/desire to fulfill them?
- Nehemiah’s purpose was to honor God, not himself. This puts a whole new spin on prayer.
- Nehemiah’s mourning and repentance took action; he had a plan, a bold and personally dangerous one.
- He asked for God’s favor so that the plan could take effect.
I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” Then I was terrified, …
However, Nehemiah has already been knocking on this door, and so he plows ahead:
…but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
He now has his trembling hand on the doorknob as it begins to creak on its hindges…
The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
Suddenly, the door is not only flung wide open, but Nehemiah is invited into the room of the king’s full provision for what this exiled servant of the Most High God has in mind!
And, boy, does he have a lot in mind. At this point, Nehemiah gives a silently vertical cry for help, but only on top of much serious preparation—both prayerfully (as mentioned above) and practically. Nehemiah already had a plan in place, details included. In fact, he dreamed up his project just as if it were already a done deal!
Which makes me wonder my own paradigm of faith?
First, do I have an attitude of repentance and awe before the Almighty? Yes, He is my Father, but He is also my God. My culture tends to forget that part.
Secondly, are my dreams and schemes primarily about building God’s kingdom, or merely my own?
Next, considering the quality of those first two points, do I have a plan in place? This is “active” waiting.
And lastly, when the door is open, do I shrink back or push forward? Because if parts 1-3 are in place, then timidity has no foothold in God’s plan.
What door are you knocking on?
Nehemiah 1:5-11; 2:2-4 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.