July 6, 2011

Thursday after the Second Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.63, Joshua 6:1-7, 11, 14-20, Luke 6:1-11
Evening - Ps. 65, Neh. 2:1-8, Acts 12:25-13:12

Commentary

In chapter1, Nehemiah repented of his sin. He was called to be a Jew, not a Persian. He was called to be a member of the Covenant People of God, and to dwell with the people of the Covenant in the land God promised to them, and gave to them, where they were to love and serve Him as one people. But Nehemiah has been living as a Gentile all of his life. Yes, he had a Jewish education. Yes, he went to synagogue, and studied the Scriptures, and probably kept much of the ceremonial law, but he did it from the safety of Shushan. He was happily disconnected from the demands of Jerusalem, and happily not fulfilling his calling as a member of the Covenant people. How often we run happily along in our own little world, tragically unaware that even our religion is sinful in God's eyes. Nehemiah repented of his sin, and in chapter two he prepared to go to Jerusalem.

But Nehemiah was an important servant in the king's household. He did not simply taste the wine for the king; he ran the wine cellar and possibly much of the vineyard. It was his job to ensure the quality and safety of the king's wine. Yet he was still a servant, and he became afraid when the king noticed his sadness (2:2). Kings usually want cheer and frivolity at meals, not sadness, which can spoil the mood. Emboldened by the king's apparent sympathy, Nehemiah requests to be sent to Jerusalem with permission and aid to rebuild the walls of the city.

Any smart king would have gladly granted Nehemiah's request. Sending him to Jerusalem, with a small company of Persian soldiers, and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem under the hand of a proven loyal servant would give Persia a military stronghold on the frontier between Persia and the other area superpower, Egypt. Artaxerxes wisely agreed to Nehemiah's request.

This is more than just a smart move by a king. This is the providence of God at work in the life of His people. He is bringing them back to their purpose and calling by His own power. He raised up Babylon to punish the Jews. He has raised up Persia to restore them. He works all things according to the counsel of His own will.