to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice
June 27, 2019 – Thursday
Nehemiah 1:5-7 NIV
5 Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, 6 let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against You. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward You. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave Your servant Moses.
What we see above is the beginning of Nehemiah’s prayer to God after learning the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates had been burned away with fire. Plus the Israelites who survived the exile are in great trouble and disgrace (v3). After learning of these things, before this prayer, Nehemiah mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven (v4).
The opening of this prayer is very interesting as Nehemiah confesses the sins of Israel, his family, and his own sins. He makes the important point that when they had not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave Your servant Moses they had acted wickedly toward God. All too often we think our sins are not really important as they are not that big or significant, but from Nehemiah (and others) we see sinning is a way of behaving wickedly towards God or even behaving in rebellion against God. Nehemiah continued in his prayer saying
8 “Remember the instruction You gave Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to Me and obey My commands, then even if Your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for My Name.’
In verse 5 Nehemiah reminds God of His covenant of love and now of His promise for who were unfaithful, but now have returned to Him, He will gather them from their exile to return to Jerusalem. Clearly God did not need reminding, but this was Nehemiah’s way saying he knew of God’s promises and he was calling on God to fulfill those promises. It was at this point Nehemiah concludes this prayer where we discover he was a cupbearer to the king.
10 “They are Your servants and Your people, whom You redeemed by Your great strength and Your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering Your name. Give Your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
The man Nehemiah was referring to was none other than King Artaxerxes whom he will approach with his desire to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Note This is a prayer of a man of action, not a sideline critic. Nehemiah does not pray “God, make it all better” or “God, get someone else moving on this problem.” Instead, his prayer is “God, use me to make it better” (Guzik). I think Guzik is spot on here and this is a great lesson for all of us to ask God to use each of us to accomplish whatever needs to be accomplished.
Closing note, if you want a deeper understanding of Ezra-Nehemiah including the grounding or foundation for both then spend an hour watching the Tim Mackie presentation on Ezra/Nehemiah. Really worthwhile, especially interesting were his comments on revival (56:30-1:01) where we learn how central the heart is to revival.
We are not cupbearers to a king, but we all have a role to play in seeking and doing God’s will in our lives. That is , IF we will seek His will in our lives and then act on what He shows us that we need to do.
RileyD, nwJ (to obey is better than sacrifice / obedience is better than sacrifice)