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…
I. How great is the PRIVILEGE of prayer. Great indeed is the privilege of all this access to the mercy-seat, but how unspeakable is the joy and the consolation of habitual communion with God, and of taking occasion from duties, trials, or mercies, as they follow one another, to lift up the heart in pious ejaculation. The word ejaculation is derived from the Latin "jaculum," an arrow, and suggests the rapidity and earnestness with which such a prayer can be winged up to the God of heaven. We have seen how Nehemiah interposed a prayer of this kind as a devout parenthesis between the king's request and his own reply. And there is no book of Scripture so remarkable for ejaculatory prayer as the Book of Nehemiah. Such an acknowledgment of God in our ways is no hindrance, but rather a mighty help in business. That which calms the mind, fixes the purpose, and strengthens moral principle, must be a great assistance, whether in duty or trial. As Fuller remarks, "Ejaculations take not up any room in the soul. They give liberty of callings, so that at the same instant one may follow his proper vocation. The husbandman may dart forth an ejaculation, and not make a halt the more. The seaman nevertheless steers his ship right in the darkest night. The field wherein the bees feed is no whir the barer for their biting: when they have taken their full repast on flowers or grass, the ox may feed, the sheep fatten on their reversions. The reason is because those little chemists distil only the refined part of the flower, leaving the greaser substance thereof. So ejaculations bind not men to any bodily observance, only busy the spiritual half, which maketh them consistent with the prosecution of any other employment." The rapidity and brevity of ejaculatory prayer has frequently been illustrated by a reference to the electric telegraph, the greatest achievement of modern science. Christ has opened a pathway down which redeeming mercy may flow into the heart of the sinner, and by which the aspirations and longings of that penitent sinner may climb up to his reconciled God and Father. Christians, however, can tell of something quicker far than electricity. Thought, winging its way by prayer, travels instantaneously from the depths of a penitent's need to the height of God's throne in heaven. Who can estimate the distance thus travelled, or the relief thus experienced? The child cries, and the Father answers. The sinner weeps, and the Saviour draws near to wipe away his tears, and to fill him with an overflowing gladness.
II. But if the privilege of prayer be great, How INTENSELY JOYOUS IS THE ANSWER. Recurring to the narrative, let us observe in the gracious answer to Nehemiah's prayer that delay is not denial. Four weary months passed before Nehemiah had the opportunity of bringing under the king's notice the desolation of Zion. The answer to prayer is as sure as Divine power, faithfulness, and love can make it. The providence of God concurs sweetly with His grace in this answer. The answer, moreover, to Nehemiah's request, through the good hand of his God upon him, was overflowing and abundant. The utmost, probably, that he had anticipated would be a full permission to resign his duties at court, and to go to Jerusalem. But he received much more than this. He had the large-hearted sanction of his master for all his undertakings. He was provided with a cavalry escort, with letters for safe conduct beyond the river, and ample material for his work. Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
(J. M. Randall.)
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.