FAITH OVERCOMES FEAR
Lord, give me favor when I need it.
Read NEHEMIAH 2:1–10
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
“If we really believe in something we have no choice but to go further” (Graham Greene, 1904–1991).
As cup-bearer (Neh. 1:11), Nehemiah is a highly trusted confidant of the king. Although living in Persia, his heart is still in Jerusalem, and he is distraught over Hanani’s recent news (Neh. 1:3). No doubt earlier reports of Ezra’s rebuilding project have been encouraging, and Nehemiah must be unaware of Artaxerxes’s decision to terminate it (Ezra 4:23). However, the shock leads Nehemiah to discover a new vocation! Take a moment to pray for people you may know who are suddenly confronted by adversity. Ask God to awaken them to discover new potential with which to serve him and others.
Nehemiah knows he must act as well as pray. For four months he has been pleading with God for guidance and assistance. Opportunity arrives one day when he is serving the king and queen as they dine together: Artaxerxes asks his wine steward why he is sad (2). The royal request terrifies Nehemiah. In the Persian court a gloomy appearance is an indicator of potential disloyalty! Nehemiah holds his nerve, however, and explains the source of his grief. Fear does not keep him from breaching imperial protocol. After a flash prayer (4b) and with divine help (8) he takes the plunge. In effect, he asks an autocratic king to revoke a previous decree (Ezra 4:21). It could all go disastrously wrong.
Nehemiah is an outstanding example of a layperson furthering God’s kingdom in the public sphere. Neither a prophet, priest, or Levite, but an ordinary civil servant, he persuades the most powerful ruler in the world to reverse his imperial policy so that it favors rather than threatens the people of God (cf. Ezra 4:18–23). Pray now for Christians in the civil service, in government and in parliament, that the gracious hand of their God may be on them (cf. 8).
Pray before beginning your daily activities and throughout the day. As you make each choice that life demands, offer a flash prayer to God for guidance and help.
Lord, we know that You place Your people in strategic places in order to carry out Your purposes. Use me in a similar capacity.
Book and Author Intros
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.