Great things seem to happen when people pray! Nehemiah, on hearing of the devastation of Jerusalem, and mindful of the failings of his people, set himself to fast and pray that God would remember their plight. When the Persian King, Artaxerxes then noticed the sadness of Nehemiah his cup-bearer, he asked, “What do you want?” Nehemiah prayed again, but presumably silently, with his eyes open – what is often referred to as an “arrow prayer” – I prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king. The amazing result was that the king facilitated Nehemiah’s journey to Jerusalem and the repair of the walls.
GOD WORKS plus HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
Clearly you see in Nehemiah two sides of achieving God’s plans for his people. There is the work that God does, often behind the scenes in influencing and inspiring the hearts and minds of people. Then there is the work that the people themselves do. They also have a responsibility. So consider that, in the face of local opposition, the building progressed well, for the people worked with all their heart (4:6).
In a similar way, consider…
But we prayed to our God
and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat (4:9)
Remember the Lord who is great and awesome
and fight for your families… (4:14)
Our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot
and that God had frustrated it
we all returned…each to our own work. (4:15)
It’s rather like the relationship between faith and works outlined in James’ New Testament letter.
MORE THAN BRICKS AND MORTAR
Rebuilding the walls was only part of Nehemiah’s task. Providing for the poor was another and rebuilding the people’s knowledge of God and his ways was paramount to a redeveloping and healthy society.
As a teacher, it’s music to my ears to hear that Ezra and the Levites read to the people from the law, making it clear and giving the meaning , so that people understood what was being read (8:8)… …then the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words (8:12). Day by day Ezra continued to read from the Scriptures, and in chapter nine we read of an assembly at which there was repentance, an acknowledgement of all that God had done and corporate confession of the past failure of the nation. This in turn led to a re-confirmation of the Covenant vows!
We should never underestimate the value of faithfully expounding the Scriptures and the effect that has on the lives of people and even in the direction of whole nations!