I’ve read Nehemiah before, but did so in the context of how this Biblical story fit in with the rest of ancient history. Reading it now, I’m impressed by the story of Nehemiah the man. The intro for this was shared in Part 1 (see post below). We’ll proceed now with Nehemiah’s story, taken from the first chapter, NLT.
Nehemiah was leading a good life in Persia when he was visited by his brother who had just been to Judah. Nehemiah asked how things were in Jerusalem and was very distressed and concerned to hear that the Temple had been rebuilt, but there were no walls around the city. Consequently, the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem were not doing well. They were unprotected and in a state of ‘disgrace’.
Nehemiah was so grieved to hear this that he sat down and wept. For days he mourned, fasted, and prayed, humbling himself before the Lord and seeking God’s help for the situation of the people of Jerusalem. He then claimed scripture from the teachings of Moses: Deuteronomy 9:5, “But if you return to me and obey my commands, even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.” Nehemiah continued praying and closed by asking God to grant him success when he would go before the king to ask for a favor, and sought God to ‘put it in the king’s heart to be kind’ to Nehemiah. This happened in late autumn.
Chapter 2: In the following spring, the king expressed concern for Nehemiah (cup-bearer to the king) because he did not look well. Nehemiah was frightened by the king’s query, but found the courage to share his worries about his people and the state of Jerusalem. The king asked how he could help. It is written in Nehemiah that, “With a prayer to the God of heaven”, he replied by asking the king to send him to Judah to rebuild the city of his ancestors.
The king and queen agreed to his request, so he went on to ask for letters for the rulers of the lands upon which he’d travel, asking them to grant him protection and safety. Nehemiah also asked the king to instruct the manager of the king’s forest to give him timber for his building projects. Nehemiah says (2:8), “And the king granted these requests because the gracious hand of God was on me.”
Nehemiah made the long journey to Jerusalem. I think I read somewhere that he traveled for three months! After arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah secretly slipped out to survey the damage and condition of the city’s ruins. By his descriptions we have a detailed account of what the city was like. The map in my Bible looks like a footprint to me. I find this interesting because it’s as if God left His footprint on His chosen city, Jerusalem.
After investigating the city’s ruins, Nehemiah approached the city officials to ask them if the walls could be rebuilt. Jerusalem’s leaders were very supportive of Nehemiah’s efforts. However, the leaders of surrounding lands resented his ideas because they felt threatened by him. They tried to discourage Nehemiah, but he replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed…”, 2:20.
We’ve only covered two chapters so far and already Nehemiah is proving himself to be good and godly man.
Q) What was the first thing Nehemiah did when he heard the bad news about Jerusalem and the state of his people?
A) He prayed.
Q) When the king frightened him by taking notice of his condition, what did Nehemiah do before making his request of the king?
A) He prayed.
Q) It was spring when this conversation took place with the king. How much time had passed since Nehemiah first prayed and asked for God’s grace to help him approach the king to ask a favor?
A) Approx 6 months since the story began in late fall. Nehemiah had waited MONTHS for God to indicate the proper time to go before the king to ask for his help. Could you wait upon the Lord that long?
Q) When the king granted Nehemiah’s requests, what was Nehemiah’s response?
A) In verse 2:8, he gives the credit to God.
Q) What was Nehemiah’s response to those who opposed him?
A) That “the God of heaven would help them succeed”. 2:20
Q) How could Nehemiah answer his oppononents so boldly and confidently?
A) Because he had been praying about this situation for months and knew he was in God’s favor.
Nehemiah must have been very pleasing to God. He seemed to pray about everything; sought God’s will; waited for God’s direction before moving forward; and continued to give God all the credit and glory for the good he encountered.
In Part 1 of my Nehemiah writings I asked if you would be willing to pursue a project for the Lord despite the inevitable unknowns. Do you have a project looming before you? Something God is calling you to do? If so, I hope you’ll take notes from Nehemiah’s successes and seek first to please God by praying to Him, obeying Him, and honoring Him. You, too, will be blessed with those who support you; and you will be able to boldly and confidently stand up to your opposers with the grace of God on your side.
If you’d like to join me in reading the Book of Nehemiah from the Old Testament, I’ll be continuing with chapter 3.
Blessings to all,