Zerubabbel led the first group of Jews out of captivity and back to Jerusalem in about 538 BC, more than 90 years earlier. Ezra led a second group back in about 458 BC. As this book opens, its about 445 BC. Nehemiah, a Jew born in captivity, has never been to Jerusalem or Israel. But his heart and soul are attached to Jerusalem. He is living and working for the Persian king in Susa, the Citadel. This is where the Persian winter palace was. Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer so he was in close proximity to the king most of the time. This was a position of trust and responsibility. He had that anything the king drank was free from poison.
When Nehemiah got word that the Jewish remnant in Jerusalem were in distress. The wall was broken down, and the gates had been burned. A city wall was very important. It protected the people from robbers and enemies. Important cities had walls. The condition of the wall provided safety and stability to a city. It also said something about the city’s god. His reaction tells us a lot about who he is. Nehemiah weeps, mourns, fasts, and prays. He requested success for God’s work. When God’s people pray, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective, and appropriate actions follow.
When the king noticed Nehemiah’s sad countenance, he asked why and Nehemiah prayed quickly and silently. Then he told the king why he was sad and asked if he could go rebuild Jerusalem and its wall. The king granted his request and sent him with letters of approval, supplies, and military support.
When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he carefully studied the situation before rallying the people. He then gathered the people, organized the work force There was opposition on every side so they worked with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other. The wall was rebuilt in 52 days and nights of working around the clock. This shocked and frightened the surrounding nations. They knew that God had to have been at work.
Nehemiah stayed on in Jerusalem serving as governor. He continued rebuilding the city, training the people in the word of God, making sure the Jewish laws, feasts and holidays were observed.
Nehemiah was a man of prayer and action. He prayed before taking any action. He studied the situation. He made good decisions. (Decision-making ability differentiates between poor and good leaders and between good and great leaders. Decisions reveal values and intelligence. We all make many decisions daily. Some are small and others can be life-altering. The patterns established by the small decisions shape the course of the larger ones.)
He organized the plan and the people. He was prepared for work and for opposition. He was courageous. He had faith in God to protect his people. He was humble and hard-working. He dealt firmly with offenders of the faith. He served God wholeheartedly. He read God’s word and had it read and explained to the people. He finished the job he started – on time and under budget.
You may not have Nehemiah’s unique abilities or feel that you are in a position where you can do anything great for God, BUT there are two ways you can become useful to God.
1st – Be a person who talks with God. Welcome him into your thoughts and share your concerns, feelings, and dreams.
2nd – Be a person who walks with God. Put what you learn from his Word into action. God may have what seems like an impossible mission that he wants to do through you.
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