The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year…
I. HERE IS EMINENT PIETY IN A MOST UNLIKELY PLACE (ver. 1).
1. Palaces are not generally favourable to piety —
(1) Because unrestrained liberty usually degenerates into license and lavish luxury into licentiousness. Court morals are proverbially corrupt.
(2) Because religion does not flourish amidst human pomp and the outward symbols of pride. A palace is, above all others, a theatre of human exaltation and proud display.
(3) Because the commands of a sovereign are liable to clash with the mandates of Jehovah.
2. Piety is not impossible even in a palace —
(1) Inasmuch as God will protect them who honour Him. If God has placed His servant in the palace to do His work, He will keep him there until the work is done.
(2) Inasmuch as many eminent examples are recorded in Scripture. Not only Nehemiah, but Moses, Joseph, Obadiah, and Daniel. Learn —
1. Eminent piety does not depend upon the accidentals of a man's social position.
2. Exalted positions are less desirable than they appear.
3. The most desirable station in life is that in which we can serve God to the best advantage.
II. HERE IS AN EVENT APPARENTLY TRIFLING LEADING TO RESULTS OF THE GREATEST MAGNITUDE (ver. 2).
1. The most trivial event may lead to the most momentous issues. The oak is contained in the acorn; the prairie is fired by a spark; a nation is plunged into war as the result of a jest. Many a quiet conversation has led to world-wide revolutions.
2. Nothing is therefore trivial to a wise man.Learn —
1. Every detail in a good man's life is part of a Divine plan.
2. To avoid crossing the Divine purpose and thwarting the Divine plan we must do all to the glory of God.
III. HERE IS A STARTLING SUMMONS OF A MOST UNEXPECTED CHARACTER. Although no direct appeal was made, Nehemiah as truly heard the Divine call as Samuel the voice in the darkness, or Paul the voice of the vision, "Come over to Macedonia."
1. Here is an appeal for sympathy and help — not the less powerful because indirect. Mute appeals are often the most eloquent. AEschylus appealing for the life of his brother by holding up the stump of the arm he had lost in the service of his country. The high-priest in the holy place sprinkled the blood seven times without speaking. This appeal was —
(1) The cry of humanity appealing to human sympathies.
(2) The cry of brotherhood appealing to his kinship.
(3) The cry of fatherland appealing to his patriotism.
(4) The call of God.
2. Here is a summons which involved great sacrifice. Love never counts the cost. Sacrifice is its glory. Sincerity always distinguished from hypocrisy by this test.
3. Here is an unexpected summons promptly obeyed.Learn —
1. Life is full of surprises, and the tenure of ease uncertain.
2. The good man is prepared to follow the leadings of providence without hesitation and at any cost.
IV. HERE IS A SAVIOUR RAISED UP IN A MOST UNLOOKED-FOR QUARTER.
1. God is ever training His agents for the work which He means them to accomplish. Nehemiah, Joseph, Moses, David, Cyrus, Paul, Luther, Wesley, and many others.
2. At the proper time God will bring His agents into contact with their life-work.
3. The qualifications of God's agents are not always recognised at first.Learn —
1. God uses the most unlikely agents.
2. God leads in the most unlooked-for ways.
3. God's redemptive scheme is the most incomprehensible of all mysteries.
V. HERE IS A PICTURE OF THE DEMORALISING AND DISMANTLING TENDENCY OF SIN, ALIKE IN CITIES AND IN SOULS.
1. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were demoralised: "In great affliction and reproach." Long captivity and dependence had enervated them. Powers not used lapse into impotence. Sin cherished withers moral force.
2. The battlements of Jerusalem were dismantled. Thus does sin ever destroy defences and throw down battlements, leaving souls at the mercy of destructive forces which lead to eternal shame.Learn —
1. Sin reveals its deadly nature in its direful consequences even in this life.
2. These consequences are designed to act as warnings to unwary souls.
3. They suggest still more awful penalties in that world where judgment is untempered by mercy.
(W. H. Booth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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,