The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), September 17
As a cupbearer, Nehemiah holds one of the most trusted positions in the king’s household. The cupbearer is required to taste the king’s wine, to make certain that it has not been poisoned by politically ambitious traitors.
News from Jerusalem prompts Nehemiah to consider giving up this important position—to make a career change. His brother who has just returned from Jerusalem informs him about the deplorable conditions of the Jews there. Nehemiah cannot continue business as usual. He knows that their problem is his problem.
Nehemiah’s prayer reveals the spiritual maturity that leads to his career change:
- Nehemiah has an exalted view of God: “LORD, God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5).
- Nehemiah identifies with Israel’s sin: “[I] confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned” (1:6).
- Nehemiah is biblically literate: “We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses” (1:7).
- Nehemiah knows how to appropriate Scripture: “Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name’” (1:8-9).
- Nehemiah cares about the plight of others: “These are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand” (1:10).
- Nehemiah trusts in the LORD and solicits God’s help: “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (1:11).
- Nehemiah is now prepared to face his employer.
When the king asks Nehemiah what he wants, Nehemiah quickly breathes another prayer to the LORD and asks the king to release him from his responsibilities and allow him to return to rebuild Jerusalem.
- Nehemiah arrives on the scene and spends the first three days assessing the situation. He then describes how God has placed His gracious hand upon him to rebuild the walls. The exiles respond to his leadership, saying, “Let us rise up and build” (2:18). In spite of opposition, Nehemiah and the exiles rebuild the walls in fifty-two days. The cupbearer to the king has become a notable leader among his own people.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ezra 9:1-10:44; Nehemiah 1:1-2:20):
Review Deuteronomy 7:1-6; 1 Kings 11:1-2. What reason had God given Israel for the prohibition against intermarriage with the Canaanites a thousand years earlier? How had the intermarriage of Israel’s third king impacted Israel as a nation?
How do the returning exiles respond to Ezra’s message regarding intermarriage?
What are the results of the survey implemented to determine the extent of intermarriage?
How does the LORD raise up leadership for the exiles who have returned to Jerusalem? What does this reveal about how God works?