Jump Start # 2909
Nehemiah 1:4 “Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of Heaven.”
There is a time reference in our verse today. It’s easy to slide over it and not give it much thought. News came to Nehemiah about the beloved city of God. It remained in ruins. The Babylonian period of seventy years was over. Yet the city had no protective walls. The Persians were in power, yet Jerusalem was vulnerable to roving bands of trouble makers. The people would never be safe without the walls. Imagine having no front door on your house. The opening is there. There ought to be a door, but there is not. Any critter, creature or bad person could walk right in. You’d never feel safe. You’d never be at ease. Even awake, you’d wonder if someone or something is coming through that opening. That was Jerusalem. No walls. No gates. No safety. No security.
And, making matters worse, why weren’t the people there doing something about it? Word reaches Nehemiah and he leads a powerful campaign to rebuild the walls and then to rebuild the hearts of the people.
But there is that time reference in our verse. Nehemiah wept and mourned “for days.” It wasn’t a passing thought and he had other things to do. It wasn’t, “Well, that’s too bad.” He sat down. He wept. He mourned. He fasted. He prayed. Are you seeing these action words? And he did that “for days.”
Now some thoughts from this:
First, some problems do not go away quickly. Some require more than just one mention to God. There will be times when for days and days the darkness of troubles, the sadness of grief and the heartache of pain stays with us. In our fast moving times, where thirty seconds seems like forever, especially at a traffic light or waiting in line at the check out, “for days,” seems unbelievable to us. This ought to remind us that there will be people in our lives that are stuck in the period of “for days,” as they work through grief, pain and hardships. The pain of a divorce. The sorrow of death. Those events can fill the mind “for days.”
Second, Nehemiah used those “days” wisely. It doesn’t seem like he just stayed in bed and cried. He was fasting, praying, and thinking. He wasn’t doing foolish things like drinking. He wasn’t talking to others first. He went to the Lord. He put some time into this.
Third, plans developed and led by God he knew what to do. He was going to Jerusalem. He was going to lead the people in rebuilding the walls. A scouting report was necessary. A plan of action was necessary. His mind was moving quickly over all that needed to be done. And, he needed God’s help. He fasted. He thought. He prayed. This took place “for days.” Nehemiah didn’t hop on a horse and head to Jerusalem the moment he first heard the news. He spent “days” in prayer and thought. Sometimes we move to action without thinking things out and definitely without seeking the Lord in prayer. Some never move to action and others move too quickly.
Fourth, by the time Nehemiah first reached Jerusalem, he had prayed this thing over and over and the Lord had filled his heart with what to do. When Moses died, the nation mourned for thirty days. The same happened when some of the first kings of Israel died. National mourning was coupled with praying and seeking the Lord.
I’d like to see congregations put “days” into their plans and “prayers” into their actions. Nehemiah was bothered. He was upset. He cried for days. How easily someone could say, “Just don’t think about that.” Or, “It’ll get better, I know it will.” Or, “Things could be worse.” Those cute little statements do not really help. They are not thought out and they tend to lessen the seriousness of what is going on.
It’s also refreshing to see a man crying and upset over spiritual matters. That doesn’t happen much these days. We cry if there is a scratch on our car. We get upset if a weather bulletin interrupts the ballgame we are watching. We can be so shallow and indifferent to the spiritual nature of God’s people today. Someone announces an engagement and everyone is so happy. Yet the young Christian is engaged to someone who has no spiritual interest in the Lord. How can that be a happy occasion? It is very likely that the Christian will become weaker. Is anyone weeping? Is anyone mourning? Is anyone concerned? Is anyone trying to connect with the unbeliever?
Does anyone cry over the lost? Does anyone shed tears over the lack of leaders in a congregation?
For days. Nehemiah wasn’t crying because of walls, but because of the people and what that meant. It sure would be nice to have some old fashioned crying now and then about the spiritual plight of God’s people today.