After a long wait, they had finally arrived. Relief flooded Nehemiah’s body when the messenger told him of their coming. His brother was safe. Silently thanking the Lord, the grown man rushed with the excitement of a child to embrace his brother and hear news of their brethren in Jerusalem. Although their initial meeting was joyful, the mood of the group changed quickly as Hanani began to share his news.
The zealous Jews who had returned to their homeland were struggling. Rebuilding their lives was difficult, and they had fallen the great reproach because of the state of the city walls. Many of the other people of the land saw the condition of a city’s walls as a sign of the strength of the god of those people. Because the wall was broken down and the gates were no more than a scorched skeleton, the gentiles believed that the God of the Jews was weak. The people were suffering, and the name of the Almighty was dishonored.
As Nehemiah listened to his brother speak, his heart fell. The hopeful Jews who had gone to the land of promise were now struggling to survive. His heart was filled with agony as he wept and mourned for his people. Nehemiah began a time of prayer and fasting, begging for forgiveness for his own sins and those of his people, interceding for those in the land, and asking for blessings in speaking to the king.
When Nehemiah returned to his duties as the royal cupbearer, there was a distinct difference in his attitude. He seemed weaker, quieter, more subdued. Even the king saw that something was wrong. Knowing that Nehemiah wasn’t sick, the king asked where his “sorrow of heart” came from. Nehemiah then explained that his homeland was in ruins, and requested the king’s permission to return and rebuild the walls. Setting a time for the journey, the king gave Nehemiah his help and blessing, beginning the work of a remarkable man. *
Although many aspects of Nehemiah’s work in Jerusalem are amazing, the thing that’s really amazed me recently is how he handled adversity. The entire time he was governing Jerusalem, he was faced with one hardship after another.
In the beginning of chapter four, Sanballat and Tobiah ridicule Nehmiah’s work. In response, he prays and continues with new commitment.
The next few verses of that chapter tell how Nehemiah’s adversaries conspired to attack Jerusalem. Nehemiah prays, sets a guard, and carries on.
Chapter four continues to tell that the Jews became discouraged by the adversity they were facing. Nehmiah spoke words of encouragement, telling them that God would protect them.
As chapter five opens, it’s discovered that some of the richer Jews had been taking advantage of those struggling. Nehemiah rebuked them, and had them return what they’d taken.
Sanballat begins to spread slanderous rumors about Nehemiah into chapter six, saying that he is trying to make himself a king. Nehemiah denied it and prayed for strength.
In everything, Nehemiah prays, and turns to God for strength and help. What an amazing example!
*adapted from Nehemiah 1-2