Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
God mobilises workmen to do His will at just the right time. We have already seen how God used men like Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra. Now, God is going to use a man who serves in the royal Persian city of Susa: Nehemiah.
Nehemiah is the royal cupbearer, someone who supervises the king’s food and drink to guard against poisoning attempts. He is a Jew who has remained in Babylon to serve the king. Now, he receives his call from God through news from Jerusalem, brought to him by his brother Hanani (Nehemiah 1:2).
That Nehemiah is a devout Jew who is deeply concerned about the welfare of his people in Jerusalem is clear in the way he closely questions his brother. The words he hears, like “great trouble”, “disgrace”, “broken down”, and “burned”, break his heart as they describe the sad condition of Jerusalem and her people (v. 3). More than 90 years have passed since the first group of exiles returned from Babylon to the holy city, but the general situation there is not good. Although the temple has been rebuilt, the walls and gates are still in ruins, and the city lies exposed to enemies.
The news greatly troubles Nehemiah, who fasts and prays to God (v. 4). His response is that of a man who knows that the real solution has to come from heaven—hence the prayer to “the God of heaven” (v. 4). His sitting down (rather than rushing into action), weeping, and praying expresses dependence on God, our true Helper (Psalm 54:4; Hebrews 13:6).
Today’s passage shows us that the honour of God and His people must be important to us. The glory of God should be our central concern and motive. In the news we hear—about other individuals or families, the church, and what is going on in the world—we may hear God speaking to us and calling us to serve Him.
The news about Jerusalem affects Nehemiah deeply. How can we make reading the news more than an act of information gathering? Read today’s news and see if God is saying something to you.
What situations facing those you know, your church, and society affect you deeply? What are you doing about them?