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. I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Nehemiah 1:5)
Nehemiah was quite a man. Although he wasn’t living with the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem and didn’t have family in exile, when was told about the trouble and disgrace his people had experienced, he mourned. He fasted and prayed on behalf of the Jewish people, and he did so with a spirit of camaraderie and community: “We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.” (verse 7) He went to the God of heaven, the God of his people, and he petitioned to God on their behalf.
He trusted God, and he claimed His promises. Consider the words Nehemiah uses in these verses: Lord, God of heaven, great, awesome, who perseveres. Powerful words of character and covenant. Then there is “loving-kindness.” It’s a word that reflects God’s love. It’s also translated as mercy, kindness, faithful love, and goodness, not just in various translations but within translations in varying contexts.
The word frequently accompanies the context of covenant in the Old Testament. It’s who God is. It cannot be separated from God’s character. God cannot set it aside for a situation or person. Even when we don’t see how something can reflect God’s loving-kindness, we can be certain it does in some way. God sees the details; we see a glimpse.
In order to claim loving-kindness, reminding God of his character, not because He forgets but because speaking the character and promises of God is powerful, we have to know Him well. Nehemiah did, and he lived away from most of his people. He was connected through God even when he wasn’t connected in proximity. His relationship with God was deep within as well as at the surface.
We run to the core when we’re shaken, and Nehemiah was shaken. He ran to the One he knew would provide and would give him the peace and direction he needed. It was his first response, on the surface, because of his consistent, developed faith. He didn’t have to run to his friends to see what they thought or check the law books to see how the government would take care of the problem. He ran to God.
God’s loving-kindness is His willingness to show mercy to His people even when it doesn’t seem possible. Days get dark. We are attacked, or at least, we feel that way. But remember that God’s mercy isn’t delivered how you prefer it to be. Sometimes we get just what we ask for like when Abraham appealed to God for Lot’s life in Sodom. Other times we get what God has promised but it certainly takes a long time and includes a lot of trials like the many plagues and ups and downs as Moses and Pharaoh went back and forth over the Israelites leaving Egypt.
Mercy is what God says it is. And it’s when He says it is. In order for God to be consistent with who He is, He works in the grand scope. He knows how today fits into tomorrow, and He knows how the past that seems so distant to us works into the future which seems beyond our reach. He knows. We don’t. But we can trust without knowing.
Nehemiah didn’t know all the details, but he knew God, and he ran to him. He sets a bold example to inspire us to know God and run to Him—in every situation and relationship.
Dear God, help me to run to You in every situation and relationship. I want to know You so that I can claim Your promises and character. I will rely on You and yield to You in the process. I don’t need to have all the answers, because I know You do. I trust whatever You give to me.