Sermon 3364. Surveying the Field
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 24, 1913.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 7, 1867.
"And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me: neither told I any man what Godhadput into my heart to do at Jerusalem:neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon." Nehemiah 2:12.
NEHEMIAH, it seems, prepared himself for action by taking a survey of the necessities of the case. Although he lived beforeour Savior's day, he certainly acted upon one of our Savior's maxims about counting the cost, lest, after having begun tobuild, we should not be able to finish. I like to picture to myself that man of God going by moonlight round all the wasteplaces of the city, compelled here and there to dismount by reason of rubbish, clambering over the fallen stones, leaping,sometimes, with agility from crag to crag of the city's walls-getting in his mind a clear idea of all the city's desolation-andfeeling in his heart the pressing, heavy weight and burden of the responsibility which God had thrust upon him. If he hadbegun his work carelessly and thoughtlessly, he might have failed in it, but having begun months before with prayer, havingbeen guided by Providence so far, yet even now the very first step he must take is a personal survey of the work and a thoroughpersonal acquaintance with the necessities of the case.
Now, I know that there are here, on the weeknight at the service, many who love the Master and are anxious to do somethingin His cause. And I thought I might very profitably commend to them the example of Nehemiah in this respect. We shall considerNehemiah, then, first as a fine example to those who would seek the good of the Church at large. Secondly, a pattern to anyof us laboring in any one distinct sphere. And thirdly, I think I may apply the same principle in reference to the personalwork which is being done in our own hearts. And before we conclude our meditation, I may ask you to take a quiet ride aroundthe desolations of your own spirit and so get a clear view of what must be done before you shall become a city inhabited byGod to His praise and Glory! First, then, dear Friends, I suppose I have here, as Nehemiah had, a few men and women earnest,resolved-disinterested men and women who are willing-
I. TO SEEK THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH, OF THE CHURCH AT LARGE.
Such men will allow the word of exhortation when I say to them, first, you and I are in the service of the great Church ofGod and we must, like Nehemiah, firmly resolve that we will do it. Our heart must be set upon this thing. It must not be withus a mere fancy which we have taken up as we might have taken up any other. It must not even be of a spasmodic kind, but ourheart must be set towards the Church of God because it is the home of our love, the place of our birth, the bride of Christ,the hope of the world, the pillar and ground of the Truth of God! If we have not such a view of the work to be done and aresolve that it shall be done-we certainly shall not succeed in it.
And, my Brothers and Sisters, we must, like Nehemiah, be quite clear that we have no sinister motives, no selfish ends tobe answered! Nehemiah was in a high and good position as chamberlain or cup-bearer to the king, but he gave up that and leftShushan to the desolations of Jerusalem-a long and toilsome journey. Even when the city was built, though the place was thebeloved of his heart, yet he does not seem to have had any prospect of remaining in it, for the king had set him a time forhis return. And though he did stay there 12 years, yet it must have been by successive furloughs that he obtained this absencefrom the palace, so that he had no selfish objective whatever. If the city were built, he would not dwell in it. And if theTemple-glories were restored once more, he would but once look upon them and then return again to the city of his employmentand to the palace of the alien king at Shushan.
God will not bless us to the Christian Church if we want to make a party to ourselves, or to take to ourselves the leadership.He will not acknowledge us in the work if we are merely seeking our own esteem, good name and fame under
cover of a zeal for righteousness and for the Glory of God. No! There must be a resolution, but the resolution must be basedon something better than the objectives of personal aggrandizement. There must be a devotion to God and a complete and perfectdedication and consecration of our souls to the good of the Church and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Supposing that we have already, by Divine Grace, been called into such a condition? Then, further, we must learn, like Nehemiah,the art of waiting. He first prayed about Jerusalem, but he did not cease to hope. And when he came to the holy, though wastedcity, he did not rush to the work at once, as our hot blood too often suggests to us to do. He knew that "raw haste" was "half-sisterto delay." He was there three whole days in which nothing was attempted. He did not seize a trowel in his hand and hastenat once to work, letting other people come and join him if they pleased, but he rode alone all round the walls to inspectthe damage and to estimate the cost in sacrifice and toil to repair it. We must be eager to labor, but we must also learnto wait. God's servants will find that their Master does not always give them instant and immediate success, but that He isoften pleased to glorify Himself by testing their faith. If you are a soldier, you must not expect to be always in the fight,but must sometimes lie, perhaps for tedious days and even weary months, in the trenches, just as our army had to lie beforeSebastopol-worn out with waiting, anxiously wishing for the order to charge. So our heavenly Lord, our great Captain, sometimesteaches us patience, making us wait until the time shall come to do and dare. Fellow Christian, young man or aged Believer,I am persuaded you will need to have in the midst of your toil for Jesus, to hear the word, "You must wait. Trust in the Lordand wait patiently for Him."
