“With a prayer to the God of Heaven, I replied…” –Nehemiah 2:4
It was time to rebuild. Jerusalem was ripe for a fresh start. Jewish exiled survivors had returned. I can picture that blades of wild grasses now grew through fallen rubble. Birds landed, unhindered by the past destruction. The city gates now lay warped and charred, causing cinders and dust to swirl through the air as the wind blew. Jerusalem was desolate but not forgotten.
God called a man named Nehemiah, and his heart was burdened to rebuild the city. Rebuilding seemed insurmountable, but not too big for God. After much prayer, Nehemiah was given an opportunity to approach the king for assistance, and God’s hand and protection led him step by step. The first chapter in Nehemiah holds such a rich example of God’s calling, prayer, obedience, and provision.
There are times in our life we have to do big things. Things that cause our heart to literally bleed out the heaviness of its burden. When our heart is unhurried, we can hear God’s call and the listen to his blueprints. Perhaps in a moment, or perhaps in quiet murmurs that simmer over months or years, our heart is called. Perhaps we are even given blueprints, but the execution of the plan remains a mystery. I have a sticky note on which I wrote, “You don’t have to know the next step. Trust.”
God impressed that phrase upon my heart, and I continually have to remind myself.
I believe that God is richly revealed in details of the calling-prayer-obedience-provision process. For example, God has called me to write. Writing definately belongs on my list of “big things,” and I don’t fully see God’s plan yet. His gentle urges have simmered in my heart for years. His blueprints are coming more in focus every day. He has gradually placed building supplies within my reach. He has revealed this calling, and I must let him be the master builder and trust his hand and provision for each step.
Sometimes though, big things come at only a moment’s notice. Out of no where it seems, our head it turned and we see a need. We are blindsided by a crisis. A task emerges that requires immediate attention. The size of big things can seem small, but feel huge. Perhaps we are called to share our faith or take a step out of our comfort level and speak to someone we normally would not. Maybe we are just learning to do something new or we are called to tackle a project that we want to avoid, and God knows it would free our heart and bring us healing. We don’t have to know the next step. Trust.
Nehemiah remained deeply grieved for the city of his jewish people and ancestors for months. Rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall remained a daunting task. Meanwhile, normal life resumed. Nehemiah served as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, and while he would have enjoyed the king’s respect and confidence, a servant’s problems and emotional state had no place in the presence of the king. However, while serving wine on a particular day, Nehemiah’s heart could not hold in the deep despair it contained. His sadness and distraction became evident to the king. At that moment, King Artaxerxes inquired what could be the matter and how he could be of help. At his response we are told, “With a prayer to the God of heaven, (Nehemiah) replied, ‘If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried'”. An NIV study note points to the fact that King Artaxerxes had previously stopped the Jews from rebuilding the wall, so this was no small request. But with God’s hand and provision, all things are possible. The King accepted his request, and Nehemiah preceded to also ask for letters of protection and building supplies. In verse 2:4 we are told Nehemiah stated, “And the King granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.”
Nehemiah had sought the Lord in prayer and remained in a ready and obedient state. His heart had been saturated in prayer for months, waiting for God to illuminate the next step. When the opportunity arose, Nehemiah prayed once more before he uttered a response to the king. This is the unhurried heart I desire, don’t you? May we seek God in prayer and trust in his plan and timing. May we be reminded to utter prayer before uttering a reply. May we seek the Lord and his counsel even as we take action. May we have faith like Nehemiah that God will take care of the details, no matter how big or overwhelming the project. Lastly, may this passage remind us that no man can stand in the way of God’s will, even those who previously stood in the way. Praise the Lord, that we serve an all-loving, all-knowing, almighty God!