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I, Nehemiah, am the son of Hacaliah. These are my words. They tell my story. During the winter month of Chislev in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I’s reign, I was in the fortress of Susa when one of my brothers, Hanani, came from Judah along with some other men. I asked them about those Jews who had escaped—who had survived the exile—and about our city, Jerusalem.

Hanani and the Judean Men (to Nehemiah): It’s a disaster. The survivors of the exile who are in the Persian province of Jerusalem have been wronged and are hated. The wall of Jerusalem has been reduced to piles of rock, and its gates consumed by flame.

Hearing this, I was overwhelmed with grief and could only sit and weep. For days I mourned this news and sought the audience of the True God of heaven, praying and fasting before Him.

Nehemiah: Notice me—Eternal One, God of heaven, great and awesome God. You are the keeper of the covenant and loyally love those who love You and follow Your commands. Now, pay attention with open ears and eyes to me and see how I, Your servant, plead day and night for Your consideration. I confess our wickedness, not just for Your servants the children of Israel, but for my family and the household of my father, Hacaliah. We have acted extremely wickedly toward You. We have rejected Your commands, disregarding the regulations and judgments You gave to Your servant Moses to show us how to live. I ask that You remember Your words to Your servant Moses, even when we did not. You told him, “If you are unfaithful to Me and choose another, then I will send you away and you will live separate from Meyou will live as aliens in strange lands; but if you have a change of heart and return to Me and walk according to My commands, then no matter how far you have gone, even to the places beyond the horizon, I will gather you and bring you to the place of My choosing, where My very name dwells.” 10 They are Yours, God—they are Your servants; they are Your people whom You liberated from the exile by Your initiative and power. 11 O Lord, hear Your servant praying to You and pay attention, and not just to my prayers but also to the prayers of these very Jews whose greatest joy is to live in fear and awe of You.

I am asking for success today, God; please make sure this man is compassionate to me, Your servant.

In that day, I was cupbearer to the king.

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