Nehemiah 1:5-11


Verse 5 - A realization of God's power.  And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

I.    I beseech thee.  Nehemiah's attitude when he approached God in prayer.

A.  Nehemiah follows the principles of prayer as outlined in Matt. 6:9-13.

1.   He glorifies God first, then makes his requests known.

2.   In all this prayer, God is never blamed for anything that has happened to Israel.

B.   Beseech.

1.   This word "beseech" comes from the Hebrew word "anna" which means "Ah, now!" "Oh, now!  "Pray, now".

2.   It is a participle of entreaty usually followed by the imperative verb.

3.   It is used to show the utmost urgency.

4.   Some examples where the word is used.

a.   Genesis 50:17 - On his deathbed, Jacob beseeches Joseph to forgive his brothers for their trespass against him.  This is very urgent for Jacob because he knows he doesn't have much time left on this earth.  If this matter is to corrected, it must be corrected now!

b.   Exodus 32:31 - The word "Oh" is the Hebrew word "anna".  This shows the anxiety of Moses because he knows God is on the verge of destroying Israel.

c.   Jonah 1:14 - The sailors had great anxiety about throwing Jonah overboard and needed an answer from God immediately.

d.   Is. 38:3, II Kings 20:3 - Hezekiah was facing death and needed an answer from God immediately.

5.   Nehemiah 1:11 uses this same Hebrew word for beseech.

6.   The word "beseech" in verse 8 is "na", which means "pray now, please".  It is used in entreaty or exhortation as the word "anna", but is not as urgent.

C.   A desire to be heard - More than just a "casual" prayer, but (James 5:16) an effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man.

1.   Rom. 8:26 - Praying in the spirit with groaning which cannot be uttered.

2.   Knowing that the Lord is the only one that can answer his prayer.

3.   Prayed day and night.

a.   Not that he didn't do anything but pray, for he had duties to attend to, but these things were continually on his heart and mind.

b.   I Thess. 5:17 - Pray without ceasing.

4.   Compare 1:1 and 2:1 - about 4 months went by while he prayed.

5.   Note: While he prayed before God, God gave him a plan.  This plan was not just from Nehemiah, but from God, who put it in his mind.


II.   O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God.

A.  Terrible God (One that is to be greatly feared.)

1.   This word would hardly be used to express an attribute (characteristic) of God today, but it should be.

2.   The word "terrible" doesn't mean awful, or disastrous.

3.   It means very, very fearful; as any man would be who stands in the presence of God, beholding his unspeakable majesty and glory.

B.   Some scriptures concerning the great and terrible God.

1.   Is. 21:1, "The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land." - The desert is a terrible place.

2.   Is. 64:3, "When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence." - God does terrible things that make men fear.

3.   Ps. 66:3-5, "Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. {4} All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah. {5} Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing toward the children of men." - God's works are terrible.

4.   Ps. 47:2, "For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth." - Be glad because God is terrible.

5.   Ps. 68:35, "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God." - God is terrible out of His Holy Places.  (Said at the moving of the ark - David remembers the death of Uzzah and greatly feared God.)

6.   Ps. 76:12, "He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth." - God makes kings fear.

7.   Is. 18:2,7, "That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled! {7} In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion." - Israel is called a terrible nation - A nation to be feared.

8.   Deut. 7:21, "Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible." - Don't be afraid of our enemy for our terrible God is with us.


III. That keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments.

A.  Keeping covenant and mercy.

1.   Covenant - God keeps all His covenants.

a.   Deut. 7:9,  - Moses says God will keep His covenants.

b.   I Kings 8:56 - Solomon says God didn't fail to keep one word of His promises.

c.   John 3:16 - Jesus keeps His Word about salvation.

d.   John 6:37 - Jesus keeps His Word about security of the saved.

e.   Heb. 6:18 - God cannot lie - He will keep all His Word.

2.   Sometimes (most of the time) mankind doesn't keep his part of the covenant.

a.   Gen. 3 - Adam in the Garden of Eden.

b.   Jer. 11:10 - Israel went back from following God.

3.   This is the reason for God keeping mercy.

a.   Mercy is the act of God giving us that which we don't deserve, because He loves us.

b.   Gen. 3 - Mercy caused God to seek Adam in the Garden.

c.   Luke 18:9-14 - The publican asked for mercy, not justice.

4.   Nehemiah is praying to the covenant keeping, merciful God.  He won't discuss the merits of Israel, but their sins, desiring that God in tender mercy would forgive and keep His covenant with them.

