Nehemiah is the sequel if you will to the book of Ezra. Ezra and Nehemiah are intertwined in the restoration of the Temple and the City walls of Jerusalem. It would be easy to categorizes Ezra as the Spiritual leader and Nehemiah as the civic leader; but that would be wrong. All the Work of God is Spiritual, whether moving rocks so those who come after can plant or build; as scripture tells us, one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. [1 Cor. 3:7] Both men had a God-given task to do. The 70 yrs. of exile were over, many of the exiles returned after Cyrus’ edict. The exiles were to build the Temple under Zerubbaal, but “found it was not expedient time to build.” Ezra brings a “spiritual renewal” to the people; but the work was still lacking. Nehemiah opens with him asking how things are in the homeland. The brethren tell him things are not well. Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the King – his face was sad before the King, something that was not acceptable, “why are you saddened?” The people who returned were “reproached” by the people who occupied the barren land. Reproach is a repeated word throughout the book. Reproach means to be “discredited, disapproved of, disgraced, cause for blame, to be continually criticized, or to be censured.” These words are according to our dictionaries. But what is reproach in the Bible? It means to be the cause for blame or ridicule, deserved of criticism and condemnation.
When Nehemiah is asked by the King, he is ready to give answer of the hope that is within him. I have found that I must ask and answer “questions before they become a question.” What I mean is I have to know what the will and mind of the Lord is in situations that have a reasonable opportunity of transpiring. Be ready when someone asks the question. Nehemiah found the will of God by prayer and fasting. There was brokenness in his spirit or the situation. His prayers are to the Lord God, confession and repentance – a godly sorrow for the acknowledged sins of his ancestors. Come clean before God. If I regard iniquity in my heart, my prayers will not be heard. Before Nehemiah approaches God, he had to deal with the “reproach of Israel before God.”
Nehemiah knew he had to deal with the King of Kings before he entertained talking with the king on earth. Prepared to come in the presence of king Nehemiah understood that the LORD God of Israel was at work. Too many times I believe pastors and churches move to a solution without conferring with the Father in Heaven, then wonder why the plans failed. Nehemiah found favor with the earthly king because he found favor [grace] from God first.
From what can be read, Nehemiah was not guilty of the sins he confessed, but the people where, we find brokenness, conviction, confession, repentance and desire for restoration in the prayer of Nehemiah. Restored spiritually, Nehemiah was ready to do the building and restoration of the city of Jerusalem. When Nehemiah asks the king for provisions, the king granted them to him based on “the good hand of My God was with me.”
Of course when the man of God and the people of God began to restore their lives and communities that had been under satanic control – the demons will come out of the woodwork to cause conflict and more confusion. Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite [see the lineage of Esau and Ammon with the Amalekites] rise up to thwart the work.
Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem, but doesn’t announce his plans; a friend of mine told me about “vision jacking” when someone finds out your plans and derails them before you can implement them yourself – usually with the intention of foiling them. Nehemiah spends three days just traveling and scoping out the ruins of the city. There is much to be gained by having “boots on the ground” before attempting to execute a plan. Listening, looking and leaning on the discernment from God, Nehemiah finally talks to the people and gives his prognosis of the situation. Man there is a lot of work to be done! Nehemiah said “let’s build so we will no longer be a reproach.” The reproach follows when Sanballat and Tobiah learn of the people “putting themselves to the good work. Plenty of people can and will be critics when the man of God and the Church decides to follow God’s restoration plans. Keep building!