September 26 (Daily reading: Nehemiah 1-5, NIV) Nehemiah had not joined the first returnees to Jerusalem. He had become King Artaxerxes’s cupbearer, a position of great honor. When Nehemiah heard about the condition of the walls around Jerusalem, he grieved, fasted, and prayed. God gave him an opportunity to ask the king for permission to repair the walls. The king agreed and gave him money for the project. He also made him governor of Judah (5:14). This was the same king who once made it illegal to work on the temple. God was at work!
Nehemiah is a great example of spiritual leadership. He did so many things right! His ministry (repairing the walls) grew out of prayer and commitment. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he took time to understand the task, and then solicited help from the Jews who had returned from exile. He spoke to them with conviction and confidence. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me.” His appeal was effective because they replied: “Let us start rebuilding.” Nehemiah wrote: “So they began this good work” (2:18).
It was a good work because it was initiated by God through prayer. Also, the ongoing work depended on God. In the face of ridicule and false accusations, Nehemiah said: “The God of heaven will give us success” (2:20). Then, it was a joint effort; everyone was needed. Nehemiah divided the work between forty-two groups. The phrase “next to” is often used to describe the work. They worked side-by-side; there was no place for pride or jealousy!
The work survived attacks from outside (by ridicule and threats, 4:1-8), and discouragement from inside (4:10). Their brothers in Judah said they did not have enough strength and there was too much rubble to continue the work. But in the end, “all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work” (4:15). What an example for the church today!
– Al Gary