RETURN TO JERUSALEM
I’m Nehemiah. If you need bonafides, my father was Hacaliah and I am from Jerusalem. I am cup bearer to King Artaxerxes. My people have been captive in Babylon for a long time. I have been in earnest prayer before the Lord, weeping in supplication and repentance for the people, both day and night.
As I brought his wine to the king and his queen, he narrowed his eyes, looked intently at me and asked, “Why are you sad? You haven’t been sick. What is it you want?”
I had been praying earnestly to the Lord for weeks that this moment would come. “Oh, help me God, Lord in heaven,” I breathed silently, “to say the right thing to the mighty king.” I raised my head and said, “Oh, King, live forever. If I have found your favor, grant that I might go to my hometown to rebuild it, for the walls are down and the dwelling places are in ruins.”
“Okay,” said the King. So I ventured to tell him when I wanted to leave and asked further for letters of safe passage, and directions to the King’s forester, Asaph, to provide me with timbers for the gates of the city and for the palace and for my house.
“Okay,” said the King; and he did as I had asked of him to do. So, I was off to Jerusalem. The governors of the land beyond the Euphrates were given the letters of safe passage. Grudgingly, I was allowed to proceed. Sanballat clearly was annoyed that anyone would come to seek the welfare of the Israelites.
Well, I arrived in Jerusalem and spent three days there, yet not revealing my intent to anyone. Then I got up in the middle of the night and mounted my beast and went out of the city, beyond the rubble of the walls. The stones were strewn everywhere, the gates were burned. I rode many furlongs around the wall, thinking to return to town on the far side. But the going was too rough for the poor animal, and I had to return by way of the same gate I had used to depart the city.
PREACHING IN THE RUIN
I had started a campaign among the people to encourage them to rebuild the wall. Look, I said, it is a reproach to us to abide in rubble. Let’s get ‘er done! The people agreed, and strengthened their hands to the work. But Sanballat and his toadies, Tobiah and Geshem hooted and laughed us to scorn.
“What? Are you going to stand against the king?” Thus they derided us.
But I replied, “God will prosper us; so we, His servants, will build. But you will have no share nor any rights within Jerusalem.”
THE WALL IS REBUILT
Well, we set to! The workers and their deeds are memorialized in the Book which I wrote and which bears my name. Those old naysayers, Sanballat and Tobiah, heaped ridicule and sarcasm on us, but I prayed the Lord visit reproach upon them, and we labored on. They stirred up their minions and thought to overturn us by force. Too much detail to report just now, but you can read it in the Book. We set half the people to work and half to sentry. The great work was completed in fifty-two days! Now the city was large and great, but the people were few. I caused a census to be taken of those who were the first to return from Babylon. You may find a detailed account of this in my Book.
Then old Ezra the priest set up a pulpit and conducted a sizzling revival meeting. The people reestablished and celebrated the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. Then they fasted and repented; then they all rose in confession and praise to the Lord their God. So the wall was dedicated and the Book of Moses was read in the hearing of Israel.
END OF NEHEMIAH’S STORY
I’d like to tell you how I cleansed the temple, dispossessed Tobiah, and how I chastised those renegade Jews who married those heathen women! Man, I smacked them upside the head and snatched them bald. But you can read all that in the Book. "Remember me, Oh, God, for good," is my prayer.