Rebuilding. Because we live in a fallen world, things fall apart easily. It could be a career, home, relationship, town, you name it. Nehemiah is blessed as he has the ear of the King of Persia. When God puts a calling on his heart, he risks it all to obey. Would you? Let’s dig in…
Nehemiah 1 – Concern for Jerusalem
These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.
In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. 5 Then I said,
“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then 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.’
10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.Nehemiah 1 NLT
Nehemiah 2 – Nehemiah Goes to Jerusalem
Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.
7 I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. 8 And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.
9 When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Wall
11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.
16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.
They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.
19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked.
20 I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”Nehemiah 2 NLT
- The year is 446 BC, and Nehemiah is the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes. It was his duty to taste the wine or other beverage before the king drank, just in case it was poisoned.
- He was a trusted servant of the king. He had to be. He was taking his life into his hands each time he tasted the drink. It’s not like the people could elected someone else if they didn’t like their ruler. No, they had to wait until his death. Hence, it was Nehemiah’s job to protect the king against poisoning.
- When Nehemiah heard the bad report from Jerusalem he fasted and fervently prayed. He…
- Praised God
- Confessed the sins of himself and his family as well as the people
- Reminded God of his promise to bring the people back from exile
- Asked God to grant him success
- He was patient and waited on God to provide what he needed. It was 4 months from when he heard the news to when he left.
- Asking the king for time off was risky, never mind asking him for letters, financial support to purchase building materials, and an armed escort.
- No one in the king’s court was ever allowed to be sad. Nevertheless, Nehemiah couldn’t help being sad after he heard the news.
- Notice the short prayer Nehemiah prayed before answering the king. Pastor Sandy Adams commented: “It’s not the length of a prayer, but the strength of the prayer that counts.”
- How God answered Nehemiah’s prayers…
- He softened the king’s heart
- The king allowed Nehemiah to go back to Jerusalem
- The king provided what Nehemiah needed
- Note that when the king asks Nehemiah how long he’d be gone, we don’t know the answer. Does he go back to serve the pagan king? Hmm… we’ll find out.
As you can see by the image above of the Dung Gate, the gates were huge. The original ones, made of wood, were burned in the final Babylonian destruction of the city and the temple.
Nehemiah had a huge task ahead of him. Furthermore, he knew he was going to face opposition. Many times, when we have a huge task in front of us, we can’t see the real problem. It could be hidden by symptoms, pain, panic or even fear. That’s when prayer comes in. You can pray, God…
- Grant me/us success
- Grant me/us favor
- I/we commit this task to you
- Guide me/us through this task
Paul wrote some great advice on prayer…
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:4-7 NIV
What is God calling YOU to do? Will you go?
Where is the Gospel?
Since creation, it has always been God’s plan to have a home where he can live with us (Exodus 29:45). That’s what the garden of Eden was—a home for God and his people. But just as it happened in the garden, God’s people disobey and are separated from their home with God (Genesis 3:24). Exile isn’t just a political term, it’s a spiritual reality.
But God has made gracious promises to bring his people out of exile and back to himself. He even promises to transform the ruins of Israel back into a new garden of Eden (Ezekiel 36:35). But these promises can only come true when someone like Nehemiah is willing to intercede and obey on behalf of people who won’t and can’t. That leader is Jesus. Jesus is the leader who can fulfill all of God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).
As Nehemiah interceded for the exiles, Jesus intercedes for us (Romans 8:34). As Nehemiah obeyed on behalf of his people, Jesus fulfills the law for us (Matthew 5:17). Like Nehemiah, Jesus sacrificed his high position to save his needy people (Philippians 2:6-7). And just as God’s hand rested on the king of Persia to provide protection and provision for Nehemiah and God’s people, God’s hand rested on the authorities of Jesus’ day. God protected and provided a home for his people, not with money, but at the cost of his own Son (Acts 2:23).
Willingly, Jesus gave up his authority to give us a home. Sacrificially, Jesus gave up his life to free us from our exile. Perfectly, he obeyed to death so that by faith we can live as righteous natives in a new garden of Eden (Romans 4:24). Jesus is the leader our exiled hearts need. Trust him and soon you will be home.Spoken Gospel
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion! He died so He could have a Personal Relationship with YOU!
What are you waiting for?