Nehemiah: A man with a burdened heart

Rev. Robby J Mathew

17 January, 2023

My Testimony
I was a Marthoma priest. It is intervention of God that I am in this ministry today. I was appointed in Dubai in the year 2012/2014 to work as a “Youth Chaplain” in Sharjah, Dubai. One day after a house visit, I was sleepless. I could not sleep for 5 minutes at a stretch. My sleeplessness continued for the whole month of November. I was afraid that I would be tagged “incapacitated” and would not be able to continue my ministry. No medicines could help. During this period of sleeplessness, I had to conduct “Vacation Bible School”. But His grace was abundant during my weakness, unlike any other year an overwhelming number of 40 children committed for full time ministry on the last day of VBS. Amen.

Another brother met me and requested to pray for his exactly similar problem, ‘Sleeplessness’. When I prayed for him, I was delivered of my condition, and I could sleep well that night. 2 years later after 21 days of partial fasting and praying with my wife, God confirmed our decision to leave Mar Thoma church, with a vision “Rise up from the dead and go to heaven”. Praise the Lord.

Nehemiah – a man with a burdened heart.

Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ 

Nehemiah 1:8,9 (NKJV)

God uses the right person at the right time.  He chose Nehemiah to build the walls of Jerusalem at the right time. He was not a priest nor a prophet, but he was placed in a secular position as a cupbearer of the Persian king. God was using him for a bigger purpose. God uses the right person at the right time. As a cupbearer, he had a lot of privileges in the palace. He was a trust-worthy person. He was the first person to taste the wine, before giving it to the king. He was second in rank after the king. He was one of the advisers to the king. God uses such an important person to comfort His people. Nehemiah’s name means “God Comforts”.  You might be in a good secular job, but God is using you to comfort the people who are distressed and in emotional turmoil. 

God’s people were in exile in Babylon. King Cyrus was elected by God to deliver His people out of the captivity. Moving back to Jerusalem is not an easy task. Jerusalem in in ruins. After 70 years of captivity God has promised that they will return to Jerusalem. He is a promise fulfilling God. God fulfilled his promise, after 70 years of captivity through a gentile king. They went in to exile due to a gentile king ‘Nebuchadnezzar”. They were brought back from exile through another gentile king named Cyrus. 

The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.

Nehemiah 1:3 (NKJV)

The Remnants

Out of 2 or 3 million people who were taken into captivity to Babylon, only about 50 thousand returned to Jerusalem. That is about 2% of the people. Rest of the people are still in Babylon. They were still living in comfort and did not want to return to Jerusalem. The small percentage or remnant of captives returned to Jerusalem. Our God is a God who is concerned about the remnant. He raised the right leader at the right time to help the remnants. These remnants are suffering and having a difficult life in Jerusalem, due to the broken walls and burnt city gate, hence no protection from enemy attacks. They were living in great trouble and shame.

The people in exile had two options now, either to return to Jerusalem or continue in exile. Where are we now? Do we want to stay in the attractive city in exile or desolate city, Jerusalem. What God wants us to do is to return to Jerusalem, even if it means leaving the comfort & luxury and going to a life of struggle. 

We see in the book of Ruth; Elimelech and his familsy go from Jerusalem to Moab due to famine. Jerusalem means city of bread. They go from the city of bread in search of bread to a Moab a cursed place. When they realise it after personal loss, they decide to come back to Jerusalem.

So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 1: 4 (NKJV)

Compassionate heart

Nehemiah who was living a good life in a palace, when he heard about his people living in desolate conditions, made him cry. He was concerned and burdened about his nation. God uses as person who is burdened in their hearts to help his people. Nehemiah had a compassionate heart. Compassion is not sympathy. Jesus was compassionate, when he saw the people suffering, hungry and lost. Nehemiah was a man of compassion. In Hebrew, there is word call “Raham” – womb of a woman. A mother does not complain about the child in the woman. She accommodates the child. Compassion is not partial to any caste or religion, it accommodates everyone. Let’s pray “God, please give me a compassionate heart”. 

Prayer changes everything

Nehemiah does not hasten himself to consult the king, but he consults the “King of kings”. He was very aware of the history of Ezekiel, when he tried to build the walls, it was intentionally foiled by the enemies.  He was very much aware the building the wall of Jerusalem is not possible through influence of the king, but only through by the Almighty God. If God opens the door, no one can close it.

We read in Nehemiah 1:1 & 2:1 that from the month of Chislev to the month of Nisan, that is 4 months, Nehemiah prayed consulting God waiting for permission to go to Israel to build the walls of Jerusalem. For those who wait in the presence of the Lord, He will instil the power to build the broken walls.  

T L Osborn, the American Televangelist, God asked him to pray 23 hours a day for a year. After one year, Evangelist Oral Roberts invited him in a crusade saying, “Here is a man who has spent 1 year in the presence of God”, when he was walking through the crowd, miracles happened. People were healed. 

Covenant Keeping God

And I said: “I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments

Nehemiah 1: 5

Nehemiah’s understanding of God was very clear. Our God is awesome and great. Our God is a covenant keeping God to those who keep His commandments. 

Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held— To subdue nations before him And loose the armour of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut: ‘I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.

Isaiah 45: 1,2 (NKJV)

Though the Babylonian empire was very strong, God used this gentile king Cyrus to break in to this empire and bring His people out of captivity because he is a covenant keeping God. 

Message transcribed by Jebah Daniel