Weekly Email Sign-up

Why did he do it?

I’m hanging out with Nehemiah this summer.  He was responsible for one of the most remarkable comebacks in ancient history.  In a matter of weeks he managed to get the destroyed walls and gates of Jerusalem rebuilt, with the help of a king and a bunch of the local people, and against all odds.  Nehemiah is a case study of exceptional leadership, of overcoming the status quo, producing great change.

The whole story is dramatic, exciting, and full of suspense.  I don’t know why it hasn’t been made into a movie.  I wonder who would be good for the role of Nehemiah?  I immediately thought of Viggo Mortnesen.  Who do you think would be good?

What mystifies me about Nehemiah has nothing to do with his leadership abilities.  I’m stuck on trying to figure out how he got started in the first place.  How did the life he was leading accept such disruption?

He must have had a good life.  He had a sweet job of being the cupbearer to the king of Persia.  Not bad for a descendant of an exiled people.  Don’t imagine that his job was just brining wine to the king.  His was a very trusted and empowered position having the access to the king that he had.  His parents must have been super proud of him.  I imagine that there were some pressures with the job, as well, not much room for error, probably a bunch of people to manage.

I wonder how the status of the position as well as the demands of the week-to-week responsibilities didn’t absolutely numb Nehemiah with satisfaction.  How could he care about anything else?  Where was there space in his life for anything to interrupt this good life?

Perhaps it started as family interest when he asked his brother, coming from Jerusalem how things were going there.  He got the bad report about the city still being in ruins.  For over 140 years it had been a decimated city, so what else was new. 

Did he think, “Well, that’s too bad.  What it is is what it is.”

How did he go from, “Something should be done about that,” to, “I should do something about that?”  Why couldn’t he accept what everyone else had managed to accept?

Why did it break his heart so badly that prayer, fasting and weeping overtook him?

I’m not sure yet.  But, I can’t get away from thinking about it.  Not because I want to have something neat to teach others.  I want to understand why Nehemiah cared so much about God and those back in Jerusalem that he would engage such enormous risk and change to do something about it.

I suspect that Nehemiah had enough of a glimpse of God’s vision for Jerusalem that he couldn’t stand the way things were.  So, here’s how I pray:

Lord, save me from the stupor of small ambitions, constant responsibilities, and meaningless pursuits. Wake me up to your vision for all area of life and society, even if the disparity may break my heart and disrupt my life.  May I not accept destroyed walls that you want rebuilt.  May I not wish for ability instead of alignment with your purpose.

Why do you think that Nehemiah did it?