The Big Picture

God had strategically places Nehemiah in a position to solve the problem he was burdened about. Nehemiah was not just the king of Persia’s cupbearer, he was an executive assistant. He probably handled the appointments with the king, approving the people who had access to him. He was close to the king and well-known by him.

During the four months that he fasted and prayed, Nehemiah waited for the opportunity to speak to the king about the abandoned Jews in Palestine. Apparently the heavy burden Nehemiah bore eventually became evident on his face, for one day the king asked him why he was so sad. There was a rule that nobody could come before the king with a sad face. Nehemiah was afraid, but God gave him this opportunity and he took it. He prayed quickly and then described the situation.

A neighboring country, Syria, was experiencing a series of wars. It may have even been a threat to Persia. So the king looked on Nehemiah’s request as a convenience to himself. While Nehemiah was in Jerusalem building the walls, he would also be building a citadel for Persia. If the Syrian wars got out of hand, there would be a stable base to serve as Artaxerxes’ command post. This served the king’s purposes, but to Nehemiah, it was an answer to prayer: “And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me” (Nehemiah 2:8).