Today we come to the conclusion of our series on the study of the book of Nehemiah. I pray that it has been a blessing of God for you. We pray that the preaching of God’s Word in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah may have served to revive the hearts of those who today are called to labor in the church, for, you will remember, the theme of Nehemiah is that Nehemiah was a man who had a heart for God’s people and God’s church. The cause of God and the church—that is what Nehemiah lived for.
We come to the conclusion of this book in verses 30 and 31 of Nehemiah 13. Please open your Bible and read those verses.
The book closes in a prayer: “Remember me, O God, for good.” This was a favorite prayer of Nehemiah. Numerous times in the book, Nehemiah would pray: “Remember me, O my God, concerning this.” “Remember me, O my God, concerning this also.” “Remember me,” he says, “for good.”
That is a very short prayer. But it is a very big prayer. Nehemiah was placing his life and his work, his heart and his motives, before God and asking God to take note that what he had done he had done by God’s grace working in him. He is asking God to remember, not to forget, the labors that he had performed in God’s name—that is, “Assure me that I am held moment by moment in Thy conscious thought and favor in Jesus Christ. Assure me that the Lord takes thought of me in mercy.”
Let us make that our prayer today as well. Let us learn to pray, “Remember me, O God, for good.” This is a pilgrim’s prayer. As we journey through this life seeking to do the will of God, we must do that in utter dependency upon Him. As we seek to do His will, we encounter trials, we see our sins, we experience setbacks and difficulties and sorrows. There are many obstacles that appear to be contrary to all of God’s promises. So we need to pray, “Lord, remember me; remember me for good; assure me that I am held moment by moment in Thy thought. Take into account my situation. Remember me and note the labor that I have performed in Thy name by Thy grace. And supply me with Thy grace.” We must make this prayer our own. And we must pray it each and every day.
Nehemiah, first of all, is asking that he be remembered for the deeds that he had performed for God’s people. That first. Nehemiah had performed many deeds for God’s people. And he is asking that God take note of that, that God pay special regard to what he had done for and to God’s church and people. He is referring there to that aspect of our life, of our church life, of the communion of saints, of our calling on earth towards God’s people. This is something that God considers very closely. God pays attention to this, because His people and His church are dear to Him. They are blood-bought by His Son. They are eternally loved by Him. His name is upon His people and His church. They represent His truth and His cause. And Nehemiah was praying: “Lord, remember me as I have loved Thy people and have sought the good of Thy cause.”
Remember again the theme of the book: that Nehemiah is a man who is come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel (2:10). He came to Jerusalem not because he enjoyed a challenge in construction, in the rebuilding of ruined walls, but because those walls represented the needs of God’s people to exist on earth in fellowship with God. He was not simply an impassioned city builder or social reformer. But in a day of materialism, when God’s people’s hearts were being cauterized against God, Nehemiah’s heart beat strong for God and he sought the spiritual well-being of God’s people.
Nehemiah concludes the book by referring to his devotion to God’s people. We read thus: “I cleansed them from all strangers.” That is a reference to the priests who had polluted themselves by marrying heathen wives. He says, “I appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business.” That is, he organized them. He assigned them to their spiritual duties. He called them to be responsible and faithful in the service of the people. As we read further, “And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. I saw to it that the wood would be brought in regularly so that there could be some fuel for the burning of the offerings. I took care of the worship of God. I cared about these things. I cared about the holiness of God’s people. I cared about the maintenance of God’s church. I cared that the ministry of God’s Word be supported. I put the spiritual needs of God’s people first,” says Nehemiah. “Remember me, O God, for good.”
Those deeds that Nehemiah had performed for the good of God’s people had been done in the face of great difficulty—so great that the flesh would have despaired and lost hope. There had been physical opposition to Nehemiah. There had been opposition from the outside. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem had sought many times to put Nehemiah in fear and had mocked him and plotted against him and threatened him and schemed to overthrow his plans. And then the greatest difficulty that he faced came from within—from the people of God themselves, from their own weakness and sins, from the rulers and from the leaders who did not stand with him. Many times he had to stand up alone to admonish them and call them to their duties. There had been much opposition.
But, by God’s grace, Nehemiah had faithfully labored in the difficult day. He had labored in the day that is exactly like ours. We read in the Scriptures, in I Corinthians 10, that all of these things are written for our example, upon whom the end of the world is come. So also all who love God’s church today and God’s cause and God’s truth and God’s honor shall perform that labor now in the face of great difficulties. Nehemiah was able to perform his work and be faithful by grace, a grace that was given him in Jesus Christ, a grace that came to him in the same way that it comes to us: through the Scriptures and prayer.
