INTERESTING FACTS : James McHenry, REVOLUTIONARY OFFICER; SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION; RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION; SECRETARY OF WAR UNDER PRESIDENTS GEORGE WASHINGTON AND JOHN ADAMS
"Public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. Without the Bible, in vain do we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions."
DAILY READING : NEHEMIAH 1 - 3
TEXT : Neh 1:4 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, Neh 1:5 And said, 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: Neh 1:6 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.
THEME : PRAYER
As we begin the Book of Nehemiah, we are in the same period as Ezra. Ezra and Nehemiah, along with Zerubbabel and the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are all contemporaries of each other. Each one played a part in either rebuilding the city of Jerusalem - as in the case of Nehemiah, or of the Temple - as with Ezra.
Nehemiah is still with the captives in Persia [Iran] and is cupbearer to king Artaxerxes. Nehemiah overhears [according to the Jewish historian Josephus] some Jews speaking in Hebrew about the state of the city of Jerusalem, and how the walls are in disrepair and the gates burned. This may refer to the fact that while Zerubbabel and Ezra concentrated their efforts on rebuilding the Temple, the city of Jerusalem had not been repaired when Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans army overthrew it. It may also refer to further destruction done to Jerusalem during the opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple. In either case, the city was in a state of ruin, and this distresses Nehemiah. He is so distraught that Artaxerxes notices his depression of mood, for he was never this way before the king in the past.
When Nehemiah learns of the condition of Jerusalem, and of the afflictions and reproaches his brethren are going through trying to rebuild the Temple and city, he is in great distress and prays to his God -the LORD. Four months pass from the time he hears the news until he is inquired of by Artaxerxes. This shows the burden Nehemiah bore for the people of God and for the LORD's work was more than just a few days. His troubled souls instructs us that spiritual troubles that afflict the mind do not always go away in short order as we wish. Nehemiah's concern was ongoing for four months before he received permission to go to Jerusalem from Artaxerxes. God's [Divine] delays are not to our liking, yet they are part of the process of doing God's will when doing His work. We would have life in Christ without a cross. The LORD insists we endure the cross, not forsake it.
"Our prayers must be seconded with serious endeavours, else we mock God. We are not limited to certain moments in our addresses to the King of kings, but have liberty to go to him at all times; approaches to the throne of grace are never out of season. But the sense of God's displeasure and the afflictions of his people, are causes of sorrow to the children of God, under which no earthly delights can comfort. The king encouraged Nehemiah to tell his mind. This gave him boldness to speak; much more may the invitation Christ has given us to pray, and the promise that we shall speed, encourage us to come boldly to the throne of grace. Nehemiah prayed to the God of heaven, as infinitely above even this mighty monarch. He lifted up his heart to that God who understands the language of the heart. Nor should we ever engage in any pursuit in which it would be wrong for us thus to seek and expect the Divine direction, assistance, and blessing. There was an immediate answer to his prayer; for the seed of Jacob never sought the God of Jacob in vain." [Matthew Henry]
Once Nehemiah is permitted to go to Jerusalem, he tells no one why he is there. Yet, under the stealth of night, he secretly accesses the damage to the walls and gates. After three days, he reveals why he is come and the people immediately he goes to work. The work will only take fifty-two days to complete, so zealous were the people to work as the Hand of God was on them.
Still, as soon as they begin to work, there is opposition to it even as Ezra had in his work on the Temple.
"When the adversaries of the Jews heard this, they derided their resolution. Beside Sanballat and Tobiah (comp. Neh_2:10), Geshem the Arabian is also named as an adversary: so, too, Neh_6:1-2, and Neh_6:6, where Gashmu, the fuller pronunciation of his name, occurs. He was probably the chief of some Arab race dwelling in South Palestine, not far from Jerusalem (comp. the Arabians, Neh_6:1). These enemies ironically exclaimed: What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? The irony lies in the fact that they did not give the Jews credit for power to build fortifications, so as to be able to rebel. Comp. Neh_6:6, where Sanballat, in an open letter to Nehemiah, again reproaches them with rebellion.