B.   Love Him and observe His commandments.

1.   It should be noted that God keeps his (will of purpose) promises regardless of whether anybody believes or not!

2.   God will fulfill His (will of command) promises and covenants only to those that love Him and His commandments.

3.   Nehemiah is asking for a special blessing to those who believe and look forward to the promises of God.

4.   We can't expect God to be merciful to those that curse His Holy Name and disregard His commandments.  These people will be judged by Him.

5.   When another people comes along that love Him and try to obey Him, God will extend His mercy and blessings toward them.

a.   God won't necessarily turn away from Israel to bless another, but will cause the faithful to join themselves to Israel.

b.   This same principle applies to the church.

c.   God will not turn from Israel, nor Jesus from His church, but will add true believers to those companies.

d.   For an example see Rahab, and Ruth in the Old Testament and Acts 2:42 in the New Testament.

6.   Israelites who are blessed in spite of the nation of Israel being condemned.

a.   II Chron. 34:14-28, (27,28) - Josiah is kept from God's judgment because he tried to serve God.

b.   Mal. 3:16-18 - God remembered the faithful of Israel in a time when the entire nation was fighting His will.


Verse 6,7, Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. {7} We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

I.    Verse 6, Confessing their sins.

A.  Why did Nehemiah pray that God's ears be open?

1.   If God didn't answer, there would be no help.

2.   This shows a complete dependence on God.

B.   God will not answer our prayers until we confess our sins.

1.   We need to recognize why God has stopped blessing us and started punishing us.

2.   The only way we can know we've sinned is by a study of the Bible.

3.   We can't let our conscience be our guide.

C.   Confess the sins of ourselves and others.

1.   Revival can come to a church when every member confesses (without pointing a finger of accusation at anybody).

2.   This is the only way true revival can come.

3.   Nehemiah not only blames past generations for the condition of Jerusalem, but also blames himself, because he believes he ought to have done something to help before now.


II.   Verse 7, A detailed confession before God (nothing to man).

A.  Dwelt very corruptly - to wind tightly (as a rope) - to bind - withhold.

1.   Ps. 78:41 - Israel limited the Holy One of Israel.

2.   Is. 63:10 - Vexed the Holy Spirit.

3.   I Thess. 5:19 - Quench not the Holy Spirit.

4.   Eph. 4:30 - Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.

B.   Have not kept the commandments - the command of God.

1.   Ps. 51:16,17 - The fulfilling of the law is not in outward obedience, but a broken and contrite heart.  David broke the 7th commandment, but God desired internal obedience.

2.   Matt. 22:34-40 - Love is the fulfilling of the law.

C.   Statutes - an enactment, or an appointment (times or feasts and sabbath days).

1.   II Chron. 36:21 - Israel is in Babylonian Captivity 70 years because they forsook the Sabbaths of the Lord.

2.   Lev. 26:34,35 - What Jeremiah preached about in Jer. 25:11, 27:5,7.

3.   Heb. 10:25 - Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together - the punishment is revealed in verse 26 and 27.

D.  Judgment - A verdict - pronounced judicially - a sentence - taking care of crime and punishment.

1.   Deut. 16:18-20 - Appoint judges to give right judgment.

2.   Deut 24:17,18 - Right judgment for all stations of life.

3.   Lev. 19:18 - Ye shall do not unrighteousness in judgment.

4.   James 2:1-4 - We shouldn't accept the rich and reject the poor.  We shouldn't accept the poor and reject the rich.


III. The result of not following God's commands is exactly like God said it would be in Deut. 28.  Read the entire chapter for the blessings and punishment.


Verse 8,9, Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: {9} But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

I.    Claiming the promise - the way to Israel's victory!

A.  The promise came from the Word of God.

1.   Deut. 30:1-5 - Is the quoted scripture.

2.   Deut. 28 - Tells of the blessings and judgment.

B.   Note that Nehemiah spent a good deal of time studying the Word of God.

1.   He rightly divided the Word of God, applying the scriptures and not excusing his sins.

2.   Any person who save his life will be a student of God's Word.

C.   Nehemiah is not making a "deal" with God.

1.   He is simply asking God to do what He said He would do.

2.   There is a lot of difference between asking God to perform His promises and asking Him to do something out of our own imagination.

a.   Judges 11:30-31, Jephthah wanted to rule Israel so much that he made a rash vow to the Lord.

b.   This vow came from his own imagination, not from scripture.

c.   Since he made this vow, he ought to keep it.


