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The book of Nehemiah opens with an account of Nehemiah's grief at the relation he received of the calamities of the people at Jerusalem, Here is the account also of his fasting and prayer upon the occasion.
(1) ¶ The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, (2) That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
There is somewhat which in the opening of the history tends to endear Nehemiah to our affection, in that we find his fulness and enjoyments at court did not shut out, or make him forget his affection to the people of God. Nehemiah was a true Israelite, though serving an heathen prince. The Lord, in his providence, frequently caused his dear people to be servants to those that know him not. But it is charming to see their love to him and his.
(3) And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. (4) And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
This was a melancholy account of God's heritage. One should have thought that when the captivity was over, and the Lord had brought home his chosen, prosperity would have followed. Reader! mark it down. Jesus's people are to have tribulation in the world. And hereby indeed they will better know how to value his peace; In me ye shall have peace. Yes, blessed Lord! it is in thee; not from thee only, but in thee also. John 16:33 .
(5) ¶ And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: (6) Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. (7) We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. (8) Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: (9) But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. (10) Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. (11) O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.
Reader! look out for Jesus, and see whether in the several parts of this most fervent prayer, the plainest allusions be not made to him, and the plainest intimations of seeking mercy in him, and through him. Mark how Nehemiah opens his devotion with an eye to the Lord in his covenant character. And what was this but the covenant of redemption in Jesus? The first branch of God's covenant with Abraham, with whom the promise was made, was, that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. And that none might mistake, the Holy Ghost explains this with a direct reference to Christ: Galatians 3:16 . Observe, moreover, that blessed gospel feature of confessing iniquity, and accepting the punishment of it; and all this not with an eye to the merit of repentance, but to God's promises of acceptance. Leviticus 26:41-42 . Add another precious consideration in this view of Nehemiah's prayer, and remark that he puts God in mind of his covenant engagements. If when Israel for sin was scattered, still having an eye in their sorrow to Jesus by faith in a covenant God, they were to expect deliverance, Solomon was commissioned to hold forth a yet stronger representation of Jesus in his temple, to which Israel when scattered in distant countries, was to look by faith when brought acquainted with the plague of their own hearts. And this more fully held forth a covenant God in Christ. 1 Kings 8:29-30 . I think these are sweet things in the prayer of Nehemiah in allusion to the Lord Jesus. The particular petition of the Lord's giving Nehemiah favor with the king his master, that he might be the Lord's instrument for good, is a noble example of the loveliness of Nehemiah's faith. Surely the Holy Ghost consulted the comfort and encouragement of the church when he caused this prayer to be recorded!
How truly lovely doth Nehemiah appear in the account here given of him. Not all the splendor of a court, nor the favor of a king, could make him forget the interests of his own country, or prevent tears from running down when he considered the affliction of Zion. Think of this, my soul, in the best moments of any outward providences, and take part in the concerns of the church of Jesus. Doth the church of Jesus lay waste? Are the dear members of his mystical body in affliction? Do they hunger while thou art full? Are they oppressed, and thou takest no part in their oppression? Oh! how canst thou be counted part of Jesus. Oh! gracious God and Saviour, grant to me such a sympathizing spirit in all that concerns thy cause and interest in the earth, that I may never, never lose sight of the wonderful price thy church cost thee, when for redemption thou didst shed thy precious blood. Animate, my soul, I beseech thee, thou Holy Spirit of grace, with the same fire from thine holy altar, as thou didst thy servant the prophet, that like him I may besiege the mercy-seat with clamorous and unceasing petitions, resolving, for Zion's sake, never to hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake never to rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
Behold, my soul also, in this sweet chapter, the mighty privilege of a throne of grace. Behold in this instance of Nehemiah, that no place, no clime, no country, no situation, is in itself able to keep the awakened soul from God. That throne which John saw surrounded with a rainbow is accessible on every side. Jesus, the Lamb, is in the midst of it. He still hears prayers; still feeds the church which he hath purchased with his blood; still acts as a priest upon his throne; wears thy nature and the priesthood still; and is infinitely more ready to take in petitions and bestow blessings than his people are to ask or receive. Oh! Lord Jesus! I would say, hear me then for myself, for my country, for thy church, for thy people! do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion; build up her walls and love her still.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Nehemiah 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent