9. Nehemiah's Prayer for Success (Nehemiah 1:1-2:9)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
http://www.jesuswalk.com/greatprayers/9_nehemiah_success.htm
Audio (34:44)


Persian king receiving important official. The relief was once located the northern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis (Archaeological museum, Tehran) shows a king (probably Darius the Great, 522-486). It gives you a glimpse into the pomp and power of the Persian Kings. Larger image. (Photo by Marco Prins, livius.org)

Nehemiah 1:1-2:9

1:1The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

3They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."

4When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5Then 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, 6let 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. 7We 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, 9but 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. 11O 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.

2:1In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart."

I was very much afraid, 3but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"

4The king said to me, "What is it you want?"

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."

6Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

7I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. 9So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

 

It has been nearly a century since Daniel prayed his prayer of intercession. God had answered wonderfully and quickly. If Daniel prayed about 539 BC, by the next year a band of 50,000 Jews is returning to Jerusalem under Sheshbazzar (Ezra 2:64-65), laden with gifts to rebuild the temple and temple articles returned by Cyrus king of Persia. By 537/36 BC, they have begun work on the temple (Ezra 3:8). Optimism is running high. But then opposition begins (Ezra 4:4-5) and succeeds in stopping construction for the next 15 years. Not until 520 BC do they begin again (Ezra 6:13-16), completing the temple in 516 BC. (See my chronology for details of this complex time in history, www.jesuswalk.com/greatprayers/chronology.htm)

But then the work of restoration seems to stall once more. In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the gates of Jerusalem had been destroyed. Whole sections of the wall around the city had been pulled down and destroyed. The city had been devastated. When the Jews returned, they had attempted to restore its defenses, but had been prevented from doing so.

A few years before we meet Nehemiah, Ezra the Priest had come to Jerusalem in 458 BC, with royal backing from Artaxerxes I (464-423), the Persian king, to restore worship and bring reforms (Ezra 7). Under his leadership the Jews had begun to restore the walls of the city and repair their foundations (Ezra 4:12).

The Samaritans and others who had gained power in the area were afraid that if Jerusalem's defenses were repaired, they could no longer threaten the Jews and would lose their power. So they wrote a deceptive and poisonous letter to Artaxerxes:

"The king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer. Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates." (Ezra 4:13-16)

The archives were examined, Jerusalem's history of rebellion against the Babylonian kings was found, and, in the absence of a person to plead the case of the Jewish people, the king had replied: "Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order" (Ezra 4:21). Jerusalem's enemies, now with royal backing, "went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop" (Ezra 4:23).1A local Samaritan army had crushed the Jews in the name of the king, forcing them to stop construction.

This is the sad situation that exists when the Book of Nehemiah opens. The Jews have recently lost their royal backing and their enemies are free to continue their oppression, intimidation, and dominance in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah (1:1, 11c)

"The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa... I was cupbearer to the king." (1:1, 11c)


Glazed bricks of soldier from Susa, now in the Lourve, Paris.

The book begins by introducing Nehemiah, whose name means "consolation of Yahweh." The date appears to be mid-November to mid-December 446 BC. The place is "the citadel of Susa" (1:1), winter capital and palace of the Persian kings, home previously to both Daniel and Esther -- 700 miles and five or six months journey from Jerusalem. Susa is one of the oldest cities in the world, going back to 5000 BC.

Though the book's author withholds the fact until verse 11 for dramatic purposes, it is important to understand Nehemiah's position: "I was cupbearer to the king" (1:11c). The cupbearer2is a high official in the king's household, whose basic duty it is to choose and taste the wine before presenting it to the king, to demonstrate that it was not poisoned. But the cupbearer was more than a security officer to protect against assassination. Because he had frequent access to the king's presence, some cupbearers became quite influential in matters of state, though we don't see this in Nehemiah's situation. It is likely that Nehemiah was a eunuch, since a cupbearer would probably have had contact with the king's harem.3

Jerusalem in Disgrace (1:2-3)

In verse 2, the plot thickens:

"Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, 'Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.'" (1:2-3)

Nehemiah's journey from Susa to JerusalemNehemiah's brother,4just back from Judah, gives him a distressing report. Apparently, the Samaritan enemies have been overzealous in following the king's command. Perhaps they not only halted construction of Jerusalem's defenses but burned the newly-built gates and demolished new attempts to repair breaches in the wall. The expedition under Ezra which had begun with such hope and promise had been thwarted and Nehemiah's countrymen are "in great trouble5and disgrace."6

