A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
The book bearing Nehemiah’s name also contains his words. Although authored by God, we have a very unique perspective on the history of rebuilding the wall because Nehemiah records the details (at the direction of the Lord) as he lives through them. Thus we have great insight into his character and concerns. We initially see him serving in the palace, but he makes no mention of the position to which he has risen in the kingdom. Although he had risen to this trusted and influential position as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, we see that his heart remained concerned with the welfare of God’s people. As soon as his brother Hanani arrives he asks concerning the welfare of God’s people.
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,
2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.
3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah was not preoccupied with trivial matters. He wasted no time, but asked immediately about the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and about Jerusalem. He was committed to and concerned about his brethren. When Nehemiah heard the report of the affliction and reproach of God’s people and the devastation of the city’s wall and gates, he sat down and wept, and mourned certain days. He was greatly troubled by what he heard, and he fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.
In the first four verses of Nehemiah we find the place where Nehemiah’s passion and the need of God’s people meet. Nehemiah was now both concerned and informed, and it is time for evaluation. He had learned the harsh reality of life for God’s people, and now what was next? What was he to do about the situation? What was God asking of him?
This was no frivolous matter. These were life-defining and life-changing moments. This was something Nehemiah had to meet head-on. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for guidance to correct the evil that devastated his homeland. By piecing together the evidence and considering various scenarios, he began to formulate a plan. Nehemiah not only recognized the problem, he identified with it. It was not just their problem; it became his problem, too.
Nehemiah was called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but first he wept over the ruins. To get the job done God was going to need a leader, a servant leader, willing to sacrifice his own personal ease and comfort. Nehemiah was the man for the moment. Times like these demands the best we have to offer and Nehemiah was willing to offer his best. This God ordained mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem had captured Nehemiah’s imagination. It was something he knew he needed to do.
Nehemiah’s response to the news was like the response of God’s people in Psalms 137.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?
5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Nehemiah did not forget Jerusalem either, and God was calling him to do something about it. Nehemiah seemed destined to lead. He was the man for the moment… a plain ordinary man highly motivated.
By Wayne Clapp