When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against You. – Nehemiah 1:4-6
When Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer to the king of Persia, heard of the physical conditions in Jerusalem, he was grieved at his core. We may gather from the biblical record that this broken-hearted state existed for two reasons:
First, Jerusalem, the City of Zion and emblem of Israel’s strength, lay in ruins; the Temple of God at its center, the wall that surrounded it, and the dilapidated houses within all reflected the greater distress of the people who were themselves demoralized and destroyed. Every “physical” thing about the home of God’s covenant people expressed the “spiritual” condition of the nation.
Second, Nehemiah understood the reason for Israel’s destruction; her abandonment of the one true God, the peoples’ utter moral failure, and his own guilty participation in them both. It is one thing to assess a bad situation, but another to admit your role in it. Nehemiah did both and was therefore qualified to participate in leading the nation in the direction of repentance and restoration.
Marriages, families, churches, and nations can fall apart. And though we may wish for better days, we must also do the hard work of owning our part in their unraveling. Restoration and revival begins in the individual hearts of the people involved. Until the Holy Spirit has accomplished His work there, no amount of “rebuilding” will stand. The greatest aid to renewal, the lesson we all must learn, is the personal acknowledgement that we have all failed somewhere.
God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination. – Augustine