Nehemiah 2:2-3 (NIV) 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 fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
On verses 1-3: Despite being “very much afraid” (v2), Nehemiah goes in faith, boldly choosing to enter the king’s presence with a sad face. Then when he is questioned by the king, Nehemiah boldly but respectfully asks for:
time off from his service at the royal palace to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the city (v5);
a letter from the king to the royal governors of the Trans-Euphrates guaranteeing Nehemiah’s safe passage (v7); and
a royal authorization to get timber to build the city gates and wall of Jerusalem (v8).
You can tell that Nehemiah had planned out his answers to the king’s questions ahead of time and knew exactly what he was going to ask for. By God’s grace Nehemiah was granted all of his requests (8b). But Nehemiah probably would not have received had he not asked.
What can we learn from this? Great leaders are not afraid to ask God and others for help to accomplish the big dream God has placed in their heart.
Nehemiah 2:9-10 (NIV) 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.
On verses 9-10: When you pursue the dream God has placed in your heart, you can expect two things: great help and opposition. In verse 9 Nehemiah gets the great help he needs from the king. In verse 10 we see enemies now starting to rise up to oppose the work that Nehemiah is starting.
Nehemiah 2:11-16 (NIV) 11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few men. 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.
On verses 11-16: Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem and soon goes by himself to examine the state of Jerusalem’s gates and walls. Two big themes that come out of these verses are (1) secrecy and (2) due diligence. Nehemiah chose to keep his plans to himself (v12, 16) as he wanted to do his due diligence first before involving anyone else. This was a wise move. What can we learn from this? Before announcing what you would like to do, take time to research the issue and find out as much as you can by yourself first. This will help you gain credibility among those who are your potential supporters and followers.
Nehemiah 2:17-18 (NIV) 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 upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
On verses 17-18: Nehemiah does a masterful job of casting a vision that causes the people to respond and to begin the good work of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. From Nehemiah’s example here, I learn that when casting a vision for people, (1) point out the current problem and show people why keeping the status quo is not an option (v17); (2) clearly cast the vision and mission you want to see people get on board with (v17b); and (3) show them that this is not just your idea but God is at work and is nudging them in this direction (v18).
Nehemiah 2:19-20 (NIV) 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.”
On verses 19-20: When questioned and ridiculed by critics like Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, Nehemiah does not spend much time entertaining them. He simply cuts to the chase and says, “we are rebuilding, God is with us and you have no part in what we are doing”. What can we learn from this? When you are carrying out God’s work, do not spend much time arguing with critics and enemies. Keep your focus on the work God has called you to do.
Heavenly Father, like Nehemiah may I dream God-sized dreams and not be afraid to ask for the help I need. May I be careful and wise in how I plan, doing my research throughout. And may I not allow criticism to distract or delay me from doing the work You call me to do. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!