And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the Lord. (Nehemiah 1:4)
Nehemiah was chief steward, butler or “cupbearer” for the Persian king Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11). His position was one of great confidence before the king. One of his main functions was to taste the king’s food and drink before serving it to him to ensure that it was not poisoned (Nehemiah 2:1). Nehemiah would be comparable to the secret service agents that surround our President today and are willing take a bullet for him.
One can imagine that with a position of such great responsibility, Nehemiah was well compensated and had not a care in the world as far as material possessions are concerned. His job was secure, and he probably enjoyed all the finer things in life. Materially speaking, Nehemiah had nothing for which to be sad (Nehemiah 2:1). But news from Judah wounded his spirit deeply so that he “wept and mourned” for several days. The people of Judah were “afflicted” and defenseless (Nehemiah 1:3), and while Nehemiah was far removed from problem, he could identify with and relate to the problem of what he considered to be his nation.
Nehemiah was deeply grieved for his nation and his people, but he did more than weep and mourn over the situation. He “fasted and prayed before the Lord.” He interceded “for the children of Israel.” He confessed “the sins of the children of Israel” and acknowledged “we [all of Israel] have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house” (Nehemiah 1:6) – he did not exclude himself. He reminded God of His promise to “scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me … I will gather them from thence …” (Nehemiah 1:8-9). Nehemiah did not stop there. He committed himself to be used of God personally to affect change in his nation: “prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man [Artaxerxes]” (Nehemiah 1:11).
At the time of this writing, a heavy, dark cloud looms over our beloved nation. Like the children of Israel, we have been so richly blessed by God. Now, after more than 236 years, we have cast God aside and have forgotten Him. As a result, we are reaping what we have sown as a nation. Yet, while life remains, there is hope. As children of God, it is up to us not merely to weep and mourn the erosion of our liberty, but like Nehemiah, we must fast and pray acknowledging our sin in confession. Then, when we have fasted and prayed for several days, we must assume personal responsibility and take action to rebuild the walls and the gates that have crumbled by the decay of neglect. The America of our Founders Fathers no longer exists, and we may never again see the America of only 50 or 60 years ago, but as Christians, we are citizens of “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10) and we “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly [country] … for [God] hath prepared for us a city” (Hebrews 11:16). The current state of that city here on earth is in dire need of repair, and whereas we may not be able to affect that state of our nation, we can still rebuild the crumbling walls of our faith. We need to pray for and work toward revival in our nation, regardless of the powers that be.