1The 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, 2that 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. 3They 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.” 4When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5I 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, 6let 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; 9but 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.
Nehemiah did some absolutely astounding things for the Lord, but what I want to point out is how Nehemiah’s activity and success in leadership were sourced in his contemplative, disciplined heart. His great character was developed prior to accomplishing what he did for the Kingdom of God.
Specifically, there are four things I see through this passage:
1.) Nehemiah knows God’s character and personality (verses 4-5)
a. Nehemiah’s heart was moved as God’s heart is moved, and it pains him grievously to see the state of Israel.
b. He spent time in the Word of God to know His character, and time in prayer where God’s face was revealed to him.
2.) Nehemiah confesses not only individual sin, but corporate sin as well (verses 6-7)
a. Because of the knowledge that Nehemiah has about God’s character, he understands who bears the responsibility for the current situation.
b. Confession is not simply a personal act…what would it look like if we were men and women who not only accepted responsibility for our own sin, but also the sins of former generations?
3.) Nehemiah knows God’s promises revealed through the Word (verses 8-9)
a. This again highlights Nehemiah’s command of the Word of God.
4.) Nehemiah asks God for success after all these things (verse 11)
a. Only after all these things does Nehemiah pray to be heard.
The major point I have learned from Nehemiah is that his inward disciplines of prayer, fasting, meditation and study preceded and directed his active and outward disciplines of leadership and ultimately his great accomplishment of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
I hope that we are becoming men and women like Nehemiah, who are being developed in the character of Godliness through discipline prompted by the Spirit of God. We must understand the point of a disciplined life is not discipline itself. To think this is to act like body-builders: people who confuse physical conditioning done to obtain purposeful strength and make the physical conditioning (or some grotesque simulation of it) the end in itself. Rather, discipline is useful only to the extent that it causes you to be more of a disciple: a follower of Jesus.