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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Travail In Prayer

The Recovering of the Lord's Testimony in Fullness

Now, before we take up the three main features of the Wall, the Work and the Warfare, we must begin with an essential factor which is embodied in Nehemiah himself. We have to go back a little, because the beginning of this thing was many years before, more than seventy years before, and it began in the heart of the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a man with a broken heart, a man of a sorrowful spirit - a man whose heart was broken and whose spirit was sorrowful because of the conditions among the Lord's people; and Jeremiah in that travail fulfilled his ministry, and gave utterance to a declaration, a prophecy, that the people would go into captivity for seventy years. That, as we know, came to pass; and then, as the seventy years were expiring, another man right in the heart of the situation in Babylon took up Jeremiah's travail. Jeremiah fulfilled his ministry of travail: Daniel took up the travail in prayer. Daniel tells us (chapter 9) that he came to know, "by the books," that the captivity was to be for seventy years; and now he sees that the seventy years are coming to an end, and so he gives himself to intense prayer. Note: a ministry of travail by Jeremiah, an enlightened intercessory travail by Daniel - for he has become aware of the time in which he lives. He  has come to realize by the books that the time is fulfilled, and so he takes up the travail in this tremendous prayer in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel.

God's Sovereign Reaction

Now we have the next move. Because the time has come and God is on the move again for the recovery of His testimony, He sovereignly stirs up the spirit of Cyrus, who makes a decree, and the remnant return to Jerusalem. The last two verses of the Second Book of the Chronicles, as you know, state the fact, and then the very first verses of the Book of Ezra following repeat the words exactly. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia," and Ezra was one of the fruits of that sovereign movement of God. When Ezra fulfilled his part of the ministry, we come to Nehemiah, and we find again the taking up of that essential factor which has led to this cooperation with God.

In the first chapter of Nehemiah and into the second chapter, we find Nehemiah gripped, deeply and terribly gripped, by this travail - this travail which commenced with Jeremiah, this travail which was born in the heart of Daniel away in Babylon. Here it is in Nehemiah - travail which is an echo of the very heart of God concerning His people. We have to fit a great deal of prophetic utterance into this situation, to hear the cry of those prophets, all of them, as they express God's mind and God's heart about the state of His people. Now that cry - shall we say, that sob - in the heart of God is born into this man; it finds its culmination, so far as the Old Testament is concerned, in the heart of Nehemiah.

Note, before we go further, these two factors, these two main aspects. Firstly, God acting sovereignly. That is where the movement begins. God stirred up the spirit of Cyrus and you have all that wonderful movement of sovereignty as recorded in the Book of Ezra. Those of you who are familiar with that book will recall at once the marvelous facilities which God brought about through the Persian ruler for the rebuilding of the temple: every provision made, everything seen to that the thing should be done; God acting sovereignly. That is one side.

Man Suffering In Fellowship With God

But here in Nehemiah you have the other side - man in suffering fellowship with God. Ezra is the sovereignty of God; Nehemiah is the fellowship with God by man. Ezra is God acting directly and independently; Nehemiah is man acting with God, or God acting through man. Those two things always go together - remember that. We must never think, because God is sovereign and His purposes are fixed and settled and He can do as He will, act independently, He  is self-sufficient, that he will in fact act like that. He never has done so. Since the creation He has always brought men into fellowship with Himself in His sovereign purposes - into deep fellowship and travailing fellowship. So however great may be the need, whatever may be the demand, the call, the tragedy, which makes it necessary for God to act sovereignly in the first place, His is not going to do it until He can find an instrument which shares His heart feeling, carries His heart burden, enters into heart cooperation with Him.

Nehemiah was such a one. So far as the practical side was concerned in this final movement of God in that dispensation, everything had its beginning in the heart of Nehemiah. That  man's heart is revealed in the very first chapter of this book. It is therefore very necessary for purposes of today - for I am not stopping now to try to make a parallel between our time and the time of Nehemiah: that I take it is patent and obvious to anyone with spiritual perception - but if God is going to do something today with regard to the recovery and completion of His testimony, which needs recovering and needs completing, He will have to have the counterpart of Nehemiah - a vessel with a great concern, the very concern of God Himself, born in its heart.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

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