But after he had waited, Nehemiah set a further example to us. He felt that he could act alone. Throughout the whole Bookof Nehemiah you are struck with the singleness of the man and the potency of his individuality. He is quite prepared, if noone else will rise up to serve God, to serve Him by himself! And yet at the same time he never refuses the help of others.' 'And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem."He who would serve God to any purpose must be willing to serve Him all alone. If you cannot stand the brunt of being forsaken,you will scarcely do to be a soldier of the Cross. Those whom Christ will greatly use must learn to be misunderstood, to bemisrepresented by their Brothers and Sisters and in their more daring projects to be looked upon as being perfectly besidethemselves. Yet they must count this among the cost and to be still prepared to stand to their work. Paul says, "At my firstanswer, no man stood with me, but"-sweet and mighty encouragement to your faith if you are alone!-"nevertheless, the Lordstood with me." Now, I think we shall find that it is not easy to couple the independence of a noble mind with the willingnessto accept help from the few and the feeble, who at the very first are willing to gather around you. A man is apt to say, "No!I can act alone. These will but hamper me." And yet let us always remember that, though God has usually worked by one man,and though almost all the great wonders of the olden times were accomplished by personal courage and were feats of personalfaith, yet at the same time He has frequently been pleased to ally to the one man a company of others, without whom the oneman would have been feeble, indeed! Take the case of Gideon. We are told of "the sword of the Lord and of Gideon," and, ofcourse, Gideon leads the van, but what would Gideon have done without the men that lapped? Those few and feeble folk withtheir pitchers and their torches must go with Gideon-and God will bless Gideon through them-and the world through the manand those who follow him! We must be willing, therefore, to take any help God may offer to us, and not be very particularabout what that help is, so long as we are assured that God has sent it to us. We must be willing to lay aside our individualand sole reliance to come down from the high place of personal independence and work side by side with others, if it is theLord's will.
Then, further, my Brothers and Sisters, if you and I should now have in our minds some great work for God, we must be quitesure that we do not indulge in any boasting. Oh, great things are going to be done! Oh, the wonderful prospectuses that somepeople have brought out of wondrous things that were going to regenerate the world-and the only purpose they have served upto now has been to increase the work in some printing office! Nothing else has come from many of them. And you know thereare people who really, by their own talk, should have turned the world upside down by now, but they have not done anythingof the sort as yet. Perhaps the time may not yet have come, but with them it seems as if it never will come or could come!Nehemiah says, "Neither told I any man what my God had put into my heart to do at Jerusalem." You will often find it bestnot to commit your plans to others. If you want to serve God, go and do it and thenlet other people find it out afterwards.You have no need to tell what you are going to do and, I may add, there is no need for your telling what you have done, forvery, very frequently God withdraws Himself when we
boast of what is being done. One of the greatest injuries to the revival in the North of Ireland a few years ago was thatit was made to be a kind of show thing and people said, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord of Hosts," and after awhile the Glorydeparted-not because the workers on the spot, themselves, desired any such vain-glorying, but because some who were not ofa like spirit gave occasion to the flesh in this respect. We must mind and take care that when we work for God, we keep alwaysbefore us that we are not working as unto men and do not need men's praise, but unto the Lord is the offering presented andthe Lord alone shall have it!
