Grace makes you care. Gone are the days when you would have shrugged off other peoples’ struggles as their own problems, and nothing for you to worry about. Grace is the involvement of a compassionate God in your life. That grace forges compassion in you for others. Their needs are your concern.
Nehemiah knew that judgment fell on his people through the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. He knew that they had received what they deserved from a holy God. He finds himself far away, in the comforts of the Persian palace, the new superpower who had conquered Babylon. When news comes from his homeland – and it’s bad news – Nehemiah doesn’t sigh and settle back into his cozy life: he sits down and weeps (vv.1-4).
There is a place for tears in the Christian life. Sometimes the Lord wants to see them far more than He wants to hear our words. If we don’t care, what value do our prayers have? And what meaning, anyway?
Nehemiah is broken by the news that his countrymen are in distress. These are people he has never met, hundreds of miles away, but he loves them deeply. He fasts, prays and pleads with God for them. He feels their sins and his own, and begs for God’s mercy (vv.5-7). As he reflects on their wickedness, for Nehemiah it’s as if these sins have just been committed.
He knows that God has been just. He knows, too, that God has plans. In fact, he knows that God has plans for His city of Jerusalem. He knows that its welfare is crucial for the very Kingdom of God (v.9). Without Jerusalem there can be no future for the Kingdom.
And so, Nehemiah prays. What does he pray for? Success (v.11). What sort? We don’t yet know. We do know, though, that his plan is shaped by his compassion. Compassion cares. Compassion weeps, prays, steps forwards, wants to get involved, embraces risk.
So, the challenge of this chapter? Care. Care about God’s people, His purposes. Care about your sins. Do not harden your heart against tears, confession or service. Care. And do it.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, You have my heart. But so often I want to snatch it back, to hide it, and harden it. Lord, teach me to care, make me care. Teach me how in Your Son You are so compassionate towards me. And lead me in ways which astonish me, to be a caring, broken-hearted and loving disciple. Amen.