Let’s recap: Nehemiah left his comfy job working as a cup bearer to the king of Persia and traveled to Jerusalem to rebuild the city after the Babylonian exile. He wasn’t an architect, or a general contractor…he was a bartender on a faith based mission, a disciple. He gave up working for the king, for a new job working for the King. During his mission Nehemiah met with opposition and ridicule from the nobles and then faced an uprising from his own people in response to oppression, famine, and forced slavery. Nehemiah faced the nobles, lobbied for justice and truth, and was successful. You might think Nehemiah would take some credit, or enjoy a reward or two for his actions…but if you think that, you don’t yet know Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was serving as governor. During this time he was entitled to a food allotment (remember that there is a famine going on). Neither Nehemiah nor his brothers took that food allotment. Their predecessors received money and land from the oppressed in addition to the allotment of food and wine. Nehemiah 5:14 explains that the governors who served before him profited from their position, and that their assistants lorded over the people. But Nehemiah takes a far different approach:
But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land. (Nehemiah 5:14)
Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people. (Nehemiah 5:17)
Not only did Nehemiah not take the amount to which he was entitled. He shared everything he had with the people and he recognized how great the demands were on them. Nehemiah was an example of how God leads, refreshes, and satisfies. Nehemiah wasn’t sidelined by the chaos- he knew that God walks on chaos.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:31)
You might think that someone as pure and good as Nehemiah, on such an important and blessed mission, would start to enjoy an easier time of things. But that isn’t the case. Up next, in Nehemiah 6 we’ll see that his enemies are back and they have resumed their scheming, this time to kill him. But wait until you read Nehemiah’s response to these threats.