I have not yet come to this midnight ride of Nehemiah's, but I think it important to mention that he is again a pattern tous in our work for the Church of God in that he was absolutely sure that what he was doing was right He speaks of the thoughtsand longings that he had as something which God had put into his heart to do. Get quite clear and assured of that, my Brothersand Sisters, or else go home. If you are not certain that the work you are about was given to you of God, and as positivelyand distinctly given to you as the work was given to Isaiah when the seraph touched his lips with the live coal from off thealtar, you have no business to enter upon the work at all, for your whole strength will lie in a full conviction that yourMaster has sent you.
And now having brought the man before you, let me exhort you, dear Brothers and Sisters, if you long for the good of the Churchof God, to quietly take a walk round about her. Count her towers. Mark her palaces and her bulwarks. Do not go out and takenotes and jottings as to what the world says Christ's Church is, or ought to be! Do not go with the view of seeing faultswhere there are none and railing at Christianity generally. That is a very heathenish practice, into which some persons constantlyfall. But go with this solemn intent as before God, "Now, if I am to be serviceable to the Church in any large measure, Imust know what her present condition is." My own solemn conviction is that a painstaking, judicious investigation into thepresent state of the Christian Church will have the result of perfectly appalling you! It has been said, and there are abundantfacts to prove it, that probably during the last 200 years, instead of Protestantism, taking it in the large sense of theword, making any increase in the world, it has rather been diminishing and that Popery has increased! It is also, I believe,very certain to any of you that like to read the reports of many missionary societies, that the number of conversions workedunder the missionaries abroad is so insignificant that it scarcely keeps up to the number of converts in years past! We haveheard of a missionary returning after 12 years of labor and, on being asked if he knew of one heathen being converted underhim, said he did not know of one! We feel that the whole field of missionary work everywhere-with but the exception, perhaps,just now of Southern Africa and of the labors of some in China-is just simply working without results. Not but what we oughtto work all the same if we have no results, for even then we must not fall back.
And the Church of God in England is just the same. There is no increase. We know it is a matter of statistical fact that ourown denomination, with the exception of London and one Welsh county, has made no progress whatever during the last 12 months.Statistics prove it to be in the same position now as then. The whole mass of Methodism, which was once so potent for good,has, I think, only received 100 increase on the year before-and it is questionable whether they have increased at all. Soit is everywhere. New Churches are built, but what is the information we get? Why, in several built in the poorer districts,the whole congregation might go into the vestry, and so the buildings are now practically useless, seats without occupiersbecause some of the preachers are men that cannot be understood by the common people. If they preach the Gospel-and oftenthey do not-they preach it after such a dull and lifeless fashion that it is not worthwhile going to listen to it! Now, ifthis is so, we must get the fact, saddening as it is, well worked into our hearts. The errors of some Churches, the divisionof others, and the general coldness and deadness-oh, if we did but keenly realize these, I am persuaded that many of us wouldcry day and night unto God that He would make bare His arm in the midst of His own Church! We should not go in and out ofour pews feeling happy and comfortable because our own Church may be prospering and because in our sanctuary souls are beingsaved-but there should be great searching of heart for the state of Zion! There should go up a weeping and a wailing untoGod, until the set time to favor her. Even the set time should come because her children take pleasure in her stones, andfavor the dust thereof! I would encourage you to get a clear view of the Church at large and then, in God's strength, go forwardto any work which God has given you for her good.
