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"Expect Great Things From God; Attempt Great Things For God"

  By Rich Carmicheal

    Scripture Reading: Nehemiah

    "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!" This well-known statement by William Carey (1761-1834) could just as easily have been used by Nehemiah as he rallied God’s people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. The task was indeed great and must have seemed impossible to many. Nehemiah himself, having taken time to size up the situation, knew the work would be very challenging. Regardless of the difficulties, however, he knew that with the help of the "great and awesome God" (1:5), the people could rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and overcome their great trouble and disgrace. So while he was realistic about the challenging work, he also had the confident expectation that His God would help!

    Since we serve the same God, we can also expect great things from Him. As a testimony to how awesome He is and how much we can expect from Him, consider the following descriptions of Him from the praise/prayer recorded in Nehemiah 9:5-37:

    He alone is the Lord (v. 6).
    He is the Creator of the heavens, the earth and all that is on it, and the seas and all that is in them (v. 6).
    He gives life to everything (v. 6).
    He keeps His promises (v. 8).
    He is righteous (v. 8).
    He sees the suffering of His people (v. 9).
    He sends miraculous signs and wonders (v. 10).
    He makes a way for His people (v. 11).
    He leads His people by day and by night (v. 12).
    He speaks to His people (v. 13).
    He gives laws and commands that are just, right and good (v. 13).
    He feeds His people (v. 15).
    He is forgiving, gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounds in love (v. 17).
    He does not desert His people, even when they are unfaithful (vv. 17-18, 31).
    He gives His good Spirit to instruct His people (v. 20).
    He sustains His people (v. 21).
    He gives kingdoms and nations to His people (v. 22).
    He increases the number of His people (v. 23).
    He subdues the enemies of His people (v. 24).
    He brings His people into abundance; they revel in His great goodness (v. 25).
   He disciplines His people when they disobey and rebel, but He hears them when they cry out to Him, and in His great compassion He delivers them (vv. 27-28).
    He is patient with His people (v. 30).
    By His Spirit He admonishes His people through prophets (v. 30).
    He is the great, mighty and awesome God who keeps His covenant of love (v. 32).
    He is just and acts faithfully, even when His people do wrong (v. 33).

    What a wonderful and powerful God we serve! No wonder Nehemiah had such confidence in Him and could say things such as "The God of heaven will give us success" (2:20) and "Our God will fight for us!" (4:20). Like Nehemiah, we can expect to receive God’s strength, provision and guidance. In fact, as the Apostle Paul points out, we have an even greater reason for such confidence: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:31-32). If God was willing to give up His Son for us, there is no limit to His gracious provision. We have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10), and we can step forward in great faith trusting that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us!" (Eph. 3:20). Praise the Lord!

God Answers Prayer

    God promises that He will hear from heaven when His people humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn from sin (2 Chron. 7:14). Nehemiah fully believed this, and so he humbled himself, confessed his sin and the sin of God’s people, and he sought the Lord earnestly in prayer. He prayed "for some days" (1:4); he prayed "day and night" (1:6); he counted on the prayers of others (1:11); he prayed for wisdom and strength, even in the midst of conversations (2:4; 6:9); and he prayed when facing threats from enemies (4:9). In other words, Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and when he turned his focus to the Lord and cried out in prayer, "O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God…" (1:5), the terrible situation in Jerusalem took on a whole new perspective. As he prayed, he opened the door for God to intervene through His very Person, as well as through His promises, provision and power. And God was faithful to hear and respond to him! When the rebuilding of the wall was completed, Nehemiah could testify that even the enemies of God’s people realized "that this work had been done with the help of our God" (6:16). In fact, the Lord not only enabled Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, but to also lead the people in repentance and renewed consecration to the Lord and His house.

    What burden may the Lord want you to carry with Him and to Him in prayer? What impact could you make in the lives of others or in some particular situation by crying out to "the God of heaven, the great and awesome God…" to intervene?

God Remembers Good Works

    The Book of Nehemiah reminds us that not only are our prayers significant to the Lord, but so are our good works. At least five times Nehemiah asks the Lord to remember his actions. For example, after describing how he did not burden the people, lord it over them, nor demand allotments other governors had demanded, he prays, "Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people" (5:19). And after cleansing the house of God from misuse and confronting the officials for neglecting the provision of the Levites and singers, he asks the Lord, "Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services" (13:14). In fact, the Book of Nehemiah closes with the prayer, "Remember me with favor, O my God" (13:31).

    In biblical thought, to "remember" is not just mental effort, but carries with it the idea of doing something, either for the advantage or disadvantage, of the person remembered. For example, the Lord "remembered" Cornelius for the gifts he had given to the poor, and so He sent an angel, and then Simon Peter, to lead him to salvation (Acts 10:4; 11:31ff.). On the other hand, God "remembered" Babylon and poured out the fury of His wrath upon her (Rev. 16:19; see also Nehemiah 13:29 where Nehemiah has judgment in mind when he asks the Lord to "remember" those who had defiled the priestly office).

    When Nehemiah asks the Lord to remember the good he had done for the people and for the house of God, he has in mind that the Lord will show favor toward him. Certainly, the Lord is faithful to reward those who bless His people. As Hebrews 6:10 teaches, "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." As the Herald staff thinks of those of you who show your love for the Lord and His people through your prayers and gifts toward the ministry of Herald of His Coming, we rejoice that the Lord is faithful to remember and reward you for your generosity. We praise the Lord for all that He is already doing in touching the lives of others through your precious support!

    May the Lord work in you and through you (and us) all that which is pleasing to Him! We praise the Lord that He stirs our hearts today just as He stirred in the heart of Nehemiah to undertake such a noble work (Neh. 2:12). As you respond in prayer, work, love and obedience to His promptings, you can be confident that He will be faithful to share all of the grace, strength and other resources needed to accomplish His will. To Him be the glory in all things!