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Nehemiah 2: God's Good Favor Print E-mail
Sunday, 24 April 2016

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Prayer leads to action. It is not always quick and immediate, but faithful praying will lead to faithful obedience. As we lay our requests before the Lord over months and years, we ready ourselves to act and obey when opportunities arise. This is what happens in the life of Nehemiah. We looked at his prayer in chapter 1 last week and according to verse 1 of chapter 2, Nehemiah has been praying for around four months. He has been asking for success and mercy in the sight of this man (the king) for four months. And finally the day for action comes. And Nehemiah is ready.

As we saw in the life of Ezra, we see that God has favor on Nehemiah. He has prayed and asked the Lord to restore Israel and for the Lord to give him favor with the king, and we begin to see the fulfillment of those prayers in our passage this morning. As we look at the actions that Nehemiah takes, I want us to note how it is Godís favor that gives him success. So then, how do we see Godís favor in the life of Nehemiah?

Godís favor gives him favor with the king (v. 1-8)

Nehemiah informed us in chapter 1 that he was the cupbearer to Artaxerxes, the king of Persia. He had been asking God for favor with this king. We see God answering that specific prayer in verses 1-8. The situation begins with the king questioning Nehemiah.  Look at verses 1-2. Nehemiah notes that he was sad in the presence of the king and the king notices. As we noted last week, being the cupbearer for the king was an important job. Nehemiah was normally able to hide his sadness, but not today. And the king took note and asked him about it, which made Nehemiah afraid. You get the sense that it would not take much to anger the king. And once he was angry, you could be close to death. But Nehemiah answers honestly and does not hide what was making him sad. Look at verse 3. Nehemiahís city was in ruins and it grieved him. So the king asks him another question. Look at verse 4a. The king understands that Nehemiah wants to do something about this problem, so he asks what Nehemiah wants to do.

Once again, Nehemiah prays. Look at verse 4b. Nehemiah has been praying about this consistently for four months. And when the opportunity arrives, he continues to offer up prayers for Godís help. This is a good example for us. We need to pray consistently and persistently. We need to pray for months and years and we need to pray in the moments of opportunity. We need to pray for the salvation of our family members and neighbors, and when the Lord opens a door to share the gospel with them, we need to ask Him for help. For Nehemiah this was a big moment. The king had already commanded the work to be stopped in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4:21). So then, Nehemiah is asking him to change his policy in regards to the city. It is a weighty request. But Nehemiah asks. Look at verse 5. Notice the mentioning of Ďfavor.í In one sense, Nehemiah is hoping that his relationship with the king will serve him in this regard. At the same time, he is also hoping that the Lord will give him favor with the king (as we will see in a moment).

So what happens? The king shows him favor. Look at verse 6. The king responded by letting Nehemiah go and rebuild, as long as he agreed to return. Not only that, but when Nehemiah asks him for more help, the king shows even more favor. Look at verses 7-8. Nehemiah asks for letters from the king for safe passage and for the necessary resources for the work. And once again the king complies. Why did he do this? Why did the king help Nehemiah. We are told: for the good hand of my God was upon me. Once again we see that the kingís heart is under the control of the Sovereign God of the universe. God answers Nehemiahís prayer and gives him favor with the king of Persia.

Godís favor convinces the Jews to rebuild (v. 11-18)

Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and faces immediate opposition, which we will consider in a moment. He also has to convince the people to help him in this massive project of rebuilding the walls. In order to do this, he begins by checking out the walls secretly. Look at verses 11-16. It is clear from the text that Nehemiah inspected the walls at night because he had not yet told anyone what God had put into (his) heart to do for Jerusalem. He had kept his plans a secret. But why did he do that? There are a couple of possibilities. It could be that he was trying to keep this knowledge from the opposition and he knew that they had spies in the city. Or it could be that he wanted to make sure that he had a good plan before he approached the Jews about helping him. It is probably a little bit of both. One of my commentatorís notes: ďThus Nehemiah was a clever and able man who knew his own people and his enemies.Ē He wanted to be certain about the plan and he wanted to keep it from the opposition, so he inspected the wall at night.

But eventually the time came to inform the Jews of his plans and to ask for help. Look at verse 17. Nehemiah begins by explaining the necessity of building the wall. We see this in the language he uses. ĎWe are in trouble. The city lies in ruins. We need to work on the walls so that we will no longer suffer derision.í The city in which Godís temple dwells is in trouble and lies in ruins. Such a state means that the derision that they are suffering is not only personal, it is theological. They must rebuild in order to correct this. Nehemiah then tells them of Godís favor. Look at verse 18a. He gets them to realize the severity of the problem and then notes that God will be with them. He will provide the solution. In fact, He has already provide the necessary resources to get the work done. It is a good argument.

But will it convince the people to help? Look at verse 18b. They are ready to help. They are ready to do the necessary work. They are ready to do what it takes to get the job done, knowing that Godís favor will be with them. It is another great moment in the history of Israel. The people do not always follow God as they should, but this is a moment when they do. Nehemiah makes his argument, and the favor of God convinces them to join him in the work.

Godís favor overcomes those who oppose the work (v. 9-10, 19-20)

I mentioned earlier that as soon as Nehemiah came back to Israel he began to face opposition. Look at verses 9-10. Before we consider the opposition, notice that Nehemiah returned with officers of the army and horseman. We noted a couple of weeks ago that Ezra chose not to ask the king for protection when he made the trip (see Ezra 8:21-23) and now we see that Nehemiah does. So which one is wrong? The text does not condemn either one for their approach. They were both trusting God and they were both given favor from Godís hand. Ezra trusted that the Lord would protect him and Nehemiah trusted that He would do the same by using the kingís men. Thus, they both were trusting God, they just had different applications of that truth. We should learn from that. Just because someone decides to apply a particular principle differently in their lives or in their family does not mean that they are wrong or that we are wrong. There are different ways to apply certain principles and still be faithful to God and His Word, as I believe these men were doing.

As for the opposition that Nehemiah faced, he knew that he could overcome them because he trusted in Godís favor. After the people decide to rebuild, the opposition arises again. Look at verse 19. These men mock the Israelites for what they are doing. They laugh at them and their attempt to rebuild the walls. They even slander them by questioning their loyalty to the king. So how does Nehemiah respond? Look at verse 20. Nehemiah lets them know that they will trust in the favor of God. He will make them prosper in this work. He also reminds them that they have no place in Jerusalem. So then, Nehemiah trusts in the favor of God to overcome the opposition to the work. And we will see in the chapters to come that this is no false hope.

The Lordís favor is evident in the life of Nehemiah. He gives Him favor with the king, convinces the people, and overcomes the opposition. It is encouraging to see Godís work in his life. Yet, what about us? How can we know that God will show us such favor?

The answer is the cross. God has shown us great favor in sending us His Son to be our Savior. Jesus came in the flesh, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross so that we could turn from our sins, believe in Him, and be saved. If you have never believed in Christ, then turn from your sins today and know the unbelievable grace and favor of God that is found only in Jesus, our Lord.

And if you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, then lay hold of the promises of Paul in Romans 8. He says: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Did you catch that argument. Do you believe that God was willing to give up Christ for our redemption? Do you believe that Jesus suffered under the wrath that we deserved to save us from our sins? If so, then how can you doubt Godís favor and grace in your life? Paul says that he will graciously give us all the things that we need for life and godliness. Do you need victory over a particular sin? Godís grace is enough for that. Do you need hope as you face difficult circumstances? Godís grace is enough for that. Do you need strength to accomplish the task that God has given you? His grace is enough for that. Remember the favor that He showed to His servant Nehemiah (and Ezra), trust in the promise that Paul gives you in Romans 8, and move forward in faith, expectant of Godís gracious favor. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 May 2016 )

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