Long before he had left Shushan the palace and had come to Jerusalem, long before he had set aside his high profile position as the cupbearer of the king of Persia, long before that, Nehemiah had drunk deeply in the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Long before, he had spent hours in the living and abiding Word of God. He saw the Scriptures not as a book of stories of bygone days to be read for entertainment, not as something that is filled with hard and dark sayings, but as the Word of God unto him. He had lived a life of prayer, prayer that strengthened him, prayer that enabled him, prayer that guided him. Long before, Nehemiah had been built up by God’s grace, through the Scriptures and through prayer, as a man of God.
Now he prays, “Remember me, O God, for my deeds for this people.” We, too, are called today, we are given the privilege today, to labor, to spend our life, in the behalf of God’s people, in God’s glorious cause in the church of Jesus Christ. Do you have a heart for that? Do you say, concerning the church, “I don’t wanna get involved. I don’t want things to interfere with my life. I don’t want people’s problems to interfere with my life. I’ve got a life. I’ve got plans. And right now the church and God’s people just don’t fit into those plans. Besides, those people in the church hurt me! And I’m not gonna care.” Where is your commitment? Where is your priority? Is your priority yourself and the things of this world? Or is it the people of God, the cause of Jesus Christ?
His cause is represented in many ways—in Christian families; mothers and fathers; Christian marriages; youth committed to serve God and not sin; the need for pastors and preachers, for teachers in Christian schools, for elders, for mothers, for husbands; the needs of the communion of saints; the needs of God’s hurting people. The needs are many. Nehemiah saw them. He did not turn back to himself and to his own life. He had a heart of compassion, he had a heart of commitment. He must simply labor for the glory of God in His people and in His church. “Remember me, O God, that I have done this by Thy grace.”
What about you? What does God remember about you and me in our life?
But Nehemiah was also asking that God would remember him for his personal devotion to God. Nehemiah was a man who was devoted to God personally. Now, you could not describe Nehemiah as the most gentle man portrayed in the Scripture. We read in this very chapter that he smote certain people, he pulled out their hair, and he chased them away from him. He was no-nonsense when it came to the opponents of God. But it is very plain that through all of this he was devoted to God, that he knew the incomparable magnitude of God, that he believed in the utter reliability of God, that he trusted in the fathomless depth of God’s love for him, that he committed himself to the limitless power of God. That, more than anything else, is needed in our day—the loving, the adoring, knowledge of God—to know Him the way Nehemiah knew him. To be devoted to God.
Let us look at Nehemiah’s devotion to God. It was rooted in a number of things. It was rooted primarily in a profound knowledge of God. From this book we learn that Nehemiah knew God as the universal Sovereign. To Nehemiah, He was the God of heaven (chap. 1). He was the God in control of the entire world. He was the God who shaped all things and guided all things according to His own purpose. Nehemiah had just come from the king of Persia. But he understood that it was not Persia that ruled, but God who ruled, and God was the One who would clear the way for the honor of His own name, and would accomplish His own purposes even through those who would oppose Him. Nehemiah saw God not as limited, not as removed, but as the sovereign One, sovereign in all of His power. And this knowledge of God’s sovereignty strengthened him in the work of God.
Nehemiah knew God as utterly reliable and faithful. He knew God as the God who keeps covenant and mercy and that he could depend upon God. He could depend upon the faithfulness of God.
Nehemiah knew that God was perfectly holy. In the light of God’s holiness he saw his own sins, and he would often plead for forgiveness.
Nehemiah knew that God was infinitely glorious and that God had brought Israel unto Himself to be to the glory of His name.
And Nehemiah knew God was intimately near to him—He was the God who was present with him.
God has not changed. God is all these things. He was not those things back then. But He is. He is the great I AM. He is the God who is absolutely sovereign, utterly reliable, perfectly holy, infinitely glorious, infinitely gracious, and intimately near. This is the God whom we must know.
Still more. Nehemiah’s devotion was rooted in earnest prayer. It was not simply that Nehemiah knew that he should pray. It was not simply that his prayer was a mumbling of unthought words. Nehemiah, rather, was a man who laid hold of God in his prayer, laid hold of God out of a deep sense of his need and out of a sense of the majesty of God. He knew what it was to plead, to beg and beseech God. He cast himself upon God in his prayer in complete reliance. Where was the secret of Nehemiah’s deep spiritual strength? He knew God in the Scriptures and he prayed to God.
