Lord's Day Evening Meditations March
Permission From the King
When the king asked Nehemiah the reason for his
sadness, he replied, "Why should not my countenance be
sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth
waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?"
That is how he referred to Jerusalem to the king, but when quoting
what God had said, it was "The place that I have chosen
to set My name there." (ch. 1:9). That place of God's
choice was where the people were to meet with their God; the place
where they were to bring their sacrifices. God had chosen the
place - Jerusalem. Because of this, a faithful Jew delighted in
that sacred spot. Read the thoughts of the faithful remnant in
Psalm 137 and 122. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let
my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let
my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem
above my chief joy." Also, "Pray for the peace
of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee."
Jerusalem, God's chosen center at that time, was
a geographical location. When the woman of Samaria spoke about
worshipping in the mountain of Samaria instead of Jerusalem, the
Lord replied, "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither
in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father … But
the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship
the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such
to worship Him." John 4:21 - 24. So, though Jerusalem
is no longer God's chosen center at the present time, the Father
still seeks worshippers, and it still holds true that God has
a chosen center where He looks for the worship of His people.
That center is His own dear Son. God's divine center for gathering
today is given us in Matt. 18:20. "For where two or three
are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."
That verse is very misunderstood and very misapplied, yet the
Spirit of God gathers the people of God around the Person of the
Son of God, and in His name alone. I will not go into all that
that involves tonight, but just simply say that God still has
a divine center today; the choice is His, not ours, and if we
desire to please Him in this matter, we must allow the Holy Spirit
to gather us to His center, not to one of our own choosing.
The king's next question was, "For what
dost thou make request?" Nehemiah's first reaction
to this was, "So I prayed to the God of heaven."
v. 4. See Nehemiah's instant and apparently habitual recourse
to prayer, even when he stood in the presence of the king. He
didn't get down on his knees and close his eyes, but in his heart
he looked to the Lord for the answer to this question. What an
excellent practice that is! Besides, Artaxerxes was probably the
supreme power on the known earth at that time, but before asking
him for something, Nehemiah went to a yet higher power-"the
God of heaven" -for help and direction.
Notice Nehemiah's frequent reference to "the
God of heaven" in these two chapters. God had His throne
on the earth in the days of the kingdom of Israel, but due to
the sin and corruption of that people He had abandoned His house
and His throne and returned to heaven, leaving the government
of the earth in the hands of Gentile kings, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar.
The Lord Jesus came to earth to present Himself to His people
as their king, but they rejected Him and crucified Him. Having
accomplished the work of redemption He has returned to heaven
and waits there during this time of "the kingdom of heaven"
in mystery, while the Holy Spirit is down here, preparing the
Bride for the moment of the Lord's coming.
Nehemiah presented his request, and the king accepted
it. He said, "I set him a time," and we find
in ch. 5:14 that he was away for twelve years. Nehemiah received
everything that he asked for, and he was very careful to give
the credit to the One to Whom it was due: "according
to the good hand of my God upon me." It is good to
see this in Nehemiah, and it is good for us to practice it ourselves.
Did Nehemiah want to rebuild the walls? It was "what
my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem." Was
Nehemiah successful in obtaining permission from the king? Permission
was granted "according to the good hand of my God upon
me." And then finally, when the work was done, Who
deserved the credit? Even the enemy "perceived that this
work was wrought of our God." ch. 6:16.
Verses 9 - 11 very briefly record Nehemiah's journey
and arrival at Jerusalem. Though accompanied by a military escort,
there is no record of any other Jew with him. He was alone. This
is very instructive as to the course of dispensations in Scripture.
When Israel left Egypt for the promised land they were 600,000
footmen, and the whole way was accompanied with miracles and signs
of Divine power. That was the beginning. The end of that dispensation
was quite different. Zerubbabel returned to Judah with a company
of approx. 50,000. Ezra returned with a company of approx. 1800.
Nehemiah returned alone. Do you see the decline? The very
end of the time of law is described in Luke 1 and 2 where we see
Zacharias & Elisabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon & Anna,
a few shepherds, and a few unnamed ones, still faithful, and still
waiting "for redemption in Jerusalem."
The time of grace is the same. It began with great
power and great numbers, as we see in the Acts, but the decline
had already begun before the apostles died. Now we are almost
at the end of the time of grace, and the Lord, knowing how it
would be, made provision for the weakness of these days when He
said, "Where two or three are gathered together
in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Evil
increases and faith decreases, but we are told that we must not
despise "the day of small things," We can
take Nehemiah's example who was full of zeal, and who tried to
be faithful to the end.
Verse 10 introduces the enemy. You can be sure
that when the Lord begins to work, the enemy will begin to work
also. We have seen Nehemiah, a man who was very concerned about
the welfare of the people of God. Here were two men who were "grieved
… exceedingly" that there was someone who sought their
welfare: strange attitude that clearly shows the enmity of the
world to the Lord and His people.
When Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem he didn't tell
anyone at first what he had at heart to do. He went out at night
and viewed the ruins of the wall. Then he exhorted the people.
Notice that he didn't hire engineers, get an estimate of the cost
of repairs, and form a committee to raise money and organize the
work. Sad to say, that is what many believers do in the Lord's
things. That is the way of the world, but that is not the way
of faith. What he saw on that tour of inspection would have been
totally discouraging, naturally speaking, but Nehemiah was a man
of faith, and he set about this task, by faith, not by worldly
He addressed the people: "Ye see the distress
that we are in … come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem,
that we be no more a reproach." The people replied,
"Let us rise up and build." The faith and
zeal of Nehemiah awakened faith and zeal in the others so that
they were ready, and "strengthened their hands for this
good work." v. 17, 18. The first part of the Book of
Nehemiah concerns this rebuilding of the wall, a story that the
Spirit of God has put on record for us, because we also have some
wall rebuilding to do. What does the wall of Jerusalem speak of
for us? Remember that the wall of Jerusalem was her protection
against her enemies, so the first thing that we have to do is
to identify the enemies. There are three: 1) the flesh, 2) the
world, and 3) the devil, and I've arranged them in the order of
their influence. They have also been described as the internal
(flesh), the external (world), and the infernal (Satan) enemies.
Keep in mind also that, as the example before us is a city, we
are speaking more of the collective aspect of things, for us,
the assembly, rather than the individual aspect, though that holds
true also. S.L.