Summary: We see the task, we have to move on it soon. But we have to get it past some difficult people.
Preparing for a tough job
PR 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. 2 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart. 3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. 4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin! 5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. 6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. 7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right. 8 The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.
NE 2:4 The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it." 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
There are few areas in life in which we live or work that do not come equipped with a superior, or an authority figure. The family, a student, teacher, nurse, executive, salesman, all have superiors whose presence significantly controls and affects their lives. Nehemiah is under the authority of the King, and the King is under the authority of God.
When the time for confrontation comes, whether it be between boss and worker, parent and child, student and teacher, how do we handle it. It is increasingly difficult if the leader is insensitive or unconcerned, especially when it comes to spiritual matters.
Hudson Taylor once said, “It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone.” Prayer as we said last week is that weapon we have that is more powerful than anything on earth.
Proverbs 21 is a comparative proverb, but unlike other comparative proverbs it comes with a conclusion. What is true of the King is true of our superiors. To understand our bosses we have to become acquainted with God’s method of operation. For the Lord has the heart of our superiors in His hands. The heart of Artaxerxes is in the hands of the LORD.
The Law of the Medes and Persians was impossible to change. Nehemiah was in the position of influence, he was in the King’s presence continually. He could present his case before the King. Even though he was in Persia, Nehemiah’s heart was in Jerusalem. He wanted nothing more than to go back and rebuild the city of his fathers. He has the task of changing the King’s mind and allow him to go back to rebuild the city. He relies on God to change the heart of the King. His prayer was simple, “make your servant successful.” Lord change the heart of ________, change the situation so that I may be allowed to do your will and to your pleasure.
Nehemiah first prays about this situation in the month of Chislev, and now in the month of Nisan we will see action. It is about 4 months and nothing has happened yet. Have you ever prayed for something and nothing happened? A day, a week, a month later and no change. Have you ever wondered if the Lord had heard, or have you concluded that the answer is no? That is Nehemiah’s situation, yet the prayer warrior learns the value of patience. He waited, and there was no visible sign, not even a glimmer of change. He kept waiting and trusting God to move the heart of his superior.
As chapter 2 opens we notice 4 months have passed and Nehemiah is in a familiar situation. The King and Queen are reclining having just finished having a feast, and were waiting for Nehemiah to bring the wine. In the four months Nehemiah has prayed, he never appeared before King with a sad look, but now for some reason it is different. Maybe he was running out of patience, maybe he was resigning himself to the fact that the answer is no, and Jerusalem will have to continue to lie in ruins.