Read Nehemiah 2
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
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 ancestors 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 ancestors 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 royal park, 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 on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
It’s often been said that some variation of “fear not” is in the Bible 365 times, one for every day of the year. Many pastors, preachers, authors, and teachers will use this to remind us that we need not be afraid. But what do we do when we’re trying to walk in faith, yet still feel fear?
In Nehemiah 2:1-8, we see Nehemiah interacting with King Artaxerxes. Notice the state in which Nehemiah started this conversation: “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king…” (v. 2b-3a). Nehemiah, while afraid, didn’t reply, “Nothing,” when the king asked him what was wrong. It’s easy to lose sight of this, but the king had absolutely no reason to care what was wrong with Nehemiah. If anything, the usual response of “nothing” might’ve saved his life on a normal day. Nehemiah was right to feel the fear, but he didn’t follow that feeling.
In the next interaction, Nehemiah offers up a small prayer to God right before he answers the king a second time. Nehemiah’s answers seem to get more and more outrageous when we understand that he’s talking to a king. Nehemiah feared, prayed, maybe took a dramatic gulp, and then let God handle the situation.
At the very end of this chapter, when Nehemiah is facing ridicule for his actions, even being accused of rebelling against the very king he just spoke to like a friend, Nehemiah replies with this:
“The God of heaven will give us success…”
Nehemiah responded in faith, not fear. He responded knowing God would handle this, just as He handled the conversation with the king. While success may or may not look like what we think, the point is that God is the One who can and will handle it.
You may never be in Nehemiah’s position of speaking your mind before a king, but you will certainly encounter fear. With that fear comes a choice: will you listen to the fear or follow God in faith? If you choose option two, remember how Nehemiah practiced such faith. He was afraid, he prayed, and he walked with the Lord.
- What’s causing you fear in your life? What is your “conversation with a king”?
- How can you move forward through this? Have you prayed over the situation? Have you brought it before trusted brothers and sisters in Christ?
- How can you walk in faith this week? Pick one way and start there. It doesn’t have to be something huge, just start.
“The true follower of Christ will not ask, ‘If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?’ Rather he will say, ‘This is truth, God help me to walk in it, let come what may!’” A.W. Tozer
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