We shall not need much time, in the second place, to indicate that this is also-
II. THE RIGHT METHOD OF PROCEEDING WITH REGARD TO ANY SERVICE WHICH, IN OUR SPHERE, WE ARE RENDERING TO CHRIST.
Brothers and Sisters, I hope you are all working for Christ. If Christ has saved you, can you do otherwise than live to yourSavior? If, indeed, your sins are all put away by His precious blood. If you are wrapped in His spotless righteousness andaccepted in the Beloved, I do trust that the love of Christ compels you to tell others of the way of salvation, and to seekto bring in the wandering sheep of the house of Israel! Now, if I am right in my belief that you are engaged in some departmentsof Christian service, I am sure I shall be judicious in saying to you-take a thorough investigation of the work in which youare engaged. If it is to teach a class of children, lay those children on your heart! Think a great deal about them. Thinkabout them by night, as Nehemiah thought of Jerusalem, and remember that they have souls, that those souls are under condemnation-thatnothing but the precious blood can deliver them-that if they are not so delivered, sooner or later those boys and girls ofyours will perish! Yet said our Lord, "It is not your Father's will that one of these little ones should perish." Get thatsolemn fact thoroughly worked into you. Mothers, fathers, you have children committed to your care. You are longing for theconversion of these little ones. Now I want you to get a full estimate of the character of each child! You have peculiar opportunitiesof riding around, as it were, your little city. Mark the different constitutions, the special weaknesses and defects of thatboy and the blemishes and sins of that girl-and always keep this before your minds-that your children, like the children ofothers, need the regenerating of the Holy Spirit and the saving Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ! Do not take a light view ofsin in your children any more than sin in others' children. The hate of God against sin is as real and intense in their caseas in others until they are born-again! When you sit down to breakfast with them, think, "Ah, my dear child, I shall not meetyou in eternity unless you are brought to the Cross !" Look the girl in the face, as you see her growing up to womanhood,and say to yourself, "Ah, my Lord! In mercy bring her to sit at Your feet as Mary did, and learn of You, or else she shallbe no joy to me, for I must be parted from her in the world to come."
Take, I say, a full survey of each child's condition and of its future ruin-and you will be most likely to be a blessing tothe child if with your whole heart you are thus earnest and careful.
Now, my dear Hearers, most of you are working with me in this place. Let us now go around the walls of this Tabernacle andfind you out, as it were. Well, here are a great number of Church members-between three and four thousand-all professors ofreligion! But are all saved? Ah, there is an inquiry! We know they are not! We have used our best judgment in this question.We have urged upon them continually to make no profession unless they are sincere, but alas, the sad faces of some and theirultimate departure from the Truth of God prove that they went out from us because they were not of us! I know this is oneof the worst parts of the wall with me. There is no grief that stings our heart like this, when Demas forsakes Christ, havingloved this present evil world, or when some-overtaken by the lusts of the flesh, or the pride of life-crucify the Son of Godafresh and put Him to an open shame! It is a mercy when such hypocrites are found out and put away, but oh, it is a grievousinjury to the Church which they have disgraced!
Then, next, let us think of this. There are a number of people who always occupy these seats. They belong to them- they aretheir seats and they have been sitting in them, some of them, ever since the house was built! And some of them were in theformer house and have been under our ministry now for these 13 years. And yet some of them are not saved! A gentleman toldme the other day he was surprised to hear that the Church was half as large as the congregation-or more, and he said, "Thatis a very great thing!" "No," I said, "that is a very little thing, for when we were at Park Street the Church was largerthan the congregation." That is to say, there were more saved souls among us than there were seats for hearers, so that themembers of the Church could not all come at any one time. And my soul will not be satisfied until this Tabernacle becomesmuch too small to hold the Church if they were all to come together at one time. I shall be very glad, indeed, if they swarmoff and go elsewhere, and form other churches. I shall be most happy if they do that! But still, I shall always be lookingforward to seeing all those saved who have sittings here. You know that at Park Street it came to this-on one occasion whena man wanted to take a seat, he came to me and said-I remember him well-"Sir, I understand that if I take a sitting here,I should be expected to be converted, but I cannot count upon that." "No, my good Friend," I said, "I know not, but still,if you take a seat, let us hope you will be." "Oh," said the man, "is that what was meant? I heard somebody say that whenpersons took seats, you expected them to be saved." Well, some do, and why should we not? Ought we not to expect that if theyhear the Gospel preached, God will bless it to them?
We do trust that day will soon come, but meanwhile we may go around this place and say that a great many who have seats hereare unblessed, unsaved, have no desires after Christ, but are dead while they live!
