And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding.Nehemiah 2:12(NASB)
Trusting in the power of God and His faithfulness towards His people, together with a dedicated prayer life, is often the process God uses in forwarding His own plans and purposes for the redemption of His people. Nehemiah is a man who combined his active confidence in God with humble intercession and purposeful planning. The Lord often combines His divine work with human plans in forwarding His perfect will, when they are birthed in prayer - for the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
For four months this man of God interceded on behalf of his people and the ruined city of Jerusalem. The walls were broken and the gates were burned. Nehemiah knew, in his heart, what needed to be done, but was powerless to restore the city of his ancestors. It was when God moved the heart of the king to enquire about his cup-bearer's sorrow, that we see God's hand moving speedily, in a wonderful way, as plans were made for Nehemiah to be God's instrument to fulfil his heart's desire... and carry forward God's purpose and plan for His people and His Holy City.
Nehemiah journeyed to Jerusalem at the king's command, carrying a royal decree. But this man of God demonstrated great wisdom, for he did not blaze abroad the purpose of his visit. Nehemiah chose to secretly survey the broken walls and charred gates of the city, and consider the best way to proceed with his plan of restoration. "And so I arose in the night," we read, "I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem, and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding."
Nehemiah did not broadcast his mission, but formulated a plan and shared it with a few, trusted men, who shared his faith in God. Nehemiah was aware that spiritual forces would oppose God's work, and so he formulated his rebuilding project secretly. He trusted the Lord to remove any obstacles that might materialise and to provide all that was needed for the building programme, according to His riches in glory.
This man of prayerful action and dependent trust on God provides many lessons in working the work of God in our own lives. He did not give up in the face of terrible circumstances but turned to the Lord in prayer and consciously, or unconsciously, placed himself at God's disposal. He cast all his care on the Lord but also identified ways that the problem they faced could be overcome - so that when asked by the king what Nehemiah wanted him to do for him.. he was able to give a well-formulated plan.
Nehemiah did not immediately take the problem of Jerusalem's broken walls and burned gates on his own shoulders. He gave the problem to God in prayer, while considering in his mind a good way to achieve his objective. He did not abandon his position at court and rush to the city to sort things out, or begin a 'go-fund-me' project. He but went through the official channels - and made a valid suggestion to the king, with great foresight and courtesy.
The time Nehemiah spent in prayer and intercession for the nation, gave the Lord an opportunity to use His faithful servant in the fulfilment of his heart's desire. Similarly, the way God moved the heart of the king, to provide everything that was needed for the rebuilding project, was a personal assurance that God had blessed Nehemiah's request and answered his prayer. I wonder if this prayerful man realised that before he had called on the name of the Lord, the answer was speeding on its way!
Today, we have the whole counsel of God and can see how king Artaxerxes, together with Cyrus the Great and emperor Darius were instruments God used to bring His people back to the promised land. It was also a starting point for a prophecy given to Daniel - "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place".
God is always ready to hear and answer the prayers and intercessions of His people. God is still in the business of using his faithful servants to forward His perfect plan of redemption. May we learn the many lessons that Nehemiah has to teach us and may we be servants of God, who... in active dependence on the Lord, pray into His plans and purposes and be ready and willing to be used to carry out His will.
Heavenly Father, what an encouragement to read how Nehemiah bathed all his concerns in prayer and was willing to be used by You to carry out Your will in his life. Give me the courage and discernment to combine humble intercession with purposeful planning. Give me clarity of thought when I am faced with difficulties and dangers, but keep me from straying from dependence on You (which honours Your name), to becoming self-dependence. Give me wisdom in the decisions I make and may I always be ready to give an answer for the faith I have in You, for Your greater praise and glory - this I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.