Being involved in the lives of other people isn’t a new concept. It is something God has intended from the very beginning. In the Old Testament there is a an example of Nehemiah who has found himself living in a foreign land, working for a foreign king, and living a very comfortable lifestyle as a cupbearer.
This is written at a time in Israel’s history where their land, homes, and people have been devastated, destroyed, and in verse Hanani (vs. 2) returns from seeing the devastation and informs Nehemiah of their pain.
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, (the capital of Persia) 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”
Nehemiah is just a regular guy and this letter is basically his journal and in verse 3 it tells us the physical condition of Jerusalem and the people. They are in distress, scared, they are in a crisis, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and gates burned with fire. There is a lack of safety and visually the gates are burned and it reminds them of the pain and loss they have experienced as a people. People have either died, been taken, or ran in fear and look at how Nehemiah responds in verse 4.
4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
He is absolutely broken and he is not only physically and emotionally connected to the people, but notice that it leads to action. He fasts and prays for his people and there are two simple observations for us today.
In Nehemiah’s context we see a great amount of physical pain and that pain starts all the way back in Genesis 2 when sin entered into humanity and created external pain like wars and conflicts like we see in Nehemiah, but it also created internal pain like we see in our culture today. Our pain is a little more difficult to see, but don’t let the cosmetics fool you. Don’t let the big houses, titles, and cars fool you. People are hurting and it is the pain within them that drives us to be successful to cover the pain.
Sometimes we can grow up in a condition where we think our context seems healthy and over time we become numb to the brokenness, the pain, the hurt and we don’t see what Jesus sees. Spiritually speaking we live in part of the city where only 8% of the people are connected to a local church. Of the 200,000 people in a 2-mile radius less than 10,000 are connected to a local church. We live in a part of the city that when you talk about Jesus or church people get angry not because of what you say, but because they have been hurt in the past. We live in a context that is hurting as well.
None of our pain has escaped God’s notice and He has determined the times and places in which we live, which means Austin, 2009 and He is looking for us to respond. He is looking for our eyes to open and respond. He doesn’t want people far from Him, He doesn’t want people living in poverty, neglect, living under guilt, He doesn’t want marriages falling apart, He doesn’t want suicides, He doesn’t want alcoholism, he doesn’t want homelessness, He doesn’t want those things and when we see those things He wants us to be moved to action, but notice the first characteristic of his response, prayer.