Have you ever felt like your position isn’t exactly an impressive one? Maybe your title at work or role at home or within your family has left you feeling…less than. Less than chosen, less than worthy, less than capable, less than seen, or even less than qualified for a ‘more important’ role? If so, I have just the story for you, today! This happens to be one of my favorites because, well, of course, because God shows us once again how He loves to use the most unexpected people to do His greatest works! This is the story of Nehemiah. But, before we get there, I’d love to give you a quick little Bible history.
Many of us are familiar with the great exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. It is the story of Moses, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments and so much more. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Bible, you’ve likely seen the cinematic version on tv around Easter. However, did you know that there is a second great exodus story in the Bible? I delved into studying this last year and was amazed that I had rarely heard mention of this era of the Bible. Hold tight and I’ll drop in a bit of context and then pull in a few passages to shape the scene for you. It really is a fascinating time!
Here’s my wonderful cliff notes version to get us up to speed: Israel had fallen into rebellion once again. For years, God sent prophets to warn the people and declare God’s wrath if they did not repent and turn from their unrighteousness. They refused to listen. Eventually, God promises the total destruction of Israel, scattering the people and turning them into exiles of other lands. But, God also promises that once His wrath has been assuaged, He will bring back a remnant to rebuild Jerusalem.
Just as God promised, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were carried off to serve as exiles under the king of Babylon. (This is, in fact, where we get the book of Daniel along the stories of Shadrach, Meschac, and Abednego. They were all captives taken from the land of Israel). And this brings us up to where we are going in scripture today! After 70 years in captivity, to fulfill prophecy, God moves king Cyrus’s heart (the Babylonian king at the time) to release back the remnant of Jerusalem. All who felt the call to go back to their homeland were permitted to do so. Not only that, but he sent orders out to all the land that they should send supplies and materials and anything else they may need for their journey.
Along with the first group to go back was a priest from the tribe of Levi named Ezra. He goes back with the mission of building back the temple so the Jewish people can resume their traditional rituals and worship. Ezra’s story is full of fascinating detail, but today, I’m going to highlight another main character of interest. This man’s name was Nehemiah.
Roughly 13 years after Ezra left Babylon to begin rebuilding the temple, a man named Hanani arrives in the city of Susa (part of Babylon) with other men who had been in Judah (Israel). Nehimiah began questioning the men about what they had seen. He asked about Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile. And so, it is here that I’ll pick up reading in Nehemiah 1…
All those centuries ago, I doubt Nehemiah, the humble servant, ever dreamed that he would be leading a mission to build back the walls and fulfill prophecy. So, today, I hope you’ll be encouraged. I hope you’ll hear this message and remember how God could use you, too. Pray bold prayers. Ask God to use you and work through you. You may just be surprised at the courage that bubbles up in unexpected places to launch you into something you could never have imagined for yourself..
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