Nehemiah 2:1-10 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. (2) Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, (3) And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? (4) Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. (5) And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. (6) And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. (7) Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; (8) And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me. (9) Then I came to the governors 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 servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
In chapter 1 we learned a lot about prayer from Nehemiah. Now, we are going to learn about the importance of planning. It is good to have a plan in place, just as we will see Nehemiah did. Reminds me of a story are read recently. A certain man remembered visiting a nursery, looking for a certain type of tree for the front yard. While there he saw a sign that said, “The best time to plant a tree was 15 years ago.” The next line stated, “The second best time is today.” (1001 More Humorous Illustrations, pg 247). Many Christians are like Nehemiah in that they are praying; but they don’t continue on to chapter two and plan and prepare like Nehemiah did. Are you planning and preparing for the day God answers your prayer? That may seem like a contradiction, but as we will see in the first part of chapter two, every Christian should be PLANNING FOR THE PURPOSE.
THE ENCOUNTER – 2:1-5
There are three steps we notice in this encounter. First, Nehemiah in the Presence of the King – 2:1-4a. A servant’s appearance and countenance was very important in the presence of the king. The king wanted those whom he employed to have a happy countenance to portray and reflect the well-being brought about by his reign. Any change in Nehemiah’s behavior would arouse suspicion from the king. We see this play out in the story of Joseph, the baker and the butler (cup bearer) all in prison. Genesis 40:1-3 And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. (2) And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. (3) And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.
The word sad here is similar to bad/evil – “Why is your face troubled with evil?” Nehemiah’s admission of fear shows that he was totally depending upon God and had no confidence in his self. He realized what authority the king had over him, and it would be nothing short of a great work of God to change the situation. This was the same King, who in Ezra chapter 4, sent a letter at the request of Israel’s enemies and forced the rebuilding of Jerusalem to be stopped.
“Let the king live forever” – this was Nehemiah’s way of not only paying his respect to his boss, but letting him know that his change in countenance had nothing to do with some poison he ingested that was supposed to be for the king. He then begins to unload the burdens of his heart – a burden that was bottled up for over 3 months, fed continually by daily prayer and fasting. By mentioning the sepulchers, Nehemiah was appealing to an ancient tradition which held the burying place of one’s ancestors in great importance. The king is moved, and asks Nehemiah what his request is, which leads to…
Nehemiah’s Prayer to the King of Kings – 2:4b. This is the shortest, yet one of the most powerful, prayers recorded in God’s Word. In recalling the situation, Nehemiah used the transitional word “so.” This 2 letter word will appear over 32 times in this book. Nehemiah uses this word to get right to the point and respond to the situation at hand. There is no reason to deny a situation that is right in front of you – procrastination is the enemy of success – have a plan.
The first step, and most important part of Nehemiah’s plan was to pray. Even though he was in the presence of the king, he never forgot that he was always in the presence of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lord’s. In my Bible I have this note written down by this verse – Short prayers work when you stay close to the throne. Nehemiah was able to send up a short, quick prayer because he had already spent much time in dedicated, sincere prayer. The key is not the length of your prayer, but the loyalty to the one you pray to. God was just a prayer away from Nehemiah, and the same is true for us today.
Nehemiah’s Petition to the King – 2:5. He did not force the issue, but humbly told the king the situation and allowed God to move in his heart. We cannot try to manipulate people into doing what we want, but wait and be patient for the Lord to do His work in His timing. When you manipulate people, you may get what you want – but it will not last. We must exercise patience and allow God to work in people’s heart.
In part 2, we will see Edict and the Enemy.