And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted…
I. THE OCCASION OF HIS GRIEF.
1. Not personal loss.
(1) Men grieve on account of personal loss — failure of business, scarcity of work, pecuniary loss involving personal privation, etc.
(2) Men grieve on account of spiritual failure. Neither of these explains the occasion of Nehemiah's grief.
2. But public calamity.
(1) He had inquired carefully into the state of God's work. Every good man should thus interest himself in God's work. Men shun this conscientious inquiry for various reasons.
(a) Some on account of the peace which ignorance brings.
(b) Some dread the painful discoveries which careful inquiry may reveal.
(c) Others the sacrifices which such discoveries may demand.
(2) He had received sorrowful tidings. To a good man tidings of the Church's desolation are ever sad tidings.
(a) It betrays unfaithfulness. A holy and loyal Church cannot be a dishonoured one. The shorn strength, as with Samson, betrays unwatchfulness and worldliness.
(b) It furnishes occasion of reproach to the enemies of the Church.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS GRIEF.
1. It was profound.
2. It was enduring.
3. It was self-denying. Real heart-pain is always ascetic in its bodily aspect. "And fasted." Observe —
(1) Fasting is often associated with profound grief in Scripture (2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 12:16-21; Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:10; Daniel 6:8; Jonah 3:5). It may be the natural attendant of such grief, or the outward symbol of its presence.
(2) Fasting is recognised and commended in Scripture as a religious exercise (1 Samuel 7:6; Jeremiah 36:9; Matthew 6:17; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5).
III. THE ISSUE OF HIS GRIEF. "And prayed before the God of heaven." Herein consists the difference between godly and selfish sorrow. The one invariably finds relief in prayer, the other ends in blank despair.
1. Grief is sanctified by prayer. It then becomes sacred, and softens the heart like showers on the thirsty soil. Rebellious grief is hardening in its effect.
2. Grief is relieved by prayer.Lessons —
1. Profound grief on behalf of others is perfectly consistent with personal enjoyment of the Divine favour.
2. Godly grief usually precedes gracious visitations
3. Burdened hearts find best relief in prayer.
(W. H. Booth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,