A daily devotion for August 3rd
1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2 so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart."
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
4 The king said to me, "What is it you want?"
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it (Nehemiah 2:5).
Observe how tactful Nehemiah's presentation is. Twice he refers to Jerusalem, not as the capital of Judah or even by its name, for it had a reputation as a troublesome city and had been the source of revolt in the empire before, but he designates it as
the city where my fathers are buried. That is an accommodation to the emperor's own concerns. These ancient kings were greatly concerned about their burial. The pyramids in Egypt that the pharaohs have left are ample evidence of that. This king would be immediately sympathetic to Nehemiah's desire to go and restore the city where his fathers were buried. Nehemiah wisely plays upon that interest and presents his case in the best possible light.
Note also the thoroughness with which he had thought out all that he would need. He knew it would require a lengthy period of time, so he asked for the time he needed. He was actually gone for twelve years. I doubt if he asked for that long a time, but it took that long in the working out of his plans. He must have known it would take at least a number of years, and whatever he asked for, he was granted that amount of time.
Not only did Nehemiah need sufficient time for this expedition, but he needed secure travel. So he asked for letters to the governors of the provinces that he would have to pass through to provide safe conduct for him. We learn later in this book that this not only gave him diplomatic immunity, but it also meant that he was appointed as the governor of Judah. This would give him diplomatic status as he traveled. From secular sources we learn that there had been trouble in the province of Syria (just north of Judah) two years earlier. The satrap (governor) of that province had rebelled against Artaxerxes. It is likely that the king welcomed this opportunity to place a trusted man in the governorship of Judah and interpose a buffer between Syria and Egypt, who were often at war. Thus this journey of Nehemiah was something the king found very satisfying.
Finally, Nehemiah knew he would need some special supplies that only the king's authority could provide. He asked for special timbers to be cut for him out of the king's forest. Some believe that was located in the mountains of Lebanon. But others say it was probably a local forest, south of Jerusalem, from which King Solomon had taken wood for the building of his temple. At any rate, Nehemiah got what he asked for. He had done his homework thoroughly.
This suggests to us that if we are truly concerned about rebuilding parts of our life, we need to think seriously about what it will require. We must assess what we will actually need, what steps we should take, and what may be involved in changing our habits so that we can be freed to be what God wants us to be. Nehemiah teaches us that we need to face honestly our situation.
Lord, help me to make an honest assessment of my situation and boldly come before Your throne and depend on You for all that I need.
Life Application: Have we assessed the costs to our pride and self-reliance in rebuilding parts of our lives? Are we trusting God to show us His way through Christ?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.