Summary: One of the last prophets of the OT and a key figure in Israel's return to the Promised Land
If you’ve noticed I have tried to pick men of the bible we usually do not talk about much. Elijah, Naaman and now I want to talk about another man we seldom talk about.
I would like to call your attention to the prophet called Nehemiah. We may gain some help from this distinguished man who accomplished a great work.
He was one of the last of the prophets, and he was supposed to be contemporary with Malachi, and perhaps his book was one of the last of the Old Testament books that was written.
He might have known Daniel, for he was a young man in the declining years of that very eminent and godly statesman.
We are sure of one thing at least—he was a man of sterling worth. Although he was brought up in the Persian court among idolaters, yet he had a character that has stood all these centuries.
His name means consolation of the Lord or literally YHWH comforts. This may seem insignificant but when Jesus was brought to the temple for dedication we read this Luke 2:25 (NASB)
25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
Simeon and many of his day were looking for a Nehemiah type to come and restore Israel the way Nehemiah did in the days after the Babylonian exile.
This man was brought up in the captivity and had never seen his own country Israel and especially the city of his father’s -Jerusalem.
He was a very prominent man in King Artaxerxes’ court as his cup bearer. He was trusted and the King cared greatly about him.
One day in November or December of BC 445 his brother and some men from Jerusalem came to see the King, perhaps on some official business and Nehemiah inquires about his people and the city of Jerusalem.
What he is told distressed him greatly. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol ,2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.3 They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire." Neh 1:1-3 (NASB)
Although he had never been there, Nehemiah was greatly disturbed about this news. The people were suffering poverty and hunger. The city walls were broken down and had never been rebuilt, leaving the people vulnerable to attack from their many enemies and the gates were nothing more than ashes.
Now I know what you are thinking. God is going to raise up this man and use him in a great way to correct all of this and you would be right. However something needs to be done first and foremost.
Nehemiah tells us exactly what that thing was 4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.5 I said, "I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father's house have sinned.7 "We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.8 "Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.' Neh 1:4-9 (NASB)