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The rebuilding of Jerusalem started when Nehemiah began fasting and praying for God to make a way for him to go and repair the city’s wall and gates. They were not merely broken; they were heaps of burned rubble that had been untouched for decades.
When his work began, the enemy was quick to arrive. Have you ever noticed that? It seems like any time you get direction from the Lord for a particular work that He wants accomplished, the enemy stirs up “troublesome times.”
Remember: The focus of the enemy is always to cause the work of God to cease! In Nehemiah’s case, the attacks started with angry ridicule to cause the people of Jerusalem to doubt their feeble abilities. Sound familiar? Have you ever set out to do something for the Lord, and circumstances or criticism had you doubting yourself before you could even get started? Fast, pray and press on with the work God has called you to do.
Of course, when ridicule didn’t stop the work, the enemy threatened to fight against the people of Jerusalem. But Nehemiah remained more impressed with God’s promises than he was by the enemy’s threats. He had spent time getting the heart of God on the task and knew what he was there to do. Instead of becoming discouraged, he armed some of the men for battle as they built the wall and kept going.
When the threats didn’t slow down the rebuilding, the enemy plotted to sneak inside the city, saying, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease” (Neh. 4:11). Nehemiah rallied the people not to fall for that threat either, and the rebuilding continued.
Encouraged by the success of the wall being restored, Israelites who had been scattered far and wide for years began to make their way back to Jerusalem. Many who had been born in captivity needed to learn the ways of God, so they gathered daily to hear Ezra read from the Bible. They joyously celebrated their first feast together after the walls were rebuilt, the Feast of Tabernacles.
At the end of the weeklong celebration, they called a solemn assembly on the eighth day to fast and pray. “The children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God” (Neh. 9:1–3).
The Feast and the fast that followed were ordained by God and had a lasting impact on the reformation of Jerusalem. There are several elements in this fast that we can glean from to “supercharge” our own season of fasting and consecration:
Assemble—The first element of this fast was that all the people stopped what they were doing and came together in common unity, with a common purpose. When you gather with other believers, even if it is just a couple of friends whom you ask to fast with you about an issue, it is powerful. Plug in with other believers when you are fasting and praying for a situation.
Separate—The Israelites separated themselves from others in the land, those who did not follow the Lord. They needed to come away from outside influences that would have hindered their consecration to the Lord. In the same way, it is important to separate yourself from the things of this world. What good is “not eating” if you are still spending hours with your eyes glued to the TV and ears filled with ungodly music? Your spirit becomes especially open during a fast. You are open to whatever you are feeding your spirit—the things of God as well as ungodly things.
Confess—Notice, “they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (Neh. 9:2). When you begin to fast, begin to repent. God will bring sins and iniquities to your attention as you fast and pray—times you’ve compromised, words you’ve spoken, your attitudes and actions that aren’t rooted in His love, people you have wronged. As you fast, be quick to repent of things that come to mind.
The Word—When you fast, you empty yourself. When you repent, you empty yourself. You need to fill those voids with the Word of God. Notice that they “stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day” (Neh. 9:3). As they fasted, they gathered to hear the Word of God read. Faith comes by hearing the Word! When you fast, read your Bible.
Worship—Finally it says, “For another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God” (Neh. 9:3). They had assembled together, they separated from ungodly influences, they confessed their sins, and for half the day they read God’s Word, confessed and worshipped. For clarity, confessed in this instance refers to confessing the greatness of God. While you’re fasting, always confess the truths and promises of God over yourself and your family. Worship is critical during a fast.
As the church, the people of God, it is time to shake off the restraints of “political correctness” when it comes to passion for the Lord. God is not moved by political correctness; He is moved by our passion for Him.
As a nation, we need to take seriously the warnings of God. He will send relief when His people do their part to humble themselves with fasting and prayer, seeking His face. We need to assemble, to consecrate ourselves from worldly distractions, confess our sins and the sins of our nation, dig deeply into God’s Word, and worship Him with passion and praise!
Jentezen Franklin is the senior pastor at Free Chapel in Gainesville, Ga., and Orange County, Calif. He is an author and hosts a weekly TV program, Kingdom Connection. His latest book is The Fasting Edge (Charisma House), from which this article is adapted. His other books include Fasting and Believe That You Can (both Charisma House).
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