Pastoral Commentary for Nehemiah 1-2
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
The book of Nehemiah continues the story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the return of the exiles from the Babylonian captivity. It introduces another important person who was used by God to provide leadership for the exiles. Nehemiah held high office in the Persian court as the king's cupbearer, one of his most trusted officials who protected the king from assassination by poisoning. When Nehemiah heard from fellow Jews how things were going in Jerusalem he was deeply disturbed. Nehemiah wept and prayed with a fervor rarely seen. Nehemiah began with praise to God for His faithfulness, and continued by confessing his own sins and the sins of God's people that had caused their distress. Then Nehemiah did something very important. He prayed God's promise back to him, that if God's people repented and prayed He would gather and restore them. Finally, Nehemiah asked God to grant him favor with the Persian king. Nehemiah knew when he first heard of Jerusalem's plight that the king had ruled only recently on the situation, ordering a halt to the rebuilding until further notice (Ezra 4:21). He waited four months before approaching the king. On that occasion he deliberately let his deeply troubled spirit show on his face for the first time. When the king inquired, Nehemiah informed him of the source of his distress and the king asked Nehemiah what he wanted. Boldly, Nehemiah asked the king to send him to Jerusalem to rebuild it. The king granted Nehemiah's every request to enable him to accomplish his goal, for as Nehemiah wrote, "the good hand of my God was upon me." Nehemiah was an excellent leader who understood that there would be opposition to his plans, so under the cover of darkness he carefully assessed the condition of the walls and gates needing repair before seeking the help he needed to complete the work. Then he spoke to the people and their leaders urging them to undertake the work of rebuilding. What was their response to Nehemiah's leadership? "Let us rise up and build." When the opponents of the Jews accused him of rebellion, Nehemiah put his trust not in the king (who had authorized the work), but in God. "The God of heaven will make us prosper."