When Nehemiah heard the
news about the deplorable conditions in the city of
Jerusalem, he wept, mourned, fasted and prayed. He
waited four months on God to lead, direct and
provide before he began his work for God. But he was
also a strong leader with great courage, godliness
BURDEN OF SOUL BEFORE
Nehemiah carried the
burden in secret for four months. It was so big that
it broke through his ability to control the
expression of it. "And it came about in the month
Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and
gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his
presence. So the king said to me, 'Why is your face
sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but
sadness of heart.' Then I was very much afraid"
(Nehemiah 2:1-2, NASB 1995).
Nehemiah did not wear his
emotions on his sleeves, but on this occasion the
king sensed something was wrong. The king relied on
him to keep him safe. Could Nehemiah's countenance
be telling the king that he was involved in a plot
to kill the king? Was he aware of some imminent
danger? The cupbearer must always be above
suspicion, keeping the king's trust at all times.
Nehemiah's life would be in danger if the king
became suspicious. Persian kings were always in
danger of assassination. Was Nehemiah aware of some
plot? What is the sad look on his face all about?
Court mores dictated
cheerfulness, if only to dispel notions of
disloyalty. It was always a serious matter in the
presence of an oriental king.
What is your response to
the burden you carry? Have you gone before the Lord
alone asking Him to either remove the burden all
together from your heart, or to so deepen it that it
is impossible for you to do anything but respond
with all your personal being until it is
accomplished? I think that is how Nehemiah pleaded
in prayer with the Lord God. He could not conceal
the deep burden on his heart. It was obvious God was
dealing with him. The initiative was with God, not
Nehemiah. God was the one who put the burden on
Nehemiah and he could not escape it.
Allan Redpath said, "If
God was calling him to do this work in Jerusalem,
then God was surely able to work a miracle and give
him favor in the presence of the king. Nehemiah went
on weeping and went on praying and went on fasting,
until one day God opened the door. He didn't have to
speak to the king at all; the king spoke to him" (Blessings
out of Buffeting, p. 30).
Where do you sense God at
work? In what sense is it God-sized? In what sense
is it something only God can do?
"If you do not have a
heart that is burdened with an overwhelming sense of
conviction you will never be fruitful in the service
of the Lord. The need never constitutes the call,"
writes Redpath. Like Nehemiah, you will not be able
to hide it.
WAITING ON GOD TO
ANSWER IN HIS TIMING
The burden became so
intense for Nehemiah that he could not keep it to
himself any longer. It became obvious to the king
that Nehemiah was burdened for something much larger
than himself. When that happened God intervened and
opened the king's heart.
God has those individuals
that He has prepared to accomplish His eternal
goals. God touched the king's heart. God burdened
the pagan king Artaxerxes to provide the resources
for the building of the wall in Jerusalem.
God gave Nehemiah the
burden. When He had prepared Nehemiah to accept the
burden, He opened the door. Let us ever keep in mind
we do not open effectual doors, God does.
God's specialty is the
changing of a man's heart. God decides the direction
a heart will go.
Nehemiah had the
conviction he had been commissioned by the Master,
and God shall supply his every need.
We spend too much time
"working before men and too little waiting before
God." Waiting before God is hard work and not very
many want to pay the price.
You have not really
prayed until you wait before God.
Nehemiah was a man of God
waiting for the Lord to indicate the right time. We
often expect God to answer immediately. We get
impatient with Him. God often delays His answers. He
wants us to keep praying until His answer comes. The
amazing thing His timing is always perfect. He never
is too early or too late. His clock is always on
God opened the door
to the king's heart.
"I said to the king, 'Let
the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad
when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies
desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?'
Then the king said to me, 'What would you request?'
So I prayed to the God of heaven'" (Nehemiah 2:3-4).
"I prayed to the God of
heaven" (v. 4). This was an instant silent prayer,
without audible words, shot to the throne of God
like a quick plea for help and a correct response to
the king. It was an instant email to the throne of
grace. Do you send up rapid heavenward pleas? They
can also be in the form of praise.
No place is unsuitable;
no time is out of season for prayer. God is
everywhere and listens to every prayer. Nehemiah was
in his place of work before the king and queen of
Learn to pray silently to
the Lord at your desk at school, your station at
work, or driving along the road in pleasure.
Exercise your mind and heart before God. No one else
needs to be aware of it. Audible words would have
been unsuitable in the current circumstances of
Nehemiah. He was not putting on a show before the
king. He urgently needed God's help. His very life
was at stake. Much of our sincerest prayers are
"groanings which cannot be uttered." It is the
desire directed to God in faith in unuttered words.
