Scripture reading – Ezra 10; Nehemiah 1

* Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Nehemiah. This is the second of two devotionals for today.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Judah in 606 B.C., and destroyed the Temple and city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Seventy years later (536 BC), Cyrus, king of Persia, issued an edict and gave the Jews liberty to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1). Under Zerubbabel’s leadership, the Jews rebuilt and finished the Temple around 458 BC (Ezra 6). Sixty years after the Temple was dedicated, a second group of exiles from Babylon entered the land, led by Ezra whose task was to teach God’s Law and Commandments. Finding their brethren had broken God’s law and taken women from the heathen nations as their wives (Deuteronomy 7:1-3), Ezra called on the people to repent of their sins, and put away their heathen wives and children born to them (Ezra 7-10).

The Book of Nehemiah is the history of how the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, and a record of the challenges and difficulties Nehemiah and the people encountered. Artaxerxes I was king of Persia (Nehemiah 1:1; 2:1), and the Scriptures set the events as occurring in the 20th year of his reign, around 446 BC, and some 13 years after Ezra’s departure for Jerusalem (Ezra 7:6).

Nehemiah 1Nehemiah, The King’s Cupbearer

“I was the king’s cupbearer” (1:11), and with that simple phrase, Nehemiah introduced himself in a way that revealed the office he held as the most trusted servant to the most powerful king in the world.

Living in the king’s palace, Nehemiah’s life was one of wealth and privilege.  The role of the cupbearer was that of the king’s closest aid; his confidant, and counselor.  Artaxerxes, king of Persia, trusted Nehemiah with his life. As the king’s cupbearer, he was charged with guarding the king from assassination attempts, being the first to taste the king’s food and sipping his wine.

In spite of the comforts and privileges he enjoyed as the cupbearer, Nehemiah’s heart was burdened for the remnant of his kinsman, the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem.  When men of Judah came from Jerusalem to the king’s court, Nehemiah eagerly inquired concerning the welfare of his brethren and the state of things in Jerusalem (1:2).

The News from Jerusalem left Nehemiah Shaken and Overwhelmed with grief. (1:3-4).

Ninety years had passed since Zerubbabel led the first exiles to Judah to rebuild the Temple. Nevertheless, the walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt and the suffering of the people was a great reproach to the LORD. Nehemiah was so moved he writes, “I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (1:4).

Closing thoughts – The balance of Nehemiah 1 is a record of his prayers to the LORD over the course of days, weeks, and months. Consider Nehemiah’s passion and humility as he prayed and worshiped the LORD (1:5). He not only prayed for his people (1:6a), he also identified with them and confessed their sins (1:6-7). He rehearsed and claimed the covenant promises the LORD had made to Israel (1:8-11), and called upon the LORD to “grant him mercy [and favor] in the sight” of the king. (1:11).

We will see in our next devotional how Nehemiah prayed, and waited four months for the LORD to move on the heart of the king (2:1).

James 5:16b – “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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