I’m reading Nehemiah these days. I’m preparing a teaching series. I want to give you a couple glimpses.
Briefly, Nehemiah was Jewish, was living in exile from Israel along with most of the Jewish population. Some people were left in Israel or had migrated back there.
He was working in the king’s palace as a sommelier, tasting the wine before the king did. It was a position of risky service – you could die if the wine was poisoned – but also a position of responsibility.
It seems strange for someone in exile, a former enemy. to end up in a trusted position. His reputation and relationship with the king are so solid that when Nehemiah asks permission to go back and rebuild Jerusalem, the king lets him go, with permission and tremendous resources.
But Nehemiah seems to be a responsible kind of guy. He seems to have taken an old letter from Jeremiah seriously.
Jeremiah was a prophet. Included in his published works was a letter written to the exiles on behalf of God. It was sent several years before Nehemiah was born. In the letter we read these instructions:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
The letter reminded the people that this seventy year exile is one they had been warned about, one that God would end. When it was time, God needed obedient and trusted leaders, just like Nehemiah,