JULY 24 - Nº 205 Nehemiah 1:1 – 4:14
Zerubbabel had rebuilt the Temple (see #198 - July 17 & 199 - July 18), and Ezra had re-taught the Jewish people how to worship and obey God (see #204 - July 23). But there was still one major problem. More than 70 years after the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, the city still had no walls. It was completely defenseless. When Nehemiah (a Jewish refugee and servant in the Persian palace) heard this, he broke down and cried. He realized that his people were in grave danger. He fasted and prayed to God for four months. Then he decided to use his position as a cupbearer to the king to help his people. This was a high-level position with great rewards, but it also had great risks. If Nehemiah did anything to upset the king, his life would be over—he would be killed! Nehemiah’s face was very somber the next time he delivered wine to the king. King Artaxerxes had never seen his servant look sad before. He asked Nehemiah, “What is wrong? Are you sick?” “No, I can’t help but be sad,” Nehemiah responded. “The city of my ancestors still lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah what he could do to help. “Please send me back to rebuild the city of Jerusalem,” he replied. He boldly asked the king to provide him with royal documents that would guarantee his safety as he made the journey. Then he added, “Please send a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the royal forest. Tell him to supply timber to make the beams for the gates.” The king not only granted everything Nehemiah requested, but he also sent officers and cavalry men with Nehemiah to protect him. When he arrived in Jerusalem, Nehemiah didn’t tell anyone why he had come. Instead, he snuck out at night to examine the walls and gates to come up with a plan. After three days, he brought the city officials together and informed them that the king of Persia had given him permission to rebuild the walls. “We can’t live this way any longer,” he explained. It is time to rebuild these walls!” The city officials agreed. So, the people went to work implementing Nehemiah’s plan. Each leader was assigned the section of wall closest to his own home or business. This gave them personal incentive to complete their part of the wall and make it sturdy. Immediately, Nehemiah and the Jewish leaders faced the taunts of the non-Jewish residents outside the city. They mocked the workers saying that even a fox climbing on the wall would knock it down. When ridicule did not discourage the workers, the enemies of the Jews accused them of rebelling against the king. When threatening words didn’t hinder the construction, the opposition became angry and started plotting to kill the Jews. Nehemiah prayed and posted guards. He encouraged his men, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember that the Lord is great and awesome! Fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” Later he added, “Our God will fight for us!”
Nehemiah knew that there was no contradiction between “working hard” and “waiting for God.” We still must fill out a resumé if we want God to give us a job; or practice hard if we want to make the team. Trusting God does not mean sitting on our hands. It means actively moving toward Him and reaching for the goals He has set for us, while allowing Him to work out the details.