I will start with a very brief history concerning Israel and their captivity in Babylon. After being in captivity for 70 years, the Persians overtook Babylon. In the book of Ezra, we learn that in the very first year of his rule, Cyrus, king of Persia released the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Zerubbabel led a group of 42,360 men to begin to rebuild the Temple. The building of the Temple was stopped when the Jews refused the help of their ‘adversaries’. We then read the words of the Lord concerning the stoppage of the building of the Temple in Haggai 1:3-5, “Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” These words encouraged the men to continue to rebuild the Temple. It was then said of Ezra in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra sought to bring order back to the Lord’s people. Notice the important order concerning Ezra. He SOUGHT the law of the Lord. He DID the law of the Lord. He TAUGHT the law of the Lord. All this is so brief, but it helps us to understand the portion in question, Nehemiah 1:5-11.

About 12 years after the rebuilding of the Temple and the teaching shared by Ezra, we find that Nehemiah grieved over the condition of Jerusalem. We read in Nehemiah 1:3-4, “And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah, after learning of the condition of Jerusalem wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. Verses 5-11 is the prayer of Nehemiah. That reads, “I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which WE HAVE SINNED AGAINST THEE: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have DEALT VERY CORRUPTLY against thee, and HAVE NOT KEPT THE COMMANDMENTS, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.”

Nehemiah was a MAN OF PRAYER. He opens his heart towards the Lord and prays for the ‘children of Israel’. He confesses their sins as if they were his own. He completely exonerates the Lord for the sad condition He allowed His people to be in. They had sinned, they dealt corruptly, and they did not keep the Lord’s commandments. They deserved to be in that terrible condition. Yet, Nehemiah reminds the Lord of His promise that if His people would repent and obey the Lord, He would bring them back into the land He had given them. Not once did Nehemiah even hint at the idea that the Israelites did not deserve this miserable condition. There was only one proper thing for Nehemiah to do. He asked the Lord for MERCY. Nehemiah’s desire was to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The Temple was there, but there was no protection around it. I strongly encourage you to read this fascinating short book to see how the Lord works and allows the walls of the city to be rebuilt. (268.4)