James Nisbet Commentary - Nehemiah 1:4 - 1:4

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James Nisbet Commentary - Nehemiah 1:4 - 1:4

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


‘I … fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.’


It was an evidence of Nehemiah’s piety that the news from Judah troubled him deeply. His mourning continued for four months. He fasted, as did also Daniel, Esther, Ezra. Distance from the city of Jerusalem did not lessen his grief. He had probably never seen the city, and was enjoying great prosperity himself, but he was not indifferent to the distress of his people there. True piety is unselfishness, sympathy, helpfulness.

I. He did more than fast. That may express but cannot relieve our distress. He found relief and deliverance through prayer.—No trouble can overwhelm those who know God as the hearer and answerer of prayer. The favour Nehemiah desired could be granted only by Artaxerxes; but the most direct way to his heart was by prayer to God.

The prayer of Nehemiah includes adoration. We tell out what God is in prayer, not for His information, but for our encouragement. A deep reverential spirit is necessary to the exercise of strong faith. Confession. He identifies himself with his people, so that their sins become his own. Confession gives glory to God by acknowledging the justice of His chastisements, and by recognising the absence of all merit on our part. Argument. Drawn first from God’s promises, and next from His former dealings with His people. God will not violate his word, nor forsake His people. That He has done so much is a proper reason for expecting more. Petition. The plan he had formed needed the favour of the king; this is his definite request.

II. As a model, Nehemiah’s prayer is very valuable, for the persistency, ‘day and night,’ with which he prayed, and the patience which he exercised, and which waited three or four months for the answer; these are necessary to successful prayer.


‘Surely it is sad indeed if the sorrows of the world do not make us sad. God sends His angel still through the cities to set a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. Do you ask what the mark is? It is God’s way of taking the measure for a crown. Yearning pity for men is the truest mark of sympathy with Christ, and is the truest fitness for service. It is well, indeed, when personal interest leads us to mourn. But it is ill when the mourning stops short of importunate prayer. ‘I prayed before the God of heaven.” Let sorrow for the sins and sorrows of the world drive us to God; there we find what Nehemiah found—the precious promises and the presence of Him who now and here doth wipe away all tears from the eyes. He is the man ready for service whose yearning pity has driven him to God, and who comes forth calm and triumphant, leaning upon the arm of the Almighty. Do not let personal interest end in sorrow.’