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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 2

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Verse 1

Nehemiah Busy in His Service

In the month Chislev, the third month of the civil year, Nehemiah heard the message concerning Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:1). Here we are in the month Nisan. That is the seventh month of the civil year, with us March/April. Four months have passed since his prayer and still he has not received an answer.

He does not know in advance how long he has to wait for the answer. Yet he patiently waits. He leaves time in God’s hand. He is content that God determines the right time. He does not rush into the task he sees before him. In the meantime, he continues to do his work faithfully in the place where the LORD has brought him.

It may happen that one hears of a need. Overwhelmed by pity some go straight to work without waiting for God’s voice and time. That is not the way God makes His work happen. Seeing need is not a vocation. First a need must have penetrated deep into the heart. Then we become aware that it is not we, but only God Who can provide for that need. First, need must become a burden so heavy that the only way out we see is the Lord Jesus, Who has said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This verse is certainly important for the gospel, but it is also very important for those who want to be servants.

Perhaps Nehemiah prayed that God would remove the burden from his heart. Maybe he has prayed or God wants to make that burden even heavier, so that all that remains for him to do is to act. This is how we may do it if we are told something about a need. The need has remained in his heart. We can imagine him wondering if he should talk to the king about his need and if so, when, or if he still has to wait for God.

He will have had peace of mind at the thought that God can bring him into the king’s favor by a miracle when he calls him to do a work in Jerusalem. God turns the hearts of kings like channels of water (Proverbs 21:1). We will get these deliberations of faith if we increasingly perceive that the Lord wants to use us for a particular work.

Nehemiah has never been sad in the presence of the king. This indicates that he is now and also that this is visible. Showing sadness does not fit in the presence of mighty rulers who see themselves as distributors of blessing. These people only want happy faces in their immediate surroundings. As an exile Nehemiah will always have had sorrow in his heart (Proverbs 14:13), but will always have been able to keep it hidden. However, the traces of fasting and praying cannot be denied.

Nevertheless, Nehemiah will also have done his work with pleasure. The Lord brought him there and charged him with this work. That is how he will have seen it. It is important for us to be able to say the same of our job in society. We may also enjoy our daily work while thanking God the Father through the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).

Nevertheless, at the same time we realize that the earth is not our ultimate goal. We do not belong here, heaven is our home. As a cobbler, who whistled, once said: “I am on a journey to heaven and on the way I make shoes. The Lord Jesus was known as “the carpenter” (Mark 6:3). Before He began His travels through Israel, He worked as a carpenter. You can be sure that He loved His work and did a good job.

Until the Lord calls us to do a work for Him, we must remain faithful in our earthly profession and find full satisfaction in it. Dissatisfaction with our job in society or the reward for it, or a difficult relationship with colleagues in the workplace, should not be a reason to give up that job in order to serve the so-called higher things. That is a great self-deception that will certainly result in great dishonor for the Lord Jesus.

Some lessons

1. When we have brought a matter before the Lord in prayer, we must learn to wait patiently for further instructions from Him. That does not mean that we should sit and wait with our arms crossed. Each of us must “remain in that calling in which he was called” (1 Corinthians 7:20) and do what belongs to that calling. While we are busy like this, we may look forward to His answer to our prayer (Habakkuk 2:1).
2. That time of expectation is a time of inner exercise in which many questions will impose themselves on us. It is good to undergo such exercises, which often involve struggle. If they really are exercises of faith, they will throw us upon the Lord. We will be purified by them.

Verse 2

The King’s Question

It doesn’t escape the king that his cupbearer doesn’t look as glad as usual. He notices that it is because of something that hurts his heart. He asks Nehemiah about it. The king’s question is the introduction to the radical change in Nehemiah’s life that he so fervently desires. The king must have often asked Nehemiah something or said something to him. Not once, however, has this made his heart beat faster, because these are general questions or remarks that do not touch his heart. What the king asks now does make his heart beat faster.

The reason for the king’s question and remark is what he sees on Nehemiah’s face. The king then sees the effect of prayer and fasting. On his face the condition of his heart can be read (cf. Genesis 31:2). The king notes this. He has an eye for his staff.

Do we also have an eye for what is going on around us? We easily ask: ‘How are you?’ We answer just as easily: ‘I am well.’ In doing so, we are more polite than expressing real interest or allowing others to share in what concerns us. Reading faces is important. Eyes can tell a lot. The eye is the mirror of the soul. Real attention for people makes us look deeper than the surface.

The king’s remark means a great danger to Nehemiah. As said, kings do not tolerate sad faces in their presence. It could cost him his job and even his life. Hence his fear. There is another reason for his fear. That fear relates to God. Is this the moment God gives to reveal what has occupied him for four months?

Nehemiah doesn’t have to think long about the answer. He doesn’t have time for that either. He can’t retreat for a moment to reflect. He immediately realizes that the king’s question has to do with his prayers. On the one hand he is overwhelmed by the question, on the other hand he sees that God might open a door. When God sees that we are ready to take up a service for Him, He opens the doors.

Some lessons

1. Can we ‘read’ faces? Do we look deeper than the surface? Do we listen between the lines what someone really wants to say? Do we listen behind someone’s story his real need?
2. When we, like Nehemiah, are busy day and night with a particular work in our minds, we will immediately notice when the Lord begins to answer our prayers.

Verse 3

Nehemiah’s Answer

With words indicating that he knows his own place and showing respect for the king’s position, Nehemiah speaks to him. In almost passionate terms, he makes the king a partaker of what occupies his heart and what can be read on his face. From the fullness of his heart, he tells about the city to which the heart of every Israelite goes.

It is as if Nehemiah can finally give air to a secret that he has carried with him for so long. His feelings for ‘the city’, instead of becoming weaker, have only grown stronger. His love for ‘the city’ does not depend on the fame and wealth it once possessed, the great kings who ruled it, the impressive past that the city has. His love concerns the city itself because it is the city of God, because he knows and believes in the future of this city.

That is why he speaks of the city as “the place of my fathers’ tombs”. His pious ancestors all wanted to be buried in the land of promise, because they believed in the resurrection. They believed – and so does Nehemiah – that God will fulfill all His promises. They all died in the faith that He will do so (Hebrews 11:13).

Nehemiah is concerned about the present situation in which the city finds itself because he believes in the future of that city. He sees God’s plan for that city before him. He also sees how sharp the contrast is between the glorious future and the present situation. His desire is to work to ensure that the present and the future are more in harmony.

If we want to do a work for the Lord, we can only do so if we have a view of the future. What is important is that we see the church as it will be blameless before God in the future. The difference with the current situation of unfaithfulness, lukewarmness, and worldliness of the church on earth will affect us. There will be a longing in us to be used by God to make believers committed to Him again.

A lesson

View on the future of the church puts the present state of the church in the true light. The Lord Jesus has given Himself for the church in order to sanctify and cleans her. He wants to present to Himself the church having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:25-Daniel :). His love for the church must fill us to be used.

Verse 4

Question and Prayer

After the moving testimony of Nehemiah’s love for Jerusalem, the king asks another question. He does not ask any further about the circumstances, but asks the question that for Nehemiah is God’s answer to his prayers. The king will have noticed in Nehemiah’s answer a deep desire to do something for Jerusalem. God controls his heart and gives him the question in his mouth. In this way Nehemiah is, as it were, given his answer to prayer on a silver platter.

Nehemiah receives the hearing of his prayer in the daily circumstances of his life. This also often happens to us, for example when the Lord allows us to meet certain people. Sometimes He also lets us hear certain comments that are not even addressed to us personally, but in which we hear God’s voice.

For months now Nehemiah has been carrying the burden of what he has heard from his brother on his heart. He knows that he can only go if the king allows it, and this will only be the case if the Lord wants it. The answer to his prayer comes in a way and at a time when he might least expect it. It can be the same with us.

Although Nehemiah knows what he wants, he does not immediately answer the king’s question. First Nehemiah speaks to God, then to the king. God is here, as in the book of Ezra, “the God of heaven”. Because of the unfaithfulness of the people He no longer lives on earth in the temple.

