Today's Daily Bread
INTRODUCTION TO NEHEMIAH
Northern Israel was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C. Southern Israel (Judah) was conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. God promised to bring back the people of Judah after 70 years of exile in Babylon (2Ch 36:21-22; Jer 25:11). The Jewish exiles began to return under Cyrus, king of Persia, who conquered Babylon. The first group was led back by Zerubbabel in 536 B.C. The temple was restored in 516 B.C. under his leadership. The second group of returnees was led by Ezra, a priest and teacher of the Law of God in 457 B.C. Nehemiah led the third group back in 444 B.C.
Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book. They represent a new generation and a new history for Israel. "Nehemiah" means "The Lord comforts." He was an exile in Babylonian captivity, but was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Babylon/Persia. He was distressed to hear that the wall of Jerusalem was in disrepair. So he prayed about it and God showed him what to do. He returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, overcoming great opposition (Ch.1-6). He organized the residents and promoted Bible study and practical reforms according to the teachings of the Bible (Ch.7-13).
NEHEMIAH'S TEARFUL PRAYER
First, Nehemiah weeps and prays (1-4). Nehemiah was a Jewish exile living in Susa, Persia. He had a high position in King Artaxerxes' court as the king's cupbearer. Some Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. One day Nehemiah's brother brought news from Jerusalem that its walls were broken down and its gates burned. When Nehemiah heard this, he sat down and wept. He mourned, fasted and prayed to the God of heaven for several days. How and what do you pray for?
Second, Nehemiah's decision in prayer (5-11). In his prayer Nehemiah knew who God is (see verse 5). He also knew who he is (6). He confessed his sins and the sins of his people, and he repented of their wickedness and disobedience to God. He remembered God's warning for unfaithfulness, but appealed to God's promise to those who return and obey him. He prayed as a redeemed servant who revered God's name: Grant me the king's favor. Nehemiah didn't just pray; he did something.