God promises grace for
everything that is within His will for you. However,
He does not offer His grace for that which is
outside His will. Let's not abuse the grace of God.
Have you learned to
draw upon the grace of God for ministry?
Are you doing ministry
because you know God has sent you? Have you been
commissioned by the Master?
Redpath says, "The
costliest preparation of all is to look into the
face of the Lord Jesus alone, with no applause and
no public, and to say to Him, 'Lord Jesus Christ, in
this task I seek only Thy glory and the blessing of
souls'" (p. 39). That is the person God will bless.
Do you have a secret
place in your soul where only you and God meet
regularly? Do you have a special room where you
commune with Him?
After arriving in
Jerusalem Nehemiah waited three days before doing
anything. He did nothing. I suspect that he tarried
The God who called you is
sufficient for your every need. "If there is one
yielded life in which Jesus Christ lives, and that
life were ultimately lost, all the honor of God
would be destroyed. The yielded, surrendered,
committed, dedicated, consecrated life is as safe
for time and eternity as God's faithfulness and
God's Book, and God's promise" (Redpath, p. 52).
Do not look at your own
faith; look at God's faithfulness! Do not look
around on circumstances; keep on looking at the
resources of the infinite God! The critical thing is
that our eyes are steadily focused upon Him.
S. D. Gordon said, "Jesus
never sends a man ahead alone. He blazes a clear way
through every thicket and woods, and then softly
calls, 'Follow me. Let's go on together, you and I.'
He has been everywhere that we are called to go. His
feet have trodden down smooth a path through every
experience that comes to us. He knows each road, and
knows it well: the valley road of disappointment
with its dark shadows; the steep path of temptation
down through the rocky ravines and slippery gullies;
the narrow path of pain, with the brambly thorn
bushes so close on each side, with their slash and
sting; the dizzy road along the heights of victory;
the old beaten road of commonplace daily routine.
Everyday paths He has trodden and glorified, and
will walk anew with each of us. The only safe way to
travel is with Him alongside and in control."
There is really one life
that matters before God. It is the life of the Lord
Jesus Christ, indwelling in each of us by His
Spirit. Because we share that one life with Him, in
a vital union, we share the one great purpose and
one great work of redemption. You can stake eternity
on the fact that God the Father is not going to fail
God has unknown
provisions waiting for us.
Cameron Townsend went to
a tiny Indian village in the mountains of Mexico to
translate the Scriptures into their language. He
taught them to dam up a stream and irrigate their
crops because at that time it was impossible for
foreigners to preach the gospel in Mexico. This in
turn provided revenue for the village. He also
taught them some cottage industries. Word of the
improved village life got the new president of
Mexico, Lazaro Cardenas who made a trip to the
village. The president walked up the foreign Bible
translator and said, "You are the man I came to
see." That surprise contact opened a wide door for
the future work of Wycliffe Bible Translators for
years to come.
God can work in our lives
if we make ourselves available to Him. You can
expect God to work, often in ways that you would
"Expect great things from
God; attempt great things for God," was the motto of
the father of the modern missionary movement,
Based upon the great
faithfulness of God Nehemiah made a plea to the
NEHEMIAH'S PLEA TO THE
"I said to the king, 'If
it please the king, and if your servant has found
favor before 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 sitting beside him, 'How
long will your journey be, and when will you
return?' So it pleased the king to send me, and I
gave him a definite time. And I said to the king,
'If it please the king, let letters be given me for
the governors of the provinces beyond the River,
that they may allow me to 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 which is by the
temple, for the wall of the city and for the house
to which I will go.' And the king granted them to me
because the good hand of my God was on me" (Nehemiah
Nehemiah was tactful in
his presentation to the king (v. 5). It is with
cunning wisdom that he presents his personal grief
about the city of his fathers. It is a matter of
shame and personal pride over "the place of his
father's sepulchers." He is careful not to arouse
any political suspicions. He avoids using the word
"Jerusalem" by asking permission to go to Judah. In
fact, the name "Jerusalem" is not mentioned in
Nehemiah was also asking
King Artaxerxes to reverse his own policy he had
made earlier that stopped the work on the rebuilding
of the walls. A strong Jerusalem would be a threat
to the near by city-states. The rulers of the
Trans-Euphrates region had petitioned Artaxerxes to
stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:1-16).
