6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Nehemiah’s prayer can help us to coop with tragedy in our own lives


Nehemiah 1:5-11

Every person can coop with tragedy better by following the actions of Nehemiah.


Since the bombings on September 11, I have talked to so many people and it seems like we have all mentioned where we were when the news came or how we received word. That seems to be what happens when something big happens.

My mom used to tell me about being home sick when President Kennedy was shot. Some of you would remember Pearl Harbor. In my lifetime it has been the attempted assassination of President Reagan, and the beginning of the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. These are all experiences we can remember, but how do we deal with these kinds of experiences in our lives. I think Nehemiah gives us a great place to start looking and learning.

Nehemiah is the man we give credit to for rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians came into the country and ran everyone else out. They sent the Jewish people in several different directions. They destroyed their cities and their homes the divided up families. The Babylonians kings made it a policy to deport conquered people. The policy of the Persians was exactly the opposite. They kept the people together.

When the Persians displaced the Babylonians they then sent the Jewish people back to their homes. This took a period of 100 years or more. It was about 90 after people were being sent back that Nehemiah came on the scene. Thirteen years prior to that Ezra had returned to Jerusalem with the intention of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. His success was minimal, due to interference from those who did not want the city rebuilt.

Nehemiah prays at a time while he is working for the Persians. There are some important actions Nehemiah makes mention of in this prayer. They are actions that are looking toward the re-building of the city he loves.

Action I. Reverence

A. The first action I notice in the Prayer of Nehemiah is reverence. There was no doubt the understanding that God had removed his hand of protection from the Jewish people and allowed this tragedy to take place. I don’t want to say that God caused the destruction, rather it is easy to look at from the perspective that he did not protect them from the exile. It was also clear that the people had been warned of such action if they refused to turn toward God. Instead they followed wicked kings and adopted a life of sin and idolatry.

B. In recognition of God’s great power Nehemiah describes God with the words great, and awesome in the passage we are looking at. Nehemiah had to recognize that the God whom he was addressing was the answer to any of the problems they were dealing with. The God He is dealing with is the one true God and he is more powerful than any adversary is or any other situation or problem that country might run into.

C. When we fact tragedies in our lives, or when bad things happen we can blame God, or we can turn to God. We have been a nation that has enjoyed prosperity and peace for many years. Our involvement for the most part has been away from our country, and now we have seen the United States is not impervious to such attacks. We are vulnerable. Like the Jewish people it could be that we are seeing God removing his hand of protection, just as a reminder of who is in control. If this is what God is doing then our response should be like that of the Nehemiah. We should be in reverence, realizing that this God is great and awesome, and I would add the only true God.

Action II. Repentance

A. As I stated earlier the Jewish people had followed the wickedness of their kings and they had on several occasions given into idolatry. The prophets whom God had sent were rejected. They were there to warn the king and the people that what they were doing was wrong. It was no secret that these people had sinned against God. A part of Nehemiah’s prayer is one of repentance.

B. Repentance is a change of heart and mind. The Jewish people were wrong in what they had been doing and it was intention of Nehemiah that there need to be a change of heart and mind. The first step in this process was confessing that they had acted wrongly. Nehemiah was sent as the governor of that place, so he had some authority. The things he was confessing had happened generations before Nehemiah had been born. Even though Nehemiah was not involved in that sin, look at his confession in v. 6, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you.” In v. 7 he speaks of the wickedness of the people, and of the disobedience.

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