Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beacon Touchpaper #16: "Forget-me-not..."

"Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people... Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done... Remember this also in my favour, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love... Remember me, O my God, for good" (Neh 5.19, 13.14, 13.22, 13.31, all ESV)

A regular request that appears through the book of Nehemiah is when the man himself keeps reminding God to remember him; Nehemiah makes rather a habit of it.

I don't know about you, but I've never considered God to be One Who forgets much; I have a funny feeling that's never been something He's really struggled with. The only time God forgets something is when He chooses to forget (Isa 43.25, Jer 31.34). So why on earth would Nehemiah ask God to remember him? What's he really saying here? Is it a demonstration of arrogance in the man?

The key is in understanding this: Nehemiah does not say this "out loud". Each of these four petitions are relayed as a part of the narration, they are personal prayers between Nehemiah and his God that are recorded within the passing narrative. Never are they uttered in front of other people. You see, Nehemiah was having a private conversation with his King that we are allowed to eavesdrop on and we see a man who - in genuine humility - has set his heart on God above all other things (oooh, sounds familiar... Ezra?). And in so doing, he is able to say, "Remember me for my good... my good deeds..." without arrogance, without hypocrisy and without condemnation. Paul demonstrates similar in Philippians 4.9.

But why does he still petition God to remember him? Because Nehemiah recognises that God is sovereign, that God is the only One Who can instigate true change, that God alone is the One we need to seek after. Nehemiah requests success in God's purposes, and strength to do so, but not once does he ever ask God to bless him personally in return for what he's done. He is simply verbalising his perspective: that it's all about God. Nehemiah had a one-track mind.

Jesus too demonstrated the same focus: everything He did was in order to please ONE, to be accepted by ONE. The Father. Why do you do what you do?

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