Well, then, you are painfully struck, in the next place, with the many casual hearers who come here and are not saved. Itwas once well said by someone, that if sinners were scarcer than they are, we would think a great deal more of them! If therewere only one unsaved soul now remaining in London, why, the whole Church would be awake and in earnest to pray for that onesoul! But when I say to you that, Sabbath after Sabbath, these aisles are thronged, and these pews, too, and that yet a verylarge proportion of the congregation remain unconverted-why, you hear it and you say, "Well, it is a very sad fact"-but itdoes not impress your hearts! We do not get the same impression of human ruin that Nehemiah got as he rode round Jerusalem.I wish we could. I wish we could think it over, resolve it in our minds and resolve it yet again until it came to be painfulto us to think that so many human beings to whom the Gospel is preached should remain callous to its influence! And so manyto whom Christ, Himself, shall become a savor of death unto death, and not of life unto life!
Thus would I urge each Brother and Sister here, who is working for Christ, to get a clear view of the needs of the case.
And now, lastly, I shall be happy if I shall be successful in this last point. It will be well for us, individually, to- III.TAKE A LITTLE JOURNEY AROUND THE CITY OF MANSOUL WITHIN.
Let me speak to every professor here. You say, "I am a Believer in Jesus." Well, Brother, Sister, then you can have no objectionto look within, to search your heart! Ride around your soul. How about the tower of prayer? Is that well kept? Are you muchwith God in secret? And how about the castle of communion? Do you maintain fellowship with the Father and with His Son, JesusChrist? How about the gate of humiliation? Do you bow before the Lord, humbly acknowledging what you owe to Him, or has pridebeen pulling down the cornerstone thereof? How about the gate of holy zeal? Is that wide and in good care, or has it beenburned with fire and taken away? And what about the wall of your love? Does that stand erect as it used to do? Have you notheard of one of old of whom it was said, "Gray hairs are here and there upon him, and he knows it not"? May not that be yourcase? If you will spend an hour or two tonight when all are asleep. If you should lie awake and commune with your own heartupon your bed, it might be a wondrous blessing to you! If you shall honestly look at yourself, not flatteringly. If you shalldetermine to know, as God shall teach you, the worst of your case. If you should desire to see which Grace is fainting, whichholy passion expiring, which sacred feeling ready to die- oh, it shall be well with you! Examine yourself, whether you area Christian! This is a duty which cannot too often be performed. Ask the Lord to examine you. Say to Him, "Try my reins andmy heart: search my inward soul: see if there is any wicked way in me: and lead me in the way everlasting."
Oh, that some men would be more careful about the garden of their souls! But they let the weeds grow and they see them not!Like the sluggard, they do not want to see what will involve so much toil, but tossing upon the bed of presumption, from sideto side, they dream of comforts and consider themselves to be safe, while all the while presumption is stealing away fromthem all their goods and making their garden to be a wilderness! Come, you slumberer, up! God help you up! Mistake no longerpresumption for assurance! Recollect that assurance will stand the fullest examination, but if you dare not examine yourself,depend upon it-you are a presumptuous soul! I suggest this to the professor.
And now I want to suggest the same thing to some of you who are unconverted. Some of you, perhaps, who have come in here tonightdo not often listen to the Gospel and you wonder what I am doing, talking about riding around a city. Well, I want you toride around yourselves, as it were, to take stock of your heart-to make calculations about your present state. Now, I willventure to say that some of you are not happy. You know you are not. You do not seem as if you had anything to live for, butto work hard at the shop, or to go to business. If you make money, it does not satisfy you. Time was when if you went to thetheater, you spent a very glorious night, but now if you go there-well, it seems a very dreary sort of stuff to you-and theenjoyments you once got on with so well are very empty things to you now. I am glad to hear it! I am glad to hear it! I shouldlike you to keep on thinking about this, and you would soon find that, in addition to the world's not satisfying you, youneed a great deal more to content you than this world can ever give you! I wish, dear Friends, you would think of yourselves,for when we get men to think, the battle is half won! Thoughtless persons are on the outskirts of Hell, but thoughtful personsGod blesses! Heedless and Too Bold went on and fell over the precipice and were dashed to pieces, but he who, being checked,waked and said, "Where am I? I do not know," and began to look about him, found himself just on the brink of ruin. But hehad just time enough to start back and so was saved.
