By Nevin Bass
The world needs intercessors. The world needs someone to bring a fresh vision of God’s love and His design for life. Someone is needed to help others see past the ruin and desolation that surround them and their situation in life, someone to help them catch a glimpse of the power of God’s transformation and to share with them the Lord’s desire to lead them through a time of restoration and renewal. People need someone to teach them the value of good and proper boundaries and to help them establish the same. Within the safety of those boundaries, people will be able to renew their covenant with the Savior and see the fruit of renewal in their everyday lives. The world needs the ministry of an intercessor.
Are you an intercessor? If so, you are desperately needed. The work of renewal almost always begins with the ministry of an intercessor. This is true because of most people, who have plumbed the depths and experienced the bitter fruit of rebellion in the most severe form, are so low they can’t rebuilding began when even see the bottom. This is why the story God moved his heart line in the book of Nehemiah begins with Nehemiah, The work of rebuilding began when God moved his heart and Nehemiah became an intercessor.
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:1-4).
The year was 445 BC. Nehemiah dwelt in Shushan, the capital of the Media-Persian Empire. The glory of the golden kingdom that was Babylon was absorbed into the silver empire of the Medes and Persians. The political capital of the empire was moved from Babylon to Shushan. Nehemiah lived in the palace. He was the king’s cupbearer, one of the most prestigious positions in the realm. He had more personal contact with king Artaxerxes than almost anyone else. What few peers Nehemiah had all had the utmost respect for him. He had the king’s ear and the king’s love. Life was good!
Then came news from the homeland. The capital of Nehemiah’s recently repopulated nation was yet in ruins, and the repatriated inhabitants were in affliction and reproach. Instantly things changed for Nehemiah. He went from enjoying life to weeping and mourning. This is one of the first lessons from the book of rebuilding the work of reconciliation almost always requires an intercessor.
Those in the throes of devastation seldom are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Indeed, they are so close to and associated with the problem to such a degree that they usually are even unable to assess properly the extent of the damage. And make no mistake about it: The damage is the direct result of God’s judgment on their sin. Restoration and renewal will require the prayer and prompting of someone outside the cycle of failure.
If you are in need of reconciliation, learn quickly to recognize and honor the ministry of the intercessor God has placed in your life. He or she brings you a vision from God, a vision born from a burden. Understand that you are too close to the problem even to realize how desperate the situation really is, much less have a vision of God’s solution. Try to remember that you will probably not recognize at first to what extent God’s solution will change your life. Time will reveal this. Don’t reject the leading of God through your intercessor because you are unable to see the final destination. God gives grace to the humble.
If you are one who labors under a burden, know that what you are experiencing is the beginning of a work for God. Not all those around you will understand or appreciate the load under which you toil. But toil on! People misunderstood the Master, and they will misunderstand those who continue His ministry. It is the ministry of reconciliation that has been committed to His servants. This ministry is not for the fainthearted or those who are discouraged easily. There will come a time when you will share some of your vision with those to whom you minister. Only those who embrace and share your vision will ever begin to share your burden and then only to the extent that they embrace the vision God gives you. That said, it is easy to see that the ministry of an intercessor is a lonely calling indeed.
Let me be frank. Many who were inspired and motivated by Nehemiah to build the walls of Jerusalem had no concept of what would come next. As far as most of them were concerned, rebuilding the wall was the extent of God’s desire for them. To them, the extent of change that the situation called for was merely a change of the external environment. And yet this was but the beginning of the overall work of God in their lives. The area where change was also required was that of their hearts and minds. This area of change was beyond their ability to comprehend in their present state. At the beginning, Nehemiah was saddled with revealing only the extent of his vision for them that they could accept and act upon. How often an intercessor gives in to the desire to “dump” the whole bill of goods upon those to whom he or she is ministering. In this case, the ministry of reconciliation becomes a burden too heavy for the people to bear. A bridge can only support the amount of weight it is designed to bear at a single instant of time. Place the load of the entire day upon its trusses and it will collapse. An intercessor must learn to trust God and work within God’s time frame and within God’s ways of bringing about change in others. We must allow God to lead and initiate change His own way. This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to accept in the role of helping others.
