Every once in a while, it is great to hear a fresh perspective on life and the Word. This week, we hear from Brett MacKenzie, fireman, paramedic, Jesus lover. This is all Brett. Thanks, my friend. – Pastor Jim
I’ve been going through the Historical Books of the Old Testament and thinking about people I’d want to be like. Several of the good ones, even with their flaws, seem so lofty that it’s hard for me to relate to them. I know that belief was their only real contribution but even so.
Near the end of the Historical Books, we come across Ezra and Nehemiah. They both come back to Jerusalem out of exile. Ezra is the Reformer. He’s a lofty one. It is Nehemiah’s example that I, with God’s help, might aspire to.
He’s not a king, prophet, judge, priest, Levite, scribe, singer or in the line of David. In exile, he is the cupbearer to Artaxerxes, King of Persia, and that seems to be a position of no small importance…at least to the king. However, on the surface he doesn’t appear to be a guy who’s all that “set apart.” His brother brings in some guys from Judah and they tell him of the destroyed wall and gates of Jerusalem, and he is moved by the description.
Nehemiah’s prayer (1:5-11) upon hearing the news is evidence of his faith. He may not have done much for his God up to that point, but he’s really moved to act now. The Temple had already been rebuilt and Ezra had been sent to put the Law of Moses back in place among the people and now it’s time for the walls and gates. It may not look like the “marquee” job, but the Temple and the rest of Jerusalem are going to be in great danger without the wall, considering those who now surround them.
The first problem is that he has trusted position in the employ of the ruler of the entire Near East. To get leave to do this he needs permission and the first thing he does is to say a prayer (2:4) before he makes the request. It’s a real quick silent prayer and, really, within the flow of the conversation.
As a result, the king grants his request, with the understanding that Nehemiah will return after a time. He arrives in Jerusalem and sets to work on the wall. He organizes the work among different groups in an environment that was very hostile to the effort.
Nehemiah encounters some of the departures from the Law among the people that Ezra and others had encountered and in addressing these departures, in the context of the building, he slowly becomes a sort of reformer himself. He simply knows the Law and tries to live it and points out the necessity for others to do likewise.
By the time we get to the dedication of the wall in Nehemiah 12, Nehemiah is leading one-half the procession in celebration with Ezra leading the other half…“And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” (12:43) That’s a long way from cupbearer.
What did Nehemiah do? He had a faith that was sort of “matter of fact,” every day. He prayed continuously, not always long prayers but always seeking God. He listened and trusted and then he “did” when God called him.
I would like to be like that.