Nehemiah. Man of Action
God Prepares the Way for Nehemiah.
1 And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King
Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.
2 Therefore the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." So I became dreadfully afraid,
3 and said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?"
4 Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven.
5 And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it."
6 Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), "How long will your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
7 Furthermore I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah,
8 and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me
timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy." And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.
9 Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.
11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days.
12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode.
13 And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire.
14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass.
15 So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.
16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.
17 Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of
Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach."
18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and
Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?"
20 So I answered them, and said to them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."
V1 And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.
The first interesting thing about this chapter is the fact that the date is recorded. Why would that be?
Well! we could say that God was showing us that Nehemiah spent four months from the month of Chislev to the month of Nisan, fasting and praying. We see in chapter 1 of Nehemiah, that Nehemiah was a willing servant of God. He was praying, for four months. He was praying, “Lord only You can sort this but You can use me”.
However, more important than this is the fact that it proves the hand of God on His Word.
Prophecy is true, and true prophecy is fulfilled 100%.
Not like some of the so called prophets of today, who prophecy something is going to happen and then nothing happens, therefore proving a false prophet.
Deut 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not
spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
God records here, the exact dates.
Daniel 9:25 says that exactly 173,880 days from this day – which was March 14, 445 B.C. – Messiah the prince would be presented to Israel.
Dan 9:25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Sir Robert Anderson, the eminent British astronomer and mathematician, makes a strong case that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy exactly, to the day, entering Jerusalem on A.D. April 6, 32, precisely 173,880 days from Nehemiah 2:1.
Quote from Sir Robert Anderson:
"The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th April, A.D. 32. What then was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the public advent of 'Messiah the Prince,' -- between the 14th March, B.C. 445, and the 6th April, A.D. 32? THE INTERVAL
CONTAINED EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173,880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS, the first sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel's prophecy."
Four months after receiving the news from Jerusalem. Having sought God and being willing to be the one to move, Nehemiah went in to the king.
In Nehemiah Ch1, we were told that he was the king’s cupbearer.
This was a very trusted position and rightly so. The cupbearer was a personal bodyguard to the king, being the one who tasted wine and food before the king did – making certain no one could poison the king.
Nehemiah was an important man in an important position.
Now, no one wants someone working closely to them who has a sad countenance.
It is same in the office or in the work place. You often hear people comments, “he or she is a miserable so and so”.
We like to have smiling people around us.
Nehemiah V2 Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.” So I became dreadfully afraid,
Maybe this was not acceptable in the presence of a king. To be in the presence of the king was supposed to be a wonderful honour that should bring gladness not sadness. This could have been seen as a disservice to the king. Whether it was or not, Nehemiah became dreadfully afraid.
However the king did not act with disfavour towards Nehemiah.
Obviously God had prepared the ground for his servant.
This is how we should pray concerning our evangelism or anything that we are contemplating for the Lord. Prayer and evangelism, or any work of the Lord, go together.
This is how we should pray too, “Lord prepare the way before me, open the doors, prepare the hearts of those that I am to approach or to share the Gospel with”.
Then we can step out in confidence knowing that God by His Holy Spirit has gone before us.
We see in the next verses how God had prepared the way for Nehemiah to share his burden with the king.
Nehemiah 2:3 and said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?"
This was Nehemiah stepping out in faith with honesty.
How often do we, when asked how are we, waffle and lie. Oh, I’m OK.
I know that sometimes, they don’t often mean it and are not really concerned but just ask out of politeness.
Then, sometimes when a Christian brother or sister asks us how we are, because they recognise sadness, we are too proud to open up and so suffer in silence, when God may want them to minister to us.
How many times have we prayed, “Lord help me with this burden” and then when there is an opportunity to share it, with maybe someone God has prepared, we refuse to confide. I’m OK, I can sort it.
We can learn a lesson from this.
Our nature should be so open, that our brethren detect that they can come to us, knowing that we will not blab their business all over the church. They should be able to say, “I am sad or depressed, I will seek out brother or sister so and so”.
This must have been a great relief to Nehemiah, knowing that God had prepared the way before him.
V4 Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven.
This is a lovely verse. “What can I do to help?” Would Nehemiah be shocked? The king is asking me, how he can help.
Here we see one of these arrow prayers, an on the spot prayer. So I prayed to the God of heaven.
It wasn’t the case of, hang on king, give me half an hour and I will get back to you but “Lord, help me now in this moment”.
If our earthly father was beside us, we could say, “Dad what should I do”?
Well! Our heavenly Father is right there beside us at all times. We can say the same thing to Him, “Lord, lead me in what I should do?, be with me as I step out in faith.
V5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favour in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him),
We see here, that Nehemiah had a plan, this was not a case of, oh, give me a bit of time off and I will see how it goes.
No, four months in prayer and fasting, God had given him a plan.
There is nothing wrong with making plans as long as it is with God in mind.
Nehemiah must have given this a lot of thought. He knew what he wanted,
Letters for passing through territories, enough wood and provisions to fulfil the job. The building of the walls and the house he was to occupy.
His faith was rewarded, God had prepared the heart of the king and Nehemiah’s requests were granted.
Amazing how God can soften, even the heart of unbelievers to fulfil His purposes.
(the queen also sitting beside him). According to most commentaries, this would be Queen Damaspia, who normally would not be dining with the king. It could be that she was favourable to Nehemiah.
We see that this happened to Daniel also:
Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Cyrus is a king mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible and is identified as Cyrus the Great (also Cyrus II or Cyrus the Elder) who reigned over Persia between 539—530 BC.