Speaking of change, the transformation of spiritual circumstances happens very slowly usually. And yet change is essential in the process of rebuilding and renewal. The ministry of reconciliation that has been committed to the Christian church is about the restoration of a proper relationship between man and God. When this ministry is applied to those who have seen their relationship devastated by sin, it is expressed in two phases, rebuilding and renewal. Re-building calls for reestablishing the limits set by God. Renewal calls for a rededication to the original covenant made with God. These steps happen in logical order with the former leading to the latter. Notice that both involve change in the attitudes and practices that accept sin, and there must be a change in the heart that rejects God’s law.
If you are an intercessor, please understand that what is your burden is someone else’s life. Your burden is the life of those to whom you are called to minister. Because it is the life they are living, your burden to minister to them will be misunderstood and often not appreciated. Because fulfilling the nature of your call requires change in their life, they will often strike a confrontational attitude. You will seldom be able to share the extent of your burden and vision with those on whose behalf you intercede. That’s all right. Share to the extent their attitude allows, and hold the rest in reserve. God will grant you a time to unburden yourself. Be patient.
A minister who was familiar with the practical application and approach I have toward the book of Nehemiah addressed me sincerely and asked a simple question: “How are the walls built?” The answer to this question must begin with the ministry of an intercessor. The walls of Jerusalem would not have been built but for the ministry of Nehemiah. If you are involved in the ministry of reconciliation in any capacity, you are involved in the process of inspiring others to build walls.
Perhaps you are thinking that walls carry a negative connotation, in that walls represent boundaries. That is exactly correct! The reason the city of God lay in ruin and the people of God were in reproach is because they had no boundaries, no controls, no defense against the outside. Many advocate this lack of boundaries and market their philosophy as some sort of liberating magic. I call this the “worship without boundaries” philosophy. More on this thought later.
And so the work of rebuilding begins with the burden of an intercessor. This burden is communicated to God and returns from Him in the form of a call or commission to see others’ lives changed. Intercessors are men and women of intense faith and spiritual vision. They must have both in order to persevere and press forward with certainty and purpose toward their goal. The goal may be unknown or misunderstood by others, but it must certainly be held by the re-builder. The effective communication of certain portions of this vision at appropriate times and in appropriate ways is the tool God uses to inspire and motivate others to move forward. Effective communication alone will not do the trick. It must be effective communication of a God-inspired vision. There is no substitute for a vision from God, divine insight into a situation and its solution. And there is only one place this vision is received on your knees before the God of heaven.
Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).
The Beginning Of A Work For God
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).
The most critical phase of any work for God is the beginning. That is the burden. The burden phase is where a potential worker sees and understands the need and becomes an intercessor.
Without a burden, we may be able to accomplish many things and be used by God in many areas. But one thing is certain, without a burden we will never accomplish through our own lives what God hopes and desires for us to accomplish. The reason that this is a true statement is because without a burden we will never feel as God feels, we will never see things as God sees them, and we will never be led in the ways that God would have us to go.
We see this principle at work in the person of the God/man as He walked our earth. The motivation behind all that the Christ said and did was the burden and passion of the Spirit that dwelt in Him. Because the man Christ Jesus shared the burden of the Father, God’s anointing was able to rest upon Him to do the work of God. This was the stated purpose of the anointing itself to enable Him to accomplish the will of God.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed inc to preach good tidings unto the meek; he bath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound (Isaiah 61:1).
This principle is true in God’s work today. The purpose of God’s anointing is to enable people to accomplish the will of God. But man will never receive the level of anointing required to accomplish a given task if he does not first have a burden that coincides with God’s own burden and desires in that area. God’s anointing is not randomly distributed for any other purpose other than to enable people to accomplish the task of God’s choosing and burden. We will never work as God would work until we can feel as God feels.
We have read the first few verses of the Old Testament book that most perfectly illustrates the entire dynamic of godly service. The book of Nehemiah is an instruction manual on how to go about performing God’s will in your life. Yes, there are many obstacles and hindrances to overcome, yet God never calls without qualifying and then enabling. And so this book conveys to us a report of victory and accomplishment. But we should not be swift to read past what took place in the early verses in our haste to duplicate the achievement embodied in the entire book. Every work, every accomplishment, every victory, and every achievement for God begins with one word, “burden”!
A Burden Results From A Realistic Assessment Of The Situation Before Us
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire (Nehemiah l:l-3).
The Jewish people had been taken captive by Babylon. But in the year 530 BC, the power of Babylon was broken by Persia. As soon as Cyrus the Great received power, he encouraged the Jewish remnant to return to Palestine.
Immediately, fifty thousand of them did return. They set about a huge and intense building project centered upon the ruins of the ancient city of Jerusalem. The first and most important structure to Jewish worship was the temple itself. Work began immediately on the temple.
Sixteen years later, all that existed of the temple was a foundation. Now, a foundation is good, but the foundation is designed to support a structure. Many people treat their walk with God like the returned Jews treated the temple project. They are content to lay a foundation and then proceed to settle down in the Christian life in other ways before they put anything else on the foundation. Praise God that you have been born again, but this is just the foundation! Now, what are you going to build on that foundation?
Under the ministry of Zechariah and Haggai, the work of the temple was finally completed twenty years after it began. Perhaps you noticed that Zechariah was a prophet who emphasized the spiritual aspect and implications of this work, whereas Haggai’s ministry was the exact opposite. Haggai emphasized the practical aspect of everything. If you are going to construct a holy life on the foundation of Truth, you will need to add both practical and spiritual things.
Sixty more years passed, and another group of the remnant returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra, a priest who traced his lineage all the way back to Aaron. His desire was to restore the moral and spiritual condition of the people of God living in the land of promise. His efforts were resisted, and he faced discouragement on every side. Ezra labored at his task for fourteen years. And so it was that over ninety years after the first Jews returned to Jerusalem, the walls were still desolate and the city lay open to any outside attack and influence.
In the year 445 BC, God raised up a man to match the need of the hour. His name was Nehemiah, and he was the king’s cupbearer.
Please make note of a very important concept. At the beginning of the book of Nehemiah, the man of God is forced to take a realistic look at the spiritual landscape. Any burden for the work of God finds its beginning in man’s heart by a realistic evaluation of the situation at hand.
What was the situation? The Jews had struggled for ninety years to reinstitute the worship of God and the Jewish way of life. All that had been accomplished to this point was the completion of a place of worship. The wall was still a pile of rubble, and the gates were nonexistent. Without walls that separate and protect, the worship of God will never be what it should and a godly way of life will not take hold. You may be firmly established in the Truth. You may even be well versed in things beyond the
fundamental Christian doctrine, but if there is no wall of separation from the world, true worship will not flourish, and a victorious Christian life will never be achieved.
One of Nehemiah’s brethren had just returned from a trip to Jerusalem. When asked by Nehemiah the condition of Jewish life in the ancient capital, the report given was not good.
That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire (Nehemiah 1:2-3).
Notice the realistic evaluation of Jewish life, “great affliction and reproach.” They were afflicted because they had no strength to resist. They were a reproach because they were but a shadow of what God desired them to be. Notice the realistic evaluation of the cause of this saddened state “the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.”
A Burden Is Strengthened By Spiritual Understanding Of God’s Feelings
The walls and gates of Zion, God’s holy city, are significant to the Lord. In fact, concerning a more blessed day, the prophet Isaiah had this to say about them:
Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise (Isaiah 60:18).
The walls that surround God’s Zion are called salvation, and the gates through which one enters are called praise. Salvation and worship are the essence of our relationship with the Lord.
How does the Lord feel when His people are in great affliction and are a reproach? How does He feel about the cause of this spiritual situation? Somebody might ask, “But what does it matter if people have the temple completed? They are in God’s Truth and have built something upon that foundation. Why be concerned?” The fact is that as long as there is no wall of separation between the sacred and the profane, the things of God will always be threatened. I refer to those things and ways that God communicates with man as the “things of God.” Because God chooses to speak to man through His Word, prayer, the anointed ministry, etc., these things are sacred and essential to man. Without separation, the people who relate to God through these things will always remain in “great affliction” and be a “reproach” to the rest of the world. This is a true spiritual evaluation of the situation. In order to arrive at a true spiritual evaluation of the situation, the question must be, “How does the Lord feel about this?”
This is where Nehemiah focused his thoughts, and as he dwelt there, his burden grew!
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).
