MITRA: Nehemiah: A visionary prophet
Had he lived in our day, Nehemiah would not perhaps be accepted by network TV.
This is because he had the moral and intellectual capacities to ponder over matters and speak critically about them.
His life and ministry could be studied under different topics. He analyzed the issues of his day, prayed over them and, with a resolute determination, brought himself up to take action.
Above everything else, Nehemiah was a man of vision. But, before we go any further, we need to understand what vision is.
The dictionary definition is “Looking ahead to that which can be seen by the mind’s eyes or power of imagination. “
The life of Nehemiah was dominated by a passion, a desire, a burning zeal.
His zeal was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, besides many other concerns with which he associated himself.
When we think of vision, several phrases come to mind which may give various shades to the meaning of this word: The dominant thought and overwhelming ideal, a superhuman task, a burning zeal and God-given burden.
There are several biblical understandings of the word “vision.: Prov. 29:18 reads: “Where there is no vision, people perish.”
The Living Bible paraphrases: “Where there is ignorance of God, the people run wild.”
And Today’s English Version Bible says: “A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order.”
Vision is the normal word for prophetic revelation. From the various versions above, we get a beautiful variety of meanings of the word. All the shades of meaning go together to sum up Nehemiah was a man of vision.
He carried within himself a clear knowledge of the will of God, which he endeavoured to learn by keeping himself in constant and close touch with God in unbroken fellowship through prayer.
What happens in the absence of vision?
The next part of the verse says people cast off restraint, run wild and go without order. The same word in Hebrews is used in Exodus 32:25 to denote nakedness.
The affair of the golden calf is an historical illustration of the meaning of the verse. Moses was away from his people and there was a cessation of prophetic ministry.
The Israelites made a golden calf and danced naked before it.
This leads us to consider what we see today in many parts of the world, including our own nation, especially in the big cities.
The scene around the golden calf is being enacted in modern ways in terms of sex, drugs, violence, crimes and what-not.
TV, cinema, cyberspace, and literature are all making significant contributions to the evils of society.
When we read 2 Timothy 3, it looks as though we are re-reading today’s newspapers.
All these are the evil manifestations of a system devoid of the prophetic ministry of the Word of God.
The biblical understanding of prophetic ministry is understanding the mind of God as revealed in scripture and expounding it under the authority of the Holy Spirit.
Here is a saying worthy of meditation: A vision without task makes a visionary/A task without a vision is a drudgery/ A vision with a task makes a missionary.
What was Nehemiah’s vision?
He was a bartender to his king, in a position of trust. He was living in the palace, in the very lap of luxury.
There was no reason for him to be unhappy.
But, the message he heard about Jerusalem and the Jews from a messenger distressed his heart and the vision he was carrying for them.
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept,” said he.
Here we come across a man whose heart is not set on personal promotion, future prospects of life or personal gain.
Church history is full of men and women of vision.
When we look around the situation in our country — in the religious, social and political arenas — we see a dearth of such men and women. Our present situation is calling for people who will take stock of the national pulse and take action for God and His glory.
We need to be deeply ashamed of what we see in our churches and nation these days.
The times are calling for men and women of vision who know their God, who will exhibit moral and spiritual strength and take action for Him.
Narayan Mitra is a chaplain
at Thompson Rivers University.