And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine…
That is only a small part of the gospel which leads a man to ask, "What must I do to be saved?" The glorious gospel of the blessed God goes forth with us interested in everything that concerns us as men — at home, in business, in town, in country, in all national affairs, in the whole world. A Christian may thoughtlessly throw himself into political exitement with no other motive than that of party feeling; but because he is a Christian he will be glad to let the light of God shine in upon his aims and motives, and will be glad to see his duty in the quietness and sacredness of this hour. The Bible, which gives us examples of men in every position where duty leads, has given us amongst its most brilliant and noble characters this of the statesman. If any should think such a position inseparable from ambitious craft and party ends, let them note this fact. Nehemiah is living at the court of the king, occupying a position of high rank, of much influence, of great trust. If the chief thing in life is to take care of one's own ease and luxury, and not to trouble much about the wants and sorrows of other people, then here is a man who has all that heart can wish. There are men, thousands of them, who have no thought or purpose in life beyond themselves. Surely that is to degrade our manhood. But what of any man who should call himself a Christian and yet should live all taken up in himself as if nothing were worth a thought but how he may be as happy as possible on earth — and then happier still in another world? Now to the court where Nehemiah dwells come certain Jews from Jerusalem, and he goes forth to inquire about the state of his countrymen and the beloved city. As a man, as a brother, as a servant of the Living God, he is bound to feel the deepest concern in the welfare of his nation. It is easy enough to think of what Nehemiah might have said, if he had been easy-going and selfish, "I really am sorry, very sorry — but I do not see that I can do anything, you know. It is as much as I can do to look after my own duties here without troubling myself about the affairs of the nation." There are some good people who talk so to-day and think it sounds pious. He might have given them a subscription, say of a guinea. And then he could have turned into the palace thankful not to be mixed up in these worldly matters. Or he might have sipped his wine out of a golden goblet and thought what a pity it was that everybody could not be as comfortable as he was. Well, if he had, you may be sure that neither this Book of God nor any other would have found a place for his name. Or he might have pleaded that he was in a very delicate and responsible position, holding office under the king, and that it would never do for him to get mixed up in these matters. Those good people who separate themselves from the duties of citizenship can find no example in the Scriptures. Of all false notions about regenerating the world, the most utterly false, as well as the laziest, is to think that this is the victory which overcometh the world to run away from it. This Book does not teach that the world is the devil's, and the less we can have to do with it the better. No, indeed! "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." The men of the Bible are not monks and recluses; but they are in the very midst of the world and busied with its affairs. Its prophets and messengers are men whose whole life has to do with the councils of kings, with the ways of cities and courts. Surely it is impossible to think of the religion of Jesus Christ as anything but a profound and eager interest in the welfare of our fellow-men — of their bodies as well as their souls; of their work as well as their worship; of their homes on earth as well as their getting to heaven. Nor have any the right to hold themselves aloof from politics because it is mixed up with party strife. We deplore and condemn the bitterness of party politics — but is there not a great deal of nonsense talked about party politics? How are you going ever to have polities at all without party politics? If you want abuses overthrown, and iniquities set right, and the privileges of the few shared by the many, and abominations like the opium trade swept away, and the great curses of drink and lust and gambling east out, are we to fold our hands because we are Christians, and let the devil have his own way because these things involve strife! Of course they do, and always will. We must expect opposition, excitement, abuse. The blessed Lord Jesus accepted and discharged the duties of citizenship. Together with His holiness, His meekness, His majesty, there is another grace and virtue — there is in Him a perfect patriotism. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are cent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate." And this example, sublime it is, is followed closely by the apostle Paul, whose passionate love to his countrymen prompts that daring utterance (Romans 9:1). And now to turn to ourselves. What think you? Can we dare to call ourselves by the name of Jesus Christ and yet be indifferent to the needs, the sorrows, the wants, the burdens of our country? Lastly, see how this brave man served his country. Nehemiah sees that his power to help his country is not mostly in his rank, nor in his influence with royalty; it is in his power to pray. This is the great truth we want to lay hold of. The greatest power to bless this land is in our power to pray for it. Here all are on a level. Women as well as men. We need not wait for Parliament in this matter. Women's rights are as ours at the throne of the heavenly grace. Beginning thus in prayer right speedily a glorious reformation is wrought in the face of plotting foes. In spite of the poverty and fewness of the people the city is rebuilt. So shall the city of God once more be set up in the midst of men, if every Christian man and woman will take in upon their heart the wants, the woes, the wrongs, the sorrows of our land, and will plead with God to send us a parliament that shall seek first in all things His kingdom and its righteousness.
(M. G. Pearse.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
WEB: It happened in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, that I took up the wine, and gave it to the king. Now I had not been [before] sad in his presence.