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Nehemiah's Prayer (Nehemiah 1 & 2)

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The Weakness Of Judah Under Nehemiah

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CHAPTER 1 Nov.15 
Difficulties in Jerusalem
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, 2that Hanani one of my brothers came, he and certain men out of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3They said to me, The remnant who are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. 
Nehemiah's Prayer
4It happened, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days. I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven 5and said, I beg you, Yahweh the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, Who keeps covenant and grace with those who love Him and keep His commandments: 6Let Your ear now be attentive, and Your eyes open, that You may listen to the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You at this time, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants; while I confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. 7We have dealt very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8Remember, I beg You, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses saying, ‘If you trespass, I will scatter you abroad among the peoples; 9but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though your outcasts were in the uttermost part of the heavens, yet will I gather them from there, and will bring them to the place that I have chosen, to cause My name to dwell there’. 10Now these are Your servants and Your people whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11Lord, I beg You, let Your ear be attentive now to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants, who delight to fear Your name; and please prosper Your servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. Now I was cup-bearer to the king.


1:2 Who had escaped- The urgency of 'fleeing' from Babylon was understood by Nehemiah; he speaks of those who had returned to the land as those who has "escaped" from Babylon- even though they had returned with every blessing from the authorities. He perceived as few did the vital danger of remaining in the soft life of Babylon. The call to leave Babylon is used in the New Testament as the basis of the appeal to mentally leave this world and start a journey towards the restored Kingdom of God on earth at Christ’s return.
1:10 When Nehemiah speaks of them having been redeemed by Yahweh’s “strong hand” he is using the language of Is. 40:10, regarding how Yahweh would come and save Israel from Babylon and make them ‘come to Jerusalem’ “with strong hand”. Nehemiah saw the prophecy could have been fulfilled then. The way Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:5-7), Ezra (Ezra 7:8; 8:32) and Nehemiah (Neh. 2:11; 13:7) are described as ‘coming to Jerusalem’ may hint that they could have fulfilled this coming of Yahweh to Zion; they could have been Messianic figures. So much potential was set up- and wasted- at the time of the return from exile.
1:11 Your servant-It seems that Nehemiah could have been a Messiah figure. He ‘came up’ from Babylon, and was “the servant” who ‘prospered’ Yahweh’s work (also 2:20), just as the servant prophecies required (Is. 53:10; 48:15); and he was thereby the redeemer of his brethren (5:8). He encouraged the singing of praise on the walls of Zion (9:5; 12:46), surely in a conscious effort to fulfil the words of Is. 60:18- that Zion’s gates in Messiah’s Kingdom would be praise. He was “despised” as Messiah would be (2:19; Is. 53:3 s.w.). He entered Jerusalem on a donkey, as Messiah would (2:12 cp. Zech. 9:9); and 2:16 sounds very much like “of the people there was none with me” (Is. 63:3). The Gentiles round about came to sit at Nehemiah’s table to eat and drink (5:17), just as Isaiah had prophesied could happen on a grander scale at the restoration of the Kingdom. One wonders if the potential fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies was transferred to him? And yet Nehemiah returned to Babylon at least once, and there is no record that on his second visit to Judah he stayed on, but rather, the implication seems to be, he returned again to the service of Babylon. The total lack of Biblical information about his later life may reflect this disappointing decision. This train of thought enables us to appreciate the joy and pleasure which the Father had when finally His beloved Son lived up to all that He sought and expected. One of the great themes of the restoration is how much potential was wasted. It seems Nehemiah could have been a Messiah figure but failed, as did others, to live up to what was potentially possible for him. We must seek to perceive in our lives all those things which are potentially possible for us in God’s strength.