Cupbearers for the Lord
Nehemiah, a young Hebrew among the Jews of dispersion, was a royal cupbearer for Artaxerxes, King of Persia. His was the responsibility of tasting the wine and food for the king to prevent possible poisoning of the king. While serving in this capacity, Nehemiah learned that the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down and the city gates burned. Nehemiah accepted the destruction of Jerusalem as a personal responsibility for he "sat down and wept, and mourned certain days; and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven" (Neh. 1:4).
When permission was granted by the king, Nehemiah went to Jerusalem where he surveyed the walls and obtained the needed materials for restoration. He explained to his fellow workers that with the help of God the wall could be rebuilt. Nehemiah concludes by saying, "so built we the walls ... for the people had a mind to work ... neither I nor My brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that everyone put them off for washing" (Neh. 4:6, 23).
To every Christian is given many opportunities to be cupbearers for the Lord. Responsibilities to these opportunities vary according to our peculiar abilities. Whatever place we occupy in the Lord's work, we would benefit greatly by following the pattern of Nehemiah's life.
Nehemiah Was Responsible and
What is needed most in every phase of God's work is true commitment without reservation. Find a congregation successfully leading lost souls to Christ and you will have found one made up of zealous, responsible Christians who have committed themselves whole-heartedly to the service of God. Like the followers of Nehemiah, this congregation cries out, "let us rise up and build" (Neh. 2:18). Gone are the often trite excuses, complaints, fear of failure and love for worldly matters. In this congregation the people have a mind to work. The difference between a committed Christian and a passive one is the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer - the former controls temperature while the latter only measures it. Woe unto us if our inactivity should lead God to repeat His rebuke of Isaiah 56: 101 "His watchmen are blind, they are without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber." Christians must be like the watchmen set upon the walls of Jerusalem: "they shall never hold their peace day or night: ye that are Jehovah's remembrances, take ye no rest" (Is. 62:6). Jesus, gave Himself for us to be a people "zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14).
Zion is presently experiencing troubled times when proper respect for Divine authority too often gives way to psychological needs and liberal tendencies. There are those who will hardly allow their satisfied indifference and secure positions to be disturbed by the news of schemes, theories and "isms" invading the Lord's church.
Nehemiah Prayed Earnestly
The comfort, security and worldly good fortune of Nehemiah's high office in, the court of the Persian Monarch did not quench the flame of his, piety or deaden his sympathies for others. He prayed "day and night" (Neh. 1:6) for his brethren and for himself. "Now therefore 0 God, strengthen my hands" (Neh. 6:9). Nehemiah's, prayer, a wonderful model for Christians, contained adoration (Neh. 1:5), earnest entreaty (Neh. 1:5, 6, 8, 11), humble confession (Neh. 1:6,7), powerful pleas (Neh. 1:5-6, 8-9), and a particular request (Neh. 1:11).
No Christian who earnestly prays in behalf of his efforts for God can approach that task in a half-hearted manner. Someone has said "the faith that prays is the faith that works." Nehemiah did not satisfy himself with prayer and fasting. Like Isaiah he said, "Here am I, send me." Jesus approached the greatest trial of all in fervent prayer (Jno. 17). Paul admonishes us to pray "without ceasing (I Thess. 5, 17). God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). Prayer and God's mercy are like two buckets in a well; while the one ascends, the other descends. "Heaven is never deaf but when man's heart is dumb" (Quarles).
Nehemiah Set Himself Goals
and Made Plans
The heart-breaking reports which came to Nehemiah clouded his prosperous life (Neh. 1:2-4), but he was not defeated. In addition to prayer and fasting Nehemiah made plans to restore the city. He did not sit back and wait for his brethren to do something. He did not say, "Lets wait and see what happens." He did not try to pass off responsibility to others because he was young, hundreds of miles detached from Jerusalem or because he had hindering responsibilities to the King of Persia. No, Nehemiah decided to do something himself about the deplorable situation in Jerusalem. First he prayed for "mercy in the sight of" the king (Neh. 1:11). Though he was "sore afraid" (Neh. 2:2), -he made a request which fear would have dissuaded many from making leave of absence and the king's support to "Judah, unto the city of my father's sepulchers, that I may build it" (Neh. 2:5). When Nehemiah finally saw the broken-down walls and burned gates he did not throw up despairing hands and say, "what's the use?" No, the people said, "let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for the work" (Neh. 2:18). The enemies of Israel laughed at what appeared to be meager efforts; they mocked and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? . . . If a fox go up he will break down their stone wall" (Neh. 4: 2-3). They forgot one thing - the people had a mind to work and it was a great work because it was God's work.
What better combination could be found than zealous elders, deacons, preachers, teachers and a congregation with a will to work at restoring the walls of Zion? ". . . Walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God, according to the might of his, glory, unto all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to, be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:10-12).
Nehemiah Became Thoroughly Engrossed
To those who wanted to hinder the Lord's progress, Nehemiah said, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: whilst I leave it, and come down to you? (Neh. 6:3).
When has the Lord's cause ever been free from opposition? Many are the Christians who have made shipwreck of the faith because of opposition to their efforts or because of conflict between others in the church. While it is certainly true that some "crackpots," "hot-heads," and contentious, brethren have found convenient battle grounds in the ranks of true opposition to digression, it is also, true that some others have become weary of the good fight of faith. Others seek peace in the spirit of compromise when there is no peace to be had. Both extremes are wrong (Gal. 6:9; 2 Tim. 3:16; 4:2; Eph. 4:3).
In Nehemiah's life is found a proper medium. He had a purpose, a goal, a plan, which was a "good work." The accomplishment of that purpose was first and uppermost in his life. He did not waste his time seeking a fight with the "Sanballats" of his day but he courageously crossed swords with any opposition to that purpose. Each individual with "one of his hands wrought in the work and with the other held his weapon" (Neh. 4:17).
It is worthy to note that because the work was great and the people scattered along the wall (Neh. 4:19-20), they were instructed to rally to the point of attack. Perhaps this is a point for serious consideration by religious politicians who find comfort in being uncommitted on controversial issues until the price of commitment is less expensive.
Nehemiah was a cupbearer for the King of Persia, but more importantly, he was a cupbearer for the Lord. He was concerned and committed himself to a worthy cause. He was not discouraged or defeated but said, "Our God will fight for us" (Neh. 4:20). And the "people had a mind to work."
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XI: 4, pp. 18-19