I was sitting next to a very interesting man last week on a flight home from Denver. During the trip, we were talking about how life has twists and turns – so many that we aren’t prepared for. This made me think of the book of Nehemiah. So, I’d like to share my thoughts on the book and how it relates to this journey…
Nehemiah, the cup bearer to the Emperor of Persia, was told by one of his brothers about the state of Jerusalem. He learned that the people of Jerusalem were looked down upon by the neighboring nations. The walls were still broken and the gate was burnt. Learning all of this, Nehemiah wept, fasted and prayed. What terrible news! This great nation, the nation of his ancestors, the nation promised to Abraham by God, was now a disgrace. How could this be? And, what could he do? He was a servant to the Emperor of Persia.
While Nehemiah was internally a complete mess, during the day, he was not allowed to show any negative emotions. So, he hid his distress and went on with his work. But, during the times when he was away from the Emperor, he fasted and prayed. He asked God for help making a plan. If he were to get the opportunity to talk with the Emperor, what would he need? What should he ask for? What was his plan?
So, Nehemiah prayed for God’s guidance. Then, he made a plan of what would be needed while continuing to pray for God’s help and grace. Then, he prayed some more and waited for the opportunity. He prayed God would give him the opportunity to ask the Emperor for his help, to help the people of the nation God had promised to his ancestors.
Four months later, while serving the Emperor, he noticed that Nehemiah was sad. So, the Emperor asked Nehemiah what was troubling him.
Let’s stop there… It was FOUR MONTHS later!
Imagine, fasting, praying, planning, waiting, praying, planning, waiting… Four months! Once he came up with his plan, he continued to pray to God each and every day for an opportunity to ask the Emperor for help. And, each of day of the four months, God did not open up that opportunity.
Now, four months later, his opportunity arises. God has opened the door. And, remember, Nehemiah had a plan. He had continually asked God for help and guidance, so he not only had a plan, he had a well thought out, detailed plan. So, when asked by the Emperor, what did Nehemiah do?
He asked God for guidance – for the right words. Then, he went into details about the plans he had made, the time he would need, the materials he would need, and the letters providing him safe passage through other nations. He had a specific plan about where he would get the lumber, where he would live, etc. He thought of everything. Down to every detail.
Let me take that back. He didn’t think of everything. God showed him what he needed. Nehemiah was the messenger. The walls needed to be rebuilt. The gate needed to be repaired. The people of Jerusalem needed to be restored. And, Nehemiah was the person God was using to make this a reality.
Now, here is the next part – and I do love this part. I don’t think I could do it, which is why I think I love this so very much. When Nehemiah made it to Jerusalem, he didn’t run in and tell everyone all that he had done, all of his plans, etc. He waited…For THREE DAYS!!
Ok – I do not have that kind of patience! But, that is exactly what was needed. Before he could get the people of Jerusalem to follow him, he needed to know what he was asking them to do. He went around the city at night and looked at all the work that needed to be done.
After the three days had passed and he knew exactly what he was asking, he went into the city and said,
Nehemiah 2:17 GNB: “See what trouble we are in because Jerusalem is in ruins and its gates are destroyed! Let’s rebuild the city walls and put an end to our disgrace”
Notice – he was part of this. He asked to put an end to “our” disgrace. This wasn’t pointing fingers. He was part of this. And, he was given the opportunity to help. He shared how God had been with him along the way, and how the Emperor had provided for the rebuilding. So, the people of Jerusalem went to work.
As you can imagine, it wasn’t always this easy. Again, the people from the neighboring nations didn’t want a strong Jerusalem. And, they were looking to stop any plans for rebuilding the gates and restoring glory to this nation. So, as the people of Jerusalem started to move back into the city and work on the walls and gates, the leaders of the neighboring nations started to ridicule the Jews. They wanted to discourage the work.
When Nehemiah heard of this, he prayed for help and went on building.
When he heard that the other nations were going to wage a war against Jerusalem. So, he prayed. Then, to calm the fears of the Jews, he had half stand watch while the other half worked. When the other nations plotted against Nehemiah and asked for a meeting so they could kill him, he replied “I am doing important work and can’t go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you” (Nehemiah 6:3, GNB).
I love that! I am doing important work and can’t go down there! And every other plot they planned was foiled due to Nehemiah’s faith in God and God’s people!
It took a long time, but the people of Jerusalem were able to rebuild the wall and the gates. Part of their struggle was all the time it took to get rid of the rubble, the trash, the garbage that was left around the city. It took time to clean everything up before the real work can be done. But when the people of Jerusalem worked on the physical rubble, they were also working on their internal rubble. They were learning how to rely and trust in God again. They had forgotten all that God had promised. But, Nehemiah was there to help them remember. To bring Jerusalem back to it’s GLORY and the people back from the shadows.
To help ensure the people of Jerusalem would continue to keep to God’s word, Ezra, the priest, read the Word of God, the Law, so the Jews could hear it, understand it, and follow it. When he spoke God’s Word, the people of Jerusalem understood it; they were so moved that they cried. They understood all that God had promised and how far they had fallen.
I’d love to say that the people continued to follow God’s Word, but that was not the case. As Nehemiah needed to go back to Persia, the people of Jerusalem began to slip back into old patterns and habits. Not surprising. How many times have I committed to do something, but when it got hard, I gave up. Too many to count.
There is so much more in the 13 short chapters of this book! It’s such a great story! And, it gives me hope. Here’s the bottom line:
God has a plan. And, no matter where we are in life, God is with us. He is helping us grow and develop. Or, He is bringing us in contact with the person we need to help us fulfill His plan. Either way, we just need to have faith! And, we need to have a plan. We need to pray for God’s help and guidance, and put together a plan. Then, we need to pray for the opportunity to share our plan with the right person to help us. God will help us. He always does! He is forever faithful. We just aren’t always so patient! And, we don’t always see that what He provides is His perfect plan. It may not be what we wanted, but it is what He knows we need. Finally, when it gets tough, we need to stay true to His word and persevere! If it’s His will, if it is part of His plan, He will see to it!