When Hearing Produced Action

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Today in much of the world we are bombarded constantly with new information and news. It comes in ways and forms unheard of not that many years ago. Many of our grandfathers relied on newspapers and radios to hear the news. Then came the television and news magazines that added to and sped up how quickly we learned of something. And now we see many things in real time on computers, phones, iPads, and more. In the cacophony of it all, I wonder what we really hear. Has it all become background noise where we pay little attention? Does it come so quickly that we have knee-jerk reactions rather than more reasoned consideration as we did when newspapers were the only source?

 

It can be hard for us who are adults to imagine what it would have been like before these things were common in our daily life. Imagine the difference of waiting for the news even 50 years ago. That one is not hard for me. When my husband served in the military in Vietnam, our communication was initially limited to letters that took at least a week to arrive. Then we had small reel-to-reel tape recorders to send audio messages back and forth (We were not quite at the point of cassette tape recorders.) and those still took a week.

 

If we go back even farther in history and time, we can readily see how long someone needed to wait to hear the news of what was happening. When it was heard, it was often incomplete. The waiting must have been very hard, but perhaps it netted more thoughtful and reasoned responses.

 

I want to invite you to look back to the Middle East in the fifth century B.C. with me to a story that has much we can learn from today. Lack of faithfulness to God had resulted in the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel (known also as Ephraim) and exile of the Jewish people of the southern kingdom (known as Judah) to Babylon. The sacred city of Jerusalem had been destroyed and the city trampled with walls broken down.

 

One of the exiles, Nehemiah, serves as the cupbearer to the king in the Persian city of Susa in the area we now know as Iran. Each day it meant Nehemiah’s life was put on the line, as he tasted the wine to assure there was no poison within it meant to destroy the king’s life. As a cupbearer, Nehemiah would have been one of the king’s most trusted servants and he would have spent much time in the king’s presence. Even so, he was a slave.

 

It is unlikely we would have heard of Nehemiah had it not been for one primary thing. He heard news of his homeland and the condition of the city of Jerusalem. Scripture tells us f17c06a65ab6651a3b115bdcdf0465e8that he wept, fasted and prayed. The news saddened him to such a degree that scripture says his face showed such sadness that the king noticed. The king, Artaxerxes I, must have been quite observant to notice his servant’s face and ask him about his expression. Such an observation created fear in the heart of Nehemiah because he knew his fate lay in the king’s hands and he had never sought to displease him. The king could have believed Nehemiah was involved in some plot to cause him damage and perhaps order his execution.

 

Let’s not skip the key to this man’s life. When he heard the bad news, he wept, fasted, and prayed.

 

It seems likely that because Nehemiah had fasted and prayed at the news, he chose to risk being honest with the king and told him that his sad expression was due to the poor state of affairs in Jerusalem and that he wanted to return there to rebuild the walls of the city so those few inhabitants there could live in safety.

 

How unusual it must have been that this servant and slave received favor from the king! He was not only given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, but he also received letters from the king giving him safe passage through the areas he would need to travel and to obtain the timber from the king’s own forest for the gates and walls of Jerusalem.

 

It seems evident that Nehemiah was a godly man because of how he responded to the news. He heard. His emotional response was to weep from the sadness he felt. His decisional response was to fast and pray. The scripture account does not indicate he began to wring his hands, start telling everyone, or criticize those who had destroyed his homeland and most holy city.

 

What is our response to news that grieves our hearts?

 

An initial emotional response is normal and healthy, but do we stop there or act from that place of reactive emotion?

 

This ancient story of Nehemiah tucked in the Old Testament has much to offer us for our lives today. I want to spend several posts sharing some of the applications we can see from this story. I hope you will join me.

 

Nehemiah shows us that a godly leader prays.

 

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9 thoughts on “When Hearing Produced Action

  1. I always learn something new whenever exposed to Nehemiah. I’ve had the story several times as illustrations on how to be leader, how to pray, and how to obey. You’ve brought me more insight to the teaching on how to react, listen, and move. Look forward to learning more!

    1. Nehemiah seems to be chocked full of goodies to discover each time I read through it. Hope the other posts in this series blesses you. 🌹

  2. I’ve been studying the book of Daniel, who also had the same reaction as Nehemiah – weeping, fasting and praying. May we join them in praying in such a manner for our nation.

  3. All you have to do is turn on the news to see those knee jerk reactions to everything. I love the book of Nehemiah. I believe it has a lot to teach u and. I’ll look forward to reading more of your posts on the subject.

    1. So true, Donna! This is a series I wrote a few years ago and I felt it fit so well for right now and helps me as I am dealing with painters in my house and not much quiet for writing. Hope you enjoy the others.❤️

  4. “When he heard the bad news, he wept, fasted, and prayed.” Much more profitable than ranting. Pam, thank you for this inspiring post. There is much to weep and fast over. Our own state house is voting today on overturning a veto on a bill to treat babies who survive abortion. What a time we live in. What an opportunity.

    1. There is indeed much to weep, fast, and pray over. So sad to hear about the action in your own state house. What a time for sure!! I cannot help but wonder how much of the body of Christ is asleep in the midst of so much evidence of the signs of the times and the Lord’s return. How many will He find faithful?

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