Last night I read Nehemiah and decided to just note a few things about this great man of God. I’m writing these mainly as a reminder to myself what a servant should look like, particularly in times of difficulty.
1) Nehemiah had a heart and burden for others – We find out quickly in the account of Nehemiah that he was a man burdened by the circumstances around him and of his own brothers and sisters. In chapter 1, we’re told that Nehemiah is in the city of Susa, and while there he is informed of what has happened in his beloved Jerusalem. The men and women who’ve returned from exile are struggling – badly – and the physical surroundings there are in shambles. Nehemiah is so troubled by this news that he responds in 1:4, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” As cupbearer to the king, Nehemiah enjoyed a position of some status, but he still identified primarily with his fellow countrymen. I read this and realize my own eyes are not open as wide as they should be. As we look around, it does not take long to find brokenness and hurt in the world around us. Often times though I have such tunnel vision of my own weekly schedule and my own comfort that these images just flash across my mind and then disappear as quickly as they entered in. Matthew Henry comments that, “Nehemiah lived at ease, and in honour, but does not forget that he is an Israelite, and that his brethren are in distress.” I would do well to remember the same.
2) Nehemiah sought God in prayer as he faced great decisions – Nehemiah is entering the presence of the king in chapter 2, with the news of his brothers & sisters weighing heavily on him. At that time, it could be considered a serious offense to be in a sad condition while in the presence of the king. When the king asked Nehemiah what he needed, Nehemiah did not answer immediately, but sought God first in prayer (2:4) – “Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Nehemiah knew the correct order of who was most likely to give him what was needed. He did not neglect to ask for the earthly provisions that the king could grant, but his first instinct was to turn to the ultimate Provider. Another good reminder.
3) Nehemiah lived with purpose – To put it mildly, as Nehemiah set out to rebuild the wall, he met with some resistance. The Abbott and Costello of their day – Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite – made sure to discourage Nehemiah and make his life uncomfortable while the rebuilding was taking place. But dealing with these clowns did not send Nehemiah off on a permanent detour. They attempted to ridicule and even harm Nehemiah, but Nehemiah’s focus and faith in God ultimately prevailed (6:15-16) – “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” We are so distracted these days, and can easily get sidetracked and discouraged. Nehemiah’s burden was great, but his efforts were strengthened throughout by God, as he kept going straight ahead until the task was complete. “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” – Proverbs 4:27
4) Nehemiah lived above reproach – Rebuilding a wall of that magnitude in a span of just 52 days was quite a feat. We could have expected Nehemiah to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor, and many of his fellow workers probably would have agreed. Nehemiah would have none of it however. He admonished the officials who heavy taxes and burdens on their brothers & sisters (5:1-14), and when the time came for Nehemiah to be fed like a king as “governor”, he declined (5:18) – “Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people.” Unlike the officials he scolded, Nehemiah could live with a clear conscience in how he treated his fellow brothers & sisters. Can I ?
*** to be continued ***