From Nehemiah 1-3
In the first chapter Nehemiah’s prayer reflects an understanding that the LORD will bring his people back to the promised land (Neh 1.8-9). This is what the LORD has done (Neh 1.10). The LORD brought his people into the promised land. The LORD has now brought them back. Nehemiah is encouraged by the LORD’s faithfulness to his promises and pushes ahead because of what he has seen. He overcomes his fear by remembering what the LORD has done.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
After Ezra comes Nehemiah. Ezra was involved in the rebuilding of the temple. The LORD works through Nehemiah to rebuild the city walls. In the first chapter Nehemiah finds out the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates destroyed.
When he hears this bad news he grieves and prays.
But we learn at the end of the chapter the LORD has put him in a strategic place. He is cupbearer to the king. This is where today’s post picks up.
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. (Neh 2:1)
I’m assuming at this point Nehemiah is normally of good cheer. Neither has he heard about the condition of Jerusalem to this point.
2 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. (Neh 2:2)
Nehemiah is afraid. He is in the presence of the conqueror of the known world. The king sees right through him. Nehemiah cannot contain his grief over Jerusalem.
What things grieve you to your heart?
He boldly explains why he is so sad of heart.
3 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?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” (Neh 2:3-4a)
This is the moment of truth. Its obvious that the king values his work. That’s why he still remains cupbearer. Still Nehemiah is very much afraid.
So I prayed to the God of heaven. (Neh 2:4b)
He silently cries out to the LORD in his time of need. The LORD hears his prayer.
5 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.”
6 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. (Neh 2:5-6)
It seems the kings greatest concern is how long his favourite cupbearer will be away from him. The king wants him back soon! I bet this relieved Nehemiah. Answered prayer indeed.
So Nehemiah boldly asks for more. He doesn’t settle for less.
7 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, 8 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. (Neh 2:7–8)
The king grants his request because the good hand of God was on him. Praise God.
Story of Israel
We all get afraid from time to time. Fear is an attitude of anxiety or distress, caused by concern over a threat to one’s future. Nehemiah was afraid and he hasn’t been the only one in Israel’s history.
The Old Testament provides numerous examples of situations where people experience strong fear. The scriptures demonstrate over and over again, however, that God alone is to be feared, and moments of human fear can be opportunities for deepening faith in him.
One example was when Israel was about to enter the promised land. The people they were about to conquer were greater in number and in strength. They had every right to be afraid. Moses encourages them with the acts of the LORD (Dt 7.18-21).
In the first chapter Nehemiah’s prayer reflects an understanding that the LORD will bring his people back to the promised land (Neh 1.8-9). This is what the LORD has done (Neh 1.10).
The LORD brought his people into the promised land. The LORD has now brought them back. Nehemiah is encouraged by the LORD’s faithfulness to his promises and pushes ahead because of what he has seen. He overcomes his fear by remembering what the LORD has done.
Story of Jesus
Jesus and his followers encountered opposition. In their time and place they could have been killed or worse. They had every reason to be afraid. Jesus is as bold as a lion. Courageous unto death. But his disciples aren’t, so they need to be encouraged.
26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 10:26–33)
Jesus instructs his followers not to let fear dominate them. To ‘fear not’. The father is the one we should fear, not the powers or forces of this world. So never deny him. He cares for you so seek your strength in him.
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