Devotional Series by Jay Rairigh
52 Days… #2
When the servant of God steps wisely and boldly in faith…
The Message Nehemiah 2
1-2 It was the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king. At the hour for serving wine I brought it in and gave it to the king. I had never been hangdog in his presence before, so he asked me, “Why the long face? You’re not sick are you? Or are you depressed?”
2-3 That made me all the more agitated. I said, “Long live the king! And why shouldn’t I be depressed when the city, the city where all my family is buried, is in ruins and the city gates have been reduced to cinders?”
4-5 The king then asked me, “So what do you want?”
Praying under my breath to the God-of-Heaven, I said, “If it please the king, and if the king thinks well of me, send me to Judah, to the city where my family is buried, so that I can rebuild it.”
6 The king, with the queen sitting alongside him, said, “How long will your work take and when would you expect to return?”
I gave him a time, and the king gave his approval to send me.
7-8 Then I said, “If it please the king, provide me with letters to the governors across the Euphrates that authorize my travel through to Judah; and also an order to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, to supply me with timber for the beams of The Temple fortress, the wall of the city, and the house where I’ll be living.”
8-9 The generous hand of my God was with me in this and the king gave them to me. When I met the governors across The River (the Euphrates) I showed them the king’s letters. The king even sent along a cavalry escort.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very upset, angry that anyone would come to look after the interests of the People of Israel.
11-12 And so I arrived in Jerusalem. After I had been there three days, I got up in the middle of the night, I and a few men who were with me. I hadn’t told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal with us was the one I was riding.
13-16 Under cover of night I went past the Valley Gate toward the Dragon’s Fountain to the Dung Gate looking over the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken through and whose gates had been burned up. I then crossed to the Fountain Gate and headed for the King’s Pool but there wasn’t enough room for the donkey I was riding to get through. So I went up the valley in the dark continuing my inspection of the wall. I came back in through the Valley Gate. The local officials had no idea where I’d gone or what I was doing—I hadn’t breathed a word to the Jews, priests, nobles, local officials, or anyone else who would be working on the job.
17-18 Then I gave them my report: “Face it: we’re in a bad way here. Jerusalem is a wreck; its gates are burned up. Come—let’s build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer.” I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up.
They said, “We’re with you. Let’s get started.” They rolled up their sleeves, ready for the good work.
19 When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they laughed at us, mocking, “Ha! What do you think you’re doing? Do you think you can cross the king?”
20 I shot back, “The God-of-Heaven will make sure we succeed. We’re his servants and we’re going to work, rebuilding. You can stick to your own business. You get no say in this—Jerusalem’s none of your business!”
In Nehemiah’s memoirs, three to four months pass as he considers everything that he’s hearing about the deplorable state of Jerusalem. Back in November or December, he was receiving reports and hearing distressing stories of the brokenness in Jerusalem. In Chapter 2, we’re hearing that it was March or April and his “funk” had reached its fullest.
Artaxerxes noticed that Nehemiah seemed “off’. When your cupbearer seems upset, it’s time to start asking questions! Notice that Nehemiah chooses to share his internal state, when the Queen is present. Usually, the King would be more willing to hear and respond when she was there. Either a crescendo of emotion is bringing Nehemiah into an expression of his depression or he’s being wise. Either way, he’s being bold.
How many of us would walk this fine line, aligning with God? If we knew that Artaxerxes had stopped all reconstruction in Jerusalem by decree, how many of us would boldly (and wisely) step out of our comfort zone and speak God’s agenda? Nehemiah did. And, congruent with so many of the Scriptural stories, God changes peoples’ hearts. Artaxerxes says something like – “okay, how can I help?” This story reminds us again that God partners with people and empowers God’s will…
What keeps you in your comfort zone? What emboldens your heart to step out in faith? For me, some of it is about gathering God’s wisdom on the cause. Sometimes, like these past two years during Covid, I get too worn or maybe too worried. Either way, when I know that God wants something, and God gets my attention, I can hesitate. Eventually, I end up stepping – sometimes too quickly and sometimes not fast enough. Always and often, though, I am amazed at how God was preparing in advance.
Nehemiah was prepared and had considered the obstacles. Wow! Along with Artaxerxes’ aversion to restoration, Sanballat (whose name meant “sin gives life”) was ruling in Samaria and was most certainly against restoration. Geshem the Arab was probably ruling to the south below Judah. Tobiah was ruling to the east. So, when Nehemiah finds that Artaxerxes is sympathetic and willing, he asked for the support of letters and the materials to get the job done. He anticipated the future and boldly asked for what it took to be ready for the plan that God was revealing.
Fast forward and Nehemiah does some night reconnaissance after three nights In Jerusalem, making a huge circle out around the city. The climate wasn’t right for a bunch of sharing and collaboration so, he forged forward quietly to fully understand what it would take to rebuild the walls. So often as leaders, we get called by God into the fray of reality to serve uniquely. Nehemiah was certainly wise to survey reality quietly in order to be ready to serve.
Then he does it – he steps boldly – as Eugene Peterson translates: Come—let’s build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer.” Nehemiah extends God’s call. He’s watched God align hearts and tear down key barriers, but not all barriers. He has surveyed the call to understand the needs. It was time! Let’s build the walls… God no longer wants the disgrace…
God opened doors and inspired back at Artaxerxes’ table. Provision came. A change was needed and imminent. Three days on the ground and the scope was clear. And Nehemiah is full of faith! Perhaps he thought, “if God wants this… and God has provided… then, I need to step up to my part and call others forward with me.”
What’s it like where you are right now? Are walls torn down? What gates need repaired? How can Love INC align with you honoring Christ’s call and renew you in helping people in our community?