Mourning and Fasting (1:4)

The effect of this news on Nehemiah is profound:

"When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven" (1:4)

He is deeply affected. Standing when he hears his brother's report, he sinks to the ground and sits. Then he begins to weep, bākā, "to weep, cry, shed tears." Weeping is associated with the voice, Semites do not weep quietly, but aloud.7He also mourns, ’ābal, "mourn, lament."8Weeping and mourning were accompanied by fasting (ṣûm)9

The suffering of his countrymen in Jerusalem is his suffering. Their shame is his shame. Their exposure to danger touches a chord deep within him. Let's examine his prayer.

Great and Awesome God (1:5-6a)

"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, 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.'" (1:5-6a)

Nehemiah's terminology seems to have some similarities with Daniel's prayer of confession, which probably isn't surprising since they were part of the same Jewish community in the Persian capital of Susa:

Nehemiah 1:5

Daniel 9:4b-5

5O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands,

4bO Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands...

6alet 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.

 

6bI confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you.

 

7We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.

Nehemiah begins to pray10to the LORD (that is, God's revealed name, "Yahweh"), whom he describes as "the God of heaven," a phrase commonly used in the Persian empire. Like the Lord's Prayer, Nehemiah's salutation lifts his eyes to view the expansiveness of the Maker of the heavens.

The phrase, "great and awesome God" is striking. As mentioned in our study of Daniel 9:4, "awesome" (NIV, NRSV) or "terrible" (KJV) is yārē, "be afraid, revere," which can refer to the emotion of fear as well as to "reverence or awe."11We don't like the idea of a terrible or dreadful God. We would rather think of God as our buddy or "home boy." No! God is awesome. He has immense power under his sole control.

I can remember holding my firstborn son on my shoulders as I walked along the beach at Fort Bragg, California. The Pacific breakers crashed upon the shore and rocks with great noise and power. I could feel my son was almost shuddering in fear. "God made the ocean, David," I told him. Yes, God is awesome in his power. He cannot be domesticated or tamed. He is God in all his might and power! The refrain to Rick Mullins' praise chorus has brought this phrase into our worship vocabulary:

"Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God."12

Like Daniel, Nehemiah recalls God's "covenant and steadfast love" (NRSV), which the people of Israel have broken by their disobedience. Then he asks God to give him a hearing. He is about ready to go in before the most powerful monarch of his day, Artaxerxes. But first he begs a hearing from the God of heaven upon whom he depends.

Notice that this is not a single prayer, but "the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel" (1:6a). This prayer is only the latest in a series of supplications that, we will see, has lasted four months.

Q1. (1:1-6) Why does Nehemiah pray day and night for four months? Why does he fast and weep? Isn't that excessive?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/index.php?act=ST&f=91&t=374

 

 

 

Confession of Sins (1:6b-7)

Now he comes to his confession of sins, placing himself among the sinners.

"I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses." (1:6b-7)

We examined this aspect of prayer at length in Daniel's confession.

Reciting God's Promise to Moses (1:8-9)

But let's go on to the basis for Nehemiah's prayer. He can't appeal to God on the basis of Israel's righteousness. What is his basis of appeal?

"Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 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.'" (1:8-9)

These verses feature two common verbs: "to scatter" and "to gather."

The first verb, "scatter" (pûts), appears 64 times in the Old Testament -- the scattering of an enemy's armies, the scattering of sheep, and most frequently of God scattering Israel (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:27; 28:64; 1 Kings 9:6). Hamilton observes, "It is not the Assyrians or Babylonians who scatter the people of God. They are simply instrumental. God himself is the scatterer."13

The second verb is "to gather," qābats. It is used of gathering food and of money, but most commonly of gathering people for social reasons, as an army, and for religious functions. The word is used many times for the gathering of God's people from their exile in Babylon (Ezra 1:1-4; Psalm 147:2; Jeremiah 32:37; Ezekiel 34:12-13; 36:24; Zechariah 8:7-8).15In the New Testament, ultimately, "gathering" refers to the gathering of the saints in the rapture (Matthew 3:12; 13:30; 24:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1).

