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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible



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Lesson 1: Nehemiah – A Man With A Broken Heart


Nehemiah 1.

A Man With A Broken Heart

Home is where your heart is. Nehemiah was a captive. He was taken ‘miles away’ to a foreign land by enemy force. But his heart remained ‘miles away’ in Jerusalem.

It’s interesting to note that materialistically Nehemiah was quite well off. Yes, he was a captive; yes, he had been exiled from home, but God had ‘promoted’ him to that great position of trust and honour – that of cupbearer to the Sovereign.

He could have been forgiven for ignoring the people back home. Jerusalem could so easily have become a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. He could have just sat on his hands and done nothing and just prayed. Or he could have thrown his arms in the air and said, “What can I do?” But he didn’t. He was made of sterner stuff.

He had received a first-hand report about the depressing state back home and it broke his heart. He decided, therefore, that something needed to be done. He couldn’t sit idly by and do nothing. He had to put method into his praying and ‘worked with God’ on the problem.

First of all, he identified with the problem. He admitted before God that God was totally justified by His actions in sending the people into exile because of their sin. He accepted personal responsibility, admitting that he was no better than the rest. However, he sought God’s forgiveness based upon God’s promise to forgive and restore. He, like both Abraham and Moses before him, reminded God who He was, what His Name stood for and of His grace and asked for mercy and forgiveness.

It’s what happened next that I want to highlight. For the next 4 months, Chislev to Nisan (November to March), he sought wisdom and strategy from God. He cried out in desperation for help and answers - and over that time formulated and honed his plan.

Once he had got it settled in his mind, he submitted it all to God’s timing. As we shall see, he was a man who ‘walked with God’ and followed His will and let God do the impossible. It’s a strategy we should all use.

Nehemiah would say to us today...

If you want to change society, you must be personally and passionately disturbed by what you see and be prepared to be a part of the answer.


Father, please prevent me from moaning about situations without making myself available to be the answer to them. Grant me the determination to follow Your perfect will for my life and to be sensitive to Your constant leading and wisdom. Amen.

Additional readings

1 John 2:15-29; Psalm 51; Daniel 1.


What are the things that ‘bother’ you about society today?

What do you think are some of the answers to them?

What are you prepared to do to see things change?

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Sold Out For Jesus and Ring of Truth – daily devotionals by John White
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