“Then the king said unto me, ‘For what do you make request?’ So I prayed to the God of Heaven.”
Our omniscient Lord will never leave us in a lurch; we simply must cry out to Him in our moment of need, confident that He will hear and answer.
Weeping wine-tasters don’t usually last very long—especially when their boss is someone like Artaxerxes I Longimanus, the powerful Persian king who allowed Ezra to lead around 2,000 other Jews back to Jerusalem in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7). But, here it was. . .some 13 years later. . . when Nehemiah found out “the remnant that had returned were still in great affliction and reproach—partly because the wall of Jerusalem was still broken down and the burned-out gates were still not replaced” (1:3).
You would have thought such needed repairs would have already been accomplished. It’d already been 94 years since the first group had returned; yet, the reconstruction of the Temple had been halted for 14 years (534-520 B.C.) and Ezra had discovered the people had still strayed from God even though they’d returned to Jerusalem.
So, yes, Nehemiah was distraught over the condition of his beloved city and people. That’s why he “wept, mourned a number of days, fasted and prayed to the God of Heaven” (Neh. 1:4). And, that’s why his “countenance was sad, causing Artaxerxes to notice” (2:2a).
Again, no wonder he “was very sore afraid” (2:2b).
We would have been too—for a servant-slave was expected to make his master happy. But, Nehemiah’s grief was so great that no amount of make-up and forced mirth could cover up the dark circles under his bloodshot eyes.
Thankfully he was honest with the king and told him the reason for his great “sorrow of heart” (vv.2c-3). And, thankfully he knew what to do when the king asked him what he wanted/needed: “So I prayed to the God of Heaven.”
Oh, dear Pilgrim, quite often those spontaneous prayers that quickly arise during a moment of crisis are the most effective—especially when we know the Lord God is listening. We can safely assume that Nehemiah’s response wasn’t spontaneous, i.e., off-the-cuff, because he was very specific in his request (vv.5-8). Like steam that bursts forth from a pressure-cooker valve, so are such prayers that quickly shot to Heaven after having simmered in our quiet hearts for quite some time.
Boldness in God’s Throne Room (Heb. 4:16) so often will lead to boldness in man’s corporate board rooms. Salt and Light cannot be unused or hidden and be used by God. The Lord had placed Nehemiah in that strategic place (most likely with the help of Esther, Artaxerxes’ stepmother) at that time in history to be used for the specific purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. How wonderful it is to know “the Lord will direct our paths when we trust in Him with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding or wisdom” (Prov. 3:5-6). Hallelujah!!
By Tom Smith Morning Manna Dated September 14, 2009