READING: Nehemiah 1-5
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: I wonder how much I care about wayward people. I know I grieve when I see one of God’s followers go astray, and I’ve wept over the ruins of a life once lived for God but now turned away. I realize I have painful memories of watching people I love slide slowly into the pit. It’s tough to watch, especially when you can’t stop another person’s slide. But still I wonder if I come even close to grasping Nehemiah’s pain as he considered the broken walls of Jerusalem and the sin of God’s people.
1. He mourned, fasted, and prayed for days: "When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4).
2. He confessed his own sin and the sin of his people: "I confess the sins we have committed against You. Both I and my father’s house have sinned” (Neh. 1:6b).
3. Even his countenance gave away his grief: "so the king said to me, 'Why are you sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but depression’” (Neh. 2:2).
4. He took the risk to get involved to fix the problem: "I was overwhelmed with fear and replied to the king, 'May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then the king asked me, ‘What is your request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it’” (Neh. 2:2b-5).
I’ve hurt when others hurt, but only once have I so grieved another’s sin that all I could do was weep, pray, fast, confess, and take risks to get involved. That response came because I deeply loved the young man who made sinful choices. I confess, though, that in many other cases I’ve spoken of “grief” — but it was not grief that led to my brokenness and action.
I suspect that we get involved to address such problems only when we truly love others and genuinely grieve the consequences of their sin. Unless I first anguish over another man’s sinful choices and their results, I doubt I would take many risks to repair the problem.
PRAYER: “God, break my heart over lives broken by sin. Move me to tears and then to action — all the while reminding me to confess my own sin.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Nehemiah 6-7