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 Part 1, we read about the Encounter. Next we see…
THE EDICT – 2:6-8
There are three points I want to bring out in relation to the King’s edict, or response. First, we notice The Secret Companion – 2:6. It is no accident that when Nehemiah recounts the day, he makes a mention of the queen getting involved in the discussion. There is good reason to believe that this queen was none other than Esther. This may be why now that the king is more favorable to what is going on now. Remember, the book of Esther covers the time between ch. 6-7 of Ezra. And it was in chapter 4 of Ezra that this king stopped the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Now that Esther is queen, she may have softened the king’s heart to the plight of Israel, which is why he now is helping them instead of hindering them.
Secondly, we notice The Solicitation for Contributions – 2:7-8a. While Nehemiah was praying, he was also doing some planning. Too many people today have no plan for their life, and they call it, “living by faith.” Chuck Swindoll once wrote, “The presence of faith does not mean an absence of organization (Hand me another brick, pg 37).” Nehemiah planned because he had faith that God was going to answer his prayers. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:1, “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:9, “A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”
A lack of a plan shows a lack of faith in God answering your prayer. If you are praying to God and have faith that God will answer it – then have a plan and be prepared for when He does answer. The enormity of Nehemiah’s plan reveals to us the enormity of Nehemiah’s faith. In asking for all that he did, it would be the same as if the mayor of your city not only agreeing that you should build a new church building, but the city offering to finance the entire build for free. We serve a big God, so let’s pray some big prayer, and formulate some big plans!
Finally, we see The Sovereign Compassion – 2:8b. Even though Nehemiah was the one who made the request, and he had a plan in place for when the time was right – he still recognized that it was the hand of the Lord and gave God the glory. “It was not because Nehemiah was smart, but because God was sovereign. It was not because Nehemiah was great, but because God was gracious (Steven Davey , Memoirs).” This proves that delays to prayer are not necessarily denials. God was working in not only Nehemiah’s heart, but the king’s, as well. Continue on in prayer and allow God to fully work through the situation.
THE ENEMY – 2:9-10
One of the interesting aspects that I noticed in comparing and contrasting Nehemiah and Ezra was The Different Method – 2:9. When Ezra made his return to Jerusalem in Ezra 8:22-23, he did not want any help from the king or his army. Yet, we see that Nehemiah did not refuse the help. What this reveals to is that God does not always lead the same way. We don’t always have to imitate everything that those before us have done.
Whether it is breaking the cycle of sin that has plagued the previous generations of our families, or serving the Lord here at the church today – just because something was done a certain way in the past does not automatically mean that it has to be done that same way today. If you grew up in a family that did not serve God – you can change. If you are resistant to change, you need not be. The seven last words of the dying church are, “We’ve never done it that way before.”
When it comes to serving the Lord, we have it ingrained in our minds that new is always bad, or a compromise – but that is not true. Everything old, whether it is music, or a program, etc was new at one point. We reject new things because they are not biblical, not because they are different. As a church, we must embrace new things as God sends them our way and use them for the glory of God if we want to reach the next generation for Christ.
As much as is concerned with the critics, we notice The Differing Men – 2:10. Mark it down, whenever you step out by faith and try to make a difference for God – there will be critics. When you experience criticism and opposition, it does not necessarily mean you are outside the will of God. Sometimes, it reveals that you are right in the center of God’s will for your life. Don’t allow the “negative nellies” to get you off the path of your faith.
As we close this portion of Nehemiah, let me ask you: Are you planning for God to answer your prayer? Do you have a plan in place for God to use you to rebuild your family/church? If God is leading you, don’t be afraid to take a new path in serving Him.