My dear Friend, if you are not a converted person, do you not know that all your past life has been a waste? God made you,but you have never served Him! Why, if you make a tool, you expect it to be of use to you. God made you, but you never serveHim. If you keep a dog or a cat, you expect to have some pleasure from the creature. God has been keeping you all these yearsand what have you ever done for Him? If a man keeps a horse, it does him service, and when God makes a man, it is but reasonablethat the man should do Him some service-and yet you have not. So your life has been a dead waste as to its noblest ends. Andas for the present-why, that is no better! You are not living as you wish to live, and as for the future-no, no, no-do notsay, "I won't think about that." Be a wise man and do think of it! You cannot escape the future any more than I can. You andI must die-and after death the Judgment follows-and an appearance before God. Now, my dear Hearer, be bold enough to lookahead. Oh, but you do not like the prospect! Well, but nevertheless gaze upon it, for it will be for your soul's good to knowwhat it is to die without Christ and to rise again without Christ! And when you have got an estimate of that, it may be youwill say, "No, I cannot endure this! Jesus, I throw myself into Your arms. Save me, and I shall be saved!" Oh, that men wouldbut take stock of their souls and it would do them good. What a routing-out there is of corners! What long, long hours ofextra toil at our great shops to take stock. Nobody thinks of going on in business without taking stock every now and then,or if he did, he would soon find himself in the Bankruptcy Court. Every good trader knows there must be a stock-taking. Whyshould not men take stock of their souls? How is it that here they say, "Oh, let well enough alone! I daresay it is all right,"and so at last wake up and find themselves eternal bankrupts with nothing wherewith to pay, shut up in the prison out of whichthey can never escape?
May God the Holy Spirit press home these words so feebly spoken. And if any sinner here shall be led by the sight of himselfto tremble before God, let him remember and rejoice that there is life for a look at the Crucified One! Whoever trusts inChrist is saved! Rest wholly in Him. Cast yourself upon Him. As the swimmer gives himself up to the water, that it may supporthim, so do you, and thus shall the Grace of God that brings salvation appear unto you!
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: NEHEMIAH 1; 2:1-8.
Verses 1, 2. The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year,as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerningthe Jews that had escaped, which were left in captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. This good man was, of course, one of thebanished Jews, but he had greatly prospered. He had risen in the empire of Ahasuerus until he had come to be great-even tobe one of the chamberlains of the empire. But his heart was towards his poor people-his fellow Jews that were in poverty.Now, whenever God exalts a Christian in a temporal position, he ought not to disown his poor brethren, but his heart shouldgo out towards them to see what he can do for them. It is a shame for any man to forget his country. Does not the Pole stillsay, "No, Poland, you shall never perish"? And we admire such patriotism. And the same feeling should be in every Christianbreast. We should love the Church of God even as Nehemiah loved the chosen race from which he had sprung. So when he met withHanani, the conversation was all about the poor brethren that remained at Jerusalem.
3. And they said unto me, the remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach:the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. A sad story they had to tell! Ezrahad assisted in somewhat rebuilding the Temple, but little had been done for the private dwellings and for the walls and publicbuildings of the city. It was in a sad and wretched state-and the Jews were despised and reproached. Nehemiah was a greatman, but he was sorry to hear this. He felt as if he was a fellow sufferer with his poor brethren.
4. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayedbefore the God of Heaven. Was it his concern? Was it any more his concern than that of other men? Yes, he felt it to be his-andthe tender heart which he had towards the people of God made him feel it to be peculiarly his. If nobody else did anything,he must! And, oh, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, whenever you see the cause of God in a
sad estate, lay it to heart-weep, lament and pray-feel that you have an interest in it! Christ is your Savior. Of the Churchyou are a part. These blessed interests of Sovereign Mercy belong to you. Take them to yourself and say, By God's help, Iwill lay myself out for the progress of His cause. "I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed beforethe God of Heaven."
