I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, "Let us arise and build." So they put their hands to the good work.Nehemiah 2:18(NASB)
Nehemiah, a Jewish descendant of Babylonian exiles, had earned the trusted position of cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. Having received news from certain returnees to Jerusalem, that the city walls and gates remained dilapidated and broken, and the morale of the people was low, he became deeply distressed.
Nehemiah fasted and prayed fervently to the Lord about the sorry state of his ancestral home. The dejected countenance of his servant was noticed by the king, who asked Nehemiah about his sadness of heart and offered to help in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
God moved the heart of the king to help his servant, and the king agreed to send Nehemiah back to Jerusalem to undertake a grand rebuilding programme. He even promised to supply all the necessary materials to carry out the work. The king wrote letters to the governor of the region, outlining his support for the project, and giving Nehemiah his permission to use wood from the royal forests to undertake the rebuilding project.
God's hand was certainly on this prayerful man as he set out to Jerusalem, accompanied by officers of the king's army and horsemen. Nehemiah delivered the king's letter of instruction and support to the governor, but those in charge of the city were infuriated by the news. They were annoyed that someone had come to seek the well-being of the Israelites, and restore their self-respect.
No doubt when Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, the morale of his countrymen was sorely depressed. They were living within a ruined city, under an authoritarian, foreign leadership. Some of the people in the city would have been those deported by Nebuchadnezzar, or descendants of exiles, who most likely returned when Cyrus the Great issued his decree to rebuild the city and the sanctuary - as prophesied by Daniel.
Despite coming back to their homeland, the city could not return to its former glory or optimism, when the inner souls of the returning exiles were so deflated. As a result, the city remained in ruins. It must have brought great encouragement to the people when Nehemiah arrived, accompanied by all the king's men and his army officers.
However, following Nehemiah's impressive arrival, it only took him a few days to undertake an initial inspection of the damage done to the city walls and gates. He didn't immediately broadcast his intention to restore the city, but spent the next few nights making a detailed inspection of all that needed to be done.
Neither the foreign officials nor the Jewish people knew what he was planning. But finally he told the governor, and shared his plans with the people, and Nehemiah invited them to join him in his rebuilding project. "You already know the trouble we are in," he said to the Jews, priests, nobles, officials, and those who would be doing the work, "Jerusalem lies in ruins. It's gates have been burned down! Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace."
No doubt Nehemiah voiced what many of them may have been thinking, and he recorded his conversation with the people."I told them how the gracious hand of my God had been favourable to me," he wrote, "I told them what the king had said to me. Then they said to me, 'Let us arise and build.' So they put their hands to the good work."
It only took a few days for Nehemiah to gather the facts he needed, encourage the people living there, deliver the king's message to the governor, and secure the enthusiastic commitment of the residents of Jerusalem to join him in this important building project.
Nehemiah was a prayerful man of God, who was willing to cry out to the Lord for help... but he was also prepared to be used by God to carry out the task. Nehemiah could have argued that he did not want to give up his secure job in the king's palace, to undertake such an impossible task. Alternately he could have rushed back to Jerusalem, like a bull in a china shop, to carry out the task through his own insufficient strength. But in trusting God with his request, he was also willing to be used by the Lord - Who graciously answered his prayer!
Sometimes the prayers we pray exceed our expectation of God's ability or willingness to answer! But He is able to do over and above all that we can ask or think when we trust Him with both the enormous tasks at hand, as well as the insignificant things of life.
May we be ready and willing to be used by God to forward His plans and purposes in our life, and for the glory of His name. And may we be willing to pray into impossible situations, knowing that He is able to accomplish the impossible.
Heavenly Father, it is such an encouragement to see the way You used Nehemiah to answer his own prayers, because he was praying into Your will through a knowledge of Your Word. I pray that the thoughts of my heart would be brought into alignment with the desires of Your heart. Make me willing to be used by You in whatever way You choose and keep me ever looking to Jesus, by submitting my will to the Spirit's leading, trusting Your Word, and living in total dependence upon You. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.