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I’ve been studying the book of Nehemiah this week.
When I first started reading the book, I got confused.
I felt like I studied this before.
Yet when I went to my notes, I couldn’t find any thing I had written about Nehemiah.
Did I dream that I studied the book?
Or did I do the research and not save the document?
It turned out neither.
Nehemiah was written by Ezra.
In fact in some bibles this book is titled Second Ezra.
We studied Ezra.
Some of the material overlaps, in the same way Kings and Chronicles overlaps.
Now Bible scholars, what do we know about information that is repeated in the Bible?
It is there for emphasis.
It’s like God saying, I don’t want you to miss this.
So what are we not supposed to miss?
What was going on in Israel & Judah at that time?
§       In 722 b.c. the Assyrians conquered the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom (Israel or Ephraim) and exiled them – the Bible says they scattered them all over the known world.
§       Then @ 605–586 b.c., the Babylonians came in and sacked Jerusalem and exiled Judah
§       Captivity lasted 70 years (Babylon)
§       During that 70 yrs of captivity, the Persians conquered the Babylonians (@ 539 b.c.)
Remember I said that Ezra & Nehemiah were related?
§       In the book of Ezra, the Persian ruler Cyrus, issues a decree to allow the exiles to return to Jerusalem, rebuild the temple and resume their worship & sacrifices.
§       It’s during this time that the events in Esther take place
§       Then @ 458 b.c.
Nehemiah returns to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem
Who was Nehemiah?
Nehemiah was not a prophet.
He was not a priest, nor a military leader.
He was a deportee who found favor with the king (like Joseph & Daniel).
His job title was “cupbearer”.
Now cupbearer does not sound like a high powered job like prime minister, or a military attaché.
But it is one of the most important positions in the palace.
The cupbearer is the person who escorts of the king to all meals, and tests all the king’s beverages for possible poison.
Because he puts his own life at risk on a daily basis, the cupbearer became a close confidant to the king.
Who was the king Nehemiah worked for?
The king’s name was Artaxerxes
§       He ruled the Persian Empire (ca.
464–423 b.c.)
§       If you remember back to when we studied the book of Daniel, the Persians were the chest of silver on Nebuchadnezzar’s statue and was represented by the bear in the vision of the 4 beasts.
Both give us an insight about the strength of their military power.
§       My research shows that Artaxerxes was not only a great military strategist, but a diplomat as well.
He used the strengths of the people he ruled over to his advantage to expand the wealth of the empire.
How did Artaxerxes rule Judah?
§       Basically with a loose hand.
He let them go about their business.
/But/ because they were still conquered subjects of the empire, he did set up a monitoring system so that at the slightest sign of rebellion, he could respond militarily.
Now besides the obvious reason that God was in control of the situation, there is one more thing we want to consider that led to Judah’s favored status with the king.
§       Esther was Artaxerxes’ stepmother and could have easily influenced him to look favorably upon the Jews, especially Nehemiah.
§       How much influence did she have over her grandson?
Nehemiah did not have his name changed like Daniel of Esther & Mordecai.
Turn to Nehemiah, 1
1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 
Notice that this is written in the first person.
You will remember that I said Ezra wrote this book.
Ezra was a scribe in the palace and Nehemiah was an influential member of the court.
As such, Nehemiah’s diaries would have been part of the palace archives, and the scribe Ezra would have had access to them.
So the writing is Ezra’s, but the words are Nehemiah’s
2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.
The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
We would expect this after 70 years of exile.
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.
For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
In the next few verses, Nehemiah reminds God of his covenant, he confesses the sins of his people, and points out that they have already been punished with 70 years of exile.
Jump down to vs. 10
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.
11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name.
Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
In this house we pray for favor all the time.
And sometimes we even walk in it.
Some people seem to walk in favor more often than others.
I have asked God why that is.
Nehemiah’s little statement here,
I was cupbearer to the king.
Illustrates that God has already set us up to walk in favor by placing us where we need to be to receive that favor.
Think about it.
Nehemiah was already a trusted confidant of the king before he needed the king’s favor.
We often hear people say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Well, just how do you think you got to know them?
It’s the favor of God going before us that brings about the favor of men.
*2* 1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king.
I had not been sad in his presence before; 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill?
This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
It was dangerous to be sad in the king’s presence.
If employees are happy all the time it makes the boss look like a good guy.
If they are miserable, the first assumption people make is that the boss is a bad guy.
Artaxerxes was a famous diplomat.
He didn’t want anyone to think he was a bad guy.
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Sound like favor to you?
4b Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?”
It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
Sound like the King would miss his cupbearer.
Good, than I can ask for more favor?
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?
The letters gave Nehemiah a portion of the King’s authority.
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