Petitioning the King

September 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 4 Comments
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Lord, help us to be active doing Your will, executing the decrees of Heaven. I pray that we would be like the workers in Jerusalem, holding our trowels in one hand, and our swords in the other – working with one hand, vigilant and prepared to defend against the enemy with the other hand. Let us not be slothful in business, but let us be fervent in spirit, serving You. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Nehemiah’s name meant “the Lord has comforted.” He was a very successful man. As a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes Longimanus (the Long-Handed), he was in a trusted position. He was trusted to protect the king from danger, and he was trusted to give advice. He was trusted to be presentable, and trusted to be prepared. In this way he was a good example for Christian managers and employees today. Can your employer trust you to give good advice? Are you someone that people can trust to be presentable? Do you run when there’s danger, or is that when you can be counted on most?

Perhaps Nehemiah was taught by his father, Hachaliah, to depend on the Lord, because he lived in a time when (despite his name) he was not comforted by the news of his people in Jerusalem.

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

Nehemiah 1:1-4

Nehemiah cared enough to ask someone how the people were doing, and he cared enough to get upset when the news was bad. He cared enough to admit his – and his people’s – guilt, and he cared enough to remember the promises of God.

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Nehemiah 1:8-9

He also cared enough to pray.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:11

This was a simple prayer, but sometimes it’s the strength of our prayers, not the length of our prayers, that touch God. Most of the prayer is talking about God and His Word. Nehemiah’s petition itself was very brief.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5

Nehemiah approached both the king of Persia and the King of the Universe. The earthly king saw the sorrow on his face; the Heavenly King saw the sorrow in his heart.

Excessive Celebration

April 29, 2013 at 11:55 am | Posted in Esther | 3 Comments
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One of the meanings of faith is believing the promises of God even when they don’t seem to be supported by observable evidence. But another definition of faith is obeying God in spite of what seem to be the obvious consequences.

The name of God is not mentioned once in the Book of Esther, yet it is full of His Words. The same is true for Song of Solomon. There are different theories on why God is not named in Esther. It may be to illustrate how little His people thought about Him at that time.

The events in the Book of Esther took place between 483 and 473 B.C. Chronologically, they would fit right between Chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra. During this time, the rebuilding of Jerusalem had halted. Zechariah and Haggai preached and prophesied about the people putting roofs on their own homes while the house of God had no roof.

The king of the Medo-Persian empire at that time was Ahasuerus (Khshayarshan in Persian, Artaxerxes or Xerxes in Greek). Ahasuerus was really into putting on spectacular banquets.

Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.

Esther 1:1-9

The particular feasts described here were the result of the failure of Ahasuerus’s father to successfully invade Greece. Ahasuerus was probably excited at the prospect of revenge and greater glory for himself as he prepared to give it a try. As an aside, the defeat of Darius (Ahasuerus’s father) happened at a place called Marathon in 490 B.C. 25,000 Persians were met by 10,000 Greeks. Some of the Persians left to go attack Athens, and a runner ran 26 miles without stopping to warn them – upon which he probably died from a heat stroke or exhaustion. That’s where we get the name of the 26-mile-long race.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,

Esther 1:10

There seems to be a great deal of drinking, partying, and extravagant celebrating going on in the Book of Esther. One of the king’s chamberlains was named “Mehuman,” and I might jokingly suggest that his parents gave him this name so that, no matter how drunk he got with the king, he wouldn’t forget he was still a human and not a wild beast. (You have to imagine him talking like Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan for this to be funny: “Me human, you Jane.”)

To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

Esther 1:11-12

It is very common for anger to follow drunkenness. Ahasuerus’s heart was merry (after seven days of drinking, we can only imagine!), but look how quickly it swung form merriment to wrath. Drunk driving is a huge problem in our society, but it may surprise you to learn that more drunks are still arrested for fighting than for driving while intoxicated. Ahasurerus mastered his whole kingdom, but he couldn’t even master himself.

Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:

Esther 1:13 (emphasis added)

This is probably a reference to astrology, but these “wise” men also knew the times in which they lived, and they knew they had a king who was susceptible to flattery. They gave foolish counsel, and the king listened, because they flattered him with words.

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.

Proverbs 27:14

Flattery should make us cautious.

Leading by Example

April 12, 2010 at 10:42 am | Posted in Ezra, Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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The city of Jerusalem was in ruins. The temple there had been destroyed. The city walls were breached and broken. The Jewish people were in captivity in Babylon. Then, one day, God caused a faithful group of His people to return to Jerusalem to undertake the imposing task of rebuilding the walls, repopulating the city, and restoring the temple.

Progress was being made until around 530 B.C. For about 10 years the people were forbidden to continue by the Persian king, Artaxerxes, and they worked on their own houses, rather than the house of God.

Two main factors got God’s people back on track, and motivated them to resume God’s work. One was Godly preaching.

Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.

Ezra 5:1

There is power in the prophesying (preaching) of God’s Word.

The second factor was that the ones doing the preaching were not afraid to get their hands dirty, and set a Godly example by practicing what they prophesied.

Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

Ezra 5:2, emphasis added

Spiritual leaders are often called upon to use their mouths, but they should also be willing to use their backs.


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