How do you respond to the needs of others? The world seems to be so full of needs such as poverty, disease, homelessness, and poor education. And then there are all of the needs we experience personally within our own families. So, how do we respond? Many choose either flight or fright. They choose either to ignore the difficult situation or they become fearful and anxious.
Nehemiah gives us a different alternative. In the opening chapter of the book, Nehemiah receives a discouraging report. His home city of Jerusalem is in complete disrepair. The walls are demolished, the gates are burned, and as a result, the people are living in fear and insecurity.
How does Nehemiah respond? Initially, he mourns and weeps over the desolation of the city. But this quickly turns to prayer. He is reminded that God is still sovereign and all-powerful. And then he boldly emphasizes the steadfast love of God. The ruin Jerusalem has experienced is their own fault. Centuries of disobedience has led to this unfortunate consequence. But God is a God of incredible mercy. Nehemiah trusts that God is willing to restore those who are repentant.
In Nehemiah’s time of prayer, God begins to reveal to him a plan. Nehemiah realizes he must be the one to address the desperate need in Jerusalem. And so, he asks the Lord to give favor to him as he approaches the king for permission to lead in the rebuilding of the city walls. Nehemiah realizes that his position of prominence in the government provided him with this opportunity to help. God had been working long before Nehemiah even knew of the need.
This passage in Nehemiah 1 provides us with a great example of how we too must deal with the many needs in society and even in our own lives. We must first remember that Nehemiah is not the actual hero of the story. God is the hero. God is the one who is working behind the scenes. God is the one to ultimately grant Nehemiah favor with the king. God is the one who orchestrates the rebuilding of the city walls. This book reminds us that God continues to be the hero, not us. When needs arise we must first remind ourselves that we are not God. Our anxieties over the many needs we face often come from us trying to act like God and solve the problem on our own.
When we realize that God is God and not us, we are now in a place to ask Him to work. Nehemiah displays a great balance for us in our response to needs. He does not run off impulsively, trying to solve the problem on his own. Nor does he just keep praying, hoping that someone will attempt to solve the issue. He prays, allows God to convict him of his need to help, and then asks God to bless his efforts. His prayers lead to action. It is important that we imitate this balance in our own lives. We spend time in prayer about the needs that are presented to us. And then we allow our prayers to spur us to action.
But in all of our prayerful action, we must remember that we cannot do it all. The walls were only one issue facing Jerusalem. The temple had also been destroyed and the people were not living in obedience to the commands of God. And so, God sends others to lead in the rebuilding of the temple of spiritual revival of the people. Nehemiah was not called to do it all. He was just called to be obedient to God. Therefore, we must simply seek to obey what God is calling us to do and trust that He is working in the lives of others to meet other needs.
And as we serve, let us not try to do this in our own strength or ability. Let us continue to rely on the same grace and power that saved us and called us to sustain us in our obedient service of our Father and King.