Wept & Mourned
Nehemiah 1:3-4 (ESV) – 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.” 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.
When was the last time seeing something made you cry? Perhaps it was a news broadcast recounting a horrific crime against a family or a natural disaster that took countless lives. Maybe you saw a story on social media that left you in disbelief. But when was the last time a story made you mourn? When was the last time the awful conditions of our world and brokenness in it bothered you?
This is what we find in our passage today. Nehemiah is the cupbearer of the king of Persia. He is a Jew living in the capitol, Susa. He has a good life and favor with the king. But he hears about the conditions of Jerusalem, his native land. He learns about the place of his ancestors. We read, “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.’ 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.”
Nehemiah hears about the walls of defense broken down. He hears about the shame of the city, and it breaks him. He weeps. For days, he grieves over the condition of his native land. This leads Nehemiah to a period of fasting and praying to God. He pleads with God to do something about the condition of the city. A part of this prayer, undoubtedly, included what he himself might be able to do.
We read later in Nehemiah that when the right moment arrived, he asked the king for permission and supplies to go do something about Jerusalem’s condition. The king granted him permission. God gave him favor and provision. But all of this began with Nehemiah’s heart being moved by what he heard. He wasn’t indifferent. He cared. The story of Jerusalem’s ruins pricked his heart to leave his own comfort and to take action.
When was the last time your own heart was grieved to fast and pray? What would it take for us to care about more than just our own comfort? Nehemiah’s heart is a good mirror for our own. Does the condition of the city bother us today? Does the spiritual bankruptcy of our culture concern us at all? It should.
We should grieve the fact that countless tens of thousands around us each day are one breath from facing a Christless eternity. We should be cut to the heart to take action. Let’s begin by seeking the Lord to soften our hearts to feel again.
Reflection & Journal:
- Why is Nehemiah grieved over the news? What would be an equivalent today?
- What are Nehemiah’s first actions once he hears the news?
- How do we work to keep our hearts sensitive instead of hardened?
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