Here are three questions for you, followed by three lessons.
The answer to all three questions is the same: Nehemiah.
In this year of brokenness and politics, we find three important lessons in the story of Nehemiah—the final story before the coming of the same Messiah for whom we wait.
Where are our minds and hearts right now? Do we need to lift our eyes from temporary things to eternal things?
1. “I was cupbearer to the king” (Neh. 1:11). Living in the midst of palace intrigue, Nehemiah could have filled his mind with politics. There was plenty of it. (Nehemiah’s king, Artaxerxes, took the throne by assassinating his older brother—after their father, Xerxes, was assassinated.) Nehemiah’s very job description (sipping from the royal cup to see if he would die) was steeped in intrigue. Yet Nehemiah’s mind and heart belonged to another place—the faith and homeland of his ancestors: Jerusalem. Where are our minds and hearts right now? Do we need to lift our eyes from temporary things to eternal things?
2. “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?’” (Neh. 2:3). Nehemiah showed his true feelings. Like Esther before him in the same royal court, Nehemiah wasn’t too proud to pour out his heart, even to a Persian king. This transparent act was rewarded surprisingly with royal permission to go home. With whom might we need to talk candidly right now? And how might God bless the open longings of our hearts?
3. “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (verse 17). After many years of brokenness, Nehemiah called his people to rebuild their city, their homes, their lives. When we get knocked flat, it can be tempting just to accept the new normal—to live in disrepair. In the tumultuousness of year 2020—filled with sickness, quarantine, and distance—some of us might feel lackadaisical, unmotivated, and empty. Will we be the ones to stand up and call those in our circles to rebuild? Will we be the ones to help others repair their broken walls? to come home?
“When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!” (Ps. 126:1-3, NLT).*
These are only three of the many beautiful lessons in the book of Nehemiah. Give yourself the gift of reading this final Old Testament story for yourself. Then turn the page to a new story, called Matthew, which tells of more wise travelers from Persia to Judea, seeking to repair their own brokenness.
*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Andy Nash ([email protected]) is a pastor and author who leads a study tour each year to Jerusalem.