Now Nehemiah quotes back to God his own words and promises. He doesn't seem to have a single passage in mind, but draws his thoughts from several passages, particularly Deuteronomy 30:1-3.

Nehemiah 1:8-9

Deuteronomy 30:1-3

"Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter (pûts) you among the nations...." (1:8)

"When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses (nādah14) you among the nations...." (30:1)

"but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon...." (1:9a)

"and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today...." (30:2)

"I will gather (qābats) them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name." (1:9b)

then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather (qābats) you again from all the nations where he scattered (pûts) you." (30:3)

God has scattered as he said he would, and he has gathered, according to his promise. There has been repentance and a renewed obedience among the returnees, Nehemiah is arguing.

The Dwelling Place of Your Name (1:9b)

They have consequently been restored "to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name" (1:9). But Jerusalem's walls and gates are in ruins. The people are being oppressed in God's own city. You have a stake in the future of Jerusalem, Nehemiah contends, because it is the place where your Name dwells. When Jerusalem and God's people are in disgrace, it reflects on God's Name.

The Prayer of Your Servants (1:10-11)

Nehemiah concludes his prayer by appealing to God for his servants:

"'They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 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." (1:10-11)

We might look upon being a servant as a lowly position. But it could also be looked at as an honor and as a privilege. Nehemiah was a servant as cupbearer to the king of Assyria -- a very high honor. In a society bound together by suzerain-vassal (king-servant) treaties, the servant had a duty towards the master, but the master also had a duty to protect the servant. It was a two-way covenant. Nehemiah makes two points about servants:

  1. You redeemed your servants at great expense. (Nehemiah is probably referring to God delivering his people both from Egypt a thousand years before and from Babylon beginning in 539 BC.)
  2. Your servants delight in honoring you.
Q2. (1:7-11) What is the basis of Nehemiah's appeal? How does he argue his case before God? What do we learn from this about intercession?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/index.php?act=ST&f=91&t=375

 

 

 

 

Nehemiah's Two Petitions (1:11)

On the basis of God's promise to restore his people to Jerusalem, and on the basis that God's servants are now calling upon his strength for protection, Nehemiah makes two petitions:

  1. "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."
  2. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.' I was cupbearer to the king."

Listen to our petition, oh God, for Jerusalem and give me favor before the king.

The Danger of Nehemiah's Request

This second petition was no "slam-dunk." Artaxerxes' policy on Jerusalem had flip-flopped and there was no way to assess his current attitude toward Jerusalem.

In 458 BC Artaxerxes had ruled positively in favor of Ezra and given considerable money for the restoration of the temple and its sacrifices (Ezra 7:11-26). But recently, Artaxerxes' policy had turned against the Jews and Jerusalem, due to the court influence of their enemies (Ezra 4:17-23).

What Nehemiah is asking God is to give Nehemiah so much favor that the king will be willing to reverse himself yet again. That might be embarrassing for the king and make him look weak and inconsistent. Nehemiah was a trusted servant, granted, but he seems to be more of a personal servant in the role of cupbearer than a secretary of state.

When he makes his request of the king, if the king is angry or offended, Nehemiah could quite easily lose his job or even his life! No king wants to feel manipulated, particularly by his servants who might presume upon their position to ask for personal favors.

The situation sounds very much like the dilemma Esther found herself in this very palace some 35-40 years before. Haman, a high official in the court of the Persian king Xerxes (486-465/4 BC), and enemy of the Jews, plotted to destroy the Jewish exile community living in the land. It "just so happened" that Xerxes' queen was Esther, a Jewess, but she could come into his presence only when asked upon pain of death -- and she hadn't been summoned for the past 30 days (Esther 4:11). When a decree to annihilate the Jews was enacted, Esther's uncle Mordecai appealed to her to help her people:

"'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?'"
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 'Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'" (Esther 4:13-16)

Nehemiah's risk in bringing his request before the king was considerable. But he no doubt recognized that God had elevated him to this position "for such a time as this." It is time for him to stand up and be counted with God's people. So Nehemiah prays fervently:

"'Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.' I was cupbearer to the king." (1:11)

Today is the day he will make his request. Today he desperately needs God's help, for upon his success before the king hinges the success of God's people in far away Jerusalem.

