So this is something quite different from my usual posts. One of my personal resolutions for 2017 was to study the Bible more. I don’t talk about my faith a lot on this blog, but it is something that is so central to my life (as well as my reading life), that I want to share more of it here, so I thought, what better way to both study the Bible more, and share my Bible reading, than to make a new blog series discussing my thoughts on what I’m currently reading? I’m going to try to keep this up once a week (most likely every Sunday, as that is when I spend most time reading the Bible), as well as my usual posts, so I hope that you will still stay with me, even if you’re only interested in the other stuff! 🙂
I am currently reading the book of Nehemiah, and I have been reading a book called Be Determined by Warren Wiersbe (which I fully recommend if you want an easy and simple explanation of the book) alongside it. Warren Wiersbe breaks Chapter 1 of Nehemiah down into four parts:
– He cared enough to ask (1:1-3)
– He cared enough to weep (1:4)
– He cared enough to pray (1:5-10)
– He cared enough to volunteer (1:11)
To me, this is the perfect way to break down the chapter, which seems so short but is really jam-packed with some amazing things! So I’m going to cheat and use these as my base points, from which to discuss my own thoughts.
1) HE CARED ENOUGH TO ASK (1:1-3)
Nehemiah cared enough to ask about what was happening. Despite holding the position of cupbearer to the King, a comfortable and secure position, and living far away from Jerusalem and its plights, Nehemiah cared about what was happening there.
“I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.” (Neh 1:2)
What I love about the book of Nehemiah, is how obviously and clearly it relates to the Church today, and how many challenges Nehemiah gives us. This, I believe, is one of the biggest – how much do we ask (and as a result, know) about what is happening in places far away from us? How much time do we dedicate to understanding what is going on around the world, and how much do we make the effort to learn about those who struggle for their lives, in places that can seem so far removed from us that we can forget about them. It is important to pray, but it is also important to ask, and to learn, about those beyond our own nation.
2) HE CARED ENOUGH TO WEEP (1:4)
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.” (Neh 1:4)
Weeping is such a powerful word. Nehemiah doesn’t write that he “cried”, or that he “was saddened”; he tells us that he wept. There is so much more pain in that word. Not only does this chapter challenge us to think about what we ask about, but also what we allow ourselves to weep over. I think that most of us do know a lot about what happens in the world, but we hear it in news stories, that make them seem so far away that we can put up a bit of a wall around it. Nehemiah poses a challenge: break down that wall (which is entirely metaphorically ironic, given that this is a book about building a wall!)
3) HE CARED ENOUGH TO PRAY (1:5-10)
“For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Neh 1:4)
The majority of this chapter is made up of Nehemiah’s prayer
At the beginning of this prayer, Nehemiah addresses God as “the great and awesome God” which is completely true, and a reminder to praise and worship God in everything, even in our weeping, when it feels the hardest.
The fact that this book begins with prayer, is also an important reminder. Nehemiah asks about what is happening, then he weeps, and then he prays. It is only then that he plans to work. I know that I am personally very good at heading straight into doing things, before stopping to pray about them. And yet, the number of times that things go far better, after I have prayed about them, should be enough to remind me of how important the ‘prayer first’ attitude really is.
4) HE CARED ENOUGH TO VOLUNTEER (1:11)
“Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favour in the presence of this man.’
I was cupbearer to the king.” (Neh 1:11)
The fact that Nehemiah adds this final line: “I was cupbearer to the king” to close the chapter, is what, I think, makes this chapter all the more significant and relatable. I mean, obviously we are not all cupbearers to the king, but the cupbearer was a position of comfort and security, and I know that I am certainly in a position of comfort and security, whether I live in a palace or not (I don’t, by the way!). That makes what Nehemiah is volunteering to do, and what he is volunteering to give up in order to do it, even more significant. When God calls us to do something outside of our comfort zone, it is so easy to pull away from it, and think that others will do the job if we don’t. But when God does call us to do his work, he is calling us for a reason, and we have to be ready to let go of those comforts and securities to glorify God.