The need for spiritual renewal or revival in Nehemiah’s day was apparent, even glaring. The report came to Nehemiah through Hanani, a fellow Jew, that “the remnant that are left in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Neh. 1:3). How it broke Nehemiah’s heart just to consider that God’s people and the holy city were in such a condition.
That the people were in great affliction and reproach meant that they were in great misery and shame. The word translated “affliction” means “evil, misery, distress–the very opposite of good or well. They were outside of the original and ongoing intention that God had for them. These folks were in great misery and contempt, shame, and condemnation.” They were living in disgrace and dishonor because of the condition of Jerusalem and their own condition as the holy people of God.
Nehemiah just could not stand it, and he determined to do something about it
He said, “When I heard these words…I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” Neh. 1:4. “Wept” points to spontaneous expression of strong emotion. He wept aloud with the weeping that comes out of distress or sorrow. “Mourned” describes deep mourning as the mourning for the dead. Notice that he mourned for “certain days.” “Fasted” means that he abstained from food because his burden was so heavy that he had no desire for food. “Prayed” is the word for intercession. He interceded for Jerusalem and for the people there who were in such distress. His prayer is recorded in 1:5-11. Weeping, mourning and fasting led to prayer, confession of sins, and petitions for mercy. God heard Nehemiah and used him to bring restoration and renewal to the people and to the city.
The walls of the city were repaired first. There was opposition to the work from within and without. The nobles of the people refused to have any part in the work (Neh. 3:5). The people of the land laughed at them (Neh. 2:19; 4:1-3), and conspired against them by devious means (Neh. 6:1-5, 10-13). Prayer, faith, and persistence won out in the end and the walls were repaired.
However, there was still a spiritual need to be met Nehemiah and Ezra the scribe gathered the people together and opened the Book of God. As they read and explained the law of God to the people, they experienced spiritual renewal. The people repented of their sins with weeping. Revival broke out! There are some principles in this passage which, if they are heeded and adhered to, will bring spiritual renewal to the people of any era. And while our need for spiritual renewal may not be as obvious to us as the need was to Nehemiah, there is a great need for revival today. God help us to see it as clearly as Nehemiah saw it and determine to do something about it as he did. God help us to weep, mourn, fast and pray as he did. Perhaps God will then give us revival as well
Send a revival, O Christ, my Lord, Let it go over the land and sea, Send it according to thy dear word, And let it begin in me.
There is nothing new or secretive about these steps to spiritual renewal.
These steps or principles come out of the Word of God. They are things that we already know to do. Once we consider them, they become obvious. The steps to spiritual renewal are: Affirm the Word of God (8:1-8), Adore theGod of the Word (8:6), Acknowledge the Lord’s Day (8:9-11) and Act like the people of God (8:13-18)