Nehemiah 1 – 2 part 2
Nehemiah 1:1 The
words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of
Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren
came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped,
who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, "The
survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in
great distress and reproach. The wall of
This book claims that its author is Nehemiah and there is no reason for us to think otherwise. We learn that his father is Hachaliah, but this all that we know because we do not know for sure which tribe Nehemiah was from. The month of Chislev corresponds to our November – December and is the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes.
Nehemiah is at Shushan the citadel, which was where the Persians kings stayed at during the winter. This is the same place where Esther married the king and where Daniel saw a vision of a ram with two horns (Dan. 8:2ff).
Hanani, who may have been
Nehemiah’s brother, came with some men from
As Nehemiah began to
picture the condition of his people in his mind and the condition of
When I think about the
concern that Nehemiah had for his people it reminds me of how Jesus wept over
the spiritual condition of
The rest of the chapter records Nehemiah’s prayer.
Nehemiah 1:5 And I said: "I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 6 "please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. 7 "We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 "Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9 'but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' 10 "Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 "O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king's cupbearer.
This is a beautiful prayer and it shows how much Nehemiah believed in the power of prayer. In verse 5 – 7 Nehemiah proclaims God as being awesome and great. He understood that God keeps His covenant and grants mercy to those who love him and keep His commandments. This same principle is taught in the New Testament as well that is why John tells us, “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7).
Next, Nehemiah pleads for
God to listen to his prayer and to open his eyes to what he has to say and he
confesses that the children of
The reason he had this confidence was because he believed in the Word of God, and this can be seen when he reminds God about what He said He would do when His people returned to Him and keep His Word in verses 8-9. Just as Nehemiah had stated, God promised that if His people turned their back on Him by following after idols and false God’s then He would scatter them and they would deserve it (Lev. 26:33). However, because of God great love and mercy, He is willing to bring His people back if they repent and follow His commands once again, which can be seen in Deut. 30:1-8.
In verse 10 – 11 he
recognizes that it was by God’s power and His mighty hand that the children of
We need to realize that this would not have been an easy decision for him because this king could easily be offended by his request and put him to death or put him in prison. He was going to trust that God would answer his prayer.
A great lesson that we can learn from this is that God loves us and even when we find ourselves in a deep pit of sin, if we choose to confess our sin before God and we are willing to repent and start keeping God’s commandments once again, God will hear our prayer and He reach out with His mighty hand and help us out of that dark pit of sin by forgiving us our sins.
When we pray, we should have confidence that God will make things work out for the best as Paul said,
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Nehemiah 2:1 And it
came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when
wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king.
Now I had never been sad in his presence before. 2 Therefore the king said to me,
"Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing
but sorrow of heart." So I became dreadfully afraid, 3 and said to the king, "May
the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place
of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with
fire?" 4 Then the king
said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of
heaven. 5 And I said to the
king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your
sight, I ask that you send me to
Around four months has passed since Nehemiah has received the news about the Jews and it around our March or April. Nehemiah had managed to keep a cheerful face while he was before the king during this time, but he could no longer keep his true feelings covered up. So, as he came before the king to serve him his wine as had done many times in the past, but this time he had a sad expression on his face.
The king took notice because this was the first time he had ever seen Nehemiah looking sad and asked him what was going. At this moment fear came over Nehemiah because a servant was not supposed to show sadness before the king and he knew that it could be the end of his life.
Nehemiah dug down deep and overcame his fear and let the king know why he was so sad. First, he let the king know that he respected him as said “May the king live forever.” Then he proceeded to tell him how his forefathers’ city was in ruins. The words that came out of the kings mouth would let Nehemiah know if the king was pleased or displeased with what he just told him. In can just imagine that Nehemiah’s heart was pounding hard in his chest as he waited for the King’s response.
Then King asked Nehemiah
what his request was. This response must have brought great joy to Nehemiah and
made him realize that God was answering his prayer and then we find Nehemiah
praying to God again perhaps thanking Him or asking for courage to continue on.
After his prayer he continues showing respect for the king as he makes his
request known that he wants to go to
The king wants to know
how long he would be gone and Nehemiah gave him a time. We are not told what
that time was, but it took 3 to 4 months just travel to Jerusalem one way and
then he had to have time to help rebuild. The king granted him his request and
he became the new governor of
Nehemiah also asked for a
letter to pass through the land safely to
Nehemiah 2:9 Then I
went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the
king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with
me. 10 When Sanballat the
Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply
disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of
Nehemiah had a full military escort and this did not make Sanballat or Tobiah happy because these men were opposed to the Jews and they did not want them to be successful, but now the king of Persia was on the Jews side and this would bring end to their ability to keep the Jews from rebuilding their city.
Nehemiah 2:11 So I
Here we can see
Nehemiah’s wisdom at work. He had anticipated the resistance he would have
received from Jews at
Nehemiah 2:17 Then I
said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how
Now Nehemiah tells the
people his plan. First he points out how they have been under great distress,
which came from their enemies like the Samaritans. Since they had not been able
to rebuild the city it became a daily reminder of their oppression. But
Nehemiah calls for them end this oppression and show their enemies that they
can rebuild the walls of
He lets them know how God had made this moment possible and told them of the support they have from the king. All these people needed to be refocused on rebuilding the city was a strong and encouraging leader like Nehemiah. In my mind, I can see these Jews listening to Nehemiah very closely and I can see the expression on their face changing from a defeated helpless look to a look of hope and strength. Then I can imagine them all shouting in unity over and over again, Let us rise and build! Our text says they set their hands to do this good work.
From this we can see exactly what is needed for the Lord’s church to be successful. First, we have to have strong leadership like Nehemiah was. We must learn to have faith in God that he will be there to help us. We must have an active prayer life like Nehemiah had. We must trust in the Word of God and believe what it says again as Nehemiah did. Then we must determine in our minds that we are going to serve God and work hard for Him. We must be willing to rise and build together in unity because little can be done by a few. Finally we must set our hands to do this good work.
Nehemiah 2:19 But
when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab
heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, "What is
this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?" 20 So I answered them, and said to
them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His
servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in
external sources was the governor of
Nehemiah’s words would have stung extra hard to Sanballat since he was the governor of the Samaritans because some them were part Jew, but just as Zeurbbabel would not allow the Samaritans to rebuild the temple, Nehemiah let them know that they did have any right or heritage in Jerusalem.
We need to have this same confidence in God today and when people try to ridicule us for what we believe or discourage us with mean words, we need remind ourselves that God will make us prosper. He will be our rock and refuge. As Jesus said,
Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
And as Paul said, Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us?
When we read OT books like Nehemiah it should encourage us and build us up knowing that God is always there ready to help and strengthen us in our time of need.