Reading for Today:
Nehemiah 1-2 … 1 Corinthians 7
The story of Nehemiah begins in about 445 B.C. The same ruler of Persia, Artaxerxes I who had sent Ezra to Judah thirteen years prior, was still emperor of Persia. We don’t know a lot about Nehemiah, but we do know that he was a Jew who had risen to be the cupbearer to the king (1:11).
The cupbearer’s job was a position of considerable importance. That Nehemiah was in such a position shows that some of the Jews who had been exiled rose quite high in the ranks of the governments where they had been resettled.
Living in the lap of luxury, Nehemiah may never have even known of the plight of his fellow Jews. And once he found out, he could have easily ignored it. But we will see that he did hear of it and he did act on what he heard…even being willing to leave his high position in order to serve.
Some people prefer not to know what’s going on in the world because information might bring obligation. There’s an old adage that says, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” but I think we all know that’s not true.
Nehemiah knew what was going on in Jerusalem because he asked.
“And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem…” (1:2)
When we truly care, we want to know the truth, no matter how difficult it may be. Aldous Huxley said, ‘Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.’ Closing our eyes and ears to the truth could be the first step toward tragedy for ourselves as well as for others.
Are we like Nehemiah, anxious to know the truth even about the worst situations? Are we the kind of people who care enough to ask?
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4)
Once Nehemiah heard of the plight of the Jews in Jerusalem, he was burdened.
“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (1:4)
He heard of the condition of Jerusalem’s wall and knew the situation was desperate. Without a wall, people returning to Jerusalem after years in captivity would be unprotected and vulnerable to attack.
Nehemiah was brokenhearted, but he didn’t tackle that problem immediately. This is something I love about the book of Nehemiah. He prays. A lot.
The state of Jerusalem’s wall reflected the condition of the people’s relationship with God. Disobedience had left their city and their lives in disarray. So, before Nehemiah could fix the brokenness surrounding the city, he asked God to fix the brokenness inside the people of the city. This was the foundation everything else would be built on.
Then he took action on the wall.
This is a pattern that would be wise for all of us to copy, I think.
- Actively seek out need.
- Feel the burden.
- Pray. A lot.
- Take action.
We’ve had a couple of different people present at our church in the past year on the travesty of child sex trafficking. The latest statistics show that around 2 million children are currently being trafficked into sex slavery. Every 26 seconds a child is trafficked.
According to one perspective, child sex trafficking is the worst atrocity we’re facing today.
While looking simply at sheer numbers, abortion may affect more children, but as I heard it aptly stated, “There are worse things than death.” In fact, one of the draws of human trafficking is that people (unlike drugs) can be sold and resold–used and reused. Every 26 seconds.
Do you feel the burden?
If you would like some specific ways to pray and perhaps take action, here are a couple of resources you can check out:
Operation Underground Railroad
The Storyteller Café (this local project is in my community, just 5 minutes from our home!)
You can also check out the online shop here: