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…
Nehemiah 2:1-8. These verses describe the circumstances in which Nehemiah obtained his commission as restorer of Jerusalem. They show that he was prospered, and that his prosperity was due to the blessing of God. We may notice -
I. The REWARD OF FAITH IN THE ANSWER TO PRAYER.
1. The faith was tried by waiting. Opportunity must not be made by hasty, presumptuous attempts to command events, but by watching Providence. Nehemiah still prayed, and then on a certain day he could say, It came to pass.
2. The Divine interposition was manifested in the control of the monarch's thoughts and disposition. It might easily have been otherwise. A suspicious Eastern despot might have been jealous and angry. When it is the purpose of God to help, even the secrets of the inner man are swayed by it. We must leave it to him to answer the prayer when and as he pleases.
3. There was a special bestowal of grace upon Nehemiah himself. He needed self-command, prudence, boldness, adroitness. And when challenged to disclose what was in his heart, making his countenance sad, he must depend upon inspiration to be able to say exactly the right thing, and to say it so as to obtain his desire. His patriotism, his purity of motive, his confidence in his own vocation to fulfil so great a commission, all required at that moment to be sustained. He "prayed to the God of heaven." The answer was immediately sent, in the courage, the wisdom, the self-devotion, the simplicity of the cupbearer in the presence of an Eastern despot, asking to be intrusted with power that he might use it for God and his people.
4. There was a Providential conjunction of circumstances, both in the past and present. Nehemiah was already in the palace to aid the important work of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. How little we can follow the working of the Divine hand! The answer to our prayer may be already provided, even before we present the petition. What seems hard to obtain is not hard for God to give.
II. The DEVELOPMENT OF CAPACITY ON THE BASIS OF RELIGION.
1. The beginning of all, devoutness, intercourse with God, spirituality of aim and motive, largo desires for the welfare of God's people, and so of the world.
2. On this is built the purity, and strength, and unselfishness which so wins confidence in others. Nehemiah found favour with Artaxerxes because there was that in his very countenance which the monarch delighted to look upon. We should recommend religion by transparent honesty, cheerfulness, and unselfishness.
3. Intellectual power rests upon moral, and both upon spiritual. The cupbearer could not have undertaken to be a ruler and leader of men m most difficult circumstances unless there had been the making of a ruler in him. Some of our greatest statesmen have owed much of their superiority to their religion. "The entrance of thy word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple."
4. One who places himself in a position of great responsibility requires a far-seeing eye and a strong will. These are wonderfully helped by the cultivation of a deeper nature. Nehemiah knew what to ask for, materials and men; foresaw the demands of the work and its dangers; with steadfast confidence in himself, and fearless trust in his influence over the king, he made great requests, and they were "granted, according to the good hand of his God upon him." The root of all his strength was his entire dependence upon God.
5. In the character of Nehemiah there is an illustration of the effect of religion in cherishing the higher elements of the nature, and keeping them in beautiful and powerful harmony. He loved "the place of his fathers' sepulchres," he loved his nation; but above all, he loved the Church of God. Personal feeling, patriotic enthusiasm, and religious faith, when they all unite together as active principles in one man, produce a loftiness and heroism which prepare him for the greatest efforts and successes. - R.
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.