Our reading for today begins in Ezra 8 through Nehemiah 10. We will be looking at Nehemiah today in our study.
We are told that Nehemiah was a captive of Israel in Shushan the palace (1:1) of king Artaxerxes of Persia. Nehemiah was the king’s “cupbearer (1:11). This task was more than just simply carrying the cup of the king’s wine and drink. Nehemiah was to taste the drink, then if he did not die from drinking it; because someone might be trying to assassinate the king; then, he would know that it was safe for the king.
Nehemiah was a man who had a heart for his home and people. We see in verse 3 of chapter one that he had received word from Hanani who had returned from Judah that the remnant who had been left of the captivity were in great affliction, and it crushed his heart.
“And they said unto me, ‘The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.’ And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, ‘I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments: let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel Thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.’” Nehemiah 1:3-6 (KJV) (This prayer continues to the end of the chapter).
One day as Nehemiah is serving the king his countenance was sad (2:1-3). He receives the king’s favor, and is allowed to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. When he arrives in Jerusalem he arises in the night and surveys the walls of the city to investigate the walls condition, and the work that would be needed to restore them. When he tells the people of his plans. There is some reluctance to the plan, and some outright mockery of the plan (2:19). He tells them that “The God of heaven, He will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem”; the latter part speaking to Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, of course.
The work is started with the gates and the wall. One of the things that must be doe when rebuilding something is to get the trash out of the way (4:10).
Once the work was squared away, and assignments made, and materials gathered the work on the wall was done in quick order. They had to work with weapons on their sides and nearby. They had a trumpeteer with Nehemiah at all times. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem hated the work of the Lord and His servants; and they were set to stop it. That is the case with the servants of the devil in every age. He is like a lion walking about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). The enemy is out, mind set, to stop and to destroy the work of God in you and me.
The wall is finished in 52 days (6:15). They had a heart to work and to get the wall erected.
We need to remember that Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra, and we find Ezra present in the reading of the Law,
“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:5-6
In the 10th verse of chapter eight we find a verse which is very familiar to many Christians,
“…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
The people had heard the Law of the LORD, and began weeping, and mourning; and they are told to not weep, neither to mourn, but to rejoice in that day. It was a day to celebrate because they had returned to the worship of the LORD of hosts.
There is a need among Christians today to rejoice in the wonderful grace of the Lord. His work of grace is more than amazing; it is glorious. We have much to rejoice in. The joy of the LORD is our strength. That is what The King’s Cupbearer was rejoicing in.
Looking ahead, Nehemiah’s final prayer is short, but shows his dependency on the God of grace and the grace of God; “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).
Come to the grace of God through the death, burial and bodily resurrection of His Son Jesus. There is the source of joy and strength.