Nehemiah’s Three Requests of King Artaxerxes
“And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.” – Nehemiah 2:5-8
Nehemiah asks for a leave of absence to travel back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. This is not simply asking for a few weekends off. It was at least a four-month trip by foot one-way! Not to mention that he would need to gather supplies, build the wall, and then return to Persia. 5:14 shows us that he was gone about twelve years! This is a huge request.
Nehemiah asks for letters granting him safe passage through all the king’s territories. On the surface, this would seem like a small request. But we need to remember that Persia did not rule like Babylon. The society was more open and not under direct military control. There were many nations that hated Israel between Sisera and Jerusalem. Ezra made a similar request upon his return, and this request was answered in the same way. Nehemiah got a military escort for the trip!
Nehemiah’s final request was the most bold. He asks for supplies to rebuild the walls and gate of the city, and for his own house. This request might be the most dangerous of all because it was not just a financial decision, it was a political one. About thirteen years prior, Artaxerxes had given Ezra a lot of money to rebuild the temple (Ezra 7:11-26). Since then, the enemies of Israel had pressured him into changing his foreign policy about Israel and not help them. Nehemiah is asking the king to change his policies again! He is asking him to look like he is waffling!
Basically, Nehemiah has asked for an almost indefinite leave of absence, a military escort, and the king’s credit card. He has asked for all of this with the king getting nothing in return. What would you say if you were Artaxerxes?
The king’s answer is amazing. The king granted Nehemiah everything he asked for!
The spiritual application from this story teaches us several things. We are to pray before we act, and pray while we act. Once we have determined the will of God, we are to act courageously and overcome our fears. If we act in faith, God will move kings’ hearts to grant us everything we need.