Some lessons

1. A sincere, moving testimony of what is in us for the Lord Jesus and His church is never without consequence. It opens doors, brings about changes in circumstances and in people’s hearts. The same goes for John the baptist who, when he sees the Lord Jesus, wholeheartedly says: “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). As a result, two of his disciples leave him and follow the Lord Jesus (John 1:37).
2. It remains necessary, even as the door opens further and further, to remain dependent on the Lord and ask Him what to do or say next.

Verse 5

Nehemiah Makes His Wish Known

Full of confidence, but with due respect, he addresses himself to the king. What he says shows his acknowledgment of the king’s position and his own position. He asks for the king’s benevolence. Without his benevolent consent, he can forget his purpose. The fact that God seems to open the door does not make Nehemiah so overconfident that he wants to open the door with a wild move. He remains the servant dependent on the king.

Yet he is also so bold as to point out to the king his behavior as a servant. He asks in so many words if the king is satisfied with him. He can do so because, as a dutiful man, he has always served his lord to his full satisfaction. Without self-exaltation Nehemiah points this out to the king as a possible reason to grant him his request.

Nehemiah is open about his purpose. He has sketched the ruins. But he is not someone who stands on the sidelines shouting all kinds of cries about how bad things are, while he is not prepared to roll up his sleeves. No, he’s sketching a real picture, but he’s also determined to give all his strength to the city that’s in ruins, no matter what it costs him. He wants to rebuild the city, which he again connects to “my fathers’ tombs”. His heart is full of it.

Some lessons

1. When people to whom we are subject invite us to make a request, we may do so boldly. We may see it as a work of God in their hearts.
2. We do not need to present things more beautifully than they are.
3. We do not have to present ourselves worse than we are, as long as we can sincerely point out the quality of our work. Those who have always been honest in their work can say this quietly if the situation demands it (cf. 1 Samuel 12:3-Numbers :)..

Verse 6

Nehemiah Gets Permission to Go

God also uses external circumstances to fulfill His plans. The remark that the king has his wife sitting next to him seems such a circumstance. Men among themselves can be harsh and insensitive. It is often noticeable that those same men behave much more courteously in the presence of their wife. As far as Artaxerxes is concerned, it seems that the presence of his wife makes him mild-mannered and therefore even more inclined to grant Nehemiah’s request.

The influence of women on the decisions of prominent persons can be for the better, but also for the worse. We see an influence for the better in the case of Esther (Esther 7:1-2 Samuel :). An influence for the worse is seen in Herodias (Matthew 14:1-2 Kings :). A case in which someone wants to use her influence for good, but to whom her husband does not listen, we see in Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19).

What influence does our wife have on us? It may be useful to find out how we behave in the presence of our wife and how we behave when she is not there. If honest self-examination reveals a difference, let us confess it to our wife and the Lord and change it.

The king’s questions make it clear to Nehemiah that God is opening the door further and further. His questions concern the duration of the journey and when he will be back, so how long he thinks he will be absent. The absence of Nehemiah is, of course, of great importance to the king, because there has to be a new cupbearer for that period of time.

The “definite time” that Nehemiah has given is twelve years (cf. Nehemiah 2:1; Nehemiah 13:6). The building of the wall is finished in fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15), but that is with much help. Has Nehemiah assumed that he should not count on much help for the work? God has given it to him in his heart, but what about the remaining ones? Are they as full of zeal as he is? He doesn’t know that.

In our calculations, we too shouldn’t include dependence on others. God can give helpers, but He is not obliged to do so.

Some lessons

1. A woman’s influence on her husband’s decisions is great. The husband should also be open to it. He has to judge whether that influence has a good effect or a wrong one.
2. In a work that the Lord asks of us, we should depend only on Him and not on others. He calls persons, not groups, although He may form those persons into a group.

Verses 7-9

What Other Things Nehemiah Asks for

Nehemiah has permission to go. This permission does not make him overconfident, but bold. All his thoughts are with the work that awaits him in Jerusalem. The fact that he can go, however, doesn’t put him in a rush, making him busy to leave as soon as possible. He remains pragmatic. He doesn’t leave on the off chance. Not only does he think about Jerusalem, he also thinks about the journey to Jerusalem and the problems he may encounter during the journey. He asks for things he will need, both for the journey and for his stay in Judah. He gets what he asks for and even more than that.