II.   Claiming the promises - the way to our victory!

A.  The only way we can have victory is to claim the promise.

1.   Eph. 5:17,18 - Do we understand the will of God for our lives?

a.   When you read the Word of God, it applies to you.

b.   "Filled with the Spirit" is not like the Charismatics say - John 15:26.  John 16:14 - The Spirit speaks of the Father and Son, so "filled with the Spirit" is to speak of the Father and the Son, not the Holy Spirit!

2.   II Peter 1:4 - Exceeding great and precious promises let us become partakers of the divine nature.

B.   The promise to local churches.

1.   Matt. 28:18-20 - A church can never fail if they do these three things:  talk to the lost, baptize the saved and teach the saved.

2.   What a marvelous, gracious promise!

3.   A church doesn't have to depend on programs, gimmicks, or even "attendance and offerings".

4.   A church can completely depend on God and His promise.

C.   Rev. 2:4,5 - The church at Ephesus was doctrinally sound, but had forgotten why they were on the earth.

1.   They were in danger of losing their candlestick (authority).

2.   They must return to their stated purpose, that of loving God, putting Him first in everything.


Verse 10, Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

I.    A personal claim of the promise.

A.  For all of Israel.

1.   It's good for us to realize God has promises in His Word, but it is extremely better when we claim those promises for ourselves.

a.   Verse 10, These are thy servants and thy people.

b.   God has given the promises of His Word especially for His chosen people.

c.   Compare with Rom. 8:28-32 - God who has predestinated us also freely gives us all things.

2.   Compare Ex. 32:10-14 - Moses is pleading for the Israelites like Nehemiah is pleading for them.

3.   Servants and people - We are the servants of God, but we are also more then servants, we are His people.  John 15:15 - Jesus calls us friends for He has told us of His plans.

4.   Redeemed: Purchased with a price.

a.   Num. 14:17-20 - God's power of forgiveness is great.

b.   II Kings 17:36 - Brought out of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm.

5.   Verse 11 - Desire for the Lord to hear - many pray as a matter of habit, not thinking of whether the Lord hears or not.

a.   Many were praying - Matt. 18:19 - If any two shall agree (concerning the revealed Word of God) it shall be done.

b.   Desire to fear His name - none of us respect the Lord, (or obey Him) like we know we ought to.  What is our desire?  What do we want to do when nobody can see us?  Ezk. 8:12 - The secret thoughts of Israel.

B.   For Himself.

1.   Don't pray for God to use others until we're willing to be used ourselves.

2.   I believe Nehemiah knew God had a part for him to play in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.

3.   What part do you have in the building of this church?  Somebody has to work on the wall. (Chapter 3.)


II.   Verse 11, O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.  For I was the king's cupbearer.

A.  Nehemiah is not in this work alone.

1.   There is no doubt in my mind that Nehemiah had talked to other Jews about the condition of Jerusalem.

2.   His concern would cause him to speak of it.

3.   Nehemiah first heard about the desolation of Jerusalem in the last of November or first of December.

4.   Four months later, Nehemiah 2:1 records God answered his prayer.

5.   Therefore, he had plenty of time to discuss Jerusalem's problem with other Jews.

B.   Nehemiah's prayer is the only prayer recorded about restoring Israel.

1.   Just because his prayer is the only one recorded doesn't mean he is the only one praying.

2.   Verse 11 clearly indicates that other Jews are also praying.

C.   Nehemiah believes God will use him to solve this problem.

1.   He is not bragging about his position or his personality.

2.   He is simply realizing he is in a position to be used of God.

3.   If God puts us in a position to be used, we ought to realize it and let God use us, never bragging about what "we" do.

D.  who desire to fear thy name.

1.   This word "desire" doesn't mean "long for" (as if they can't achieve what they want), it means "to delight in".

a.   We certainly don't want to get the idea that these Jews wanted to worship God, but couldn't.

b.   We certainly don't want to get the idea that we might want to worship God, but can't.

2.   Genesis 34:19 records that Shechem had "delight" in Dinah, the daughter of Jacob.

a.   The word "delight" and "desire" come from the same root word.

b.   Shechem has extreme pleasure in Dinah.

c.   Notice - even thought circumstances are not exactly like we would like them to be, we can still have extreme pleasure in worshipping God.

3.   Numbers 14:8 declares that if God "delights" in Israel, He will bring them into the promised land.

a.   The word "delight" and "desire" come from the same root word.

b.   If Israel is rebellious against God's commands, He won't have delight in them, and won't bring them into the promised land.

c.   If Israel yields themselves to God's commands, God will have pleasure in them, and will bring them into the promised land.

4.   Therefore, we understand there were many Jews in Shushan that had great pleasure in serving God.

E.   God always uses human instrumentality.