Nehemiah 1:3-43 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
4 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.
The book of Nehemiah opens with a news report from a far away country. Nehemiah, working at the court of the king of the Persian Empire, hears about the sorry state of affairs in Jerusalem, where some of the Jews had returned from the exile several decades ago. The report is of “great trouble and shame”. The news is distressing for Nehemiah.
I wonder if you still watch or read the news, a year into the pandemic. Last year, when the first gloomy reports emerged from Wuhan of a rapidly spreading disease, I was greatly distressed, with all sorts of gloomy scenarios going around my head. God thankfully lifted me out of that distress by reminding me that Jesus is the sovereign king, and that he rules even at a time such as this, with justice and mercy. But I could have learned from Nehemiah to take a more active approach when bad news comes. Nehemiah is distressed, as we all are when truly bad news comes. But he does not stop there, he prays and fasts. We can read the gist of his prayer in Nehemiah chapter 1. It’s a prayer of confession and petition for the Jews, reminding God of his promises given through Moses. Nehemiah fasts as well, expressing his desire for and expectation of an answer and a solution for the “bad news”.
Through this time of prayer and fasting, Nehemiah is stirred into action and God greatly blesses his efforts to restore the walls of Jerusalem. What an impact this bad news had! Let us not be afraid of hearing bad news, let’s bring them before God with prayer and fasting!
Lord, God of heaven and earth, steady our hearts when we hear bad news, and teach us to earnestly seek a response from you. Amen.