Vol.5, No. 29 – July 26, 2020
Effectively handling the Problems Life Brings — Nehemiah 2:9-20
So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night; I and a few men with me. I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. –Nehemiah 2:11-12
Culturally, there are many who would call Nehemiah a jingo, a derisive term that converts to flag waver, nationalist, or super-patriot. Typically, one using this term would view a person’s patriotism as reflecting arrogance, one of supremacy in their nationalism, holding a narrow isolationism. The intent is to disparage.
Nehemiah is indeed a zealous patriot. He is deeply devoted to his beloved Jerusalem. The city is in shambles—has been for over 150 years. Nehemiah’s story reflects how one solitary figure can make the difference in a nation.
He does not hold a press conference on CNN, nor does he appear on the View, or on FoxNews. There is no flag-waving parade. Nehemiah is a cupbearer for the king of Persia (Iran). You need to read how he addressed the king to get permission to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city (chapters one and two). The story is a study of strength in solitude.
A cupbearer is not a safe position. The one holding this responsibility samples the drink for the king. It is somewhat of a thankless job. Leaders were poisoned to get rid of them. A cupbearer was then appointed to sample the drink; if the drink is poisoned, the cupbearer would wind up out of a job. Because he would be dead. However, the king would live on.
Back to our history. Nehemiah asks for permission to leave; surprisingly the king, King Artaxerxes, grants him permission, even providing safe-passage travel and funding. Thus, Nehemiah arrives in the city. He was horrified with what he saw. The city is a mess.
Nothing is more terrible to see than ignorance in action. –Goethe, 1749-1832
While others were asleep, Nehemiah lies wide-awake. Evidentially, Nehemiah does his best thinking in the night.
- I arose in the night (12)
- I went out by night (13)
- I went up in the night (15)
I would have had some great conversations with Nehemiah; I do most of my writing at night. (My spelling errors are the night-time version of the iPhone spellcheck on a dumb phone.) Nehemiah is said to ride a beast, a donkey. He rides around, a midnight ride, with a select group of men. The intent is to look at the walls and gates.
Nehemiah has a plan:
- He decides to continue seeking the Lord; he has a vested interest in honoring Him
- He calls out a detachment to determine his game plan. He keeps it secretive because there is opposition from the enemies of Israel. He looks carefully; this is not a simple glance. He views in detail. He inspects. The language indicates it is examining critically, scrutinizing, and diagnosing in detail the situation.
- He makes a declaration of war on things as they are. After planning his strategy for three days, he does not call a town-hall meeting. He puts his hand to the plough. He does not look back, and he does not take his hand off the work, until he is able to say: it is finished!
Nehemiah brought no new laborers to rebuild the walls, but he brought something better that is essential for every great enterprise . . . an inspiration. –Walter Adeney
Nehemiah brings what we need. He brings what the nations need in every age. Nations cry out for better people; God’s people cry out for God-sent heroes. The idea is to get more to accomplish the Herculean labor that so easily besets us. We faint and fall. God has a better idea.
How about we become better servants of Almighty God, to do what He expects; take the role of a Nehemiah-servant to be a hero of God.
- He, in attempting what seemed impossible, planned for defamation. Nehemiah knew about scorn and ridicule, especially by Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem (10-18). They have those double-edge sword rules: (1) it cannot be done, and (2) the laws of the land forbid it. (3) Either violated is considered treason.
When negative thinking comes into play in attempting the great things of God, the right answer is to listen to God’s calling: Build (or insert any verb that meets what God is expecting). God is always at the ready in His helping and prospering those who choose to follow Him.
The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we, his servants, will arise and build, but you [enemies of God] have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem. –2:20
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. –1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Handling effectively the problems that life brings!