Q3. (1:11) In what way does Daniel's situation compared to Esther's? Why does God place his people in strategic positions today in the community, in business, in the military, in government? What responsibilities do we have to God that can cause danger to our positions and our lives? Has this ever happened to you? How do you pray in situations like this?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/index.php?act=ST&f=91&t=376

 

 

 

 

Nehemiah prays for two things specifically:

"Success" (NIV, NRSV) and "prosper" (KJV) is tsālēah, "prosper, succeed, be profitable," that is, "to accomplish satisfactorily what is intended" (2 Chronicles 26:5; 31:21; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:3; 118:25; Isaiah 55:11).16

"Favor" (NIV) and "mercy" (KJV, NRSV) is raḥămīm, "tender mercy, compassion." The word can refer to the seat of one's emotions or the expression of one's deep emotion.17Nehemiah is praying that some kind of bond of empathy or compassion will be formed between the king and him.

In the Presence of the King (2:1-4)

Nehemiah has humbled himself before God in weeping, mourning, and fasting. He has prayed. Now four months after Nehemiah's initial receipt of the news about Jerusalem, the day has arrived. Nehemiah knows it.

"In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, 'Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart'" (2:1-2)

Normally, servants are expected to mask their own personal feelings as they serve the monarch. But Nehemiah does not do this -- purposely. Nehemiah isn't free to initiate any conversations with the king. He is a servant. But Nehemiah's countenance prompts a question from the king which Nehemiah is free to answer. In spite of the terror he feels, he says his piece, with respect, but with a clear boldness:

"I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?'" (2:3)

Wow! Instead of apologizing for his sadness and covering up its causes as we so often do, he is open.


James J. Tissot (1836-1902, French artist and illustrator), "Cupbearer of the King"

An Arrow Prayer (2:4)

This is the crucial moment. The king can dismiss him from service and banish him forever from his presence. You must admit, his openness can be construed to put some blame on the king for Jerusalem's dire situation. In fact, it resulted directly from the king's own policy.

"The king said to me, 'What is it you want?'
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king...." (2:4-5a)

The king asks what he wants, and -- before he answers -- Nehemiah prays an quick and silent prayer (sometimes called an "arrow prayer") to God for help. Then he answers the king.

You've prayed prayers like that. "Lord, help me! Lord, save me! Lord, give me strength!" But you may not have realized that "arrow prayers" are among the great prayers of the Bible prayed by God's servants for thousands of years when in dire straits.

It is important to observe, however, that Nehemiah's "arrow prayer" was not the extent of his prayer life, but rather the overflow. Nehemiah has agonized in prayer over this issue for days and months. The "arrow prayer" is but a continuation of Nehemiah's conversation and partnership with God about this issue. Pālal, the common verb for prayer is used both here and 1:4. The difference is quantitative, not qualitative.

Q4. (2:4) What danger is Nehemiah in? Why does he pray quickly and silently before he answers the king? How does this quick "arrow prayer" relate to the four months of prayer he has just finished?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/index.php?act=ST&f=91&t=377

 

 

 

 

Request to Rebuild the City (2:5-6)

The king has asked what he wants. Nehemiah's answer to the king is specific and well thought out:

"And I answered the king, 'If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.'
Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, 'How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?' It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time." (2:5-6)

In the king's response Nehemiah can sense that God has indeed given him favor. The king's concern is not whether he should go and rebuild Jerusalem, but how long he'll be gone.

Request for Protection, Letters of Introduction, and Resources (2:7-9)

But Nehemiah's prayer preparation about this matter means that he also knows what he needs from the king to have a successful outcome to his journey. Jerusalem's enemies must have a clear indication of the king's backing of Nehemiah's mission, since it signals a reversal in policy:

"I also said to him, 'If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?' And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me." (2:7-9)

At the crucial moment, Nehemiah is afraid, but through faith in the God of heaven he overcomes his fears, states the need and makes his request of the king.

We aren't responsible for the result, only for our part. It is up to God to answer our prayer, if we have prayed well and according to God's own will and purposes. In this case, Nehemiah reports: "And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests" (2:8).

What Do We Learn from Nehemiah's Prayer?