So he thinks that when crossing borders one will ask what he is planning to do. Letters from the king will guarantee him a free passage (Nehemiah 2:7). So he asks for a valid passport. He also asks for a letter that will assure him of the necessary materials for reconstruction (Nehemiah 2:8). He also thinks of his own accommodation. After all, he comes to a country where he has no possession whatsoever. Nehemiah asks with great boldness for everything he thinks he needs. He asks in faith. He does not ask too much. He recognizes the king’s possibilities. Thus we may ask God to provide a solution to practical problems.

It is good to realize that Nehemiah does not know what the king will answer to his questions. For us the tension is gone because we know the outcome. But to learn from Nehemiah’s actions, we will have to realize how exciting it must have been for him to ask all this.

Nehemiah gets everything he asked for. He sees in it “the good hand of my God”. He doesn’t forget that God works behind the scenes. He knows God as his personal God. This personal bond with God is necessary to notice His hand. After the deep soul-exercises and a door that opens more and more, he gets a view on the way God wants him to go. God uses the king to provide Nehemiah with what is necessary for the journey. If we are dependent on the Lord, we will see what we need and may count on Him to provide for it.

Nehemiah goes on his way, straight to his goal. The letters are doing their work. With everything Nehemiah has asked for, he also gets something he has not asked for. He has not asked for accompaniment, but if the king wants to send it along, he accepts this escort (Nehemiah 2:9). Perhaps the officers of the army and horsemen should reassure more the king that Nehemiah will return safely, rather than that it is about Nehemiah personally and the task he has to perform. God can use anything to carry out His plans, including the possibly selfish motives of a king, and thereby protect His servant.

Some lessons

1. Not only the goal is important, but also the way to that goal. What we need on that path, we may boldly ask the Lord. He has everything ready and will gladly give it in answer to our prayer. When He gives it, it is another proof of “His good hand” over us.
2. In order to do the work we want to do, the Lord also wants to give us what we need. When we think about that work, we will see what we are lacking. The Lord wants to provide for this.

Verse 10

Opponents of God’s Work

Between the preparations for the journey and the arrival in Jerusalem, we hear something about people who are not particularly happy with Nehemiah’s action. Sanballat is Nehemiah’s main political opponent. The addition “the Horonite” indicates that he comes from Horonaim. Horonaim is a city in Moab (Jeremiah 48:34). In his footsteps we find Tobiah, from Ammon. The place of origin of these two opponents lies in the darkness of a cave. Their origins are as dark as the cave: begotten by a drunken Lot from his two degenerate daughters, who invented this way of conceiving offspring in their depraved minds (Genesis 19:30-Zechariah :).

Nehemiah has made his first steps toward the work that God has given him in his heart. We can be sure that wherever someone wants to do God’s work, the enemy will also become active. Opposition in the work for the Lord is often the proof that we are indeed working for the Lord. Otherwise the devil would not be trying so hard to obstruct that work and try to prevent it.

The enemy knows exactly what Nehemiah is planning. Nehemiah does not seek his own benefit, but the welfare of the Israelites. In doing so, he is causing the anger of the enemy. The enemies want to keep Jerusalem in misery. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are not harassed by the enemy. They are no threat to the enemy. All the time they live there they are content with the situation as it is, insensitive to the defamation inflicted upon the LORD. That is to the taste of the enemy. But when Nehemiah comes, a living declaration of war against the prevailing conditions appears in him, in his attitude and intention.

Satan does not worry about the church in general. But if there are those who want to dedicate themselves completely to Christ and to do His work for the benefit of the church, then he comes into action. Similarly, following the Lord Jesus also gives rise to opposition (Matthew 8:19-Daniel :).

The opposition of the enemy is there even before Nehemiah has announced any of his plans and while there is still no reaction on the part of the people. The enemy has more feeling for the work of God than God’s people. Does the devil also have to work overtime because of our dedication? If our goals are the same as God’s, his opposition will be noticeable. If our goals are different than God’s, the enemy will leave us alone.

