Living in Exile
We look to Nehemiah for clues to guide our own pilgrimage in difficult times. Nehemiah was grief-stricken by the news of the condition of Jerusalem. The walls were broken down and the gates burned with fire. His first emotion over the sad loss of his heritage was grief. It was not bitterness or anger. Nehemiah wept and mourned as Jesus would later weep over the same city.
In his grief, Nehemiah moved to the next step, prayer and fasting. His prayer was first of all a prayer of adoration for the majestic awe of God and for His faithfulness to His people: “Oh great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments” (Neh. 1:5).
Even in exile, Nehemiah praised God for His covenant faithfulness. Then the focus of his prayer turned to repentance, as he pleaded with God to forgive the sins of his own people, acknowledging that they had brought exile upon themselves.
Coram Deo: Think about some of the ways God has proven faithful to you in the past, then thank Him!
Nehemiah 1:3–6: “And they said to me, ‘The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.’ So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: ‘I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now.’”