2562.) Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah 2   (NRSV)

Nehemiah Sent to Judah

At the time, I was cupbearer to the king.

— a significant position in any ancient royal court. The cupbearer was a personal bodyguard to the king, being the one who tasted wine and food before the king did, making certain no one could poison the king. The king, therefore, had to have a tremendous amount of trust in his cupbearer, who had to be a man of faithful and impressive character. If the cupbearer could be turned against the king, assassination would be easy.

The cupbearer also was a servant to the king; he was responsible for choosing most of the foods and wines the king and the court would enjoy.

The cupbearer was also a trusted adviser to the king; since he was constantly in the king’s presence, and greatly trusted, and a man of character, it was natural the cupbearer would often be asked his opinion on different matters coming before the king.

–David Guzik

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was served him, I carried the wine and gave it to the king. Now, I had never been sad in his presence before. 2So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart.”

Then I was very much afraid.

Afraid because it was dangerous to show any unhappiness in the presence of the king; simply to be with him was delight and gladness! To be sad when one was with such a wonderful person could be interpreted as an insult to the king!

3I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4Then the king said to me, “What do you request?”

So I prayed to the God of heaven.

A quick prayer. Like, “Help!”

5Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.”

6The king said to me (the queen also was sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a date.

Nehemiah ended up spending 12 years in Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 13:6).

7Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the (Euphrates) River, that they may grant me passage until I arrive in Judah; 8and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me.

Tomb of King Artaxerxes

God uses a sympathetic pagan king to help his servant accomplish God’s purposes!

9Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent officers of the army and cavalry with me.

10When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, and Tobiah some other governmental man of influence. They objected because a weak Jerusalem helped them be strong; a strong Jerusalem threatened their power and positions.

Nehemiah’s Inspection of the Walls

11So I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. 12Then I got up during the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I took was the animal I rode.

13I went out by night by the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.

Thank you, King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army! 

The word viewed or inspected in Nehemiah 2:13 and 2:15 is a medical term for “probing a wound to see the extent of its damage.”

14Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool; but there was no place for the animal I was riding to continue.

The walls were so badly broken down that his horse couldn’t find footing; Nehemiah had to climb around himself to inspect things.

15So I went up by way of the valley by night and inspected the wall.


The Psalmist David said, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite [crushed] spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Brokenness means more than sorrow and weeping, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to mankind—greater than power to raise the dead or heal sickness and disease. When we are truly broken before God, we are given a power that restores ruins, a power that brings a special kind of glory and honor to our Lord.

You see, brokenness has to do with walls—broken down, crumbling walls. David associated the crumbling walls of Jerusalem with the brokenheartedness of God’s people. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart…. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness”  (Psalm 51:17–19).

Nehemiah was a brokenhearted man, and his example has to do with those broken walls of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:12–15). In the dark of the night, Nehemiah “viewed the wall.” The Hebrew word shabar is used here. It is the same word used in Psalm 51:17 for “broken heart.” In the fullest Hebrew meaning, Nehemiah’s heart was breaking in two ways. It broke first with anguish for the ruin, and second with a hope for rebuilding (bursting with hope).

This is truly a broken heart: one that first sees the church and families in ruin and feels the Lord’s anguish. Such a heart grieves over the reproach cast on the Lord’s name. It also looks deep inside and sees, as David did, its own shame and failure. But there is a second important element to this brokenness, and that is hope. The truly broken heart has heard from God: “I will heal, restore and build. Get rid of the rubbish, and get to work rebuilding the breaches!”

–David Wilkerson

Then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest that were to do the work.

“You will often find it best not to commit your plans to others. If you want to serve God, go and do it, and then let other people find it out afterwards. You have no need to tell what you are going to do, and, I may add, there is no need for you retelling what you have done, for very, very frequently God withdraws himself when we boast of what is being done.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Decision to Restore the Walls

17Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” 18I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me.

Then they said, “Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good.

19But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they mocked and ridiculed us, saying, “What is this that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

20Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven is the one who will give us success,

Psalm 118:24-25 (ESV)

This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
   O LORD, we pray, give us success!

and we his servants are going to start building; but you have no share or claim or historic right in Jerusalem.”



HERE  is Chris Tomlin and “God of This City.” Roughly 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure is somewhat lower worldwide — Today, around 55 percent of the world’s population is thought to be living in an urban area or city, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent over the coming decades, according to the UN. And God is over all!

You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Send me to the city.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/nehemiah-send.gif
cupbearer.   http://biblewalk.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/nehemiah.jpg
tomb of Artaxerxes.   https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Tomb_ascribed_to_Xerxes_I.jpg
broken heart.   http://s3.hubimg.com/u/205410_f260.jpg
shhh.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebecca-minky

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