Derek Smith, Lead Pastor LHBC
Nehemiah 1
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”  Now I was cupbearer to the king.

Nehemiah was a Jewish man serving in the royal court of the Persians. As he was serving, he got word that the remnant of his countrymen who lived back home were in great trouble. Their wall of protection was broken down. They were a laughingstock to their enemies and a derision to the world. Although Nehemiah was many miles away tending to his own successful and busy life, he immediately was deeply concerned for his people. He could have easily just written them off and continued to live his life, but he didn’t. He responded.

What should we do when we see the brokenness and lostness of our neighbors? This question gets to the heart of our mission as believers which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. When we see broken people in our world we should have a broken heart for them just like Nehemiah did. Seeing brokenness in people’s lives is not an opportunity for ridicule, gossip, or the “I told you so’s.” It’s a time for love, for help, and for ministry.

What did Nehemiah do? How did he respond? He prayed. First and foremost we should pray for the broken right around us and in society. God does more through our prayers than we can do on our own in a lifetime, and as we rest in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, He begins to give us His heart for people. Secondly, Nehemiah took action. Nehemiah was not a man a good intentions, he was a man of action. In chapter 2 he went to the King and asked for leave to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls (which could have cost him his life just for asking). He then went and surveyed the land, made a plan, and rallied the people to rebuild.

Compassion never needs permission. You never have to ask for anyone’s permission to help people. Often times we wait for the right moment, or we wait to be asked to help others. This was not the heart of Nehemiah nor of our Lord Jesus and we should follow their example. Today, there will be opportunities to pray, to serve, to help, to love, and to invite others to Christ all around us. What are you waiting for? Take action. Pray then proceed with compassionate service. This is the truest sign of a broken heart for others.

On January 13, 1982, during an extraordinary period of freezing weather, Air Florida Flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport, failed to gain altitude, and crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, where it hit six cars and a truck killing four motorists.

After the crash on the bridge, the plane then continued forward and plunged into the freezing Potomac River. Soon only the tail section which had broken off remained afloat. Only six of the airliner’s 79 occupants (74 passengers and 5 crew members) survived the initial crash and were able to escape the sinking plane in the middle of the ice-choked river.

At about 4:20 p.m. EST, Eagle 1, a U.S. Park Police helicopter based at Anacostia Park in Washington and manned by pilot Donald W. Usher and paramedic Melvin E. (Gene) Windsor, arrived and assisted with the rescue operation. At one point in the operation the helicopter’s skids dipped beneath the surface of the icy water.

According to the other five survivors Arland D. Williams, Jr. continued to help the others reach the rescue ropes being dropped by the hovering helicopter, repeatedly passing the line to others instead of using it himself. While the other five were being taken to shore by the helicopter, the tail section of the wrecked Boeing 737 shifted and sank further into the water, dragging Williams under the water with it.

An article in the Washington Post described his heroism:

“He was about 50 years old, one of half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when the first helicopter arrived. To the copter’s two-man Park Police crew he seemed the most alert. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. The man passed them to the others. On two occasions, the crew recalled last night, he handed away a life line from the hovering machine that could have dragged him to safety. The helicopter crew – who rescued five people, the only persons who survived from the jetliner – lifted a woman to the riverbank, then dragged three more persons across the ice to safety. Then the life line saved a woman who was trying to swim away from the sinking wreckage, and the helicopter pilot, Donald W. Usher, returned to the scene, but the man was gone.”

Arland Williams lost his life that day because he considered the lives of 5 other people more important than his own. People all around us are drowning in the icy waters of sin and brokenness. We have the lifeline. Are we willing to die to ourselves so that others might live in Christ?

Father God, help me today not to be so busy and so distracted that I miss those drowning right around me. Lord, give me Your eyes for the world and Your heart to serve them. In Jesus name, amen.

Psalm 135:13 (NLT)
Your name, O Lord, endures forever;
your fame, O Lord, is known to every generation.