I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and loving kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,” Nehemiah 1:5 NASB
Exploring the Background
The one praying these words is Nehemiah. He had just heard the plight of God’s people in Jerusalem and he was completely undone. Have you ever received news that has left you undone and brought to the end of yourself? Nehemiah was desperately seeking God for answers.
Jerusalem was in a terrible state, its wall of protection lay in rubble and its people were destitute and vulnerable. Nehemiah was beside himself as he wept, fasted, prayed, and waited for the Lord to give him his marching orders.
Nehemiah’s mission would not be an easy one, he was to lead the people in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, and it would not be an easy task. There would be opposition from their outside enemies and even from within their own walls, as they became exhausted from climbing over all of the rubble. Even in our own lives there can be so much rubble lying around that we are constantly stumbling over, we become exhausted and never move forward.
They would have days when that they were filled with fear and anxiety, when they were hungry and tired, yet amazingly, the wall around Jerusalem would be rebuilt in only 52 days. All of God’s people within the wall, those who were skilled in construction and those who were not, worked in unity to get the job done. As they were rebuilding the wall, the Lord was rebuilding their lives and their faith in Him.
Unearthing the Verse
I said, I beseech You, Oh Lord God of heaven…
When we are on a mission, we become consumed with the work. We are busy planning, organizing, and getting anyone and everyone’s opinion. To beseech in prayer is more than a casual prayer, it is a passionate prayer of seeking God in desperation. Each time Nehemiah came up against an obstacle his first step was to go God in prayer and passionately pray and ask God for direction. I honestly wonder if we have prayed with this kind of desperation, where we have been in a place that if God does not intervene, there is no way through.
Decisions are just plain hard, we can second guess ourselves and worry ourselves sick, ever been there? Why do we hesitate to ask God for the answers? He has them all. He is the God of heaven, He sees all, knows all and is the One who has all the answers. Do you feel that you can trust him with your decisions, big and small?
…the great and awesome God…
Our relationship with God becomes so casual we forget how great, how wonderful, and how excellent God is. His presence and power is so great, that we would not be able to stand upright in it, but rather fall to our knees under the weight of it.
Today the word awesome can mean that something or someone is great, wonderful, inspiring, or even cool. If we look into the Hebrew we will see that the word for awesome is ayom, pronounced (aw-yome), meaning terrible, dreaded or awe inspiring. When Nehemiah declared that God was awesome, he was truly awe-inspired by God’s greatness, as well as knowing that God was a terrible and dreadful power over his enemies. Israel’s enemies also had an understanding of God’s power and they were terrified of Him. When we are looking for true “awesome” the only place to go is to our God.
…who preserves the covenant and loving kindness…
God is great and awesome in so many ways, but the one mentioned here is, He preserves and keeps His covenant with His people. A covenant is a formal oath or promise, and God had promised Abraham that he would love his descendants. The Israelites have had great ups and downs, yet God’s love for them was unwavering, even when they waivered, and He was always working toward their restoration.
Because of Jesus we are grafted into this same covenant, one of God’s love and His kindness. If we could only wrap our minds around His great love for us, how tender His thoughts towards us are, the affection He longs to lavish over us, we would be completely overwhelmed. Even in life’s ups and downs, God is always working for our good, simply because he loves us.
…for those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Here is the contingency clause that walks hand and hand with God’s Oath. He promises to preserve His covenant of loving kindness to those who choose to love Him and obey His commands. The choice is ours.
When you have a new baby, you can’t get enough of them, can’t take your eyes off of them. You lavish them with all of your affection, love and kisses. It is not until they begin to grow that they can reciprocate that love, finally there are the first smiles, then hugs and kisses back to you and you just eat them up.
As they grow older and begin to mature, you see your children’s love for you demonstrated in different ways, and one of them is in their obedience. They choose to obey the rules you have set before them, because they love you, rather they admit it or not. It is the same with us and God, we show Him our love in many ways, but the greatest way is to obey His commands.
The greatness of God is that His commands are set out of love and are really for our benefit, even though we may not always see it that way. The awesomeness of God is that He provided forgiveness, through Jesus, for the times when we struggle and fail to obey them.