In the previous fifteen
years prior to Nehemiah's arrival there had been a
serious rebellion in Egypt and the province Beyond
the River. No doubt King Artaxerxes needed a stable
friendly Judah and would be open to his loyal Jewish
subordinate's leadership as a sympathetic governor.
The king gave Nehemiah
diplomatic status as he traveled.
With problems brewing in
Syria, king Artaxerxes had a trusted man to protect
his interests as governor in Judah.
Nehemiah presents a
thorough plan to the king (vv. 6-8). He had done his
homework thoroughly during the four months he spent
praying. He was praying and planning and waiting on
He had the ability to
plan and organize. He was planning the whole time he
was praying for God to move Artaxerxes. Going out in
faith does not mean you go without any plans. "I
gave a definite time . . ."
He gave a "definite time" to go to Jerusalem.
He obtained letters of permission to travel through
the neighboring provinces along the way (v. 7).
He got travel permits and visas.
He got permission to use the king's timber (v. 8a).
The king provided protection (v. 9b).
Nehemiah arrived in Judah with the full authority of
the throne of Persia behind him.
Note carefully who got
the glory. "And the king granted them to me because
the good hand of my God was on me" (v. 8b). Nehemiah
could stand back and declare with all of his heart,
"I saw God do it!" This is God's doing and it is
marvelous in our eyes.
God even provided through
the king for the surprises. "Then I came to the
governors of the provinces beyond the River and gave
them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with
me officers of the army and horsemen" (Nehemiah
That is the best kind of
encouragement a person can ever receive.
When we attempt to do
great things for God we may proceed with full
confidence that the power of God is empowering us.
Faith is not a substitute
for careful planning. God expects careful thinking
and planning on our part.
Nehemiah's midnight ride
around the walls helped him to formulate a specific
plan of action.
NEHEMIAH SURVEYED THE
"So I came to Jerusalem
and was there three days. And I arose in the night,
I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what
my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem
and there was no animal with me except the animal on
which I was riding. So I went out at night by the
Valley Gate in the direction of the Dragon's Well
and on to the Refuse Gate, inspecting the walls of
Jerusalem, which were broken down, and its gates
which were consumed by fire. Then I passed on to the
Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but there was no
place for my mount to pass. So I went up at night by
the ravine and inspected the wall. Then I entered
the Valley Gate again and returned. The officials
did not know where I had gone or what I had done;
nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the
nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work"
Nehemiah seized the
critical moment and entered the open door God set
He saw with his own eyes
the extent of the problem. The destruction was
He "was inspecting" the
ruined walls. The word indicates he was probing
around, i.e. looking into the problem very
carefully. He was gathering up his facts, organizing
his mind and making preparations. He did not set out
to build walls ill prepared.
Nehemiah gathered the
necessary information to formulate a wise plan to
construct a new wall with the gates. The people were
discouraged. It had been nearly ninety years since
the first attempt at rebuilding the wall. It took
fifteen years to rebuild the temple, and a second
group of exiles had failed in their attempt to
rebuild the wall fifteen years earlier under Ezra.
Nehemiah would also have to motivate the workers.
Does the Lord ever search
you? I want Him to hold you and me in His searching
gaze and investigate our lives fully. We will never
see the blessing of God upon our ministry until we
ask Him to show the worst part of our wall and allow
Him to change it. Have you ever done that? What is
the condition of your wall? How are your gates
There is a time to be
silent and a time to speak. Be prepared when the
time to speak comes.
PRESENTATION TO LOCAL
Nehemiah got other
resources involved in the project. He could not do
the work alone so he assembled the town council
together and made his appeal to the rulers, priests,
nobles and working people.
He first did the survey
and planning, organized his presentation to the
He appealed to their
pride. "You can see the ruins around you."
There was no discussion
of the matter under these circumstances. The need
was clear to all. Nehemiah proceeded from his
convictions that the project was of God.
Now is the time for us to
get involved. It is time for us to do something.
God had moved Nehemiah;
He had moved the pagan king to get involved, and now
He was moving the people to begin the rebuilding of
I saw God do it!
Get in the habit of
writing down on a list with the dates those
occasions and events in your life when God
intervenes. I call mine "I Saw God Do It!" When you
have a bad day you can turn to it and remind
yourself of how God has intervened in your life or
how He has used you to bring glory to His name. You
can use this in your prayer life as you praise Him
for these great and mighty things.
"That we may no longer be
a reproach" is the appeal to the leaders.
"I told them of the hand
of my God had graciously provided for me, that God
has so graciously arranged my journey to Jerusalem,
and the words the king had spoken to me with respect
to the building of the wall."
