Nehemiah 1 ends with Nehemiah concerned and even heartbroken for the remnant of Judah and the condition of the city of Jerusalem. I’m loving this study in Nehemiah because there is so much practical application that we can find for today. Everything from the quick, spontaneous prayer for wisdom, to the very practical preparation and planning for a vision that you’re not sure will come to fruition unless GOD works.
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before,
2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid,
3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
It’s been four months since Nehemiah has gotten word of the condition of Jerusalem and the remnant of Judah. I have no doubt, that he has been praying for some kind of opportunity to mention this to the king, however, life happens. Let’s be honest, when we’re passionate about something, we’re impatient. We want it to happen now, and I’m sure Nehemiah felt that way as well, however, God’s timing can’t be rushed. God is always in the background and honors preparation. What we see as inactivity, God sees as preparing the ground. In the time between that we think is inactivity, there may be a multitude of things happening in the lives of the people involved, in the events of the regions involved,and in the politics of the authorities involved. Nehemiah has no way of knowing this. He just knows that 4 months has gone by. The parallel for today is the same. We may have a passion for something, a desire for change, and want it to happen immediately, yet if we force it, or rush into it, without waiting for GOD,then we will miss out on something. God is preparing the way, he’s preparing the ground for a victory. If Nehemiah had rushed into the king immediately and made the request, more then likely it would have been denied, and he would have missed out. I love how in Verse 4 when he is asked by the king what his request is, he spontaneously breathed a quick prayer. It wasn’t a stop-what-I’m-doing-fall-on-my-knees prayer, it was a quick “ok, God, here goes, give me wisdom” and then he spoke his request. Sometimes that’s all it takes, it’s a momentary prayer before the big opportunity. AND it’s in the moment God has ordained, that sometimes catches us by surprise.
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
These four verses show that Nehemiah didn’t just speak whatever came to his mind and hope that the King would approve. He was prepared, he had a plan. He must have spent the past four months researching the issues, researching who would be his contacts, what supplies and resources he would need. When the king asked, even though he may have been surprised by the timing, Nehemiah had his facts, figures, and plans ready for the opportunity. Likewise, if God has placed something on our hearts today, then we must do the same thing. Instead of just saying “God will provide”, (which HE will), make the plans, do the research of what you need, who you need to know, what needs to be done, and how long it’s going to take. That way, when GOD’s time is right, you’ll be prepared for an answer to authority. GOD’s timing is not random, if there is a wait time, the wait time should be used for preparation.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Haters are going to happen. There are going to be people that oppose the vision, and Nehemiah found them. Or, they found Nehemiah, regardless, there will be those that don’t want you to succeed, so what are you going to do?
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Nehemiah kept his plans to himself at first. For all the people of Jerusalem knew, they had a new governor, probably another in a long line of political appointees that cared less about them and their needs. Nehemiah wanted to see the conditions for himself, not what was on the “political appointee tour”, he wanted to see the true condition, so he toured secretly and kept his plans initially to himself. This is a smart thing to do. When we are first given a position of leadership, it;s often better to shut up and observe and listen instead of immediately jumping into action and saying what you’re going to change. You have to first understand the conditions and people involved before you make the changes. By understanding first, then you know how to fix and you know who the “go to” people are that will be of assistance and who will be a hinderance.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
I’m sure when he simply “disappeared”, his staff was a bit concerned, which was probably a poorly kept secret, so when he finally reappeared and gave his explanation and vision, I’m sure there was relief and excitement. Relief that the “new governor was ok, but also relief that someone was finally there to actually look out for their safety and for their need. There was excitement because I’m sure there were those with the same vision, who had been praying for the same opportunity, and now their prayer was being answered. Someone had come with the power and the resources to make the vision a reality. That same thing happens now. A vision doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are those that share the same vision, that have no idea of the other individual. They may have the vision, but not the resources, another may have the resources, but are just beginning to get the vision, it is God’s timing that unites the two. GOD is preparing the ground and the timing to bring individuals and resources together. It takes time sometimes. When the time is right, and people understand and grab hold of the vision for themselves, change begins.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
AND, we’re back to the haters. The difference here, Nehemiah had an answer. He essentially told them to shut up, GOD has their backs. How often do we face haters and opposition to a vision. How do we respond, do we back down, do we ignore and hope they go away? They don’t go away. Nehemiah faced them and responded to them, but he didn’t back down. He wouldn’t back down. He had permission from the ultimate earthly authority, and he this was GOD’s time, so they could be opposed to what was happening all they wanted to be, the work was still going to happen. We face the same today. Haters are going to be around us, so how do we respond to them. You can’t ignore them, they don’t go away. You have to face them, stand up to them. WIll they push? Yes, will we have to push back? More then likely. What we have to understand is that when we stand together, haters back down. Haters try to isolate and seperate those with vision to keep them from standing up against them. Alot of times they’re successful, Nehemiah wasn’t having any of it. He was going to keep his people focused, and instead isolate and seperate those that oppossed the vision. And here, we stop for this week.