Both I and my Father's House Have Sinned

"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." (Nehemiah 1:6, AV)

Nehemiah’s great journey from cupbearer to project manager for the Great Jerusalem Wall-Rebuilding Project started where all great works done for and with God must start — at the place of humility. We rightly observe God’s role in placing burdens, seeing that the right people are in the right places at the right times and adjusting the hearts of kings. But the burden that God gave to Nehemiah was his to accept or to reject — and he chose to seek the Lord. How do we know?

“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,” (1:4)

Nehemiah approached God five ways: he stopped what he was doing, he wept, he mourned, he fasted and he prayed — and to these, I say, Amen! But we who live in the USA have a problem: we do not know how to stop what we are doing. Now, devotion-to-task is good — it’s part of our success as a nation. But when it eclipses our devotion to God, that’s a problem. So how should we proceed?

First, the Bible teaches that we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This is not saying that we must stay on our knees all day and petition God, but rather that we should connect with him continually even while we are active in the day. But when God gives us a special burden, then a more focused effort in prayer is required… but we cannot focus until we stop. Only then we can turn our attention purely to God. You see, once the world is put away and the face is turned toward God, the rest is easy: we can let down our burdens. We weep, we fast, we pray.

Second, the result of doing earnest business with God is that our sins — personal, generational and original — come before our eyes like the loathsome things they are… and this is natural: when we look into God’s face we should feel dirty in light of his holiness. This leads to true confession and true repentance. As such, Nehemiah confessed his personal sin and the sins of his nation before God — but (and this is critical) he admitted that these sins were against God personally — and this indicates a complete brokenness. Once broken, Nehemiah was in a position to be rebuilt of God. He was purged of any pride (the old lump was gone), and God would start a new work — a right work and a holy work — by the refreshing of his Spirit.

Nehemiah gave us a glimpse of a ship launched rightly. He would take many risks; he would run up against obstacles, and yes — he would be disappointed and discouraged. But his ship of faith, which was fitted well, sailed God’s course. And being borne along by the Spirit of God, he rebuilt the wall.

Journeys of faith are difficult for people in the USA. Sure, we are used to taking risks — that is part of our culture. But these are calculated risks, based on business models, probabilities and an abundance of resources — but not on God. The journey of faith is decidedly different because the battle is the Lord’s — and not ours! Should we, therefore, abandon all practicable efforts? On the contrary. We should continually prepare ourselves to engage. But when fighting God’s battles, we march under his standard — and not ours.

Nehemiah left a good job. He left his home and everything he knew to follow God’s voice — and his accomplishments fly in the face of probability! But before he risked everything for the Lord, he did his spiritual homework: Nehemiah prepared before God. He was therein energized by God — and was sustained by God in his journey of faith.

How about you? Have you accepted God’s challenge? Are you listening? Confessing? Fasting? Praying? You should. It would be a shame to hit a wall unprepared.

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