Nehemiah: From Cupbearer to Governor


Hey there!

Thanks for joining me today on the blog to check out my message on the first two chapters of Nehemiah.


We received so much information this week and so much insight into who Nehemiah was.


So let’s dig right in to four insights that jumped out about him.

1) He was emotional

Almost immediately in the chapter, we find that Nehemiah was not a man of stone. Verse 4 tells us how he was impacted by terrible news and it cut him straight to the heart.

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.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. – Nehemiah 1:3-4a

I don’t know many men who start weeping at the sound of bad news.

2) He was devoted to God

In the second half of verse 4, we see the illustration of this second point:

For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. – Nehemiah 1:4b

As we read further in the book, Nehemiah normally is swift to act, yet this action of fasting and praying reveals his priorities in turning to God first.

This is further illustrated when in verse 2:1, we discover how long he fasts and prays. If we go hunting for a Jewish calendar, we see he begins praying some time between mid-Nov/mid-Dec and is before the king in chapter 2 during March/April. That’s around 4 months of praying and fasting!

I don’t know about you, but I’m most often not that patient. But again, it shows Nehemiah’s priorities.

3) He was prayerful

As we continue reading the chapter, we read a very heartfelt, passionate prayer. There were four components to his prayer that are worth noting:

  • Praised God
    • He begins his prayer with exalting God and purposefully postponing his cry for help.
    • Focuses his perspective on the character of God, which aligns him with what is right
  • Confessed sins
    • Nehemiah moved in his prayer to confession, including himself with the sins of the people, acknowledging their disobedience to God and the resulting negative consequences.
  • Remember the commands and promises of God
    • He had fed his soul on the Word of God.
    • He makes reference to numerous passaged in Deuteronomy, which gave him confidence as he came before the Lord
  • Petitioned God
    • Nehemiah based his prayer on God’s past dealings, and he saw them in a mirror of all God’s future plans

I was listening to a sermon online, and the pastor made this statement that was so powerful and fit so perfectly with what we see from Nehemiah:

“Prayer is not our only obligation, but it is a good place to start.”

Nehemiah didn’t rush to what he thought he should do. Instead, he waited for months to gain God’s perspective and to allow God to move, at just the right time.

* Please hear me that prayer is not a bad thing! But sometimes we get stuck praying, when God also wants us to act.

4) He was diligent

I was cupbearer to the king. – Nehemiah 1:11b

Now you may say, “how in the world do you get diligent from that verse?”

I’m so glad you asked!

Being cupbearer to the king might sound like a low position, but it was considered a high office. The king had to trust his cupbearer with his life, which meant the cupbearer had to be a very trusted person. Because of their trusted position, many cupbearers were able to influence the royal court on political matters.

This was not a position that was easily attained, but through years of service and proof of trustworthiness. Qualifications for the job were not held lightly but of high esteem valued for their industriousness and courage.

Another point to acknowledge is that he was a servant that was to hide all emotions and feelings from the king, which is why when the king notices Nehemiah’s sadness

It’s undeniable that God had a job for Nehemiah, or we wouldn’t have the rest of the book.

But what if Nehemiah hadn’t been open to God’s leading? What if he had just told his brother that he would add Jerusalem to his prayer list?

He could have stayed in his nice, comfortable job in the king’s palace. He could have avoided a huge journey, facing enemies and an enormous task.

But he didn’t.

As I was preparing for this message, it also struck me how each one of these qualities or insights were something we can also see in Jesus.

  • Jesus was emotional – We see this when He weeps at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:35
  • Jesus was devoted to God, His Father – Jesus testifies in John 5:19 that He can only do what the Father is doing.
  • Jesus was prayerful – Before He was arrested, Jesus spent time in prayer which we can read in John 17. It’s an amazing prayer and I encourage you to read.
  • Jesus was diligent – No better picture of Jesus’ diligence is found than in John 19:30 where He declare that His work was done as He died on the cross.

These are very few examples of how we can find these qualities in Jesus. But one major difference, which is imperative to note, is that while Nehemiah was a good leader, he was very much a simple, sinful man, just like you and me.

Jesus, on the other hand, is the true and perfect Nehemiah, who instead of rebuilding the walls and ruins of a city, came to rebuild the ruins of our lives and heal our hearts.

So now it begs the question, how is the story of Nehemiah relevant to you?

For me, I’ve been able to see areas where I need to grow and persevere. I tend to be like Nehemiah and rush into decisions rather than waiting, so I am endeavouring to pray before I act.

Maybe you feel God burdening you with a cause or a person you need to pray for, and possibly take action.

Maybe He’s calling you to a task that seems enormous. It could be talking to someone new, asking for forgiveness or volunteering for a role you wouldn’t choose for yourself.

Maybe you feel inspired to not give up on something. It may be just doing this study.

I don’t know where God has you.

As we look back and see the beginnings of Nehemiah’s journey, I pray that you look at where God is leading your heart today.

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