October 28: The Hope of Nehemiah

Read Nehemiah 1:1-11

In ancient times, walls commonly surrounded cities. They provided protection from enemies and a sense of security to citizens. The sheer scale of building such walls in a time before bulldozers, excavators and cement trucks is astounding! Nehemiah faced this challenge, yet he remained hopeful through the ups and downs.

The “ups” came first. Nehemiah felt great distress over the news of his city’s walls lying in ruin (Nehemiah 1:4). He jumped into action, praying and fasting.

Nehemiah must have been a real “doer” type, the go-to guy. Eventually he jumped in and got the job done. First, though, Nehemiah prayed and fasted! “Doer” type personalities often miss that step; I know I have done it many times! Nehemiah invited God into the beginning stages of his planning.

Another “up” was Nehemiah’s master’s response. Nehemiah was a Jew taken captive. He was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. He had built a good reputation with his captors to the point that the king noticed his distress. “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of the heart,” the king noted.

Earning the king’s favor allowed Nehemiah to be given leave from his post in Persia to return to Judah to rebuild the walls. The king also gave Nehemiah letters permitting his safe passage through Persian territories, and he granted army officers to support the journey (Nehemiah 2:7-9).

Nehemiah arrived safely in Jerusalem and went about the task of assessing the walls. He had already overcome slavery, lack of finances, lack of support and the perils of the journey. Indeed hope must have pulsed through him as he embarked upon the project knowing God was at the helm.

As with any quest, the faith building “downs” came too. Not everyone shared Nehemiah’s excitement for the rebuild. “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. . .” (Nehemiah 2:19). Nehemiah did not let the pessimists throw him off course. He organized help from those who understood the value, and saw God’s hand in the project.

The people serving alongside Nehemiah were zealous for the rebuild until doubts crept in. Chapter 4 tells us that the people feared attack, felt defeated by the ridiculous amount of rubble, and were weary from the labor. Nehemiah, the doer and leader, stationed security for the vulnerable areas. He acted with wisdom to lift the morale of the rebuilders.

Nehemiah never lost sight of the end result. He kept up hope that the God who showed him a need, the only Real Hope there is, the One who helped him along the path, would see him through till the end.