I will be preaching from the book of Nehemiah Sunday morning. Nehemiah was God’s chosen instrument through whom God chose to reconstruct the wall around Jerusalem which Nebuchadnezzar destroyed nearly 100 years earlier. Nehemiah was the cup bearer to king Artaxerxes who was the Assyrian leader God would use to set God’s people free from bondage. As cup bearer to the king, Nehemiah was one of the closest and most trusted servants to the king. It is amazing how God works. Nehemiah was a Jewish servant who had managed to work his way into the pagan king’s confidence. It shows how resourceful Nehemiah was, but it also shows how God does amazing things to accomplish His purposes in the world. God simply planted the key person he would use to set the people free right next to the person who had the authority to let them go. The book of Nehemiah is a picture of how God’s sovereign will works. God works through all kinds of people to accomplish what He plans to do.
Before Nehemiah actually asked king Artaxerxes for his blessing in returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed, he prayed and asked God to give him success in gaining the king’s permission. As a part of his prayer, Nehemiah spent some time making confession on behalf of the people of Israel. I am amazed by the way he worded his prayer. He said, “…I and my father’s house have sinned” (Nehemiah 1:6). Confession is always two-fold. We sin personally and need to confess our own sins. We also participate in shared sin, and need to confess the sins of our larger community. The prophet Isaiah knew this fact when he prayed, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips; and I live among a people of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:1).
Prayer is not a place where we should point fingers and cast blame toward others. We like to assign fault and blame our problems on others, but prayer is no place to spotlight the sins of your neighbors without owning up to your part in it. The Bible says, “Bear one another's burdens and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1). We simply need to learn better how to pray for others rather than complaining about what someone else has done. Prayer is no place to point fingers.
I lady came to her pastor and confessed, “Pastor, I’m afraid I have committed the sin of vanity.” The pastor asked, “Why do you say that?” She replied, “I look in the mirror at least twice a day and admit to myself how beautiful I am.” The pastor stepped back to get a better look into her face and said, “Dear lady, that is not a sin, it is simply a mistake.”
It is a mistake to confess your own sins without making confession on behalf of others. When you confess your own sin only, you simply narrow God’s forgiveness to you alone. Don’t you think that’s a bit selfish and self-centered. Expand your circle of confession to include not only yourself, but your family and your friends. Ask God to forgive the sins of our community and our nation. God’s forgiveness is big enough to handle it.