When Hamilton came out on Disney+, I had to see what all the craze was about. So me, Laura, and our host daughter Navya made some popcorn and we watched it all in one evening. It was a lot of fun to watch. Really catch music. One of the songs is about how the different people from that era of history are remembered and it reflects on how we all will be remembered someday.
The song says
“You have no control
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”
Today, we are concluding our sermon series “From Ruins to Restoration” and Nehemiah is reflecting on how he will be remembered.
The book of Ezra and Nehemiah end on kind of an anti-climactic note. Doesn’t it feel like last week should have been the end of the story and the sermon series?
When Nehemiah discovers things are decaying from their previously restored state, he continues to work for restoration, but as always with Nehemiah, he turns to God in prayer.
Three times in our passage, Nehemiah prays for God to remember him. That’s the only thing we should be concerned with.
How will God remember your story?
Nehemiah desperately wants God to remember him and his life with favor. So he prays. In Nehemiah 13, Nehemiah has 3 prayers.
Remember me and what I have faithfully done.
After some time in Persia, Nehemiah returned to find things in disorder. He discovers that Eliashib, one of the priests, had allowed Nehemiah’s old enemy Tobiah the Ammonite to move in to one of the storage rooms of the Temple, which held the offerings and supplies for the Temple. This is wrong on so many levels. This is an abuse of power by both Eliashib and the Tobiah. Eliashib gives a special benefit to his friend. Tobiah uses his political position to enrich himself. Not only that. it’s a desecration of the Temple.
Nehemiah was never one to back down from an opponent. So Nehemiah kicks Tobiah and his stuff out. He rebukes the leaders for neglecting the house of God…the very thing they made a covenant to do back in Ch. 10. Then Nehemiah reinstates the offerings for the Temple and he puts new leaders in place who were known to be trustworthy.
I wonder if out of exasperation he prays in v. 14
“14 Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.”
There’s a theme in the Bible that doesn’t get a whole lot of focus. But it’s the idea that God is recording our lives and our deeds. Nehemiah prays that what he has done will be remembered with favor by God. Even if his restoration efforts only last for a season, even if it all falls apart, even if I’m not remembered by anybody else, Oh God, remember me and what I have faithfully done for you and your kingdom.
God is keeping track of your faithfulness. It’s being written a book of remembrance. This is good news for us if we are faithfully fearing God, pleasing God, and serving others.
Nehemiah Prays, “Remember me and what I have faithfully done”
Remember me and show me mercy.
After clearing out the Temple, Nehemiah’s next task is to restore the Sabbath. Nehemiah rebuked the leaders for allowing the Sabbath to be desecrated, then he orders the gates shut on the Sabbath. By the way, those are the gates he put in. Then he put guards by the gates and drove the merchants away.
At the conclusion of this reformation, Nehemiah prays again,
22“Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.”
This is very similar to his previous prayer. In fact, all his prayers are essentially the same. However, there is a difference. In prayer #1, Nehemiah prays his deeds wouldn’t be blotted out. But that he would be remembered by God for what he had done. Nehemiah also wants God to remember him for honoring the Sabbath as well, but this time he adds the prayer “show mercy to me according to your great love.” Even with all the good Nehemiah had done. All his acclaimed leadership. His zeal for holiness. All his good deeds done for the kingdom. Even after living such a great life, Nehemiah still needs the mercy of God according to his great love.
The same of course is true for us. No amount of good deeds saves us. God remembers them, rewards them, and honors us for them. But they are not salvation.
We could never save ourselves. We don’t deserve being saved because of our guilt. We don’t deserve the gift of Jesus. But God is rich in mercy. So merciful he died for you.
In prayer #1, we pray for significance. We want to live lives of good deeds that will be remembered and reward by God. But I think the second we pray God remember my deeds, we will want to add, and show me your mercy. Because we know our deeds are not enough to save. We need the Lord’s mercy. We need his salvation. We need both. Significance in our lives, salvation from our sins.
Remember me with favor.
After Nehemiah restores the Temple, he restores the Sabbath, he takes on another restoration project. The people have married non-Israelites who worship other gods, a problem that Ezra had tried to fix. He purifies the priesthood and restores for wood at the altar.
Nehemiah’s finally prayer and the conclusion to all of Ezra-Nehemiah is v. 31
“Remember me with favor, my God.”
Remember the good things I have done, show me mercy for my sins and for the good things I did not do, and ultimately oh God, remember me with your favor. Remember me for good.
This prayer reminds me of the prayer of another man. The prayer of the thief upon the cross, who turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This man had done nothing good. In fact, he had done evil. But in sincere faith in Jesus, he says, remember me when you come into your kingdom. When you are the king upon the throne, when you are the judge of the living and the dead, Oh Lord Jesus, remember me with favor.
Ultimately, that is how one becomes saved, born again. A simple, sincere, genuine turn to Jesus. Oh Lord, remember me with favor.Most of you here have turned to Jesus to be your savior. Remember the goodness and the sheer grace of your salvation today. If you haven’t turned to Jesus, why delay? He is ready with open arms.
Recap: Remember me and what I have faithfully done. Remember me and show me mercy. Remember me with favor.
How will God remember your story? How will your story be written down in his book of remembrance? What do you want it to say?
God is pleased with our faithfulness to his commands and with our good deeds done in his name.
Dear friends, let’s be found ready, waiting, watching and praying. May we be found faithful. As we are faithful each day, overtime, our story will be written down in God’s book. Let’s give thanks to God, that he will remember and reward our good, in his mercy he will forgive our sins, and by his grace in Jesus our savior, he will remember us with favor.