Monday, November 14, 2011

7 things we can learn from Nehemiah’s Prayer

Preamble: This write-up has been preached on a number of occasions [by me], including this coming time of 20/09/2014 for a divine healing service.  For the several times that this set of words was given, the Lord was pleased to come and minister and brought break-throughs for people, in their situations.  I personally believe it has in it, a set of understandings, fundamental to the faith, that the Lord would want every believer to embrace, and so, when it is preached the Lord is pleased to come to attest to it, with signs and wonders, and breakthroughs for people.  By the way, to-date, this is still one of the top articles read by people on this blog site, although the title was not worded as expediently for common search [like starting it with "Nehemiah's Prayer ...."].  I hope you will be blessed when you read this article [this preamble added on 16/09/2014].]

In the study of Old Testament (OT), even as we are to understand the history and stories of the times, at the end of the day, where possible, we should address its application in our present day life. If we do NOT do that, then reading of OT accounts of events may appeal to us only like fictional stories, to be read like a fictional novel; surely the OT is more than that.
Link to author's cross catalogue

Since the church (the church I attend), has just completed a study of the Book of Nehemiah, I thought, apart from what was gleaned from those preachings from the pulpit, I would like to, at least, put up an application article on the Book, by just looking at the Prayer of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1. Earlier, towards the end of September 2011, I wrote an article on “The Initial Return to Zion”, at the start of the church’s study of Nehemiah. That article served to clear up some of the confusions over the 2 major books (Ezra and Nehemiah) on the subject of initial return to Zion. You may like to read it, if you intend to do a detailed study of these 2 books. Although the series by the church provided great scholarly insights into the meanings and symbolisms of things in the Book (and I appreciate that, my pastor), there was clearly a lack of addressing the application of what we learnt there. I can only say time always limits what we can cover. But I really would like to, as I have indicated in my article on The Initial Return To Zion, encourage people to read with the intent to apply. This article gives us a simple illustration of reading with intent to apply.

Nehemiah’s Prayer
Nehemiah was told that those who survived the Babylonian exile were in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and its gates had been burned with fire. He sat down and wept when he heard those things; for some days he mourned and fasted and prayed before God. Below is his prayer (Neh 1:5-11):

5 Then I said: “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king (Neh 1:5-11).

Here I give 7 things we can learn from the prayer of Nehemiah:

1. That God is great and awesome (v5). Nehemiah declared it: that God is great and awesome. Our God is the God of the Heaven, great and awesome. How great and awesome is our God? There are so many aspects to greatness and awesomeness of God; and we can preach sermons after sermons on this subject. But the one aspect that Nehemiah expressed in that one verse is the awesomeness of the all omnipotent God keeping covenant with men. Such is the awesomeness of God that despite we can do nothing to Him, He still cares to keep His promises to us! (Perhaps, one day, I will put up an entry on the greatness and awesomeness of God).

2. That God keeps covenant with those who love Him and obey His commands (v5). Our God is a covenant-keeping God, yet it is NOT a case of God will stick to the covenant no matter what. Nehemiah’s understanding was that God keeps covenant with those who love Him and obey Him. So, the parts that God is supposed to do in a covenant are for those who love Him and obey Him. Are you loving God? Are you obeying God? One angle we should be looking at, before we ask, “How come I do NOT get this or that from God, said of, in the covenant?” is whether we are indeed, loving our God and are obeying Him. If you neither love Him nor obey Him, can you still get from God? Sure, but it is by His grace, and if it is by grace, it is up to God whether or NOT He would give it; it would NOT be He is obligated to give, as in a covenant or contract. If you think it is wrong to even think of God ever NOT keeping His part of the covenant, God did that before, but NOT until the counterparty, the people of God, Israelites, first broke covenant with Him. God broke the covenant (“The Promised Land Covenant”) which He made with the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, because the Israelites broke the covenant first (Judges 2:1-3 {If you want a full exposition of Judges 2, read this: Judges 2}).

3. That God wants us to confess our sins (v6-7). That was what Nehemiah did, before he put before God, his supplications. We ought to follow Nehemiah’s example, always confess our sins, before we even petition for God’s working on our behalf. Those who teach that 1 John 1:9 is NOT for believers ARE WRONG. (You may want to read this article of mine {1 John 1:9 is for believers}, if you are inclined to believe believers do NOT need to confess their sins after the one time confession, at born-again).

4. That God would remember His words (v8). In our prayers, we refer to the Word, refer to words we have received from God; God will remember them and will honor them. Nehemiah called to God to remember.

5. That God is a forgiving God, that if we would return to Him and obey Him, He would once again move to restore us (v9).  I want to stress here that we need to return and obey.

6. That God would give ear to the prayer of all those who delight in revering His name (v10-11). You do NOT think God “shama” (H8085) you, or (less accurately) “listening” to you? One angle to look at is, “Are you revering His name in delight?” Or are you just begrudgingly honoring His name?

7. That God would like us to talk to Him first before we act (v11). That was what Nehemiah did: He was intentioned to talk to the King about the plight of the remnants and the city of Jerusalem, but he talked to God first about his intention. It is involving God in our affairs, and NOT, we just do our thing and when we get into trouble, we run to God for help; NOT that we should NOT do that, run to God for help, if we indeed, we get into trouble (for it is better to get help from God still – late better than NOT!). But it is honoring God to talk to Him first, before we proceed.

You see, regardless you are going or NOT going, to rebuild the wall of the city or your church, your family, etc, you can take in the above 7 important understandings, and apply them in your life.

Link to author's items catalogue
Anthony Chia, high.expressions – Lord, may
you impress upon your teachers and preachers, that a way to pass down the legacy and heritage of our faith is to pass on the understanding to read with the intent to apply. Amen.

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