After over four months of weeping, fasting, and praying, the Lord gives Nehemiah an open door to talk with Artaxerxes about rebuilding Jersualem. During all this time, Nehemiah kept secret his mourning and showed himself a joyful servant every day. On this day, however, he comes before the king noticeably distressed. The king takes immediate notice and asks him what is wrong. Nehemiah becomes “very sore afraid.”
This is not a lack of faith on Nehemiah’s part. Remember, Nehemiah is basically part of the ancient secret service. His job was to protect the king from poison by tasting his wine. If this agent, who is supposed to be protecting the king, suddenly looks depressed or nervous it would alert the king of possible danger, possibly even from Nehemiah himself. The king could banish Nehemiah or have him killed immediately! Rather than this being a moment of lapsing in faith and being afraid, it is an example of one of the purposes of faith in strengthening you with courage despite the fear. Nehemiah’s faith helps him overcome the fear and speak to the king.
“Let the king live forever”
He begins his speech by showing due honor to the civil authority over him. According to Romans Chapter 13, we are to be subject to higher powers, and, when those powers do not command us to violate the word of God, we are to show them respect and obedience. Nehemiah then describes why he is so distressed. His homeland is a wasteland and his fellow countrymen are mocked and in danger every day. Here is the pinnacle moment of the conversation. The king could, at worst, laugh at his calamity and have him killed. Or, the king could allow Nehemiah to make a request. The latter is not likely given the position of the king, but this is the very moment of mercy that Nehemiah had prayed for at the end of Chapter 1.
The king’s heart is in the hand of God (as all are) and the Lord grants mercy to Nehemiah. The king asks Nehemiah what he would like to do. Nehemiah had been praying about this for over four months. There is no doubt he knew exactly what he needed to do. He could have immediately listed his entire plan to the king, but he doesn’t. He does something else first. Nehemiah prays. He had been praying for months, but he prays one more time. This time he prays in the presence of the king. This is the moment of truth for Nehemiah. He does not trust himself. His faith leans on God who gave it to him, and so, he prays.
“So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
The story of Nehemiah has spiritual application to us. We need to rebuild various parts of our lives and draw closer to Christ. In this account, we learn that there will be times that we are afraid and face grave danger. That is when we need to remember our God-given faith, and press on, always remembering to keep the conversation with God open through prayer.
- Voluntary Servitude (nehemiahpb.wordpress.com)
- Bad News From The Homefront (nehemiahpb.wordpress.com)