Summary: As we examine the story of Nehemiah 2, where we see Nehemiah speaking up for God's people when he had the opportunity, we are challenged to learn to share the good news when we have opportunity.
A. The story is told of a college student who was in a philosophy class, where there was a class discussion about whether or not God exists.
1. The professor tried to prove his point that there is no God by using this logical progression:
a. He asked the class: “Has anyone in this class seen God?” Nobody answered.
b. Then he asked: “Has anyone in this class heard God speak to them?” Nobody answered.
c. He then asked: “Has anyone in this class ever touched God?” Again, nobody answered.
d. The professor then simply stated: “Then I conclude that there is no God.”
2. One student didn’t agree with his argument and conclusion, and asked for permission to speak.
3. The professor granted it, and the student stood up and asked the following questions of his classmates:
a. “Has anyone in this class seen our professor’s brain?” Nobody answered.
b. “Has anyone in this class heard our professor's brain?” Nobody answered.
c. Finally he asked: “Has anyone in this class touched our professor's brain?” There was absolute silence in the classroom.
d. The student concluded: “Then, according to our professor's logic, it must be true that our professor has no brain!”
4. The student actually received an “A” in the class.
B. I really admire that student’s courage and ability to speak up, when clearly someone needed to.
1. How many times in our lives does an opportunity arise where we need to speak up, but we don’t?
2. As we continue to examine the story of Nehemiah, we are going to see that Nehemiah was faced with an opportunity to speak up for God’s people.
3. How will Nehemiah fare when that opportunity presents itself? Will he speak, or will he remain silent? And what will be the outcome?
4. These are the questions that will be answered in our sermon today.
C. Let’s set the stage for today’s dramatic story in the continuing saga of God’s people who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, and the city walls, and the Jewish faith community.
1. The Persian king named Cyrus allowed the Jews to return and rebuild in 538 B.C., just as God had promised.
2. God’s people under the leadership of Zerubbabel and the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah finished the temple in 515 B.C.
3. Ezra then led a second group who returned to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. and Ezra led them in some spiritual reforms.
4. Last week, we discovered that in 446 B.C., Nehemiah received word that the walls were still broken down and God’s people were in great trouble and disgrace (Neh. 1:3).
5. How did Nehemiah reacted to that report? He turned to fasting and praying for 4 months.
6. In the last sentence of Nehemiah chapter 1, Nehemiah says: “I was cup bearer to the king.”
I. The Story
A. Today’s story begins: 1 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; (Neh. 2:1)
1. The month of Nisan is roughly the equivalent of April, which is 4 months after the news had reached Nehemiah in chapter 1, verse 1.
2. On that specific day in the month of Nisan, Nehemiah took the wine and gave it to the king.
a. Nehemiah was the cupbearer and we need to understand the role of cupbearer.
b. The cupbearer was an officer of high rank in ancient oriental courts whose duty was to serve the wine at the king’s table.
c. Because of the constant fear of plots and intrigues, a person had to be regarded as completely trustworthy to hold the position of cupbearer.
d. The cupbearer had to guard against poison in the king’s cup, and he was sometimes required to swallow some of the wine before serving it.
e. The cupbearer’s confidential relationship with the king often endeared him to his sovereign and also gave him a position of great influence.
3. So Nehemiah had a very high position, and on that day when he brought the king his wine, he allowed his sadness to show on his face.
a. Keep in mind this isn’t the first day after Nehemiah heard the bad news, this is four months after hearing it.
b. Nehemiah had purposely hidden his sadness from the king, until the right moment, and that moment had arrived.
B. The story continues: 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, (Neh. 2:2)
1. The king knew Nehemiah very well and Nehemiah had never been sad in his presence before.