As we aim to build a safe, caring, respectful and welcoming community, let us explore and apply the Biblical principles found in the book of Nehemiah.
The story of Nehemiah began with Hanani visiting Nehemiah in the citadel of Susa. Nehemiah found out that “those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Neh 1: 3).
Not only did Nehemiah recognize the needs of the Jewish remnants, he was personally concerned for them. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh 1:4). What does it mean to fast? It means to miss a meal for one major purpose. When our motive is right, it is amazing what we can accomplish with the Lord when we occasionally save the time fixing, eating, and cleaning up after a meal and invest it on our knees.
Let’s examine the key elements of Nehemiah’s prayer. First, he praised God. “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God” (Neh 1:5a). Nehemiah knew that he was not coming to just another man, but the God of heaven. Next, I am caught with surprise that Nehemiah confessed that he was part of the problem. “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you” (Neh 1: 6b). The confession was not on behalf of someone else’s failure. The very first thing Nehemiah said in regard to the problem was that he was part of the problem. Subsequently, Nehemiah didn’t stop with confession but claimed the promise God has given. What was the promise? It was twofold. The promise was that if Israel disobeyed, they would go into a foreign land. That had come to pass. The second part was that when that time of captivity was ended God would bring the Jews back to Jerusalem and protect them. That part was unfulfilled. Hence, Nehemiah claimed God’s promises that “I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name” (Neh 1:9). Finally, Nehemiah brought his desire before God. His petition was a bold one. “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man” (Neh 1:11).
What can we learn from the first chapter of Nehemiah? Nehemiah recognized the need clearly and he got involved in it. He went first to God with the problem and acknowledged that he was part of the problem. Most importantly, he wanted to be the solution. He was available to meet the need, ready and willing, if that was what God desired. Let’s build a safe, caring, respectful and welcoming community with Nehemiah’s approach!
Swindoll, C. R. (1990). Hand me another brick. Nashville, TN: Nelson.