And out of this Nehemiah treasured a deep, personal faith. “Remember me, O my God, for good.” Personal pronouns in the Bible are of great importance. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. True faith is always personal. True faith is not abstract. True faith is not theoretical. True faith is the uniting of the heart to the Son of God so that He is in me and I am in Him for ever. True faith is not a matter of notions, but it is a matter of inward, true, personal experience. “Remember me, O my God, for good.”
Thus Nehemiah was asking God to remember him in His grace. That is what he was asking. “Remember me, spare me according to the greatness of Thy mercy,” he had prayed. “Remember me for good. Remember me in Thy lovingkindness.” How striking! After performing all of those courageous acts; after accomplishing what no one else had been able to accomplish for a hundred years; and after devoting himself so admirably to the cause of God and being so exemplary; Nehemiah, when he is finished, is conscious of the need of God’s grace and lovingkindness to be upon him. He never imagined that he had earned something from God. After his best work was finished, he asked for the grace of God and God’s unmerited favor to be upon him. He comes to the conclusion of his work, and he asks that God remember him in His lovingkindness. “Don’t remember me on the basis of my work, on the basis of myself, on the basis of my devotion for Thee. Don’t remember me for any of those reasons. But remember me out of Thy own lovingkindness.” He was completely dependent on the grace of God.
That means that our acts as children of God, our works as children of God, do not earn a place with God. They do not add to our justification with God. We are justified by grace alone, without works. That is what we want God to remember. We do not want God to consider our standing with Him to be dependent even upon the works that He gives us to do. Rather, we want God to remember us according to His own commitment, according to His own lovingkindness, according to His decree of grace, according to His eternal love. “Hold me in Thy grace, hold me in Thy love. Do not base Thy acceptance of me in any way upon the work that I perform—not even upon those works that Thou hast performed through me. But let it be based entirely upon Thy own lovingkindness and grace.”
So must we. We must pray as Christians: “Lord, remember me by Thy grace; remember me according to Thy lovingkindness. Lord, find the reason to love me in Thine own heart, in Thine own eternal will. Hold me dear according to the counsel of Thine own purpose. Look into Thy heart and find there the reason to love me, to cherish me, not to forsake me. Remember me in Thy grace.” Do you pray that way?
Nehemiah’s dependency upon God also meant that Nehemiah anticipated the day when the record of earth’s deeds would be publicly revealed. “Remember me then. Remember me when the books are opened and all the deeds of men are revealed; when the works of men (and the motives behind those works) are made plain; when all is opened for all to know; when my life and my work will publicly be reviewed in that day; when everything comes out (even that which was done in secret). Lord, remember me then in Thy grace and love.”
Your days and my days must pass before the review of the Almighty. Our work in the church, the home, in marriage, wherever we have been will be reviewed in that day. It shall be revealed in that day before all.
And after you are gone, your work on earth will, in a sense, also continue to speak. As does Nehemiah’s. What will your work say of you? What will be revealed concerning your work? When others ask, “Why did you live?” Ask the question about Nehemiah: “Why did he live?” It is very plain, is it not? He sought the good of God’s name in His people. He laid down his life for the honor of God in His people. Why did you live? What did you seek? What was the principle of your life? What will they say about you? “She lived for herself.” “He lived for the world.” “He was a man of pride.” Or: “His life was spent, by God’s grace, in the only worthy pursuit: the church of Christ, the building of God’s kingdom, the advancing of God’s name, honor, and glory in the gospel.”
Young people, a life lived in the service of God and in the service of His people and in the service of His cause is a life that is not wasted. All other life, lived for any other motive, is a wasted life. But a life lived in the service of God’s covenant, in the service of God’s name and church, is worth living. All other pursuits, all other lives, have no value. They end up worthless. But whosoever lives for the good and the welfare of God’s people shall enter into the joy of the Lord.
Live as Nehemiah. “O Lord, Thou knowest I have sought Thy glory. That’s why I wanted to live. That’s what motivated my days. Now remember me, take note of me, see me in Thy grace.” Nehemiah went to heaven and heard these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord”—the words that all who live for the glory of Christ shall one day hear.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for our time in the book of Nehemiah, and we ask for Thy blessing upon it. We pray that we may live our life conscious of our dependence upon Thy grace. Remember us, O God, for good. Amen.