The name Nehemiah means Comforted of Jehovah. As we read through the book of Nehemiah we can surely see how God was the only comfort for Nehemiah. He faced insurmountable odds of completing such an enormous task. God shows through Nehemiah that what ever tasks he sets us to, that he will be faithful to equip, defend, and enable us to the completion his ordained will, and for the glory of his name. God will leave or abandon us, and God remains faithful to his promises. He is a God who redeems and sanctifies.
The book of Ezra told of the events of the Jews return to their homeland after their exile to Babylon, for seeking other gods. From Ezra we heard about the near 50,000 former captives that had returned to Palestine. We also see Ezra’s struggles in rebuilding the Temple and the great efforts of Ezra to re-educate the Jews on their Hebrew ancestry and the Law of Moses.
The book of Nehemiah continues this story with Nehemiah receiving grave news concerning the state of things in Jerusalem. In this continuation of the saga of the restoration of Israel we see the providence of God, and the intricacy of his planning. God has positioned Nehemiah in a position that gives him access and favor of King Artaxerxes. We also are given a proper manor in which we should deal with situations of great distress that are out of our hands.
Nehemiah has received word that the city and survivors in Jerusalem are, “in great affliction and reproach.” In addition, Nehemiah is told that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and the gates lay destroyed by fire. This leaves the city defenseless to bands of marauders and enemies of the Jews. There is no sense of cohesion, nor security from within or without. In learning of these things, Nehemiah weeps and mourns in fasting and prayer for days. He pleads with God for mercy and confesses the sins of his nation. He reminds God of his promise to restore Israel if they repented and returned to keep his commandments. Then Nehemiah calls to the Lord that he knows that the Lord has indeed redeemed his people by his great power and his strong hand, and that abandoning his children after delivering them is not in his nature. Then we see that God opens the door for Nehemiah to come to Jerusalem with the blessings of King Artaxerxes, and with the full authority of the king and his protections to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
In this exchange we see that Nehemiah not only wept, confessed sin, and sought the Lord before he did anything else, but in the waiting on the Lord, Nehemiah also made plans and preparations for when the Lord would answer him. Oh, what a model of faith we see in Nehemiah. This is the constant pattern we see in the book of Nehemiah. We should take note of this faith and responsibility to God that Nehemiah demonstrates. For every obstacle that presented itself in attempts to thwart Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the wall and the re-education of the Jews towards their heritage and the Law of Moses was met with prayer and seeking of God first. God answered Nehemiah faithfully with resources, protections, and wisdom.
Jewish tradition tells us that Nehemiah is the author of this book. There is such detail and firsthand knowledge concerning the events which took place in this volume that leads to Nehemiah as the author of this chronicle. There is not knowledge of the life of Nehemiah prior to this event. However, we can ascertain that he was raised in teachings and study of the scriptures. We can also see that since he was the cup bearer to the king, he must have been a man of integrity. King Artaxerxes himself must have been very familiar with Nehemiah’s character and attitudes, because he noticed a change in Nehemiah’s demeanor. In addition, Nehemiah was a very trusted servant who was given the authority of the king as his Governor over Palestine. How great a witness we could have if we, as Christians walked in the integrity of the Lord, and in whom was no reproach found from our secular authorities appointed over us. For it is God who appoints kings of nations, not men.
Nehemiah shows us the importance of living a godly life, in a secular work environment. Nehemiah was not a priest, nor was he some great prophet. He was a single man, who feared God, loved his people, and endured many hardships. God uses people from all corners of life, and every kind of careers. Surely each one of our secular jobs is a mission field that the Lord has appointed us to. Give thanks to the Lord for where you are today and plan for where he leads you tomorrow.