“Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So, I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it’” (Nehemiah 2:4-5).
Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in Persia during the captivity of God’s people. He held a prestigious role in serving as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11). One of his brethren, Hanani, had come from his homeland of Judah and told Nehemiah how things were going in his native land: “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:2-3). In ancient times, city walls were essential for the defense of the city. Without these walls the people of the city would constantly live in fear of being attacked from their enemies.
How did Nehemiah react when he heard the news? He could have simply said, “I can’t worry about this. I have more important duties to do such as serving the king”. Nehemiah did not react this way, but rather he chose to share in the distresses of his people. “So, it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). As he prays to God, Nehemiah expresses his understanding that these terrible things which have happened to his nation were because of their unfaithfulness to God; yet, he pleads with God to remember His Word concerning how God would bless his people if they would turn back to Him and repent (Nehemiah 1:5-10). He also asks the Lord to give him favor in the sight of the king as Nehemiah brings up the cause of his people before the king (Nehemiah 1:11).
As the opening verses above indicate, Nehemiah makes his request before the king and the king lets him go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls (Nehemiah 2:1-11). After he arrives in Jerusalem, at night Nehemiah surveys the ruins of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:12-16). Following this, he then encourages his brethren to begin the work: “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So, they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work (Nehemiah 2:18). The Israelites join together and, in spite of the opposition they faced, they begin to make major progress in completing the walls around Jerusalem: “So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).
This great work was done because one man, Nehemiah, chose to take up the cause of God’s people. He could have said he was too busy with other matters to do so, but he did not. He knew what was happening to God’s people was a cause for which it was worthy for him to fight. Today, most everyone takes up some kind of cause for which to fight. For example, some take up the cause to fight a disease such as cancer, while others take up different political causes like standing up for the rights of unborn babies. These are causes for which it is important to fight. However, as I think about the causes for which I stand, Nehemiah’s actions give pause for me to think: “Are all the causes for which I fight worth the time I invest in them? Today, I will follow Nehemiah’s example and make sure I am taking time to fight for the causes of God and His people by promoting God’s Will, encouraging others, and showing love to God’s people who strive to walk in the paths of righteousness!
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).