When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
I. The SORROW of prayer (ver. 4). Prayer was designed to be a glad communion with God; but sin has embittered it. Now it is often suffused with tears; but it will soon rejoice in God. Hannah's prayerful sorrow soon became her prophetic song. The sorrows of prayer are more joyous than the rejoicings of sin.
II. The IMPORTUNITY of prayer (ver. 5). Nehemiah besought God to hear his prayer; his whole being was engaged in his devotion. Sorrow makes men earnest; things spiritual must be earnestly sought.
III. The THEOLOGY Of prayer. True prayer has a right conception of the Divine character; it will see in God -
1. The Divine.
2. The exalted.
3. The faithful.
4. The powerful.
All true prayer is based on a right conception of the Deity; the more we know of God, the more true and acceptable will our worship become.
IV. The DURATION of prayer (ver. 6). Nehemiah prayed day and night. We must pray without ceasing. "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26).
V. The CONFESSIONS Of prayer (vers. 6, 7).
VI. The SUPPLICATION of prayer. Prayer generally has some specific request to urge.
1. The Divine promise (vers. 8, 9).
2. The Divine mercy.
3. The Divine aid in the past. - E.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and weptI. THE OCCASION OF HIS GRIEF.
1. Not personal loss.(1) Men grieve on account of personal loss — failure of business, scarcity of work, pecuniary loss involving personal privation, etc.(2) Men grieve on account of spiritual failure. Neither of these explains the occasion of Nehemiah's grief.
2. But public calamity.(1) He had inquired carefully into the state of God's work. Every good man should thus interest himself in God's work. Men shun this conscientious inquiry for various reasons.
(a) (b) (c) (a) (b) II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS GRIEF. 1. It was profound. 2. It was enduring. 3. It was self-denying. Real heart-pain is always ascetic in its bodily aspect. "And fasted." Observe —(1) Fasting is often associated with profound grief in Scripture (2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 12:16-21; Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:10; Daniel 6:8; Jonah 3:5). It may be the natural attendant of such grief, or the outward symbol of its presence.(2) Fasting is recognised and commended in Scripture as a religious exercise (1 Samuel 7:6; Jeremiah 36:9; Matthew 6:17; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5). III. THE ISSUE OF HIS GRIEF. "And prayed before the God of heaven." Herein consists the difference between godly and selfish sorrow. The one invariably finds relief in prayer, the other ends in blank despair. 1. Grief is sanctified by prayer. It then becomes sacred, and softens the heart like showers on the thirsty soil. Rebellious grief is hardening in its effect. 2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons — 1. Profound grief on behalf of others is perfectly consistent with personal enjoyment of the Divine favour. 2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations 3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer. (W. H. Booth.)
(b) (c) (a) (b) II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS GRIEF. 1. It was profound. 2. It was enduring. 3. It was self-denying. Real heart-pain is always ascetic in its bodily aspect. "And fasted." Observe —(1) Fasting is often associated with profound grief in Scripture (2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 12:16-21; Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:10; Daniel 6:8; Jonah 3:5). It may be the natural attendant of such grief, or the outward symbol of its presence.(2) Fasting is recognised and commended in Scripture as a religious exercise (1 Samuel 7:6; Jeremiah 36:9; Matthew 6:17; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5). III. THE ISSUE OF HIS GRIEF. "And prayed before the God of heaven." Herein consists the difference between godly and selfish sorrow. The one invariably finds relief in prayer, the other ends in blank despair. 1. Grief is sanctified by prayer. It then becomes sacred, and softens the heart like showers on the thirsty soil. Rebellious grief is hardening in its effect. 2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons — 1. Profound grief on behalf of others is perfectly consistent with personal enjoyment of the Divine favour. 2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations 3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer. (W. H. Booth.)
(c) (a) (b) II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS GRIEF. 1. It was profound. 2. It was enduring. 3. It was self-denying. Real heart-pain is always ascetic in its bodily aspect. "And fasted." Observe —(1) Fasting is often associated with profound grief in Scripture (2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 12:16-21; Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:10; Daniel 6:8; Jonah 3:5). It may be the natural attendant of such grief, or the outward symbol of its presence.(2) Fasting is recognised and commended in Scripture as a religious exercise (1 Samuel 7:6; Jeremiah 36:9; Matthew 6:17; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5). III. THE ISSUE OF HIS GRIEF. "And prayed before the God of heaven." Herein consists the difference between godly and selfish sorrow. The one invariably finds relief in prayer, the other ends in blank despair. 1. Grief is sanctified by prayer. It then becomes sacred, and softens the heart like showers on the thirsty soil. Rebellious grief is hardening in its effect. 2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons — 1. Profound grief on behalf of others is perfectly consistent with personal enjoyment of the Divine favour. 2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations 3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer. (W. H. Booth.)
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS GRIEF. 1. It was profound. 2. It was enduring. 2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons — 2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations 3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer. (W. H. Booth.)
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS GRIEF.
1. It was profound.
2. It was enduring.
2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons —
2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations
3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer.
(W. H. Booth.)
I. THE DUTY OF SYMPATHETIC CONTEMPLATION OF SURROUNDING SORROWS. The first condition of sympathy is knowledge; the second is attending to what we know. How demoralising is the thought that many people seem to entertain, that the universe, and hideous vices and sodden immorality, and utter heathenism which are found down among the foundations of every civic community are as indispensable to progress as the noise of the wheels of a train is to its advancement, or as the bilge-water in a wooden ship is to keep its seams tight. Every consideration of communion with and conformity to Jesus Christ, of loyalty to His words, of a true sense of brotherhood, and of lower things — such as sell-interest — demands that Christian people shall take to their hearts, in a fashion that Churches have never done yet, "the condition of England question," and shall ask, "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do?"
II. SUCH A REALISATION OF THE DARK FACTS IS INDISPENSABLE TO ALL TRUE WORK FOR ALLEVIATING THEM. There is no way of helping men, but by bearing what they bear. No man will ever lighten a sorrow of which he has not himself felt the pressure. The Cross of Christ is the pattern for our lives. The "saviours of society" have still in lower fashion to be crucified. No work of any real use will be done except by those whose hearts have bled with the feeling of the miseries which they set themselves to cure.
III. SUCH REALISATION OF SURROUNDING SORROWS WILL DRIVE TO COMMUNION WITH GOD. All true service for the world must begin with close communion with God. The "service of man" is best done when it is the service of God. You will never get the army of workers that is needed to grapple with the facts of our present condition unless you touch the very deepest springs of conduct, and these axe to be found in communion with God. All other efforts at alleviate work by those who ignore Christian motive is but surface drainage. Get down to the love of God, and the love of men therefrom, and you have got an artesian well which will bubble up unfailingly. We hear a great deal about a "social gospel." Let us remember that the gospel is social second and individual first. If you get the love of God and obedience to Jesus Christ into a man's heart it will be like putting gas into a balloon — it will go up and the man will get out of the slums fast enough; and he will not be a slave to the vices of the world much longer. It is the work of the Church to carry to the world the only thing that will make men deeply and abidingly happy, because it will make them good.
IV. SUCH SYMPATHY SHOULD BE THE PARENT OF A NOBLE SELF-SACRIFICING LIFE, Nehemiah, like Moses, "chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God" and to turn his back on the dazzlements of a court, than to "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season," while his brethren were suffering. The spirit of this example must still be observed. It is no part of my business to prescribe to you details of duty. It is my business to insist on the principles which must regulate these, and of these principles in application to Christian service there is none more stringent than "I will not offer unto my God burnt offerings of that which doth cost me nothing."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. Here is one who has heard these evil tidings of to-day, and of a thousand other ills that afflict and disgrace our land. "It is sad," he says, "very sad indeed; I do wish I could help you. But you see I can do so very little. I will double my subscription for a year; but of course I am not in a position to do anything more. You see I am not a prophet, or then I might go forth and preach to the people. I am not a priest, and must not take upon myself a task which belongs to others. I am not a warrior, and cannot head a host of soldiers, or no doubt I should fight. I don't see that I can do anything." And the man is going away quite satisfied that he at any rate has done his duty. This is the average Christian of the nineteenth century. Now there comes some simple man who lays his hand upon this man's shoulder, and says, "There is one thing we can do; we can pray about it." Then there comes the amiable smile which we keep for weak, well-meaning people — "Of course, my friend; of course. We all do that, you know." And the adversity continues as it always does when we pray without personal interest.
2. Then I think of another who has heard of the sad condition of things, and he says, "Well, I really am very lorry, indeed; yes, quite distressed. You know, I think that there must be a great deal of mismanagement up in Jerusalem somewhere; Ezra cannot be looking after it as he ought to be; I feel he is wrong altogether; I think it is a disgrace to him. I wonder whether he thinks David would ever have allowed a condition of things like this to come about?" Personal interest leading people to abuse the workers — that is not a very uncommon thing. "It is dreadful, this condition of things in London. But do you think that ministers are doing their duty?" It is so easy, is it not, when we are disappointed and sad, to fling stones at other people? It is such a relief to be able to find fault with somebody else. Then I think this simple man comes up and says," Do not you think we ought to pray for them? They have got hard work, and it is difficult to get at." "Oh, pray! yes, of course; pray all day, of course." That is a horrible spirit, the spirit that prays as a matter of course, and finds fault with everybody else as a matter of course, too. If you cannot do good, do not go shooting arrows into the hearts of others. I marvel that the great God of heaven has such patience with those people who criticise every method, who find fault with everybody's failure, and who never in their lives lifted a finger to help souls to Christ — personal interest that can only find fault and blame other people, and that kneels down and prays as a matter of course, but neither has heart, nor earnestness, nor expectation in its prayer.
3. I see another type of character, the man who says, "Well, really, it is very sad indeed." He is a man not given much to weeping; he has a tender heart; he is sharp, definite, exact, likes to have things down in black and white — your typical Englishman. "Come here" he says; "now let us just have it down. You tell me that the walls have been broken down: how many yards of wall will you want? It is a very serious matter; we shall want so many loads of stone; and our gateways? yes, burned with fire; yes, and so many loads of timber. We are practical men. It is very sad. How many men have you got up there? You have got twenty men. We shall want a thousand men to build up that city. It cannot be done; it is no good, it cannot be done." Do not you know that man? It is personal interest stopping short of importunate prayer.
4. I think I see another, who has heard of the condition of the poor, and thinks this is a dreadful city, perhaps can think of nothing else; perhaps, like Nehemiah, he feels that relish for appetite is gone; his tears are falling, and he is haunted by the thought of the homeless and outcast ones and hungry little children — Nehemiah weeping and fasting. God loves hearts that fret because of the sins and sorrows around us. God set such store by men who sighed and cried because of the abominations that He sent an angel down from heaven to put a mark upon their foreheads. Do you know what the angel was doing? I think he was taking their measure for their crowns, it is a great thing in the midst of this London to keep alive a tender heart, and if Christ does not give a man a tender heart I question whether that man knows much about the Lord Jesus Christ. But look! fretting will not mend the evil. Earnest personal interest, passing into importunate prayer, will. Nehemiah got as far as fretting, and then he went to God. That is a grand saying of John Wesley's: "I dare no more fret than I would curse or swear." It would make the fortune of life insurance offices if we could hit upon that happy receipt. He that only frets will do much, but he who cannot fret will not do anything. I think a Christian ought to be a man who frets — frets, mark you, until he gets to God, and gets hold of God sufficiently, and feels: "Great Father in heaven, Thou canst remedy these ills, and Thou writ!"
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
(W. P. Lockhart.)
(W. P. Lockhart.)
Homiletic Commentary.I. OCCASIONS OF FASTING.
1. Afflictions of the Church (Nehemiah.)
2. National judgments (Joel).
3. Domestic bereavement (David).
4. Imminent danger (Esther).
5. Solemn ordinances (Paul and Barnabas set apart).
II. THE DESIGN OF FASTING.
III. THE DUTY OF FASTING.
1. Forms part of general principle of self-denial, essential to true discipleship (Luke 9:28).
2. Implied, and therefore enjoined, by words of Christ (Matthew 17:21).
IV. THE MANNER AND DEGREE OF FASTING.
1. Sometimes total abstinence from food for a time (Esther 4:16).
2. More often abstinence from superfluous food (Daniel 10:8).
V. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH TO FAST.
(Homiletic Commentary.)I. TO GIVE NO PLACE TO DESPAIR, HOWEVER DEEP OR PROLONGED OUR GRIEF. No calamity can be so overwhelming as to block our way to the God before whom Abraham and Daniel, and every devout soul, has bowed in fervent petition for help in dire extremity. God does not forsake or forget the lowliest or weakest or most unworthy. The more we need God — for any reason, our misfortune or our fault — the more reason for our seeking Him, and, in some true sense, the more ready is He to be sought and found.
II. WE SHOULD NOT OVERLOOK THE SEVERITIES OF GOD'S CHARACTER OR DEALINGS WHEN APPROACHING HIM WITH PETITIONS. Modern ideas of God's fatherhood tend much to put His sterner attributes out of sight. His unquestionable love seems to preclude severities of character or dealings. But our prophet could unite ideas of God as "great and terrible," and also keeping "covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments." By true reasoning we should be wary of views of God which leave out His severity, for there is the side of His character which is the necessary counterpart of love for righteousness and obedience.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF IMPORTUNITY. The prayer of our lesson had lasted for days, attended by fasting. Fasting prepares the way for clear thought and tender feeling. Nehemiah did not say, "God fully understands the situation. I need only refer to it." With familiar urgency he pleads for the "attentive ear" and "open eyes," that God may know his case and care for it. Similar travail of soul has been an element of prevailing prayer in all ages. Why it is necessary we do not fully know. It may be that importunity is the only safe mood to which answers to prayer can be wisely accorded. Without it the desired boon or the answer would not be appreciated.
IV. THE FITNESS AND DUTY OF THOROUGH CONFESSION.
V. MOSES WAS AN HISTORIC CHARACTER, AND OUR RECORD OF HIM IS TRUSTWORTHY. Nehemiah would not talk with God about a mythical person.
VI. NO DEPTH OF FALL OR DISTANCE OF WANDERING CAN INVALIDATE GOD'S COVENANT MERCIES. Though "cast out into the uttermost part of the heaven," their return would be certain if they would but return unto God and keep His commandments.
VII. PAST MERCIES AND MIGHTY RESCUES ARE A LOGICAL BASIS OF CONFIDENCE, OF FAITH, AND BOLDNESS OF PETITION. What is the probable logic of the appeal, "Now these are Thy servants and Thy people, whom. Thou hast redeemed by. Thy great power, and by Thy strong hand"? This, m part: God had made an investment of grace in these children of His adoption; from true economy He would not wish it wasted. Again, the love that sought them in the beginning proceeded from its own internal impulses; such love cannot be easily exhausted. Being a motive unto itself, that motive abides unchanging in character and sufficiency. Again, these subjects of His grace were more needy than ever; any help based upon that need could not be lacking on occasion. All this can be said of individual cases as truly as of Israel. The individual backslider has been "redeemed by great power, and by a strong hand." The heavenly Father began the work with a full knowledge of the weakness of the material and the possibilities of failure. Let the tender conscience, the sensitive honour writhing in the memory of past mercies that have been abused, grow calm and hopeful in the assurance that redeeming grace does not depend upon dates or any conditions, but genuine brokenness of heart and absolute return to obedience.
VIII. WE CAN GO TO GOD IN PRAYER, WITH ONLY A DESIRE TO FEAR HIM.
IX. PRAYER SHOULD BE PRACTICAL IN ITS OUTLOOK. Communion with God may well have our time and attention for its reflex influence; for the nobler soul-life gained thereby; but Nehemiah counted prayer a practical reliance in achieving business results. He needed and coveted the king's help. His example, in this respect, may well be copied in all our undertakings. God is not an uninterested spectator of our toils or plans. We may come to Him for help where our own strength ceases.
(S. L. B. Speare.)
Monday Club Sermons.I. One quality which makes Nehemiah's prayer effectual WAS ITS IMPORTUNITY. Two considerations inspired this —
1. He was burdened with a single great desire. Our praying often lacks at this point. We ask amiss because we ask for nothing — in particular. It is the time for devotion, or the place; so we approach the mercy-seat, because we ought to, rather than because we have any pressing need — coming, sometimes, in so vague a way that it might not be easy afterwards to tell just what request had been presented. Nehemiah's prayer did not have such lack. He was in sore trouble.
2. Another element which gave importunity to his prayer was a conviction that this relief could come only from God. "Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man." During the civil war a gentleman from New England, travelling in South America, noticed one day a Spaniard reading a paper, and asked him the news. "The news is," replied the other, "that your government is getting beaten. They have taken to praying, and when people have to call on God for help it shows, evidently, they are in a bad way." That is always the reason why men call on God, because they cannot help themselves. This was what made Nehemiah so much in earnest. Dr. Bushnell remarked once in the Hartford ministers' meeting, "Brethren, the thing which I have to struggle against most in my praying is a spirit of submission. I give up too easily. I want to learn how to plead more as Jacob did, with a determination not to let God go without the blessing." He qualified afterwards his words, explaining true submission, but pressed, in his strong way, the importance of persistency. So Nehemiah prayed, not once, but "without ceasing." He wept and mourned, and fasted "certain days," "day and night."
II. A second quality that made Nehemiah's prayer effectual was its SPIRIT OF CONFESSION. He seems to have apprehended, very distinctly, the truth which the Bible urges in many ways, that men must come into right relations with God before they can ask any favour of Him.
1. It was particular. He specified some of the points of his guilt. "We have dealt very corruptly against Thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which Thou commandest Thy servant Moses."
2. Then his confession was individual. He began with an acknowledgment in behalf of the "children of Israel"; but it occurred to him to bring that nearer home, so he added, "Both I and my father's house have sinned." He was conscious of his own shortcomings. With all his zeal, his loyalty so constant and so brave, he saw that at many points he had failed, and for these shortcomings he asked forgiveness. When David has made his confession that is so particular, "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight"; and so individual, "I acknowledge my transgression"; "Have mercy upon me, O God."
III. A third quality that made Nehemiah's prayer effectual was its faith. Trusting God first in his own behalf for pardon, guidance, strength, he could trust Him in behalf of the nation. He prayed, "Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandest." He seemed to know the Divine will by some clear intimation. That appears, at first, to diminish the worth of his example. We say, "Yes, certainly; no wonder he had faith; any one could ask for wonderful blessing if the Lord told him to." But how did God put that purpose into the heart of Nehemiah? by a vision, a voice, some supernatural revelation? There is no intimation of either. It may have been simply by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as we all are moved, through conscience, enlightened by the Word of God.
IV. A fourth quality in Nehemiah's prayer which made it effectual WAS ITS SPIRIT OF GOOD WORKS. When he sat down to pray he did not mean to stay in that attitude. He had in his mind a plan to secure permission to go and build the wall.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
And prayed before the God of heaven. —
I. Its reverent spirit. It begins with adoration: "O Jehovah, God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him!" In our eagerness to present our requests at the throne of the heavenly grace there is always danger of precipitation. It must not be forgotten that we are approaching the Infinite. Therefore a reverent humility becomes us.
II. Nehemiah makes CONFESSION OF HIS SINS: "We have sinned against Thee; both I and my father's house have sinned." This cup-bearer knew that sin lay at the bottom of all Israel's troubles. "Both I and my father's house have sinned." Spurgeon says, "He spelled 'we' with an 'I' in it." His own transgressions and shortcomings loomed up before him.
