I can’t do it alone. God has given me people and support that I need to rely on. Every biblical person that did something significant relied on others. Noah had his sons, Moses had Aaron, David had Jonathan, Abner and his mighty men, Jesus had his disciples, Paul had Barnabas, Silas and Timothy. You need people too.
Usually you will need support from people who have some sort of control over you, those in authority, they usually hold the money, the power or the permission that enables you to move forward or not. Then you will need support from others around you to help you with your project. You will need both, first…
GETTING SUPPORT FROM THOSE IN AUTHORITY
There are few areas in life in which we live or work that do not come equipped with an authority figure. Whether you’re in a family, a student, teacher, nurse, executive, salesman, we all have people in authority over us whose presence significantly controls and affects our lives. Nehemiah is under the authority of the King, and has to ask permission to fulfill his God-given vision. But the don’t forget King is under the authority of God. When the time for seeking the support of those in authority how do we handle it? It is increasingly difficult if the leader is insensitive or unconcerned, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Missionary Hudson Taylor once said, “It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone.” Prayer as we said last week is the tool we have that is more powerful than anything on earth.
Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord and He directs it like a water course wherever He pleases.” What is true of the King is true of those in authority over us. To understand our bosses or the loan officers we have to become acquainted with God’s method of operation.
Watch for the Right Opportunity
1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before;
The date is 444-5 BC, the Persians are the world power at this time.
v. 1, “In the month of Nisan” — Nehemiah had gotten this burden four months
earlier and for four months he’s been waiting for something to happen. THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY.
*Pictured: Persian wall relief of a Persian Palace Servant 400 BC
What had been happening between when Nehemiah first got the idea of rebuilding the wall and when he actually got the opportunity to present his program to the king. What had he been doing? He’d been praying, but he also had been planning and waiting for the exact opportunity to be heard by the king.
Sometimes God takes time to answer our prayers. Sometimes it is because he is setting up the situation for us. In this case God was preparing the heart of the King.
What are we praying for at this time: Our job situation? Our boss? Our spouse? Unsaved Loved one? A Difficult relationship? Our family? Children going through A rough time? Health situations? School?
Remember one thing, it is all about God’s timing. We have to wait for the right opportunity to move. Niki had wanted to start her own physical therapy clinic. She had been a therapist for 12 years, but in 2007 she feel it was the right time. She knew that the major insurance providers were not allowing any new PT practices in Cedar Park and Georgetown but when she calls to inquire about Leander, there are no clinics there YET so it was wide open. The insurance companies (the four major ones) would allow her to bill them at that time. This was a big deal; this was an open door for her, the right opportunity. I remember when we bought the land for church we were only 2 years old, every bank laughed me out of its office, and they wanted five years of financial history. The VFW wanted to sell and they wanted to bad enough to owner finance. We bought 10 acres with the right to refusal on the other 20. When I approached them a year later and then another year later and then a couple of years later, they do not want to sell any more and have even said they wished they wouldn’t have sold us what they did. Talk about the right opportunity! A year later would have changed everything.
*Pictured: Wall relief of King Artaxerxes
In verse 6 Nehemiah adds“… with the queen sitting beside him…” My guess is that she had an influence over the king’s receptivity. Probably Nehemiah and the queen were friends. He was the king’s right hand man. She’s sitting there, he’s pouring the wine, everybody’s happy. Nehemiah says, “I’d really like to go back and rebuild the wall around the city where my father’s graves are.” Probably the queen influenced Artaxerxes to let Nehemiah go. Maybe Nehemiah timed it this way. But God had a time in it.
This is the moment Nehemiah has been waiting for. He’s been praying for an opportunity to present his idea to the king. He’s got an opportunity now to state his case. Because he had planned he was ready with the answer. Notice he had a sad face.
2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid,
The king says, “What’s wrong, Nehemiah?” Notice it says “I was afraid.” He was literally scared to death. In those days it was a capital crime to be sad before the king. The kings were very fickle in those days. They didn’t want anyone raining on their party. If you frowned in the presence of the king you’d get your head cut off. Notice it says, “This is the first time I ever appeared sad.” That is a real gamble.
Not only that, but Nehemiah is going to ask permission for a leave of absence. In those days if a king did not like your request that meant he didn’t like you. No wonder Nehemiah was frightened. On top of that he was going to ask permission to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the king himself had said the walls could not be rebuilt! He’s standing before a king who has the power of life and death. He has reason to be afraid.
