Nehemiah 1:1-11 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, 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. 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. 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, 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: 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. 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. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, if ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 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. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. 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.
At this point in Scripture, the city of Jerusalem and the people of Judah were in a tough situation. If we recall, about 150 years prior, King Nebuchadnezzar and his army had invaded Israel and made many slaves out of them. Now that they were free from bondage, they needed someone to help lead them toward restoration if they were to ever get back to the identity they once had as a nation.
There was a need for someone who was fully devoted to God and spiritually “set on fire” by God. Israel needed a person of vision if they were going to see things get better for themselves as a nation. Thankfully, God was preparing such a man, which you and I know to be Nehemiah.
Though we are thousands of years removed from this story we read about in the Bible, we can all acknowledge that our nation and our world is in desperate need of people with vision to help bridge the gap between God and His creation—which has been widened due to sin, selfishness, and might I add, plain silliness!
We are living in a world where the walls of holiness and morality have been aggressively torn down. The walls of separation between most churches and the world have been broken. This has been fueled by the desire of most Christians to think like the world, look like the world, and dress like the world. Most Christians that once stood for right and high Biblical convictions have whimpered to the pressures of yielding to either their congregation, their complacency, or even their children.
When leaders in churches across our nation and our world no longer have a vision for God to do a spiritual work in their ministry, but rather just a vision for monetary growth, we are in trouble! When leaders of homes are no longer in pursuit of God’s perfect will for their families but settle for just the “visuals” of living for God because of the pressures they face from their spouses and children, then we are in trouble!
In my experience as the principal of our school, with my own children in our school, I can think of more than a few opportunities when I could have been led to “customize” some rules or lower some standards for the convenience of my children. Indeed, there have been times I’ve had opportunity to overturn some things I didn’t completely understand, just for the purpose of benefiting my children. However, as one person put it, “I’m not about that life.” I could not stand before God Almighty and stand before the people I serve with a good conscience embodying me, myself, and my family-first mentality. That won’t help God’s work, that isn’t the vision I need, and that isn’t God’s vision. It should be God, His work, and His will first!
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
I believe there are churches across the board that are longing for men and women of vision! By God’s grace, we can be the visionaries that they are looking for. Vision is the tool God uses to grow our churches for His glory. Vision is the tool that God uses to show His people all that He truly has in store for them, if they would just stay faithful and devoted to Him and His cause.
I’d like to share a few thoughts about people who have vision:
First, people with vision do encounter problems (v. 1-4). Up to this point, Nehemiah was living a relatively calm life, though he was in captivity. He had the job of being the king’s cupbearer. His responsibilities included tasting all the king’s food before it went to the king, in order to prevent him from being poisoned. All things considered, we can imagine the amount of trust this position entailed.
Then suddenly, with a visit from his brother, this calm life was abruptly disrupted. Nehemiah was told that the people of Israel were being afflicted by their enemies and the city of Jerusalem was completely devastated. Isn’t this true for our lives as well? One day, life can be going so well, then the next day we can be facing some of the roughest trials ever!
Because of this incident, we see Nehemiah’s compassion displayed. Upon hearing the dreadful news, his heart broke and he began weeping in prayer to God. He could have been relieved that he had it pretty good compared to his people; however, he instead had compassion for them. This is exactly how God develops people with vision: through compassion. If we are to be the visionaries God needs us to be, we must have compassion for the state of our world, the state of our country, and the state of our churches and families.
Yes, we can be angry with the heinous sin we see rampant around us, but we should also be compassionate. Yes, we should be concerned about the lack of young people that are truly, spiritually pursuing God’s perfect will, but we should also be compassionate.
Second, people with vision pray (v. 4-11). We see that Nehemiah’s prayer included praise. He praised God for Who He truly is. Nehemiah’s prayers also included perseverance. The Bible says he prayed “day and night.” This type of prayer shows us that getting a hold of God was Nehemiah’s priority. Not food, not entertainment, not fun—but getting God’s attention!
Nehemiah’s prayer also included penitence (confession). In verses 6b-7, we see him confessing his sins as well as the sins of his fathers. This is an essential step if we are to get our prayers heard and answered by God. There must be acknowledgement for our actions. Nehemiah’s prayer also included promises. He reminded God of the promises God had made to Israel—both to punish sin and to restore them for their repentance.
In verse 11, we see that his prayer included partners. The Bible tells us that there were others praying besides Nehemiah. Then we see Nehemiah’s prayer included petitions. He finally got around to the very thing that was on his heart. He was praying for God to give him grace before the king. What a great lesson we too can learn. For us to prosper with man, we must first prosper with God!
Third, people with vision embrace providence. In verse 11, it clearly shows that Nehemiah was feeling the weight of this assignment for the Lord. At this moment, he was starting to understand that who he was, where he was and what he was feeling was no accident, but rather the providence of God. May we understand that our position in life is no accident. Our prosperity is no accident. And the power (influence) that we may have is no accident.
Can we agree that just like in the days of Nehemiah, we, too, need people of vision? People who are strong in the Lord. People that can remind us of the true purpose that God has for us. May you and I be the visionaries God uses to continue the trajectory of spiritual growth that God has given our church—for His glory!
MEMORY VERSE OF THE DAY
Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
As Christians we have a responsibility to be a light in this dark world, to be a living testimony of the grace of God, and to train up our children in the way they should go.
I fear that because we’re around certain things so much, we can become numb to it, and that things that should bother us, no longer do.