Nehemiah 1:1-4 (ESV)
Report from Jerusalem
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
The story of Nehemiah is incredible and fascinating. He is a great man of faith and shows incredible leadership in a time of great distress and turmoil for Israel. The Israelites had been exiled in Babylon for nearly 70 years (609-538 B.C.). Upon their return they began to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. But they lost momentum and eventually gave up. This news came to Nehemiah, an Israelite living in Persia as a servant of King Artaxerxes, and it caused him great distress. Have you ever heard news that caused your heart to break? Heard something on the news? Nehemiah’s first response when hearing this news was to turn to his God in prayer. Is this the first place you turn when you receive bad news? What grieves your heart? What makes you sad? Take this to God. Fasting and prayer like Nehemiah is an act of faith that trusts in a God who is active in our lives, who listens to our prayers and who is the only source of true fulfillment. Let this be the place we start our week together.