There is a myth that courageous people are never afraid. Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fear. Notice what Nehemiah did with his fear. The king said to him, “What do you want? You’re upset obviously.” It says Nehemiah prayed. He sends up a little quickie prayer. This isn’t the four months of prayer; he’s already done that. This is the quick one! A silent, quick, on the spot prayer. “God, give me wisdom. Help me know what to say.”
Then he answered the king in v. 3 “Why should my face not look sad? The city where my fathers are buried, lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” He chooses his words very carefully; he assures the king of his loyalty, “May the king live forever!” Remember, this guy is also a bodyguard. If he’s sad maybe he also knows of some assassination plot. The king’s asking why his number one man is upset.
Nehemiah appeals to the Eastern respect for ancestors, “My fathers graves are in ruin.” The Eastern guys were into taking care of the ancestor’s graves. The king’s response was, What do you want?
Nehemiah did not try to manipulate the king. When he was asked “What’s wrong?” he was honest: “My home town is in shambles.” He didn’t make up some phoney story. He didn’t make up a story about going back to Jerusalem under false pretenses. He didn’t manipulate the king. He didn’t trick him. He didn’t play games with him. He didn’t use any deceit. He talked to God about him. When you have a boss who is unsympathetic to a project, a goal you want to do don’t manipulate him, don’t play games with him. Just talk to God about him. Because the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and He can turn it. Don’t ever try to change anybody’s heart. You can’t. When you try, that’s manipulation. Let God change the heart.
Plainly State My Goal
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
When asked, Nehemiah stated his goal simply and quickly. When the king said, “what do you want?” He said what his goal was. He didn’t go off on some rabbit trail, he knew what he wanted to do exactly and said it. My objective is rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem.
Know the Details and Needs of My Project
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
As I said earlier people will ask questions about your plans. Can you answer the questions? In verse six the king is asking questions. Nehemiah knew the details of his project and could answer the king’s questions. It doesn’t look to good when you say, “Hum, I don’t know” or “I never thought about that.” Nehemiah was ready he had planned well. It is interesting that the king asked, “When will you get back? This showed that the king really liked Nehemiah.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?
It’s about 800-1000 mile journey between Iraq and Israel. He’s got to go through a lot of provinces. You didn’t travel freely in those days. You had to go through proper procedures. Nehemiah said, “I would like you to give me letters of authority so I’ll have clear sailing and when I get over there, there is no problem. I need traveling permits to travel unhindered.”
This implies that Nehemiah had thought it out. Remember he’s just asked here on the spot, “What do you want?” He had already thought it through. This is a clear example of planning. He was not just praying during those four months but he was also planning so that when the opportunity arose he could say what he needs.
Question to ask yourself in your own planning: What do I need? What could hold me back? What are the potential problems? What could go wrong? If anything could go wrong, it will.
Nehemiah is thinking ahead. He’s already thought ahead where he wants to go. Now he’s anticipating the problems.
8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
Nehemiah gives the king a shopping list. “First, I want you to let me go. Then, I want you to give me the protection to get there. And by the way, I want you to pay for it too.” He asks for lumber to build three things: I want to build the beams for the city gates — he had thought it out. Then he said, I’m going to need lumber for the city walls. Then, I want lumber for my own house. Remember, Nehemiah is not a contractor. He’s never built anything in his life. He’s a cupbearer. Yet, when the opportunity arose he rattled off exactly what he needed. Why? He knew the details and needs of his project.
How in the world did he know there was a royal forest near Jerusalem? Advance planning. This whole chapter indicates that he already knew what he was doing when he got into the situation. He even knew the name of the foreman. He had already figured all of this out way in advance, so that when the opportunity arose he was prepared for the opportunities.
God has wonderful opportunities for us but we must be prepared to take advantage of them when they come. If Nehemiah had not had his planning done he wouldn’t have been prepared. But because his planning had been so well thought out he knew exactly what to ask for.
9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
The king sends a military escort. Nehemiah didn’t even ask for that. He got more than he asked for! This is Eph. 3:20 “God is able to do more than you think or ask or imagine.” He got more than he asked for. He thought he was really stretching asking for so many different things but as the king leaves he says, “By the way, you have a military escort to take you.” This was a God thing.
This is a beautiful example of the harmony that takes place between God’s part and our part in accomplishing things on earth. God’s part is the sovereignty part. Our part is the prayer and planning part. We pray for God to set up circumstances that are out of our control. Then we plan for all the things that are under our control. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. God’s part and my part, it’s prayer, depending on God to do his part, planning, doing the best I can at my part. Prayer and planning go together. They’re both important. Because Nehemiah had done his homework, when the opportunity arose he was ready.
In the next post we will look at Getting Support from others.
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