In whom do you trust? Do you trust in your judgment? Your knowledge? Your wisdom? When confronted with an issue – whether big or small – do you ask God to bless your plan or do you ask God to bless you with a plan? Recently my wife and I received a major lesson about trusting in someone’s word.
We were approached by a representative of a company that sells very high quality meat. After a few moments of talking, this rep began his sales pitch. He was convincing. He built trust by identifying himself as a Christian once he discovered that we are Christians. Near the close of his presentation, he asked my wife “Can you beat $3.00 per pound for meat at the store?” Stunned by the price, my wife said “I can get that for chicken on sale.” We decided to buy a bunch of meat right then and there. It was a great deal we thought. Well it was a great deal but not for us. We discovered that this place sells meat by the portion rather than by the pound. That makes a BIG difference. We discovered that we had bought meat at the great price of about $9.00 per pound. Even on my worst day, I can beat that price at the store. I had trusted my judgment. I had trusted my knowledge. We didn’t pray about it. We just took this man at his word. We learned a hard lesson: the only One we can truly trust with full confidence is God Himself. Everyone else, we need to, quoting Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify.”
We jump quickly in the spiritual realm as well. We are confronted with a problem and we are quick to try to figure out how to approach the problem. We come up with a plan (with some backup plans of course). We then seek to spiritualize it by asking God to bless our plans. We really do get the order of operations wrong here. Instead of asking God to bless our plans when we are confronted with a problem, we should be asking God to bless us with a plan. But before we even get to that point we need to be convinced that Gods character is such that He not only CAN answer us, but that He is trustworthy enough TO answer us. Let’s continue in looking at Nehemiah and learning some lessons about prayer here in chapter one.
After Nehemiah becomes concerned about he issues surrounding Jerusalem, he next expresses his conviction of God’s character in verse 5:
“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…”
In this verse, the word translated “Lord” is the Hebrew YHWH – the covenant name of God. Nehemiah is appealing to the personal name God revealed to Moses. He is appealing to Him based on His covenantal relationship with Israel. Nehemiah is convicted regarding the character of YHWH. YHWH is in charge. YHWH will listen. YHWH will answer. Otherwise, why would Nehemiah even approach Him? What else does Nehemiah say about YHWH? He next refers to His Lord as the “God of Heaven.” He acknowledged that YHWH was beyond the earthly realm and above all other gods. He is the One who is above all others. He is the God of heaven, not just a god in heaven. Do you see the difference? Nehemiah again is convinced of the character of God. He is above all others.
Nehemiah continues by referring to God as “great and awesome”. Have you ever listened to yourself referring to things of this earth as “great” or “awesome”? The Hebrew word we translate “great” has the idea of great in magnitude while the word translated as “awesome” has the idea of great respect or reverence. How many things we flippantly refer to as “awesome” actually deserve to be revered? I would say none, other than God. Ouch, that one left a mark on me. God deserves to be honored, revered and feared by all because of who He is.
Finally, Nehemiah describes God as the one who “keeps His covenant of love.” Nehemiah is convinced about God’s character. God keeps His covenants. Nehemiah is convinced of this fact. God is truthful, faithful and can be trusted. Artaxerxes thought he was in charge. He thought he was something great. He had a high opinion of himself. And Nehemiah, his cupbearer (a fairly high political office), could have thought the same of Artaxerxes and himself. But, as we have seen here, Nehemiah esteemed highly YHWH. He thought of Him as the only One to Whom his prayers need to be directed.
So how are you doing with your prayer time with God? Is He the ONLY One who can answer? If He is not the only One, who else is able? When faced with difficult decisions, what is your first response? What is your last resort? My hope and prayer for you (and me) is that we would all learn to not only be convinced about God’s character, but to rely on His character to answer us with the perfectly correct answer to our prayers.