5, 6. And said, I beseech You, O LORD God of Heaven, the great and terrible God, that keeps Covenant and mercy for them thatlove Him and observe His commandments-Let Your ear now be attentive, and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Yourservant, which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel, Your servants and confess the sins of thechildren of Israel, which we have sinned against You: both I and my father's house have sinned. He seems to act like a priestfor God, taking the sin of the people upon himself and confessing it. If they were hardhearted, and would not confess, hewould, and pour out his complaint before God!
7-10. We have dealt very corruptly against You, and have not kept Your commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments whichYou commanded your servant Moses. Remember, I beseech You, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, If youtransgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations. But if you turn unto Me and keep My commandments and do them: thoughthere were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the Heavens, yet will I gather them from there and will bring them untothe place that Ihave chosen to set My name there. Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Yourgreat power, and by Your strong hand. You see what an admirable prayer this is. There is a full confession of sin-an acknowledgmentof the Justice of God in having punished His people. But then there is a quoting of the Divine Word-a putting of the Lordin remembrance that He had made such-and-such a promise! That is the very backbone of prayer! If you go to the bank, the mainpart of the transaction is to put the check-the note of hand-upon the counter. You get no money otherwise! So when you goin prayer, the main part of prayer must lie in pleading the promise, "You have said it. You have said it." Hold God to Hisword with a sacred daring of faith. "You have promised. You have declared. Now be as good as Your word." Then notice anotherplea he has. He says he is pleading for God's servants-His redeemed-redeemed by great power! Oh, it should always make usfeel strong in prayer when we recollect that God's people are very dear to Him and He has done great things for them-thereforeHe loves them and for those whom He loves, surely He will work great deliverances! These are arguments. There ought to begreat argument in prayer if we hope to prevail.
11. O Lord, I beseech You, let now Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servantswho desire to fear Your name, and prosper, I pray You, Your servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.Thatwas king Artaxerxes, whom he rightly viewed as a man, for, great as he was-all-potent king of Persia-yet still but a man!Nehemiah consoles himself in the prospect of having to go in before him to ask favor at his hands.
11. For I was the king's cupbearer.
Nehemiah 2:1. And it came to pass in the month Nisan. Three or four months after he began to pray.
1. In the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king.We have in some of the old slabs and carvings some singular pictures of the dainty way in which the kings of Persia and Mediawere served by their cupbearers. They always spilled a little wine upon their left hand and drank first, for fear the kingshould be poisoned. So the greatest men of the different provinces of the empire were called by turns to act this part beforethe king. It was a piece of State ceremony.
1. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. And there was a law-one of those stupid Median laws-that no man wasto come before the king with a sad countenance. It was supposed that the king must be so serenely happy, himself, that nonemight come there unless they were happy, too. Nehemiah had been able to obey this rule, but on this occasion he did not becausehe could not.
2-6. Therefore the king said unto me, Why is your countenance sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sorrowofheart. Then I was very sore afraid, and said unto the king, Let the king live forever: why should not my countenance besad, when the city, the place of my father's sepulchers, lies in waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Thenthe king said unto me, For what do you make request? So I prayed to the God of Heaven. And I said unto the king, If it pleasesthe king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you would send me unto Judah, unto the city of my father'ssepulchers, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him). Who was probably, Queen Estherand, therefore, abundantly agreeable that such a work should be done for her own nation. "The king said unto me."
6. For how long shall your journey be? And when will you return? So it pleased the king to send me: and I set him a time.He was a valued servant. They did not wish to part with him. And if he would go for a time to do this business, yet they tooksteps to assure he would return. There are some servants that I know of, who, if they were to go away, their masters wouldnot be particularly anxious that they should come back again! It is well when a man is so in favor with God that his pietyacts upon his ordinary life and he becomes in favor with men, also. That is a poor, miserable religion that does not makeits possessor a good servant. Yes, in whatever station of life we may be placed, we ought to be far more valuable to thoseround about us on account of our fearing God! May we always be of such a character that if we were gone, we should be missed."I set him a time."