– Have you been there? Let me ask you:
– Does the world around you see a difference between your life and theirs?
– When others look at how you live, do they see no wall of separation, no strength in your position?
– Are you constantly afflicted by your situation in life and feel that there is no strength in you?
– Do you feel that your church lacks power or that you yourself lack the strength and power of God’s Spirit in your everyday life?
– Have you dared to take these observations to the God of heaven and ask how He feels about them?
If you do take these questions to God, you will find that the Lord is very grieved by this kind of situation. A burden is born by a realistic evaluation of our condition. And that burden is strengthened by a spiritual understanding of how God feels.
A Burden Is Personalized By Mature Acceptance Of Our Own Responsibility
Nehemiah was so disturbed and burdened by these things that he began intercessory prayer.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, 0 LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned (Nehemiah 1:4-6).
Notice that intercessory prayer born of a burden is instant (“now”) and continuous (“day and night”). If our hearts are not moved and melted in prayer first, we will never have the moral conviction to move others for God.
I hope that you have not missed the mature acceptance of responsibility that Nehemiah expressed in his prayer.
…confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned (Nehemiah 1:6).
Man’s burden moves to the next level when he is able in prayer to accept even partial responsibility for the situation. You will never be able to lead others to true repentance if you are unwilling to go there yourself.
Nehemiah’s repentance was complete.
We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses (Nehemiah 1:7).
Complete repentance acknowledges complete failure of God’s ordinances on all levels:
– We stand guilty of failure in relation to God’s moral law “commandments.”
– We stand guilty of failure in relation to our role in worship “the statutes.”
– We stand guilty of failure in relation to how we deal with each other “the judgments.”
Our failure, when compared to God’s perfect standard, is total and complete!
A Burden Is Accepted By Sacrificial Consecration Of Our Own Lives
Nehemiah is careful not to boast about the duration of his intercession. The duration of intercession is not important; being effective in our intercession is. We read that Nehemiah wept, mourned, and fasted “certain days.” But somehow in that time of intercession, after accepting personal responsibility for failure, Nehemiah also accepted a call to personal responsibility for change.
0 Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11).
Somewhere in prayer, the burden that brought Nehemiah to his knees became the burden that motivated him to rise up and act. A prayer of intercession became a prayer of repentance. And a prayer of repentance became a prayer for enablement.
The final act in the beginning of a work for God is when we accept the burden God has given us by the consecration of our own lives. In the fine work titled Handfuls on Purpose, James Smith writes, “The work of God starts on our knees, the burden is laid upon us as we bow down.” We rise from our consecration with something that God has put in our hearts. Somewhere between his prayer and his arrival in Jerusalem, God put a plan of action in Nehemiah’s heart. We know this from Nehemiah’s own statement later about this plan:
And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem… (Nehemiah 2:12).
And someone here may ask, “What has all this to do with me?” Let me ask you, hasn’t God put something in your heart to do? If so, how long has it been since that burden drove you to your knees and from your knees to your feet to act? If God has not placed a plan of action in your heart, how long will you avoid a realistic view of the landscape around you?
There is much to be accomplished for God. Pause and take in the situation around you. Are you satisfied with your own spiritual condition? Are you satisfied with the condition of your family, your church, your community? If not, perhaps the Lord is calling you to bow down and accept a burden. Anything that is ever accomplished for Him will begin with a burden.
The city of God is your relationship with the Lord. Walls and gates represent salvation and worship. A city without walls is a relationship that has suffered God’s judgment as the result of sin. This condition is one of desolation and causes despair. It results in a culture of failure and a cycle of futility. Apathy rules the day. Often this condition becomes a problem that is transmitted to the next generation.
Apathy produces a tremendous temptation to settle for less than God’s perfect will. This is the essence of the “worship without boundaries” philosophy. This philosophy is a symptom of a much larger problem.
Those caught in this cycle of futility seldom are able to recover without help. They need an intercessor to bring them a vision from God. The ministry of an intercessor begins with a burden and leads to a call. The development from a burden to a call takes place in an environment of intercessory prayer.
The article “The Need For An Intercessor” written by Nevin Bass is excerpted from Building God’s Wall: Reclaiming Your Spiritual High Ground written by Nevin Bass with a Forward by T. F. Tenney.