“The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’” NIV
‘Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored’ Aldous Huxley.
We sometimes talk about praying ‘intelligently’. Nehemiah certainly could after he heard this news.
We saw yesterday that Nehemiah was profoundly interested in the state of his fellow Jews who had returned from exile in Persia. (It seems his job had kept him there). He says in (2), ‘’…I questioned them…’’ (I.e. the men from Judah, including Nehemiah’s brother), which seems to infer more than a mere superficial interest. He really wanted to know.
The news he received was not good, but it was to shape his destiny.
They say ‘facts are your friends.’ We may not always feel comfortable around these ‘friends’ but we need them.The facts about Jerusalem’s walls and gates meant that the city was open to ridicule and attack. This was not welcome information.
But information can lead to transformation, if we refuse to be mere consumers of news. I remember a member of our church, David Dowson, encouraging us to lift what we see on the news in prayer to God. That’s a great idea, although it’s not always easy to remember. However, information can be translated into intercession. This is what happened in Nehemiah’s case.
In Warren Wiersbe’s Old Testament Commentary, I was struck by these words:
‘Some people prefer not to know what’s going on, because information might bring obligation…Are we like Nehemiah, anxious to know the truth even about the worst situations? Is our interest born of concern or idle curiosity? When we read missionary prayer letters, the news in religious periodicals, or even our church’s ministry reports, do we want the facts, and do the facts burden us? Are we the kind of people who care enough to ask?’ (Pages 752/753)