03/21/Su – Love and Faith, Strength and Courage

Nehemiah 1:1-2:8; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Psalms 31:23-24; Proverbs 11:22

OT: “Hanani, one of my brothers, arrived with men from Judah, and I questioned them about Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile. They said to me, “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of the heavens. I said, Lord, the God of the heavens, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands, let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned… Please remember what you commanded your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. But if you return to me and carefully observe my commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell.” …Please, Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to that of your servants who delight to revere your name. Give your servant success today, and grant him compassion in the presence of this man. At the time, I was the king’s cupbearer.” (‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:2-6, 8-9, 11‬ ‭CSB)

Nehemiah was a Jew born in exile and had risen in ranks to become the cup bearer of King Artaxerxes. Seventy years had passed since the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Hanani, one of Nehemiah’s brothers, had just returned from visiting Judah and Nehemiah was curious how things were going in the land of his people. I imagine that he was hopeful that the Israelites that had returned to Jerusalem were thriving and glorifying God. When Nehemiah heard the report, he was cut to the heart. When he learned, that instead of being a glory to God, they were a disgrace, he wept and mourned. His mourning for the city and people of God moved him to fast and pray. Just like Ezra the priest, Nehemiah confessed and repented for the sins of his people – and even included himself, despite the fact that he wasn’t a part of the exiles who had returned. He also declared the promises of God and invoked God’s promise to fully restore His people once they repented and sought God’s face once again. It was Nehemiah’s love for God and the people of God that moved him to action. It was Nehemiah’s faith in God that strengthened his resolve and gave him courage to approach the king for help. Nehemiah’s position of cup bearer gave him a regular audience with the king, but addressing the king uninvited could have cost him his life – so he prayed for favor and God answered his prayer.

In the days that we live in, we face a similar burden and challenge that Nehemiah faced. The church – at least in America – is in great trouble, and in many ways has become a disgrace. Figuratively, our walls have been broken down and our gates burned with fire. In many ways, we have shifted off of the solid foundation of obedience to God’s will, we have  torn down our stone walls of Biblical doctrine and replaced them with trendy gimmicks and watered-down theology, and our Godly standards have been torched by the pressure of political correctness and the accusations of the enemy. Like the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem of Nehemiah’s day, we the church are called to be a light to the world which lives in darkness. We are called to stand out as a beacon of life, peace and joy. We are called to glorify God and lead others to Him – but it seems we are failing to do that. The church needs help. Do we love God and His church the way Nehemiah loved God and His holy city? Does the state of the church cut us to the heart and move us to prayer and fasting? We need men and women like Nehemiah who will be moved to action and built up in their faith to rebuild the church, and see the church reawakened and revived to their divine calling in God once again.

Psalms: “Love the Lord, all his faithful ones. The Lord protects the loyal, but fully repays the arrogant. Be strong, and let your heart be courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:23-24‬ ‭CSB)

Hear these words from King David. Let them stir you to love and good works in the name of Christ. Love the Lord, all you who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Love the Lord and allow that love to compel you to surrender and obedience. Remind yourself of Who our God is through praise and thanksgiving, and allow your hope in God to strengthen you and fill you with courage… love and faith, strength and courage that moves you beyond mere feeling and talk to action.

Prayer: Lord, You love Your church. The church is Your bride… the bride that You gave Your life for… the bride that You have gone to prepare a home for. If You love Your church and I love You, then I too should love Your church with a passion. Help me to not settle for a complacent church that has forgotten her first love – but instead to courageously contend for a beautiful bride that is fully ready for her wedding day and filled with the radiance of God’s glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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