Nehemiah replied with impressive gravity: "The God of heaven, He will prosper us, and we His servants will arise and build; but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem." צְדָקָה like 2Sa_19:29. זִכָּרֹון, memorial; only members of the congregation, who may hope to live in their descendants in Jerusalem, can be said to have a memorial there." [Keil and Delitzsch]
We who work for the LORD in this age should expect no less opposition.
"The enmity of the serpent's seed against the cause of Christ is confined to no age or nation. The application to ourselves is plain. The church of God asks for our help. Is it not desolate, and exposed to assaults? Does the consideration of its low estate cause you any grief? Let not business, pleasure, or the support of a party so engage attention, as that Zion and her welfare shall be nothing to you. [Matthew Henry]
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "PRAYER IS THE CHRISTIAN'S WEAPON OF WARFARE!"
All through the Bible, we see prayer as the foremost principle for the people of God in obtaining help in time of need. From Genesis through Revelation, prayer to God for our manifold needs is the mainstay of God's people. We are so dependent on Him for all of our wants, wishes, and desires. However, we are never as aware of how much we need God as when we are faced with trouble. Even more so, we discover our dependency on the LORD for His help when deliverance from our difficulty is improbable, doubtful, or impossible. However, God delights in doing great wonders beyond Man's prognosis or predictions, since nothing is impossible with Him.
Mat_17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Mat_19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
Mar_10:27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
Luk_1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
The Apostle Paul writes -
2Co 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 2Co 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Albert Barnes comments on these verses and what they mean to us.
"For the weapons of our warfare - The means by which we hope to achieve our victory.
Are not carnal - Not those of the flesh. Not such as the people of the world use. They are not such as are employed by conquerors; nor are they such as people in general rely on to advance their cause. We do not depend on eloquence, or talent, or learning, or wealth, or beauty, or any of the external aids on which the people of this world rely. They are not such as derive advantage from any power inherent in themselves. Their strength is derived from God alone.
But mighty through God - Margin, "to." They are rendered mighty or powerful by the agency of God. They depend on him for their efficacy. Paul has not here specified the weapons on which he relied; but he had before specified them 2Co_6:6-7, so that there was no danger of mistake. The weapons were such as were furnished by truth and righteousness, and these were rendered mighty by the attending agency of God. The sense is, that God is the author of the doctrines which we preach, and that he attends them with the agency of his Spirit, and accompanies them to the hearts of people. It is important for all ministers to feel that their weapons are mighty only through God. Conquerors and earthly warriors go into battle depending on the might of their own arm, and on the wisdom and skill which plans the battle. The Christian goes on his warfare, feeling that however well adapted the truths which he holds are to accomplish great purposes, and however wisely his plans are formed, yet that the efficacy of all depends on the agency of God. He has no hope of victory but in God. And if God does not attend him, he is sure of inevitable defeat.
To the pulling down of strongholds - The word rendered here as "strongholds" (ὀχύρωμα ochurōma) means properly a fastness, fortress, or strong fortification. It is here beautifully used to denote the various obstacles resembling a fortress which exist, and which are designed and adapted to oppose the truth and the triumph of the Christian's cause. All those obstacles are strongly fortified. The sins of his heart are fortified by long indulgence and by the hold which they have on his soul. The wickedness of the world which he opposes is strongly fortified by the fact that it has seized on strong human passions; that one point strengthens another; that great numbers are united. The idolatry of the world was strongly fortified by prejudice, and long establishment, and the protection of laws, and the power of the priesthood; and the opinions of the world are entrenched behind false philosophy and the power of subtle argumentation. The whole world is fortified against Christianity; and the nations of the earth have been engaged in little else than in raising and strengthening such strongholds for the space of 6,000 years. The Christian religion goes forth against all the combined and concentrated powers of resistance of the whole world; and the warfare is to be waged against every strongly fortified place of error and of sin. These strong fortifications of error and of sin are to be battered down and laid in ruins by our spiritual weapons."
Nehemiah's release from Persia to his successful rebuilding of the city walls was all the result of prayer and faith. Let us follow his example, for prayer is the Christian's weapon of warfare!