Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mine! Not Yours!

The first chapter of Nehemiah plunges us right into the story of God's people about 100 years after some of the people had returned to Jerusalem. Even after so many years, Jerusalem was exposed and vulnerable to attack because the wall had not been rebuilt. We are immediately introduced to Nehemiah, the one God will use to change Jerusalem's condition.

When Nehemiah heard there was trouble with the people of God, that is, the wall had still not been rebuilt, he first went to God. He stopped what he was doing, wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. God's people were in "great trouble and disgrace" (1:3, HCSB) because the wall was in disrepair. There was no protection there.

Nehemiah had genuine concern for God's people and this led to an impassioned prayer to God. He began his prayer by acknowledging God's greatness and His love for His people - No one loves God's people more than God does. Nehemiah asks God to hear his constant prayer on behalf of God's people. Next, he begins to confess the sins of the people including himself in that group. Accompanying the confessions is a request for forgiveness, specifically, for God to remember His gracious words to Moses.

Nehemiah then comes to the truth about God's people: "They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand." Again, Nehemiah's concern does not and cannot outweigh God's love and concern for His own people. Nehemiah finished his prayer with another request to be heard and that his plan will be successful.

This chapter teaches me several lessons. First, it teaches me that those who God calls to shepherd His people must have a genuine concern for them. Nehemiah shows a real investment in God's people by asking about their condition, being emotionally and spiritually moved by the report, and then acting to help their condition (note that he saw the best thing he could was to take this burden to God).

Second, Nehemiah 1 teaches me that shepherd should passionately pray for God's people. Understanding that the pastor is in the same boat spiritually, so to speak, as the rest of God's people, the he is to carry the burdens of the people to God, who is the only one who can do anything about their situation.

Finally, I see that the shepherd must keep in mind that no matter how much he begins to love the people of God, God loves them infinitely more. They are HIS people who are to serve HIS desires. HE redeemed them by HIS great power and HIS strong hand. In the Old Testament, this is referring to God freeing His people from slavery from the Egyptians through Moses and from slavery from the Babylonians/Persians, which is the current context. In the New Testament, this is referring to God freeing us from the slavery of sin through His Son, Jesus. God has given His people the True Shepherd in the person of Jesus Christ (John 10:1-18). While He has given pastors the job of watching over His flock, and they are to care for His people (1 Peter 5:1-4), none of them can come close to the love God has for His people.

In this passage, I hear God reminding us through Nehemiah that His people are His. I hear Him reminding pastors "They are Mine; Not yours. Treat them as such." This is a good lesson to remember.

Verse to Remember: Nehemiah 1:10 - "They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand."