Nehemiah 2: 7 – 20 NLT
“I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. 8 And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.
9 When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Wall
11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.
16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.
They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.
19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked.
20 I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”
Yesterday we looked at the importance of prayer. So far in Nehemiah, prayer has been the focus. When Nehemiah became aware of a problem that needed to be fixed, he prayed for days. Then he waited and prayed for 4 months for an opportunity to speak to the king. He even prayed before he answered the king’s question about what was bothering him. Nehemiah prays!
But as we read these verses today, we realize that Nehemiah does more than pray. He plans! Now, he’s not one of those people who barge in with their ideas and plans and bowl you over. He starts his answer with “if it please the king”. He is gracious and not demanding. The king could have said, “No”. Nehemiah is confident that if this is God’s plan, it will happen. So, he can be kind and gracious, not pushy.
But he is ready with his plans. He knows what he needs to get this job done. He needs letters of permission and supplies. He has figured out how long this project will take because he is ready with an answer when the king asks how long it will take. When he gets to Jerusalem, he doesn’t show up with plans in hand stating why he is there. They must have wondered who was this man who arrived with some of the king’s soldiers? But once again, he was patient and waited until he could check out the situation with the walls at night. He was not pushy.
There is a phrase that appears twice in these verses that really strikes me – “the gracious hand of God was on me”. When the king agreed to let him go to Jerusalem and provided all the materials necessary for the construction job, Nehemiah was quick to say that this was God at work. When he talked to the city officials and the temple leaders, again he was quick to say that God was at work. Nehemiah was a thinker and planner, but he also readily acknowledged that God was the one in control.
You and I were created in the image of God. (Genesis 1: 26 – 27) We have the ability to think and plan. We have the ability to create new things, new ways of doing things. Following God’s will doesn’t mean we “fly by the seat of our pants”; that we don’t plan and expect everything will just fall into place. So, if you are thinking of something that you feel God wants you to get involved in, don’t hesitate to think and plan what needs to be done. If there is a situation in your home, or at work that needs to be fixed, don’t hesitate to think and plan what would work best.
Pray! Think, plan and pray! Know that “the gracious hand of God is on you”. There is where success lies – a close partnership with God.
Our song for today is Shepherd by Amanda Cook