The Place To Start
A daily devotion for August 2nd
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'
10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, 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. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."
I was cupbearer to the king.
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)
Nehemiah clearly has a deep sense of personal concern. He is willing to face the facts, to weep over them and tell God about them. That is always the place to begin. There is nothing superficial about this. A famous song says,
Don't worry, Be happy. But that is mere salve over a deep cancer. What is needed is to honestly face the ruin, whatever it may be, and, without blaming or attempting to involve somebody else, telling it all to God. God always welcomes a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
Follow the pattern of Nehemiah's prayer. First, he recognized the character of God. The ruin you are concerned with may not always be yours personally. You feel like Nehemiah, and you want to weep and mourn and tell God about it. That is always the place to start, for God is a responsive God. He gives attention to the prayers of His people.
The second thing Nehemiah did was to repent of all personal and corporate sins. This was honestly facing his own guilt. Notice the absence of self-righteousness. He did not say,
Lord, I am thinking of those terrible sinners back there in Jerusalem. Be gracious to them because they have fallen into wrong actions. No, he put himself into this picture, saying,
I confess before you, Lord, the sins of myself and my father's house. There was no attempt to blame others for this. It was a simple acknowledgment of wrong.
Then, third, Nehemiah reminded God of His gracious promises. In the book of Deuteronomy 28-30 Moses prophetically outlines the entire history of Israel. He said they would disobey God; they would be scattered among the nations; they would go into exile. But if they would turn and acknowledge their evil, God would bring them back to the land. Nehemiah reminded God of that gracious promise.
The fourth thing Nehemiah did was request specific help to begin this process. It was not going to be easy, but he knew what he had to do. It was going to take the authority of the top power in the whole empire. That was not easy to arrange. But Nehemiah believed that God would help him. And so he started to pray and asked for grace and strength to carry out the steps that were necessary to begin recovery.
Thank You, Father, for this wonderfully practical book that sets out a safe guideline to recovery and usefulness. Help me to begin where Nehemiah began: to tell the whole story in Your ear and thus begin the process of recovery.
Life Application: Are we experiencing the healing power of contrite repentance? Do we acknowledge the effects of our sins on others' lives?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.