The response of the
people (v. 18)
The assembly got excited
at the word of encouragement and exclaimed with
enthusiasm, "Let us arise and build."
"The God of heaven will
give us success. We His servants will start
rebuilding. . ." (v. 20).
himself with the people and their need, "we", "us",
"we." It was a sincere emphasis on a sense of
belongingness. We build this wall together.
You know what is next in
the building program. Every time the Lord says,
"Rise and build," the Devil says, "Let's stop it."
THE ENEMY (2:10,
The person who answers
God's call will face all of the wrath of Satan and
Nehemiah had no ax to
grind, no selfish motives or ambitions, no desire
for personal gain or glory. He was a man at God's
disposal. As soon as a man says, "Let's rise and
build," the enemy of God will gather all of its
forces against him.
Every good work will meet
opposition and contempt, even by religious people.
Such opposition is best met by trust in the LORD who
the things of God.
The man who makes himself
available to God will draw the enemy to himself.
Satan will oppose you. He will do his best to tear
you down, or destroy your testimony. If you have
been in a God called ministry long you could write a
book on how Satan seeks to devour and destroy God's
The enemy stood outside
of the covenant of God (v. 20b). It still does.
Earlier Zerubbabel had
rejected the cooperation of the Samaritans in the
rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 4:3). An enmity set
in between the Jews and Samaritans that continued
until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the
Roman general Titus.
The enemy of Nehemiah
"mocked us and despised us" (v. 20). They mocked and
ridiculed. They began by threatening and slandering
and then charges of rebellion and disloyalty. If
that does not work they will go on to more overt
The enemy of
self-complacency was also in Jerusalem. They had
been there for a hundred years. They were no threat
to the devil. But Nehemiah was the man with the
burden. He was the man with the vision. He was the
man God had called and equipped. He had declared war
against all their complacency.
The enemy of Nehemiah is
a good reminder of whom Satan works against us
today. He is a usurper. He had tricked us. He has
bedeviled us and led us astray. He has confused,
manipulated and misled us. We have been deceived.
The outward circumstances
may change from time to time and place-to-place
across the centuries, however it is ultimately
located in "the heavenly places." The names may
change but the real antagonists of God's people is
always the same (Eph. 6:12).
I like the keen words of
Redpath, "There is no concern in the mind of Satan
about the church at all until he sees a selfless
Christian seeking only the glory of God. . . . Does
your service for God cause Satan to worry at all?
How much overtime has the devil to do in hell
because of your church? . . . Have you concern for
any reputation but the Master's? Then, and only
then, is Satan angry" (p. 38).
However, opposition was
the affirmation that Nehemiah was doing the will of
Nehemiah realized that a
city without a wall was doomed. There could be no
survival without her walls.
Nehemiah did not get side
tracked. His mind was stayed upon the LORD God. We
need to keep our focus on Christ and He will give us
It is a spiritual war we
are engaged in, just as it was for Nehemiah. The
only solution is to pick up our spiritual armor and
fight (Eph. 6:13-20).
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATONS
What made Nehemiah
successful with the king?
1. God was the author of
the plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. God put
it in the mind and heart of Nehemiah (1:11; 2:12).
It was not man inspired; this was something God
chose to do.
2. Nehemiah was loyal to
the king. There was no hypocrisy when he said, "May
the king live forever!" He genuinely had the king's
interest at heart (v. 3).
3. Nehemiah used tact
before the king (v. 3). He did not create any
4. Nehemiah was humble.
He was not aggressive before the king. He was
honest, open, genuine and transparent when it was
appropriate. "I was very afraid." He was sad because
the city of his father's was in ruins.
5. There were no
surprises. Nehemiah did not catch the king off
guard. He waited for the perfect timing and planned
6. Nehemiah prayed and
planned in dependence on the LORD. There was careful
goal setting. He stated his goal to the king with
Nehemiah planned for
success. He surveyed the situation, gathered his
data, thought it through and implemented his plan in
Timing was critical for
Nehemiah as with all plans to work successfully.
He identified with the
people (v. 17). "You see the bad situation we are
in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned
by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem
that we may no longer be a reproach."
Let's build together is
the only way to do God's work.
Opposition to the Kingdom
of God is a spiritual thing. We can fight spiritual
battles only with spiritual armor. We are engaged in
a spiritual warfare. "The hand of my God was upon
Index to this Series on
2:1-20 A Responsible Leader
Series: Studies in