Some lessons

1. If we want to do a work for the Lord, opposition can be one of the proofs that we are really engaged in a work for the Lord.
2. An open door and opponents belong together (1 Corinthians 16:9).
3. Sometimes unbelievers are more aware of the importance of God’s work than believers, and are more active in disrupting it than believers in promoting it.

Verses 11-12

Arrival in Jerusalem and First Action

When some six hundred thousand Israelites and their families leave Egypt (Exodus 12:37) to go through the wilderness to Canaan, God accompanies them with perceptible signs. This is very different in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. They too travel from the land of captivity to the promised land. But no outward signs accompany them as proof of God’s presence. They must be content with the means of travelling customary for that time and under those circumstances.

Not only the accompanying signs are less conspicuous. Also the numbers are decreasing. Zerubbabel returns with just over forty-two thousand persons; with Ezra about eighteen hundred persons return; Nehemiah goes by himself. As church history continues, there is less and less of the original manifestations of God’s presence. However, God still wants to be with the individual who wants to work for Him.

Nehemiah will have seen Jerusalem in the distance with mixed feelings. There he sees the city of God to which his heart has gone out. The more he approaches it, the faster his heart starts beating. At the same time he is aware that this city does not correspond to God’s thoughts about it. That is precisely why he went there, full of longing to dedicate the city to God again.

When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he does not immediately set to work. He waits three days. It is good to first calm down from the journey, which has been an undertaking in itself. It is important to have peace of mind before starting the actual task.

Nehemiah is a born leader, but has a withdrawn nature, someone who does not act in a hurry. He wants to calculate the costs well. If he goes to work, there will be no return. Then he doesn’t withdraw his hand until the work is done.

In order not to cause a sensation, he goes to inspect at night (Nehemiah 2:12). He doesn’t make a publicity stunt out of his research. He only takes a few men with him, without telling them why he’s travelling at night. He doesn’t want to be influenced by people’s various opinions. The Lord’s commission is a personal one, and he does not allow anyone else to interfere. It is a command that “my” God has given in “my” heart.

Who, by the way, should he take with him? All those who live in Jerusalem can apparently sleep peacefully. When it comes to research, they don’t have to come along. They’ve seen the ruins so many times. Instead of making them pray and fast like Nehemiah, they have reconciled themselves to the sight of it.

He can’t use anything or anyone from the king’s escort on this inspection trip. He has his own riding animal. That is all he needs. It is not a matter of impressive display or something customary among people. That doesn’t fit the job he’s doing. His method of working is not the result of busy deliberation. It’s not a question of the right number of people to make an inventory. Without being conspicuous, without striking actions, Nehemiah goes out to survey the state of affairs. It is a matter between his own heart and God. Because God has given it in his heart, he will also be able to carry out this work.

It is good to have spiritual friends, but it is dangerous to have the heart on the sleeve. Sometimes it is good to consult first, but if a matter is clear to the Lord, consultation will only make the Lord’s work more difficult. There will be well-intentioned counsel, but just as many objections: Is it the right time, is it the right way, do we have the right means, what are the chances of success? These considerations lead to doubt, which in turn results in the cancellation of the enterprise that God has commissioned.

Some lessons

1. A person who is entrusted by the Lord with a work need not advertise it. Several times the Lord Jesus avoids the crowd if they want to follow Him because of a miracle (Mark 1:38; Mark 1:44; John 6:15; John 6:26). The Lord has not sought the support or admiration of the crowd; neither should a worker for the Lord.
2. Before the actual work begins, it is good to take ‘three days’ of rest. These ‘three days’ are a reminder of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Only from that perspective, in which all trust in one’s own ability disappears and everything is made dependent on Him, will we succeed in our task.
3. When personal faith is asked for, it must be acted upon. Others do not have this faith and will only create obstacles if they are asked to cooperate. When the time comes to work, helpers may be asked. Until then, faith will keep its secret between itself and God.

