Nehemiah 1:1-11

New Series – Nehemiah
We start a new 'Daily Encouragement to be with God' series today.  It is on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The notes were previously written by Rev. Dr. Tim Donachie for the Airdrie RPCS 'Let's Worship God' booklet. Tim is a gifted retired minister who had a significant influence on my life as a young man, and someone I respect highly.

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
Praise God
Praise God that, unlike man when he makes a promise, he sticks to his promises. He is faithful, because he has both the integrity and power to do so.
Acknowledge Sin

Confess the sin of unfaithfulness, saying one thing and doing another. Pray that God will help you to be as faithful as you can to your word.

Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Jeremiah 25:1-11; 29:10-14, Nehemiah 1:1-11
Notes previously prepared by Rev. Dr. Tim Donachie, with slight amendments. 

Jeremiah 25:1-11; 29:10-14 – God is Faithful.

The prophet Jeremiah had not only predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, but he had also predicted that there would be a return. The return of Nehemiah in 444 B.C. was the final act in the rebuilding of both Temple and city in fulfilment of the promise of God. This long process of restoration and rehabilitation has some important lessons to teach the people of God today:
                1. God is always faithful to what He has promised. The promise given through Jeremiah must have seemed foolish and wildly optimistic to those who had seen city and Temple destroyed, and all the people carried off into exile, and yet God was faithful. We can believe all that God has promised in His Word for He is ever faithful.
                2. Sometimes the fulfilment comes gradually. It was more than a hundred years from the first of the exiles returning until the walls of the city were rebuilt in the time of Nehemiah. God does not always carry out His purposes to fit in with our human time scale – He works as pleases Him and in accordance with His own plan. The responsibility of the believer is to follow obediently the revealed will of God in each circumstance.
                3. God uses more than one person to carry out His plan. There are many pieces in the jigsaw of God's plan, and just as in a jigsaw there are different shapes and sizes, so in the fulfilment of God's plan there are people with differing gifts and abilities; and for the finished picture to be complete, each one must faithfully fulfil his part.
Nehemiah 1:1-4 – Taking It To Heart.
The book opens by identifying the author as Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah. Nehemiah had grown up in exile and had risen to a position of authority within the king's household. He was serving in the city of Susa, the winter palace of the king of Persia – the same place where Esther had lived as queen. As so often in the Scriptures it seems that the initial contact that Nehemiah had with the returned exiles came about by accident. “Now it happened”, but that is just another illustration of the work of the God who plans according to his own will (Ephesians 1:5). It may be that the men from Judah had gone back to Susa to visit family who had not returned, but whatever the reason that took them there, God purposed that they would meet with Nehemiah. Amongst the men was one of Nehemiah's brothers, called Hanani (Nehemiah 7:2). Nehemiah asked about the welfare of the Jews who had returned to Judah from captivity – he was informed that the people were in great distress and reproach, the city wall was broken down, and the gates burned with fire (2 Kings 25:8-10; 2 Chronicles 36:19; Jeremiah. 52:12-14). It was not the fact of the destruction caused by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. that caused Nehemiah to weep and to mourn for days on end; it was the fact that ninety years after the return from exile, the situation remained the same. Nehemiah's reaction is a challenge to the church today. The walls of the professing church in our land have been, and are being, destroyed by false doctrine, complacency, accommodation with the world, and failure to reach out to a fallen world; and yet we do not take it to heart.
Nehemiah 1:5-11 – Prayer and Willingness.
Nehemiah does not simply moan and complain and criticize those in Jerusalem for not getting on with the work, as we might well do. The sorry condition of the Lord's people not only moves him to tears, it also galvanises him into action. The first thing that he does is to seek God's face in prayer, and there are certain features that should be noticed with regard to his prayer:
                1. It is serious and genuine – he continued for a period of days without even seeking to satisfy his normal physical needs – 'fasting and praying', 'day and night'.
                2. It is based on the character of God – he recognised God as the almighty and sovereign God who had entered into covenant with His own people, v.5.                
                3. He confessed his own and his people's sin, vs 6-7.
                4. He pleaded the promises that God had made to his people in the past and the way that He had delivered them throughout their history. The second thing that Nehemiah did was to make himself available to go to Jerusalem to do something about the situation. It is clear from what happens later that Nehemiah was already planning to go to Jerusalem, and so he prays for God to soften the heart of the heathen king and make him amenable to his request. What is especially significant is that Nehemiah began his praying in December (Chislev) but only made his request to the king in April (Nisan). Should we not confess our people's sin, our rebellion and covenant breaking? Should we not pray for mercy in the terms that Nehemiah did, and should we not be willing to say, 'Here am I, send me’?

Sing with joy in your heart to God.
Psalm 39B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung.

Memory Verses to lay into your heart and mind. 
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word. 
Ephesians 2:4-9.  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 18 – What is the sinfulness of that state into which man fell?
Answer – The sinfulness of the state into which man fell includes the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the lack of the righteousness which he had at first, and the corruption of every part of his nature, which is commonly called Original Sin; together with all actual sins which flow from it.
Comment – Sinfulness consists of two parts – the sin of our natures and the sins of our lives. When we do wrong there is something wrong behind it. Our nature is wrong, and so we think, say, and do wrong things. A bad tree bears bad fruit
This is taken from where you will find proof texts.

Thank God
Thank God that, by his grace, we can and should be affected when his Name is besmirched by the state of the Church. Pray that it would increasingly affect us so that we would seek him in prayer for wisdom as to what to do for her. 
Take care in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC