Finding Hope in the Faithfulness of God.
Read Nehemiah 1
“I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
The report could not have been worse. After the return of the Jews under Ezra, those who remained in Babylon were anxious to hear the news of how the people were progressing in rebuilding the Temple and the city and re-establishing the nation. Finally, a group of men returned from Israel, and Nehemiah quickly asked them how the rebuilding project was going. Unfortunately, the news was not encouraging. The people were in great distress, and the city of Jerusalem was still in disrepair as a result, the people were unprotected and still threatened by the surrounding nations. Instead of rejoicing that the nation was being restored, there was distress with little hope of protection for the people. As a result, Nehemiah was deeply grieved. The word “wept” is not just a feeling of sadness but deep grief and distress. It is the deep grief that one feels when a loved one passes away. Nehemiah was heartbroken in his sorrow for the people. Feeling helpless, he did the only thing he could do he fasted and prayed. This was not just a quick “Lord Help the people” type of prayer. The passage tells us that this fasting and prayer went on for days.
What captures our attention is not just his depth of concern for the people or even that he turned to prayer. Instead, what is significant is the basis for his prayer. In his hour of need, he rests in God's faithfulness and steadfast love. His confidence that God will act is based upon the promise that God will always be faithful to keep the covenant he made with Abraham and the nation of Israel. God is never forgetful of his promises; he never fails in the commitments he makes. Nehemiah’s confidence was not in the change of political winds or his influence with King Artaxerxes. His confidence was in the one who is the God of Heaven, who is great and awesome. He is great in magnitude and power, one who is not just an ordinary God but the God of the whole universe. The word “awesome” in the Hebrews refers to one who inspires awe and fear, for none can withstand him. But what would inspire fear in the hearts of those who oppose God gives hope to those who trust him. He keeps his covenant and demonstrates loving kindness for those who love him and keep his commands.
Nehemiah reflects upon God's faithfulness to the covenant he made with Israel. He is reminded that God had warned that if the nation rebelled, they would be cast into exile and scattered as a nation. Yet just as God had proven true to his word to bring judgment upon sin, Nehemiah trusts that God will be proven true to restore the country when they repent and turn back to him. No matter how deep Israel had descended into the depths of sin and judgment, God’s promise to restore and forgive always stands (vs. 9). It was because of God’s faithfulness that Nehemiah was confident that God would give his success in approaching King Artaxerxes to seek assistance for the Jews.
The same God who was faithful to the Jews is the same God who promises forgiveness and restoration to us today. In 1 John 1:9, God assures us that if we repent and seek him, he will always forgive, not because of our inherent worthiness, but because of his faithfulness to his promise. No matter how devastating the effects of our sins are, God promises to forgive and restore if we ask.