We have seen Nehemiah moved by bad news from Judah. We have seen Nehemiah break down and mourn for his people. We have seen him fasting and praying.
In chapter 2 we see the results of his time of preparation. We see that for four months he has been not only fasting and praying, but also planning to do something about the dire situation in Jerusalem. We see that a plan had formed and that he had done some research as well.
Nehemiah “appeared sad” in King Artaxertes’ presence. Whether he was just exhausted from all that had been going on in his mind, or whether he just slipped in front of the King, either way, the King noticed that his servant was sad and asked about the reason. Verse 2 states that Nehemiah was terrified. It was very dangerous for a servant to show any emotions in front of the King. But since it had happened, Nehemiah had to answer the King. Once the King heard of the problem, he asked ,“Well, how can I help you?” (Nehemiah 2:4)
“With a prayer to the God of heaven” (verse 4) Nehemiah replied and brought his request before the King. He showed enormous courage, and once his initial request was granted, Nehemiah got even bolder and added some more requests. He probably thought, “Well, I’ve got his favor already, I might as well ask for the rest!” This shows even more courage. He received what he had asked for: letters from the King to the governors of the territories that Nehemiah would have to pass through on his way to Jerusalem; a letter to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest with a permission for timber. And then we see that the King gave him even more than he asked: he also got army officers and horsemen for his protection on his journey. He must have looked very official when he arrived in Jerusalem with all the permission letters and an army escort.
In verse 8 Nehemiah doesn’t take credit for his cleverness and courage to have received this much from the King. No, he gives credit to God. “And the king granted those requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.” “Nehemiah had position, power, and many good organizational skills, but he acknowledged that God’s gracious hand was upon him. He knew that without God’s strength, his efforts would be in vain.” (f)
I love to organize events. And I am good at it. But I’ve got to learn a lot from Nehemiah. He spent 4 months in fasting and prayer and did his research. He had 4 months of preparation before he took the first step. Once the opportunity was there, he was ready with an answer. And yes, even there, he first sent a prayer, before he answered the King. “This short prayer – whatever its unvoiced words – was built on his praying for four months.” (a) (emphasis mine)
When I think about the Women’s Bible studies that we’ve been organizing, we pray as a team and individually for women to come and sign up. We especially would like to see more women from our own church come and participate in these studies. Often I get discouraged by the disinterest and the comments I hear. And yes, sometimes I even get ridiculed for my passion to see women in the Word of God.
I wonder if Nehemiah knew what he got himself into. Or better said, what God got him into. I wonder if Nehemiah knew the opposition he would have to face. In chapter 2 we see opposition from outside. But later on we will see also some opposition from inside the ranks ofhis people.
When I look at Nehemiah and his leadership skills, I can see that he had the faith to wait and pray. He had the faith to speak up and answer the King truthfully, and then of course, ask the King for the favors he needed. But we also see Nehemiah’s faith when he engages the people of Israel in his plan. “A wise leader knows when to plan, when to speak, and when to work… Leaders must not live in a dream world. They must face facts honestly and accept the bad news as well as the good news. Nehemiah saw more at night than the residents saw in the daylight, for he saw the potential as well as the problems.” (e)
Does opposition scare me? Do I give in to the comments and ridicule I receive? Do I give in when things are just not working out and it seems pointless to continue? Am I afraid of what people might think? Am I certain of my calling, and am I faithful to what God has called me to do? These are all questions I have been asking myself when reading through Nehemiah, chapter 2.
The one main thing from this chapter that I want to remember is this: Everything I want to do has to start with a time of prayer (and fasting, yes, that too!) and a time of preparation.
“When you wait on the Lord in prayer, you are not wasting your time; you are investing it. God preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished. However, when the right time arrives for us to act by faith, we dare not delay.” (e)
Have a great week everyone!
(a) Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck
(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”
(f) Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation