Thirteen years after Ezra began his mission, Nehemiah received this report from Jerusalem: "The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire."
Nehemiah says he sat down and wept and mourned for days. He prayed to the God of heaven: “LORD GOD of heaven… who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keeps His commandments… we have acted very corruptly against You… Remember the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me… I will gather [you] and bring [you] to the place that I have chosen, to make My name dwell there…”
Only at the end of this prayer do we learn of Nehemiah’s position. Four months pass between chapters 1 and 2. Again Nehemiah prays. Following on the heels of Daniel and Ezra you probably know the story. You’re familiar with the challenges internal and external to Nehemiah’s mission.
What you’re unfamiliar with – because it’s unique in the Old Testament – is the exclusively first-person account that we receive here. Even intense biographical narratives such as Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s jump between third-person narration and personal memories. Here, “The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah” opening launches an official report. Perhaps Nehemiah will let us know to whom he’s reporting.
Remember what you learned by reading Ezra. Remember that Artaxerxes had ordered the rebuilding project in Jerusalem to stop, lest they cease tribute payments. Remember the resettled Samaritans who warned that it was a rebellious city…and if the walls are finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River. And remember the difficulties Ezra faced when Artaxerxes finally sent him to establish order. This is what faces Nehemiah as he asks the LORD to “give success to [His] servant this day…”
Our verse for this week is Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Nehemiah 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.