by Christopher Harbin

Beginning With Tears
Christopher B. Harbin
Nehemiah 1:1-11

Tears come at many times in life, often unexpectedly. We may shed tears of joy, fear, anxiety, shame, sadness, confusion, pain, or simply due to some foreign matter entering our eyes. Tears may be cathartic, helping us process tragedy and work through some element of pain or loss. Similarly, they may mark a transition point in our lives, signaling or preparing us to move ahead into a change of course. While we may not always know what to do with our tears or process what they mean, we can take stock of the situation and determine how we will move forward. We can allow our tears to become catalysts for change, although we can also simply dwell on our tears and do nothing with them.

Nehemiah was moved to tears upon hearing of the conditions in his homeland. He had been away from Jerusalem for some time and some new catastrophe had recently befallen the Jews left behind in the exile. It was, after all, only the princely, the powerful, the wealthy, the influential, and the educated, those who were deemed important by Babylon, who had been carted off in exile. The working poor had been left behind to tend fields and perform other tasks of menial labor for Babylon's benefit. With the more natural leadership removed, these were not considered a threat to the conquering force. To put it another way, they were already the victims of a society and knew their place of subservience. That made them more amenable to the desires and objectives of Babylon.

He belonged to the upper crust of Jerusalem society. He had been important enough for Babylon to have cared to cart him away with his family. He had been assimilated into the heart of the empire, kept under close watch by the controlling power structures. That journey had begun some forty years past, and Nehemiah found himself in the very midst of court life in Susa, a regional capital in the eastern portion of the Babylonian Empire. It is in that context that ...

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