Summary: A narrative of the first two chapters of Nehemiah, Nehemiah tells his story up to the beginning of the work of restoration.
Introduction: Thanks to the NIV Bible and Message paraphrase, both of which I’ve leaned fairly heavily upon for this attempt at a narrative of the first two chapters of Nehemiah. This is a narrative that has been Kiwified, i.e. easily understood by New Zealanders.
The Narrator’s words are in .
The person who is speaking the part of Nehemiah is in standard font.
[Here are some of the memories of Nehemiah, cup bearer to King Artaxerxes the Long Handed of Persia.
Nehemiah was a Jew who was living in exile in ancient Iran. His people had been living there since the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587 BC. In the ensuing years the Persians had taken control of Babylon and its territories which included Judah.
We join Nehemiah.]
It was around November- December in the year 444 BC. At the time I was in the palace complex at Susa one of the great cities of what you would call Southern Iran. One of my brothers Hanani had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews. I asked them how things were going with the rest of the Jews living in Jerusalem who’s families had survived all the dramas of the past one hundred and fifty years and managed to continue living there.
The news was not good. They told me, "That the people living there, and in the province of Judah were in dire straights and that thing’s are about as rough as it gets, they’re not doing well,” they said “in fact the place is a mess. The walls of Jerusalem are still just a pile of rubble; the city gates have been burnt and all that’s left is a pile of ash.”
When I heard this, it left me shattered; I just sat down and cried and cried. I grieved over this for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven.
I said, "GOD, God-of-Heaven, and The Great and Awesome God, loyal to his covenant-his promises you’re always faithful to those who love you and obey your commands: Look at me God, listen to me. Pay attention to this prayer LORD, I’m your servant and I’m praying day and night, asking you to help your people, your servants, the People of Israel. I confessed the sins of the People of Israel.” I called out to God saying, “I’m included myself, I and my ancestors, among those who have sinned against You.”
[His prayer continued.]
"God we’ve treated you like dirt: We haven’t done what you told us, we haven’t followed your commands, and we haven’t respected the decisions you gave to Moses your servant.
Why did we act like that? You yourself remember the warning you gave your servant Moses, you said, ‘If you betray me, I’ll scatter you to the four winds, but if you come back to me and do what I tell you, I’ll gather up all these scattered peoples from the ends of the Earth and put them back in the place I chose to mark with my Name.’ “I knew that God could do all things and knew that he would do what he had promised.”
"Well, there they are—your servants, as you said, they’re certainly scattered. Your people who you so powerfully and impressively redeemed, it was you who saved them. O Master, listen to me, listen to your servant’s prayer—and yes, to all your servants who delight in honoring you—and God please make me successful today, please God you know what I need to get from the king."
[Nehemiah worked for the King he was aware of what God had so powerfully done for the people of Israel previously he was cup bearer to the King. His was a position of great trust, to bear the cup of the King; one had to be beyond reproach. A drop or two of the right liquid in the cup of King and he might be no more. The cup bearer was a most trusted servant.]
[ Four months later. In the presence of the King, at the hour for serving wine, as was his role Nehemiah brought it in and gave it to the king. Could this be the part of how God answered Nehemiah’s prayers?
He had never looked so miserable in the Kings Presence before, so the King asked what’s wrong Nehemiah? You’re not looking so flash; you’re not crook are you? My goodness man you look depressed.”]
That blew me away, I was kind of stunned, and I didn’t know what to say. Then I blurted out, "Long live the king! And why, why…shouldn’t I be depressed when the city, …..Jerusalem, the place where all of my family is buried, is in ruins and the city gates have been reduced to a pile of ash? Your Majesty the news I’ve heard about the place is getting me down, I’m sorry your Majesty but I’m not doing so well."