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Nehemiah 1:4–11 NKJV
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, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.
Observations (some involve outside verse material since the instructions said we could look before and after):
This is a prose narrative.
The “I” in verse 4 is earlier stated to be Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah.
We have no idea who Hacaliah is, but it must be important either because of the figure himself, or just for clarification of which Nehemiah this is.
“These words” refer to the state of Jersualem being spoken to him by Hanani.
A final point of identification is given to him as the “King’s cupbearer.”
The above information provides our biographical material.
The setting of Jersualem being ransacked, as well as the previous information of month and year inside Susa, all provide the geographical material necessary to understand when and where this is taking place.
It ending on the note, “I was the King’s cupbearer,” seems to foreshadow the involvement of the King or his position in the fulfillment of his petition to the God of Heaven.
Nehemiah exalts the glory of God in contrast to the wickedness of his people.
Nehemiah uses this to also petition God according to His own greatness and words.
The above provides ideological and logically material as a structure to petition God and relate to the overall narrative.
This passage is cause and effect. Hanani gives news, the news leads to prayer. In the prayer cause and effect is presented. And we end waiting of for the effect of the prayer.
This entire passage also seems to be a preparation or introduction to the following narrative.
There is also harmony in the word of the Lord being fulfilled in the people’s disobedience, which then leads to the petition of God’s word being fulfilled in their turning back.
We see the selectivity of Nehemiah’s account in that his whole “days” of fasting is described in one set prayer.
Therefore, the prayer to God, the descriptions given seem to be crucial to the narrative.
Atmosphere set is one mingled with hope and despair. Despair in the conditions present, and hope of deliverance that drives the rest of the story.
The description given of God helps us identity what God this is, or at least shows us the character of the God being prayed to.
God’s character sets the precedent for our lingering hope in the rest of the narrative.
In Nehemiah’s prayer, he asks for success “today,” which implies action to take place.
He also asks for compassion from “this man,” who isn’t identified.
The last verse mentions Nehemiah as the cupbearer, which would imply that the “this man,” is the king.
This also adds to an atmosphere of dramatic suspense, not just in God’s answer, but the king’s.
A strong emphasis is put on the idea of “returning.”
The return that is emphasized is multifaceted, being both physical, and spiritual. Returning to the Lord precedes returning to their land.
Outline, Nehemiah 1:4-11, Appealing to God’s Promise
Mourning and Opening Address (4-5)
Confession (6-7)
Appeal (8-11)
This passage opens with hopelessness and mourning, and ends with hope and suspense.
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