When I reflect on Nehemiah's prayer, several lessons come to mind:

  1. God has put on Nehemiah's heart the plight of his people. We can't solve the problems of every needy person in the world, but we are part of the solution for some. God will put some needs on our hearts. Sometimes we will feel God's sorrow and anguish for others and it may affect us deeply like it did Nehemiah -- with weeping, sorrow, loss of appetite, fasting, humbling, and prayer.
  2. Sometimes God sovereignly places us where we uniquely can help. He expects us to do our part where we're called.
  3. As did Daniel, Nehemiah confesses the people's sins as his own.
  4. Nehemiah appeals to God on the basis of his promises -- in this case to restore his people to Jerusalem.
  5. Nehemiah appeals to God on the basis of God's own Name and reputation.
  6. Nehemiah appeals to God as a master on the basis of the needs of his servants.
  7. Great Prayers of the Bible: Discipleship Lessons in Petition and Intercession, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson (JesusWalk Publications, 2011)
    Now available as an e-book and paperbook
    Nehemiah prayed for four months until it was time to bring the matter to the king. We must be patient in prayer and sensitive to the Lord's leading.
  8. Nehemiah prays both at length in private and in brief spurts as the crisis unfolds.
  9. Nehemiah acts on the basis of his prayer, willing to put himself in personal danger in order to see God's will accomplished.

Prayer

Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters and me, that you would be able to trust us with the needs of others. That you would help us identify them. Give us vision, faith and courage. Help us not to be timid, but bold for you as we discern your will. Raise us up as your servants in every place and in every position of influence where you need your Man or your Woman to be faithful. And let us serve you there with faithfulness and in prayer. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"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." (Nehemiah 1:11)

"Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king...." (Nehemiah 2:4b-5a)

References

Standard Abbreviations http://www.jesuswalk.com/greatprayers/refs.htm

  1. In the absence of definitive information in the Scripture, there is some dispute about when the walls were destroyed and how much was rebuilt by the early Jewish returnees. I have followed F. Charles Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament; Eerdmans, 1982), p. 152; and Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1979), p. 78.
  2. "Cupbearer" is mashqeh, "cup bearer, irrigation, drink." Used to describe the chief cup-bearer of a king, a position of trust and responsibility, also in Genesis 40 (Hermann J. Austel, shāqā, TWOT #2452c).
  3. Fensham, p. 157.
  4. The word āḥ can mean, "brother, relative, fellow countryman, friend," so it is difficult to be certain of the relationship (Herbert Wolf, ’ḥh, TWOT #62a).
  5. "Trouble" (NIV, NRSV) and "affliction" (KJV) is rā‘ā, "evil, misery, distress" (G. Herbert Livingston, TWOT #2191c).
  6. "Disgrace" (NIV), "reproach" (KJV), and "shame" (NRSV) are ḥerpâ, "taunt of enemy, reproach cast upon another, scorn, contumely" (BDB 358; Thomas E. McComiskey, ḥārap, TWOT #749a).
  7. John N. Oswalt, bākā, TWOT #243.
  8. Biblical mourning for the dead involved emotion, usually expressed audibly (Jeremiah 22:18; Jeremiah 48:36) and visibly (Genesis 37:34; Psalm 35:14; Micah 1:8; J. Barton Payne, ’ābal, TWOT #6).
  9. Ṣûm, "fast." Fasting is depriving the body of nourishment as a sign that one is experiencing great sorrow. Mourning is further expressed in weeping and lamentation and in putting on sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:3). He who fasts claims to afflict himself or his soul, i.e., his inner person" (John E. Hartley, ṣûm, TWOT #1890).
  10. Pālal, "intervene, interpose, pray," the most common OT word for prayer, which we've seen in previous lessons.
  11. Andrew Bowling, yārē’, TWOT #907. BDB 431d, "inspire reverence, godly fear, and awe, as an attribute of God. Deuteronomy 7:21; 10:17; Nehemiah 1:5; 4:8; 9:32; Daniel 9:4.
  12. "Awesome God," words and music by Rick Mullins, ©1988 BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP).
  13. Victor P. Hamilton, pûts, TWOT #1745.
  14. Deuteronomy 30:1 uses the verb nādah, "impel, drive away, banish," the action of "forcibly driving or pushing something away."
  15. Leonard J. Coppes, qābats, TWOT #1983.
  16. John E. Hartley, tsālēah, TWOT #1917.
  17. Leonard J. Coppes, rāḥam, TWOT #2146.

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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