-Nehemiah’s prayers are answered as the second chapter gets under way in the Medo-Persian Empire’s capital city of Susa. In the month of Nisan (called the “month of miracles” in the Hebrew calendar, it is the first month celebrating their release from Egypt, Exodus 12:2, and it is in the spring time) in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, when wine was set before him, and Nehemiah took up the wine as the cupbearer, the king noticed a somber demeanor in his official. Nehemiah had not been sad in the king’s presence up to this point, so it was obvious to the king that something serious was bothering his servant. This elicited the response by the king to inquire of Nehemiah, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick?” He discerned Nehemiah’s “sadness of heart.” This initially made Nehemiah fearful, but he gathered up his courage, perhaps realizing that this was the time of God’s answer to his prayer for condition changing in his homeland. He respectfully addressed the king, “Let the king live forever.” Then he pleaded his petition before him, “Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my father’s tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” The king replied, “What would you request?” This led Nehemiah to go right back to prayer for a God-given response (Nehemiah 2:1-4).
-When Nehemiah got his word from God, he answered the king stating, “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.” Artaxerxes did want to know the duration of this venture, and when his servant would return. Therefore, Nehemiah did give him a definite time, and it pleased the king to send him on his way with blessing. This was of the LORD for His glory and the fulfillment of His prophetic word. So Nehemiah went further with his request, “If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River (Euphrates), 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 (bayith- house), for the wall of the city and for the house (bayith- Temple) to which I will go.” Because the good Hand of the LORD was on this situation and His servant Nehemiah, the king gladly granted all his requests. But, when Nehemiah actually came, with officers of the king’s army and horsemen, to the governors of these provinces beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters, Sanballat, the Horonite official, and Tobiah, the Ammonite official, were very displeased that someone “had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel (Nehemiah 2:5-10).”
-Nehemiah, nonetheless, ventured on towards Jerusalem with the authority given by God and the king of the empire. He finally came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. Then, he arose in the night with a few of his men. He did not tell anyone what God was putting in his mind to do for the city, and he did not take any animal with him except the one he was riding on this secret-inspection maneuver. He went out by the Valley Gate (towards the Kidron) in the direction southward towards the Dragon’s Well and on to the Refuse Gate (where trash was dumped into the valley on the south side of the city) inspecting the walls of the holy city, which were broken down with gates consumed by fire. Nehemiah then passed on in the cover of night to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but he found no passable place for his mount to go close to this area. So he went up, again by night, by the ravine and inspected the walls from there. Finally, he entered the Valley Gate from where he began 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.” Upon completion of this inspection mission, he said to them, “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 so that we will no longer be a reproach.” Then he told them how the Hand of God had been upon him for favor and related to them the king’s words, which had been spoken to him. The people responded enthusiastically, “Let us arise and build.” “So they put their hands to the good work.” But, again, this was not without resistance. When Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they mocked the people of Jerusalem and despised them. They accused them of rebellion against the Medo-Persian king and questioned everything they were doing. However, Nehemiah’s answer to them was courageous and confident, “The God of Heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.”
*Application* When God has put a call on our life, He will provide the plan, provision, and favor to accomplish that task according to His timing and will for His purposes. This is the great lesson from this text that we should derive. Things will just work out, it’s uncanny. We will see miracles and things will move forward without us even trying to make, or force, them. There will be excitement, enthusiasm, and a can do spirit with most involved. Will there be opposition? Always, we can count on that. But again, we see that confidence and courage, along with some real-life ingenuity and perseverance, can take us through those obstacles. Let’s remember too that faith is all over this process.
Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 2:5, 18