Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The kind of heart it takes to pray for the salvation of the unconverted
Nehemiah 1:1-4 "while I was in Susa the capitol, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire. 4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven."
Today's post is about the kind of heart it takes to pray for unconverted people. As we approach the book of Nehemiah, we find a Jew by the name of Nehemiah serving in the court of King Artaxerxes Longimanus of Persia. The year would had been around 445 b.c when the events in Nehemiah began to unfold. The great preacher of years past, Alexander MacClaren, comments on Nehemiah's reception of the bad news concerning his homeland:
"So Nehemiah prepared himself for his work by brooding over the tidings with tears, by fasting and by prayer. There is no other way of preparation. Without the sad sense of men’s sorrows, there will be no earnestness in alleviating them, nor self-sacrificing devotion; and without much prayer there will be little consciousness of weakness or dependence on divine help."
Nehemiah had a burden for the city of Jerusalem, otherwise he wouldn't had inquired about its status. As far as we know, Nehemiah had never made a personal trip to Jerusalem. What would cause a man to mourn over a city he had never seen? We must remember that Jerusalem was at the spiritual, moral and historical center of the Jewish world. To find out that it had come into disrepair would mean that one's identity was in immediate crisis. The calling God was preparing Nehemiah to fulfill was being placed upon him. He had to have a broken heart for the city in order to repair its walls. By the time Nehemiah's task of finishing the wall in Jerusalem was done, 52 days would pass. Urgency makes quick and exacting work.
God uses broken hearts to do His work
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. Scarcely do we travel too far into the book of Nehemiah before we find Nehemiah pausing to pray. His heart was broken by the burden placed upon it. Oftentimes we as American Christians prefer avoidance of pain. We often think that we have arrived in the Christian life when we can face this world of ours without tears and turmoil in our hearts. Such notions are useless when it comes to doing God's kingdom work and praying for His results. Interceding for loss souls is no different.
Psalm 51:17 spells out this principle of brokenness as a tool used by God: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Nehemiah would not be the first person to weep over the state of Jerusalem. Nehemiah's burden was mainly over its moral and physical state. In Matthew 23:37-39 we find the Lord Jesus looking over the same city - some 475 years later. The city was stately in its appearance. The temple was the Herodian temple, nearly unparalleled in the ancient world. Despite all physical appearances, the very place where Jesus' ancestor according to the flesh, King David, had trod had become spiritually bankrupt. The city had rejected its Messiah. As Jesus would look over it one last time before His crucifixion, we find Him saying the following words:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
He wept with a broken heart. Our Lord wept tears in the days of His sojourn here on earth (Hebrews 5:7). Do we? Do we break over the lost around us? Jerusalem had rejected its Savior, and many, many people in our world today persist in their refusal to bow the knee to Jesus Christ. Sin, Satan and the flesh have blinded them (2 Corinthians 4:1-4). The unbeliever is dead to the things of God (Ephesians 2:1-2). What is required is the living voice of the Savior to call them forth from their tomb of unbelief (John 5:24-25) and to shine light into their dark world (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). The Apostle Paul writes the following words concerning his own heart toward his fellow Jews in Romans 9:1-3 -
"I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh...".
If you are a Christian reading this post today, will you allow your heart to be broken for your unsaved loved-ones, friends and co-workers? If you are reading this post and have never trusted in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, will you consider how the Lord endured the cross for your sake. He did so with tears, resolve and a desire to fulfill the Divine will in which He shared. 2 Peter 3:9 states - "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."