Verses 13-15

Inspection of Walls and Gates

Nehemiah wants to familiarize himself with the extent of the destruction of the walls, and to take it in. The natural heart would give up courage at the sight of so much ruin. For Nehemiah it only makes the necessity of rebuilding clearer, while at the same time he knows that only God can enable him to do so. He goes out at night. When the others are asleep, he is wide awake. He does not go dreamily along the ruins. In full awareness of what he sees, he is goes along the walls. As he drives on, the extent of the work will come towards him more and more. It will all have looked even bleaker in the night.

Whenever there is a work to be done for God – a solid and not superficial work – the servant, like Nehemiah, must undertake such an inspection trip beforehand. He must spend the night mourning amid the ruins. It is foolish to deny the ruin and not to see the hopelessness of the situation as it is. The full extent of the task must come to us. Have we ever sacrificed an hour’s sleep for the spiritual state of the church or our surroundings? Have we ever consciously stayed awake while others slept soundly and peacefully? Do we ever become restless from the fact that countless people are lost forever?

Before God gives a revival, He wants to break our hearts. That happens on the route Nehemiah takes. The “Valley Gate” speaks of lowliness, humiliation. This is where the investigation begins: with humbling oneself “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6). The “Dragon’s Well” is a reminder of satan, “the great dragon” (Revelation 12:9). He is the instigator, the source of all misery among the people of God. The “Refuse Gate” is reminiscent of what has no value whatsoever. Through this gate, all useless and dirty objects are brought out of the city. In the same way we have to clear out of our lives what has no value and what fills our lives. These are the first stations we have to pass on our way to examine the walls and the gates.

Once all the useless and harmful things in our lives have been removed, we can proceed to the “Fountain Gate “. Here we may think of the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the fountain of living water. Everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus receives Him (John 4:14; John 7:38-Malachi :). Through the Holy Spirit, the Word of God becomes a “King’s Pool”, the next station.

We will discover in the Word of God, of which the water of the pool is a picture (Ephesians 5:26), through the working of the Holy Spirit, the glory of God’s King, the Lord Jesus. When He comes to our attention, everything that we still trust in will disappear. There is no room left for anything else. We are then ready to give our full attention to the task that the Lord has given us in the heart.

After this inspection tour, Nehemiah returns to the “Valley Gate”. Humiliating himself stands at the beginning and at the end of his investigation. In order to be used by God it is necessary that humility constantly characterizes us. That is not to say that sometimes it is not necessary to take firm action. We will see that in Nehemiah.

Some lessons

1. Before we can begin a special work for the Lord, we must have proven that we do not like our rest. Are we always open to people who are really in need? Are we prepared to sacrifice a night’s rest or a meal for them?
2. Following the Lord Jesus begins by denying ourselves (Matthew 16:24). Then we are able to humble ourselves.
3. We have to get rid of what is hindering the work of the Lord. This includes sins, but also things that are not sinful, but which nevertheless take up so much of our lives that they are an obstacle (Hebrews 12:1).
4. 4. It is necessary to humble ourselves, see the power of the enemy, and do away with everything in our lives that is not good. However, it should not be limited to that. Then we would only be focused on ourselves and on the enemy. Then the Holy Spirit must be given the room to present the glory of the Lord Jesus to us.
5. The greater He becomes, the more everything that could still give us some carnal support falls away.
6. Humility can be learned from the Lord Jesus, who says: “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He always is.

Verses 16-18

Nehemiah Communicates His Findings

Nehemiah has already told them that he did not inform any man of his intentions (Nehemiah 2:12). He did not seek any support from the people or their leaders of any rank or standing (cf. Galatians 1:16-Esther :; Galatians 2:6). He does not wish to bind their influence to the work he wants to do. In this way he remains free, without in any way committing himself to them.

However, as soon as he feels the time has come to inform them, he seeks their cooperation. He is not so stubborn as to think that he does not need them. His request for cooperation is proof that he acknowledges his brothers in their position and appreciates them in the capacities they have. A personal vocation is the starting point, but this must never degenerate into individualism. God wants to use each one in connection with others. We are all fellow workers of each other (1 Corinthians 3:8-1 Samuel :).

