Nehemiah 1 Commentary
Susa: Nehemiah is an important official at the imperial complex. He is the cup bearer to the king.
Jerusalem: The remnants are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The walls of Jerusalem together with the gates are in disrepair.
Susa: Hanani arrives at the imperial palace complex. He is the guest of Nehemiah. But he is also the bearer of news about the poor state of Jerusalem and the people there. Nehemiah is deeply concerned. Nehemiah mourns. Nehemiah prays. This chapter is all about Nehemiah’s prayer.
Nehemiah has no issues with the scattering. It is deserved. Israel hadn’t behaved in the right way towards the LORD. But Nehemiah is talking about Israel’s coming back. The LORD had promised to bring back the exiles. There should be a fresh page for Israel. But Israel is very far from the promised good times.
Nehemiah is reminiscing about the great exodus; the time when the LORD powerfully rescued Israel from enslavement. Is it a possibility now? He knows what must be done: repentance. He tries to repent on behalf of Israel, both present and past. But in the back of his mind, he knows this is mission impossible. So he appeals to the generosity of the LORD.
It is at this point that we begin to feel hopeless. There was sin before the exile. There is still sin after the exile. So the punishment didn’t serve any purpose. Yet Nehemiah still prayed: “let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.”
Yes, the time would come for the one servant who truly and perfectly revered God’s name. And the LORD answered Jesus’ prayer. But that is for the New Testament saint who must look at Israel’s hopeless situation and contrast it with the hope that comes with the Cross. For now, we have Nehemiah’s prayer and an expectation as a consequence of this prayer. Let’s see how the LORD responds tomorrow.
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