January 6, 2020
2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
We begin our story with Nehemiah, an exile in Persia. He’s missing his homeland when one of his brothers comes to visit. He brings sad news. Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem – their holy city – is broken down and its gates have been burned.
Nehemiah’s response is immediate and intense. He sits down and weeps. He mourns and fasts and prays for days. When we see someone in the Bible acting like this, it’s good to ask, why is he responding this way?
Jerusalem was more than a hometown for the Israelites still in exile. The prospering of Jerusalem and their people was an indicator of God’s blessing. The struggle of the remnant of Israelites and the sorry state of the city was interpreted as a sign of God’s displeasure. We will talk more about how Nehemiah responds to that interpretation, but today I want to reflect on how you think God sees you right now.
Do you feel his pleasure? Do you fear his disappointment? Maybe you’ve never thought about what God thinks of you before. Take a moment, and try to put your finger on that feeling. If you are having trouble, that’s OK. Even that confusion or uncertainty is a good start. Regardless of where we begin, one of the most important things we can do is be honest, and talk to God about that starting place.
That’s one thing we can learn from Nehemiah. In his sorrow and certainty of God’s displeasure, he went straight to God in prayer. Will you take a couple of minutes now to express your thoughts or questions to God? During the course of today, when you are feeling particularly joyful or sorrowful or confused, remind yourself that God sees you in that moment, and take a second to pray, “God, this is how I’m feeling right now. Be with me in this moment.”