Lessons from a Downcast Guy

This week, the Lord has been using scripture from Nehemiah to feed my spirit. I have been using our church’s scripture reading plan for my quiet time, since I myself am not attending Bible Study Fellowship, (like the Big Bison and the kids are).

Nehemiah was the cup bearer to the King of Persia, in exile from Israel. For a man in exile, in service, he had risen to a position of prominence in service. Not just everyone had firsthand access to the king – whether they be citizen or alien. But Nehemiah did. So, Nehemiah gets word from “home”: “home”, being Israel. And the word he got was not good. It was, in fact, devastating to him. So much so that scripture says the news he got caused him to mourn, fast and pray for some days.

Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s got to be some pretty ferocious kind of news that would cause me to mourn, fast and pray for days. How about for “day”? When I’ve fasted for a day, I’m feeling pretty righteous. So, we know that this news went to the core of who Nehemiah was.

What was this news? Well, it seems that a Jewish brother had come back from Israel with a report about how the home team was doing. The report was that the Israelites at “home” were in great trouble and disgrace.

Have you ever been there? Disgrace? Great trouble? It’s a shameful place to be.

And it grieved Nehemiah to the core. He loved his brothers, and he loved his God, and he could not bear for the Name of his God to be in question because of the trouble of his brothers.

Have you ever seen a fellow brother struggle, and been so grieved for him that you would fast and pray and go to the Lord on his behalf? Well, apparently, that’s what rose up inside of our friend, Nehemiah. And what was the outcome of him urgently, passionately seeking God about what he should do?

God birthed inside of him a vision. A glowing ember of hope, that the power of God soon fanned into flame. It didn’t come as a firestorm. It started as Nehemiah poured out his grief, shame and frustration to God in secret. He confessed his own sin, and the sin of his fellow Israelites. He asked for favor in the eyes of his employer.

And four months passed.

That little ember of hope warmed and began to generate heat as a crazy opportunity presented itself to Nehemiah.

Chapter two of Nehemiah’s book tells us that the king asked Nehemiah what was wrong. Now, kings don’t usually ask servants about their health and really want to hear an answer. But Nehemiah had gained such favor by his faithful service to this king (and, oh, yeah, there was that little prayer he had prayed 4 months earlier) that, apparently, this king genuinely wanted to know why his servant was downcast.

A spiritually unprepared man might have mumbled a quick “Oh, it’s nothing, Your Highness” to avoid displeasing his royal boss. But Nehemiah was not unprepared. His spirit had been in communion with the one, true, living God, and so when this crazy opportunity presented itself, the Word tells us he shot up an arrow prayer and gave his answer to the king. He laid it out there on the table. He told the king what had made him sad, what he wanted to do, and exactly what he needed as resources to accomplish what he wanted to do. An incredibly gutsy thing for a servant to do to his master! But Nehemiah was Spirit led, and Spirit powered.

Do not underestimate the power of repentance, prayer and yes, even fasting.

I have seen it completely and radically change lives, in the here and now. (Not just in some citadel in Persia.)

Is your spirit downcast?

Pour it out before the Lord. Sometimes the answer takes 4 months. Or four years. But do not underestimate what God will do when someone pours out their heart before Him.


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