Nehemiah, The Cupbearer Who Prays

Recently I’ve been going through the parts of my Bible that still look brand new with crisp, clean pages…(it’s sad, but it’s true).  I wanted to pay more attention to the books that usually don’t get much of it. I realized that a lot of these books are named after people. There has to be some good reason that the Lord would want these books in His Word. There has to be some good reason that the Lord would want these certain men and women of God to be highlighted in His word. So, He brought me to Nehemiah.

Nehemiah. What. A. Guy.

He was a cupbearer. My first thought – So what? He holds cups? Hopefully your first thought is better than mine. To me, it seemed like the position of cupbearer wasn’t that great. Of course. I was wrong. In actuality, the position of cupbearer was a high position. Nehemiah had to protect the king’s cup. He had to make sure that no poison got in that cup and sometimes would have to drink what was in it before giving it to the king just to make sure. He was respected by the king. Obviously the king had to trust Nehemiah. The king’s life depended on Nehemiah’s service.

One day, Nehemiah was wondering about his people, the Jews who “had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 1:2). So he asked his brother and a few others about these matters. Their reply – “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).

What would you do if you were away from your people and you heard of the hard time they were going through? Would you pray? Would you act? Or would you stay put and watch?

Nehemiah writes, “When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).

He prays to his Sovereign God and acts on behalf of his people.

Here we are. Most of us are away from severe persecution because of who we are, because of who we find our identity in. But our brothers and sisters who are just like us – Jesus followers, they are out there in the midst of great persecution from those who deny our great God. Our family is scattered around the world. When we here of them, what’s our response? Do we pray? Do we act?

Nehemiah didn’t just pray a little prayer. He wept for his people, his family. He denied himself of satisfying his hunger by fasting on behalf of the ones he loved. Not for five minutes, but for days.

Here’s how our prayers usually sound –

“Lord, keep them safe and away from any harm. Amen.” 

Here’s Nehemiah’s prayer –

“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, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote parts of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. O LORD, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” (Nehemiah 1:5-11)

Big difference.

Nehemiah adored His God. Sometimes we forget who our God is. Our God is God. He is awesome, sovereign and ruler over all. He knows what He’s doing.

Nehemiah asked the Lord to hear the prayer of his servant. He recognized and acknowledged who he was in comparison to who God is. Our God is Lord. He doesn’t have to listen to us. He always does, but He’s God, he doesn’t have to. Nehemiah came to God in humility.

Nehemiah admitted his sins and the sins of his people.  To come to a holy God, we must recognize our unholiness. Nehemiah knew that before he asked for anything, he had to remember who he was – a sinner. Confession is necessary.

Nehemiah advocated on behalf of his people. He reminded the Lord of the promise He made to the people. It’s not that God forgot, but that Nehemiah wanted to relieve his people of the great distress they were in. So, he pleaded for them.

What will it take for us to pray and act as Nehemiah did? Nehemiah exemplifies a man who was all for his God and for his people. May we be the same today. May we pray and act on behalf of our people, our family.

And for next time, we’ll look at what happens with Nehemiah, The Cupbearer Who Goes.

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