III. HIS CONFIDENCE IN THE DIVINE WORD. This was the prayer of faith. He caste himself upon the promises of God, which are evermore Yea and Amen. He ventures to particularise: he puts God in remembrance of a certain covenant which He had been pleased to make long before with Moses His servant in behalf of His people. The terms of this covenant are gathered from various passages of ancient Scripture (Leviticus 36:27-45; Deuteronomy 28:45, 67; Deuteronomy 30:1, 10). A glorious word of promise that for a nation of stiff-necked exiles! And the fact that on the part of the people themselves this covenant had been broken does not prevent Nehemiah from putting God in remembrance of it; for he knows that God is of long suffering and tender mercy. Faith at the mercy-seat conquers all.
IV. THE PRAYER OF NEHEMIAH WAS SPECIFIC. It is the part of wisdom to enter upon all enterprises with prayer. A Roman general would not march to battle until he had first offered a sacrifice. A right apprehension of this principle would keep us always in the spirit of prayer, because no man can estimate the importance of any act. The least thing we do may have momentous and eternal issues.
V. HIS PRAYER WAS FOLLOWED BY THE USE OF APPROPRIATE MEANS.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
I. THE OCCASION OF THIS PRAYER. It is stated in the first three verses. "The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass," etc. It is said of the Redeemer — "In all their affliction He was afflicted; and HIs people are like-minded with Him in this respect. They feel for others.
II. THE BEING TO WHOM HIS PRAYER IS ADDRESSED. Those among whom he dwelt were accustomed in their distress to invoke the aid of their heathen deities; but, knowing full well how vain it was to seek relief from such lying vanities, he called upon the God of heaven. In applying to Him he felt assured that he was not praying to a god that could not save. There were two aspects of His glorious character in which he more especially regarded Him.
1. As great and terrible.
2. As faithful and gracious.
III. THE PENITENTIAL SPIRIT WHICH IT BREATHES.
IV. THE POWERFUL PLEA WHICH IS EMPLOYED. "Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandeer Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations; but if ye return unto Me," etc. "Remember," says the Psalmist, "Thy word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope." And this was the argument of Nehemiah; he pleads that God would accomplish what He had formerly declared (Deuteronomy 4:25-29; Deuteronomy 30:1-6.)
V. THE EARNEST IMPORTUNITY WITH WHICH IT IS PRESENTED. "O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive," etc.
(The Author of "The Footsteps of Jesus.")
(A. J. Griffiths.)
(A. J. Griffiths.)
(W. P. Lockhart.)
(J. M. Randall.)
(J. M. Randall.)
I. IN HIS SYMPATHY AND GRIEF FOR HIS COUNTRY.
II. IS HIS DESIRE TO PROMOTE HIS COUNTRY'S GOOD.
III. IN CARRYING OUT HIS OBJECT THOUGH BESET WITH GREAT DIFFICULTIES.
IV. IN REVIEWING HIS WORKS.
(John Patteson, M. A.)
I. HOW NEHEMIAH ADDRESSES HIMSELF TO GOD. He calls upon "Jehovah, the God of heaven," infinite, supreme, and everlasting. "Great" in power and dominion, and "terrible" in justice and holiness. And withal as a God who keepeth covenant and mercy. As Bishop Reynolds remarks, "God in creation is God around us; God in providence is God above us; God in the law is God against us; but God in Christ is God for us, God with us, God in us, our all-sufficient portion for ever."
II. HOW HUMBLY NEHEMIAH CONFESSES HIS OWN SINS AND THE SINS OF HIS COUNTRY.
III. HOW HE PLEADS WITH GOD, WHAT WEIGHTY ARGUMENTS HE EMPLOYS! He lays hold upon God's word. This is a firm rock in a troubled sea (Deuteronomy 30:1-5). Let us come to God with a promise, and reverently remind Him of His own engagement: "Lord, do as Thou hast said; remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope." We shall then realise the consolation, happily expressed by a pious man who said, when he was asked concerning the abiding peace which he enjoyed, "Master, me fall flat upon the promise, and me pray straight up."
