Summary: The 2nd in the Nehemiah series...

This and other sermons in this Nehemiah series come in large part from a series done by Ray Stedman...just so that proper credit is given.

Get to it!

Nehemiah 2

We have in English a number of Proverbs that urge us to action when the

time is right. Shakespeare wrote, "There is a tide in the affairs of men,

which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." In the days when

blacksmiths were common, we used to hear the proverb, "Strike while the

iron is hot." Not many would understand that these days. Today we have

shortened it to, "Get with it!"

In the second chapter of Nehemiah we come to just such a moment. Last

week we left our hero weeping and praying over the ruins of Jerusalem,

beseeching God to lead him in a program of recovery. In the wonderful way

the Bible has, this is intended to illustrate the damaged and ruined

areas of our lives that need to be rebuilt, repaired or recovered. As we

pursue that interpretation through Nehemiah we shall find much practical

help on how to reclaim a ruined life. Many today find themselves in

almost total ruin. They have lost their way and are wide open to the

attacks of any destructive or hostile force. Others have severely damaged

areas in their lives. They are, perhaps, still held in bondage to

wrongful attitudes or habits.

It almost goes without saying that if you are praying for help, as

Nehemiah prayed for help in the opening chapter of this book, then you

should expect an answer. Expect God to do something. Be ready for it when

it comes. An opportunity to change will surely appear, at times rather

unexpectedly or after a longer period of time than you think it ought to

take, but it will happen because the God we worship is a God who answers


We find Nehemiah at that point of opportunity as the second chapter


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; so the king asked me, "Why does your

face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of


I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live

forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers

are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"

The king said to me, "What is it you want?"

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, {Neh 2:1-4 NIV}

Notice that this chapter has a different date than the opening words of

Chapter 1. It is in the month of Nisan of the Hebrew calendar when

Nehemiah finally has an opportunity to inform the king of his concern

over Jerusalem. Last week we looked at incidents that took place in the

month of Kislev, which is approximately the same as our month of

December. Nisan corresponds to our April, so there is a lapse of about

four months between these chapters. We are not told why Nehemiah delayed

that long in bringing his problem to the king. But we can presume that

because he was a man of prayer he was waiting for the Lord to indicate

the right time. Suddenly, in Nisan, that time came.

God often works in lives this way today. We are hasty, impatient

creatures. We want our prayers answered tomorrow, or even yesterday! We

pray, and we expect God’s answer right away. But God often delays his

answers. It is not because he is impotent or unwilling. There is much

teaching in Scripture that a delayed answer does not indicate an

unwilling God. We are taught again and again in Scripture to persevere in

prayer -- to keep praying till the answer comes. Evidently Nehemiah has

been doing this and the indication of it is that his heart is still

deeply troubled over the state of Jerusalem. So much so that when he

comes before the king in the performance of his normal duties of serving

the wine, his face shows his concern. This is the first time he had ever

allowed it to appear but apparently his concern is so great it breaks

through his control. The king notices this immediately and asks him why

he is so sad. Nehemiah tells us that his response to that question was:

"I was very much afraid."

That may sound strange to us for it looks as though the king is simply

being solicitous here. He seems truly concerned about the welfare of a

trusted and beloved servant, and he is quite naturally inquiring about

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