First - a disclaimer: My computer is very old and is in the process of slowly dying. In my last post, I was unable to go back to edit anything and my computer kept freezing up, so that is why there were so many spelling, grammar and other errors. Please excuse them. :)
Okay, my disclaimer is over and it is time to look at Chapter 2 of Nehemiah. Once again, we start with the time. We see it is still the 20th year and this time it is clear that this refers to the 20th year in the reign of King Artaxerxes. In the previous chapter it was the month of Chislev. Being unfamiliar with the Jewish calendar, I decided to look this up. Apparently it was around November/December of our calendar and the time of year that Hannukah was celebrated. Now we see it is the month of Nisan. This corresponds with March/April on our calendars, so a few months have passed.
The most interesting thing I found when I looked all of this up, is that the month of Nisan is also known as the month of redemption. It is the same month that Israel was freed from Egyptian captivity. Considering the events of this chapter, I found this to be very interesting. I hope you will as well. :)
So, in verse 2, Nehemiah sets the scene. He is with the king and has just given him his wine. This means, Nehemiah had already tasted it and since he hadn't keeled over, the king knew that the wine was safe to drink. I thought it was interesting what you read at the end of verse 2: "Now I had not been sad in his presence." It's like Nehemiah wants you to know he has been doing his job well even after you read the King's next words which were, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart." Apparently, "put a smile on your face or else" was the way of the palace because Nehemiah next mentions that the king saying this made him "very much afraid." I guess moping around in the king's presence was a big no-no.
Even though Nehemiah was afraid, he told the king the truth - the city of his fathers was in ruins. The king, who apparently had a good relationship with Nehemiah, asked what Nehemiah wanted to request. I love Nehemiah's response - "So I prayed to the God of heaven." Before he said a word, he prayed. How many times, when I am in a high pressure situation, do I just open my mouth and talk and talk and talk? Embarrassingly, far more than I respond the way Nehemiah did! Nehemiah was different - he took a moment to pray.
In the next few verses, Nehemiah gives the king not just a general, vague idea of what he is requesting, but where he wants to go (Judah), what he wants to do (rebuild the city), a time frame and what he will need to get the job done. This is all in verses 4-8. Verse 8 ends with Nehemiah's take on why he was granted favor - "Adnd the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me." If you read Ezra, the book before Nehemiah, you will see that phrase many times.
Nehemiah wasn't one to let grass grown under his feet - in the very next verse we find him giving the governors the king's letters. We also see that the king not only did what Nehemiah asked but he also gave him officers and horsemen. This reinforces that God's hand was indeed upon Nehemiah.
In verse 10, we are introduced to the villains in the story - Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Nehemiah clearly states that these two men wanted nothing good to happen for the Israelites. It doesn't say why. If you look back in some of historical books, even as far back as Exodus, the Ammonites were enemies of Israel. So, this may have been a sort of racist hatred going on. Maybe it was as simple as these men had some power over the downtrodden Jews and didn't want to see them raised from their humble position in that society. Whatever the reason, they established themselves early on as enemies of Israel and specifically enemies of Nehemiah and his goal.
It is interesting to me that many times when God places a burden on my heart, and I set about trying to do what He wants me to do, obstacles seem to crop up out of nowhere. Many times, those obstacles are in the form of people. It is just a given, that if you are doing what God wants you to do, you will have enemies. You may as well prepare yourself for that fact of life.
When Nehemiah arrived, he was in Jeruselum three days and he didn't tell anyone what his plans were. After three days, Nehemiah felt God telling him to take a look around. He did this in the middle of the night with only a few men. Nehemiah's description of his ride gives us an idea of how badly the walls had been ruined. In some places, it says he couldn't even ride his mount through. He came back and although it doesn't say anything, you can almost feel the heaviness of Nehemiah's heart after seeing this destruction up close and personal. Nehemiah wanted a clear picture of what was wrong and what needed to be done without a lot of voices to distract him. A true leader, takes in the facts before he starts including a lot of other people.
In verse 17, he finally reveals why he is there and sort of rallies the troops. He calls them to, "Come, let us rebuild the walls of Jeruselum so that we will no longer be a reproach." He encourages them with the fact that God's hand was upon him and how he had gotten there. The people were all for it and responded with, "Let us arise and build!" They didn't just say either - they got right to work.
Of course, as soon as they started doing something, Sanballat and Tobiah are on the scene. They mocked and despised them and even offered a veiled threat - "What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?" In other words, if you continue doing this - rebuilding the walls- the king is going to think you are rebelling. If a people in the situation of Israel were seen as rebels, they would be crushed pretty quickly. The Jews that were there would have understood what was being said between the lines.
Fortunately, Nehemiah had all of his ducks in a row. He was confident, not only in what God had for him to do, but he also had gotten through all the red tape and had not tried to do this behind anyone's back. This reminds me of the story of the Christian organization that went to Haiti and tried to bring back some of the orphans, but because they had not gone through the right protocol, they got in big trouble. It isn't enough to have good intentions. We must follow through, and as much as we are able and as long as it doesn't go against God's Word, we should be in compliance with laws and procedures - even if we think it is just a lot of red tape!
Because he had done the right thing before his king, Nehemiah was able to answer his enemies with confidence. The final verse is his reply to Sanballat and Tobiah's mocking and threats: "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."
I am learning so much from Nehemiah - to be honest in what I need; to do my jobs well so my employer knows I am someone to trust; to pray before speaking; to be specific in my requests; to be clear on all the facts before I proceed - even if I think this is what God wants me to do; to follow the rules so there can be no reproach. Who knew all that was in Nehemiah?
~ Blessings, Bronte