IV. OBSERVE THE PARTICULAR REQUEST WHICH HE MAKES. "Prosper, I pray Thee, Thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." Its matter is very full: its manner very suggestive.
1. How reverent was Nehemiah before God! How just were his views of the Divine majesty! Shall angels thus humbly prostrate themselves before God? Oh, with what "reverence and godly fear" should sinners come to His footstool
2. How earnest was his prayer: "I beseech Thee," "hear the prayer of Thy servant which I pray before Thee." Many say their prayers, but do they pray in prayer? Prayer is the expression of want: it is not eloquence, but earnestness; not fine words, but deep feeling. To be effectual it must be fervent. Prayer is incense: but if the fragrance is to ascend before the mercy-seat, it must be kindled by holy fire from the altar. Prayer is an arrow, but if it is to travel far and pierce deep, the bow must be bent, and the string must be tense, else our prayer shall fall at our feet. "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me."
3. How constant too was Nehemiah! "Day and night" did he plead. "We ought always to pray, and not to faint."
4. How believing was his supplication! Faith is an important element in prayer; it honours God, it pleads the Saviour's merits, it rests upon the sure promise. Faith laughs at impossibilities, and says it shall be done.
5. How fervent was the charity which dictated this prayer! Nehemiah was a patriot in the best sense of the word. He earnestly desired the welfare of Jerusalem. There was not a particle of selfishness in his prayer. May we not learn to be charitable and large-hearted in our prayers — to intercede for others, our country, and the Church of God, and in this respect to copy the example of Nehemiah?
(J. M. Randall.)
The great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him.
Homiletic Commentary.From this sublime invocation we gather —
I. THAT THERE IS PERFECT HARMONY IN THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE DIVINE NATURE.
II. THAT THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES ARE EQUALLY ENLISTED IN THE WORK OF HUMAN SALVATION.
III. THAT THE HARMONY OF THE DIVINE NATURE IS THE ONLY TRUE BASIS OF MORAL GOODNESS.
1. The contemplation of Divine compassion alone tends to antinomianism.
2. The contemplation of the Divine holiness alone tends to legalism. Hence spring meritorious works, penances, and self-inflicted flagellations and other useless tortures.
IV. THAT THE HARMONY OF THE DIVINE NATURE FURNISHES THE ONLY TRUE IDEAL OF MORAL GOODNESS.
V. THAT NOTWITHSTANDING THE HARMONY OF THE DIVINE NATURE, MEN COME INTO CONTACT WITH DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF THAT NATURE ACCORDING TO THEIR MORAL CONDITION.
(W. P. Lockhart.)
And confess the sins of the children of Israel
S. S. Times.Confession of sin is essential to success in prayer. "If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me." Nehemiah feels that God has reason to be displeased with His people. They have been guilty of sins of omission (have not kept) and of commission (transgression). Their privileges have aggravated their guilt: they have sinned against light; the commandments, statutes, and judgments given by Moses bear witness against them. And Nehemiah is conscious that he shares their guilt. He has sinned himself; and he has sinned in their sins. For all of us have a part in the sins of the community. Our influence helps to mould and shape its life. It is a principle in Chinese law to hold the relatives of a criminal in some degree responsible for his crime, so that the whole family is concerned in the conduct of its individual members. That principle is founded on a true conception which applies in both directions. The community has a responsibility for its members, each of whom shares a like responsibility for the life of the community itself. So we need to say "our trespasses," "our debts," in our daily prayer.
(S. S. Times.)I. WE ARE ALL CHARGEABLE WITH FAULTS.
II. WE ARE LIABLE TO FORGET OUR FAULTS. Through —
1. Ignorance of the true nature of sin.
3. Hurry of business.
4. Elevation in worldly circumstances.
III. VARIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES ARE ADAPTED TO REMIND US OF OUR FAULTS.
IV. WHEN WE ARE REMINDED OF OUR FAULTS WE SHOULD BE READY TO CONFESS THEM.
V. CONFESSION OF FAULTS SHOULD ALWAYS BE ATTENDED WITH REAL AMENDMENT.
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