And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.”
So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?”
Then the king said to me, “What do you request?”
So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me. Nehemiah 2:1-8
The broken down condition of the city of Jerusalem laid heavy on Nehemiah’s heart. Upon receiving a report regarding the condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah had received a burden for Jerusalem that had driven him to many days of weeping and mourning, in fasting and prayer, for the restoration of Jerusalem. Nehemiah allowed his heart to be broken and he humbled himself before the Lord.
Regarding Nehemiah’s prayer, Spurgeon commented “Laying the matter to heart, he did not begin to speak with other people about what they would do, nor did he draw up a wonderful scheme about what might be done if so many thousand people joined in the enterprise; but it occurred to him that he would do something himself.”
Nehemiah’s time of prayer, allowing his heart and mind to be prepared by God, lasted for four months. This time of prayer became the foundation for a work that God would accomplish through Nehemiah. That work, rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, would take 52 days to complete once the work began.
Nehemiah was ready and willing to serve God in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. God had put a specific burden in Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. In times of dedicated prayer, God prepares our hearts and our minds for the work that He has planned for us. Often, as we are waiting for the Lord to do a work… God is doing a work in us. From our perspective, we think that God is not ready and we are trying to “figure out what God is waiting for”. From God’s perspective, we are not yet ready and He must prepare us for the mission that lies ahead.
Following the four months of prayer and mourning, God begins to prepare the path for Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem to to begin the work for which he is being prepared. King Artaxerxes recognizes that there is a burden on Nehemiah’s heart and begins to inquire about the burden. When I read through these eight verses of scripture, I’m always amazed at how much God provides to Nehemiah through King Artaxerxes in this short exchange.
First, Nehemiah is granted the time to go to Jerusalem to lead the work that is to be performed. He is being released from his responsibilities as the king’s cup bearer to take on his own personal endeavors (really God’s endeavors).
Second, Nehemiah is granted safe passage. Nehemiah requested letters to allow him to pass through the various regions on his journey to Judah. These letters, signed and sealed by the king, would place a level of protection on his journey. He was traveling under the authority of the king. Anyone that hampered his travel would be acting in defiance of the king.
Third, Nehemiah is given the materials for the rebuilding of the wall and his house. The timber would be necessary for the rebuilding. With letters from the king providing for the timber, he would have access to the raw materials that were necessary for the project at hand.
For a project of this magnitude all three of these (time, travel provisions, and materials) are all major components that often take weeks, months, or even years to work out. God provided all three to Nehemiah for this project in one conversation. God would not have put the burden on Nehemiah’s heart if He was not willing to provide the resources necessary. Sometimes God provides resources up front as He has done in these verses. Other times, God provides the resources after we have exercised steps of faith. In this case, God does not provide the manpower to perform the work until Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem and surveys the city.
God ordains our paths and provides all that we need when we submit ourselves to His plans. Time and time again, I have been amazed at how God can clear obstacles and hurdles when I simply say “Yes God, I’m willing.” On more than one occasion I’ve had to tell my wife that I don’t know all the details of how a task will be completed. But if God has called me to undertake a task, I know that He knows the details of how He will accomplish it. From my perspective… it’s much more important that He knows the details than it is that I know the details.
As Christians, we walk in faith trusting in God our Father. We spend the necessary time in prayer, allowing God to work in us. Then we step forward in faith allowing God to use us to accomplish His will. He is glorified and we are blessed.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6