This is part 2 of 7 in a series about Nehemiah.
We have become unhealthily obsessed with the word “calling” today. So much so that many people won’t get into the B4T game without being “called” by dream or vision or by seeing the name of a country written on a bathroom wall or in a cloud. We see a very different way in Nehemiah.
As the story begins, we find Nehemiah enjoying job security in his profession. In those days, many coups went through the cupbearer, because he was tasked with choosing and protecting (or not) what the king ate and drank. That means the king had considerable trust in Nehemiah to function in this role.
One day, one of Nehemiah’s brothers, Hanani, came from Judah and reported the sorry state of affairs. Among the other dire news, the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and its gates had been destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3). Nehemiah wept for days, and as he was fasting and praying, he decided to do something about it.
Lest we think this was a quick decision, it is important to realize that he began praying in Nehemiah 1:1 in the month of Chislev (November/December)—and in Nehemiah 2:1, he made his decision in the month of Nisan (March/April). He wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed for 4 months. He began with sadness and ended with confidence. The end of his prayer marks a change of heart and a readiness to embark on a journey to make things right in his homeland (1:11).
If I had to guess, I’d say that the prayer we have recorded in Nehemiah 1:5-11 was not a prayer he prayed all at once. I’d guess that he somehow got his hands on and meditated on the scroll we now know as Deuteronomy 4:25-27, where God told Moses that if the people were unfaithful He would scatter them among the nations (Nehemiah acknowledges this in 1:8). He probably studied the entire book of the law (which is now our first 5 books of the Bible), and toward the end, he would have found the promise of Deuteronomy 30:1-4 quite compelling:
And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.
When he saw the promise of God to gather His people from the nations and restore them to their land, I believe he began to leave his despair behind for the joy of trusting in the goodness of God once again (1:10). God had done a work in his life over that time period!
When we feel God changing our assignment, it’s helpful to spend an extended time in prayer over our thoughts to ensure they are from Him. As He begins filling you with excitement and joy over a new direction, you will find yourself more confident in His promises.
Nehemiah never received a direct message or word from God as many in the Scriptures did, yet he was no less “called” (we shouldn’t even use that word for this!). The reality is so simple.
Many months later in Nehemiah 2:12 he views his new assignment as something the LORD had put into his heart:
And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.
Rather than sitting on the bench until you receive a calling, find where God has given you passion to redeem those who are lost and restore what is broken in His world—and then engage your assignment with passion and joy!
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.