But you are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17)
Jerusalem, the city meant to declare God’s name, lies in rubble on the ground. The glory of Solomon’s era has passed. Now it stands bare, lifeless, stripped, and unprotected, a shameful shadow of its former splendor. A powerhouse brought low. A chosen people scattered. A city desecrated.
Nehemiah, having heard news from afar about the beloved city, mourns over the reproach of his people. He knows that the pride and hard-heartedness of his people have caused their own destruction. Previously, God warned them of this, that if they haughtily turned away from him, there would be consequences. Certainly, the consequences have arrived: captivity, broken fortifications, reproach, and an entire city in distress. Grieved, Nehemiah pleads with God for the people by confessing their sins:
O great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and mercy with those who love you and observe your commandments, please let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, that you may hear the prayer of your servant which I pray before you now, day and night, for the children of Israel, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against you. (Nehemiah 1:5–6)
He is so grieved over their sin and the physical representation of that sin — Jerusalem’s rubble — that he travels to Jerusalem to see it for himself. There, standing above the city, taking in its remains, he weeps.
And God responds.
God responds to an entire wayward nation because of this singularly repentant man. He loves a broken and contrite heart. Through Nehemiah’s leadership, God restores a whole people to himself, as well as the beloved city’s fortification.
From rubble to complete restoration. This is the way of God when his people submit to him.
[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]