Title: THIS IS NO HOBO’S PRAYER
Text: Nehemiah 9 & 10
Adventure…that seems to be the case as we journey through the Book of Nehemiah. Well tonight we are going to visit a couple of chapters via the Prayer Express, making stops here and there, to reflect on the longest recorded prayer in the Bible. Though this prayer of the Levites is long-winded, it is full of insights that will plunge us deeper into our own prayer life.
In our last lesson the long-forgotten Feast of Booths was about to begin. As we pick up our story tonight, it is now one day after the end of the celebration. The spirit moving among them is high…yet they are in store for another unforgettable day of spiritual awakening. Buy your tickets…pack your bags…you are in store for a trip down the tracks that has the potential of impacting your life. Before you step on, let the Conductor recap for you what we are about to see. We are going to journey down the long, winding history of Israel’s past; then the Engineer will take us through the verdant meadows of God’s compassion and kindness over the centuries.
Take a look at the people on this train with you. The morning of this prayer those gathered around the Levites were clad in scraggly goat’s hair, with gaunt faces, empty stomachs, grieving hearts, and dirt-covered heads. They have one thing on their mind, and their attire reflects it…they want to make the journey to the fountain of confession…no matter what it takes to get there.
1. Neh. 9:1 Why such attire…what does it symbolize?
Insight: Their attire was certainly not the fine attire of those boarding the train of the 1800’s. Their fasting was a declaration for the hunger for God…their crude garments was an expression of profound mourning and grief over their sin…and the ashes on their heads was symbolic of the death their sins brought them. These clothes speak of the depth from which their spiritual yearning brought them all together to ask for a priest to intercede for them.
2. 9:2 Why the separation from all foreigners?
Insight: This shows a strong commitment to purge themselves of their national sin…forsaking God, thus they confessed their personal sins and the sins of their fathers. Are you moved to confession of national sins and prayers of intercession for our country?
3. Remember that these people are in the midst of a revival sweeping through their city after hard labor on the walls. We will stand on our feet in long lines at the amusement park, but when it comes to reading God’s Word, confession and worship, would your endurance match those described in 9:3?
Sign Posts on Our Journey: As we step on our train, be watching for the four sign posts that indicate entering new territory. This prayer spans history from creation, to their present day when they stood before the Levites. Verses 5-6 – the people look up in adoration and praise. Verses 7-31 – is a focus on thanksgiving for all that God has done in their past. Verses 32-37 – shows their present situation and they make a request. Verse 38 – the prayer concludes with a look to their future.
4. “All aboooard!” The actual word the Levitical conductor uses in 9:5 is “Arise!” While on their feet, this introduction of praise covers several aspects of praise. What are they? 9:5-6
Insight: They praised God’s name, which describes His glory; they praised Him for His exalted position above the mountains; they praised Him for His matchless creation. God longs to hear our praise. We, too, need to begin our prayers with a heartfelt reflection of the awesome God we serve.
5. Like the long journey between Reno Nevada and Salt Lake City, the next section of this train ride is a reflection on Israel’s past in verses 9:7-31…a recounting of Israel’s moral and physical wanderings. Glance over these verses and see if you can come up with 4 characteristics that summarize their historical past. (It includes their arrogance, idolatry, and rebellion, but contrasted by God’s willingness to forgive them.)
Insight: Behind all these bleak scenes, Israel could always see a gracious and compassionate God who was willing to forgive…and that is the most beautiful sight of all…one that moved them from reflection to thanksgiving. 9:16-17 Can you see your compassionate Savior when life beats down on you the hardest? (Recap the transitional words, “but, therefore, when, yet,” etc. in vs. 26-31.)
6. Now we are going to switch tracks; in 9:32-37 the focus is on their current situation. How would you word their own description of their situation?
Insight: When hardship slaps you in the face and you wake up, your focus changes to confession of sin that put you in the hardship in the first place. Out of the depths of these trials comes the impassioned cry, asking the Lord to feel their pain of living in their own land under the yoke of another nation. Such an invitation is one that God longs for you to verbalize…He is willing to share the “feelings of your infirmities.” (Heb. 4:14-15)
7. Verse 38 concludes our journey on this Prayer Express. It’s more than a historical sight-seeing tour. How so?
Insight: This prayer had one destination only…it was to renew a solemn agreement between Israel and Jehovah. This agreement was a covenant renewal…much like the renewal of vows of a marriage that has had some history of tough bumps along the way and things aren’t going too smoothly currently…but the desire of both bride and groom is to commit themselves for the long-haul.
8. The first 27 verses of chapter 10 record the names of the governor (Nehemiah), the priests and the Levites who signed and sealed the document of their covenant. What does it take to sign on the dotted line of a spiritual commitment?
9. According to 10:29-31, how serious were they about binding themselves to this covenant?
Insight: The memory of the consequences of disobedience of their forefathers opened their eyes to make them realize it would be their own consequences if a change wasn’t made, thus they made a commitment to obedience that was costly. Promises that cost us nothing, result in changes that mean nothing.
The condition of the Bride of Christ has been steadily growing worse over the years. She has surrendered her purity, her high calling in Christ, and has substituted her worship of a Jealous God for that of men and materialism. She needs to make the same journey Nehemiah has walked us through tonight…until she sees the exalted King, enthroned on the Heavens in majesty, and she bows before Him in a costly commitment.
How might God use you to bring that about?