This pagan king is important in Jewish history because it was under his rule that Jews were first allowed to return to Israel after 70 years of captivity.
God had moved on Cyrus heart and he allowed the Jews to return to Israel. So, we see that God can even use the unbeliever to bring about His plan and purpose.
Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
As the hymn by William Cowper (1731–1800) says.
God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.
It is quite clear in scripture, that God is not bound by the ways of man. As Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel.
Luke 18:27 But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Satan is always prepared to react to any move of God. The moment Nehemiah put the plan into action, Satan reacted.
V10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.
According to Nehemiah, when he and his escort arrived in Jerusalem, their return aroused the enmity of Sanballat and his allies. They were aggrieved that the welfare of the Jews should be fostered. When Nehemiah actually disclosed his intention of building the walls of Jerusalem they laughed him to scorn, and said, "Will ye rebel against the king”.
It is amazing how the enemies of God are not bothered whilst God’s people are praying or thinking of what to do. It is only when the prayers and thoughts are converted into action. It is then that the opposition begins.
If Christians just pray about things or make plans, that is fine with Satan.
However when Christians begin to act, only then comes the persecution.
Nehemiah 2:11 -17
Secretly, Nehemiah went to look at what needed to be done concerning the walls of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was a leader, He prayed, he fasted, he planned, he observed what needed to be done. Only then did he share with the people.
Nehemiah could have thought, well, it is not all that bad, at least we are back from Babylon, no longer in captivity. We have the temple, we can worship again. He could have thought we can take it slow. We could just thank God and relax a little. There was much to be thankful for in Jerusalem.
However, sometimes, one must look at what is wrong, and that is what Nehemiah did.
It is so easy for us as Christians to rest on our laurels, saying to ourselves, Well, we are saved, maybe we can just relax a little and enjoy our salvation.
NO, we are silly if we think that we can relax and not recognise that there is still lots of work to be done.
On the surface it may look like things are great, we have a goodly number attending church, we have a busy schedule of meetings that are regularly supported. We are enjoying the fellowship, the Bible groups, the prayer meeting, All seems well.
However, the Nehemiah’s amongst us, look for those things that need to be done, the things that maybe others don’t see.
When we look at the church, we may be thankful for what God has done here. But when we look honestly, are we satisfied with the impact we have made on this community?
We must see that it is not enough and that there is far more we could do.
We think of the financial support and the outreach and the spread of the Word of God through the church, and yet we know that it could be more and that the ministry could go out further and broader.
If someone took a look at our lives, the same way Nehemiah took a look at Jerusalem they might notice many broken down walls in our lives.
Proverbs 25:28 Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.
Many of our lives are like cities with broken walls. Things may appear to be OK but there are many of our people living with problems, it may be a sense of fear, we may be struggling financially, feeling insecure.
We may be struggling in our relationships, having family problems. We are so good at hiding these things.
We may think, that brother, that sister is a strong Christian and all the time they are struggling inside with a recurring sin or with pressures of work or family problems.
God wants us to be living victorious Christian lives, not defeated and pretending to be.
Jeremiah 23:24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.
John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Nehemiah 2:17,18 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.
Encouragement from Nehemiah.
Nehemiah gets them to look at the reality of the situation and exhorts them to arise and build.
Notice: that Nehemiah had the vision, he had the testimony of God but he could not do the work alone.
Neither can we and neither can our pastor or elder or leader.
We are a body, the Body of Christ. We have to work together, using the ministries given to each one of us.
Jerusalem needed bricklayers, carpenters, labourers, helpers, carriers, if the walls were to be built.
The church needs Pastors, Preachers, Teachers, Helpers, Administrators, Youth workers, Tea makers, Cleaners, Givers and most importantly, Prayers.
No one is indispensible.
In other words, Your church needs You. Why? Because we are the salt of the earth. If we are not being the salt, we are useless. We become a reproach.
Definition of reproach to express disappointment in or displeasure with (a person) for conduct that is blameworthy or in need of amendment. : to bring into discredit.
The reason: V17 that we may no longer be a reproach.
It wasn’t just building the wall’s, it was what building the walls meant. It would be worth it because it would have real spiritual impact in both
individuals and the community.
When we hear the preaching of the Word of God on a Sunday, or we meet in the week to share our faith, we are up built in our faith.
It is good to hear the testimony of God at work.
That is what fellowship is all about, building up the Body of Christ for service in the world. If the teaching from the church does not result in our faith producing works, then the church is failing.
James said: James 2: 14 –18 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
General Booth of the Salvation Army said:
“you can't preach to a man who has an empty stomach and is shivering with cold.”.
Our faith should show by works.
Nehemiah testifies to the hand of God.
Nehemiah: 2:18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.
Nehemiah testified to the hand of God being on this work and when the people heard this they rose up and said “Let us rise and build”.
We know that there will be opposition, this is when Satan gets active.
When prayer and fasting convert to action.
Nehemiah 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and
despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?"
We must expect this, the laughter and the despising. It comes with the job.
Nehemiah 20 So I answered them, and said to them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."
This is nothing new to men and women of God. From the early church and all the way through the history of the church we see this persecution of God’s people, Satan has always tried to spoil the work of God.
Jesus told us in:
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
1 John 4:4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Nehemiah was a great caring man of God who had a heart for the things of God.
He was a man of prayer but he was also a man of action.
He was a motivator of those who wished to do the will of God.
May this lesson encourage us to say, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.