Nehemiah Sent to Judah
2 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.
So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah 2 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king…”Nehemiah 2:4,5
Smack in the middle of a conversation, Nehemiah prayed. It wasn’t a big show. It wasn’t a ‘let’s bow our heads and pray’ moment. It wasn’t a ‘look at how spiritual I am.” It was a relationship between he and God that showed itself through conversation as to what to do, how to respond. It was second nature.
There’s a lot of meat to this concept. Nehemiah relied so much on God for the decisions he made, the conversations even he had. Realizing he was on a mission that was way beyond his means and abilities on some levels, his ‘go to’ was to seek counsel from God for every move he made. We need desperately need this ‘go to’ behavior as well.
What would that look like for each of us to pray at any given time, seeking conversation, seeking wisdom for whatever we had before us? What would such dependence upon God for every decision we made, everything that came out of our mouth in conversation was easily interrupted with seeking counsel and prayer over it first?
Throughout the story of Nehemiah, we see he did this same thing 8 different times! He prayed at any given moment even while he was mid-stream in conversation with another person! What gives?
I’ll tell you what gives. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt God was ultimately the one in charge. Not himself, not King Artaxerxes, not even the troublesome men who would come against him when the task of rebuilding began. God who had called him to this task, was ever-present and directing. He relied completely upon Him. He didn’t want to make a false or wrong move.
Where would this land us if we began doing the same?
Nehemiah 2 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Nehemiah had a rather… uh… interesting position in the royal court. He was the cupbearer and personal bodyguard to Artaxerxes Longimanus, and his responsibilities would have been very diverse. A cupbearer needed to be extremely trustworthy and possess unwavering integrity. If the cupbearer was easily influenced by money or political ideas, assassinating a king would be easy. Nehemiah was also personally responsible to serve the king’s wine and food. On some occasions, he would have been obligated to taste the wine to make sure it was not poisoned!
Another responsibility for Nehemiah would have been to serve as a personal advisor to the king. The closeness of such a relationship would naturally build a personal bond between the king and his cupbearer. On some levels, it seems almost like a friendship. This is why the king was greatly disturbed that Nehemiah is visibly depressed.
The power of this story is found in Nehemiah’s commitment to prayer. In Nehemiah 1, we read of the burden that God placed on him. Nehemiah 2 picks up the story four months later.
During the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was set before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence…Nehemiah 2:1 HCSB
Why is the date important?
It reveals that Nehemiah waited and prayed for 4 months. He didn’t ignore the burden God had placed on him, but he also didn’t jump in and try to fix things under his own strength. It is helpful to consider following this same type of pattern by praying that God would either bring relief to the burdens we have or to show us the next steps to take to alleviate that burden. As David Guzik notes, this date also fulfilled prophecy.
“The date is also important, because it establishes the date given to restore Jerusalem and its walls. Dan_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. 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 April 6, 32 A.D., precisely 173,880 days from Neh 2:1.”David Guzik
This dedication to prayer is seen once again when Nehemiah initially responds to the king.
Then the king asked me, “What is your request?” So I prayed to the God of heavenNehemiah 2:4 HCSB
Notice the king asks “What is your request?” To Nehemiah, he had no personal request separate from God. The burden was placed in his heart by God and so the request also needed to come from God. The actions of Nehemiah assume that his will is directly tied to God’s will. The amazing truth that comes from Nehemiah’s decision compels us to evaluate the burdens He has placed on our own hearts. Often, we take a burden and immediately go out to resolve it. But Nehemiah could not accomplish what God called of him in his own strength. He needed to follow the game plan that the Lord revealed one step at a time.
So, where does this currently resonate with you? How closely are you pursuing God in your quest to respond to His burdens?