Nehemiah has three motives for his penetrating appeal for their cooperation. First, he points to the condition of the city and the walls. They know about it, but so far they have done nothing about it. He doesn’t say this in a patronizing way. In his voice there are no reproaches. He uses the word “we” twice. He makes himself one with them. The misery of Jerusalem is the misery of her lovers. Secondly, he can bear witness to the good hand of God over himself. Third, he refers to the King’s support.

His moving speech comes across. The people are convinced. They declare that they will prepare to rebuild and add the deed to the word: “They put their hands to the good [work].” Godly thoughts and understanding are not enough. They have to get to work. So do we. The encouragement of faithful people who carry a burden of God on their hearts is a great incentive for others to get to work.

Nehemiah has given them courage (cf. Hebrews 12:12-1 Chronicles :). His conviction has come across. They have heard a man who believes in his mission. That task is no less than building a wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s compassion and commitment are contagious to his listeners. They are being won for the work of the LORD by the work of God in their hearts following the speech of Nehemiah and thus become fellow workers in this work. If we are engaged in a work for the Lord, He will also give us the necessary helpers.

The temple, the house of God, has already been rebuilt, but stands in a ruined place, the walls of which have largely been broken down and the gates burned. The day mentioned in Zechariah 2 has not yet come (Zechariah 2:5). That is why a wall is needed. When it is rebuilt, the city will once again be seen as a place where God has established His Name. Through the wall His house, in type, will be separated from the impurities of the surrounding world (Ezekiel 42:20).

Some lessons

1. A calling is personal. You do a job with several people. Each has his own part in it for which he is responsible.
2. Someone who is convinced of his task and wants to go all the way for it, is able to make a warm plea for the necessity of his task. That appeals to others. They are motivated to cooperate.

Verse 19

The Enemies Make Themselves Heard

Of the opponents mentioned here we have already met Sanballat and Tobiah (Nehemiah 2:10). The Arab Geshem has joined them. In the enemies we find next to the representatives of Moab and Ammon now also a representative of Edom. These three nations, who are all brother nations of Israel, are the most hostile nations of Israel (Daniel 11:41; Isaiah 11:14).

They are fiercely displeased with the coming of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:10), but they have not yet made themselves heard or taken any action. This does not mean that their enmity and opposition have diminished. Their displeasure is not transient. Now that Nehemiah begins to build, they are making themselves heard.

Their first pinpricks with which they treat Nehemiah and his co-workers consist of mocking remarks. As much as Nehemiah’s speech encouraged the people, so much so the mockery of the enemies is meant to take power away. It takes a great deal of faith strength to continue a work for the Lord under constant mockery.

A lesson

When engaging in an activity for the Lord, we must take into account the “hostility by sinners against” us (Hebrews 12:3).

Verse 20

Reaction of Nehemiah to the Mockery

The first clash between Nehemiah and his enemies sets the tone for all further clashes. Nehemiah does not appeal to the king’s permission in the face of his enemies. He seeks it higher up, He involves “the God of heaven” in the work. Mockery is only effective if we see ourselves in connection with the mockers. It has no effect if we see ourselves in connection with God. Nehemiah sees himself and those who help him in connection with God (Romans 8:31).

Nehemiah acts very firmly and leaves no room for compromise. He does not sell hotcakes, but speaks with authority. He places the mockers outside the work of God and draws a sharp line between himself and his opponents. He openly declares where his opponents stand: they have “no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem”.

1. They have “no portion” in Jerusalem, because the portion of the enemies is in this life (Psalms 17:14) and not in the things of God.
2. They also have “no right” to have a place in Jerusalem or a say in what needs to be done – their opinions and thoughts are worthless.
3. Finally, there is also “no memorial” of them in God’s city. They have contributed nothing that has any lasting meaning and is remembered by God. They will be outside forever.

Some lessons

1. It is important not to give in to opposition from the start. The strength to resist lies in the conviction to be called by God.
2. Measure the strength of your opponents by the strength of God and not by your own strength.
3. See the opponents in their relationship with God. They have no relationship with God and therefore no interest or share in God’s work. If they do not repent, they will be without God forever.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Nehemiah 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/nehemiah-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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