DAY 2: STUDY TIME!
The setting is the Palace in Shushan, aka Susa, Persian. This is modern-day Iran. (CLICK HERE for map) Let's talk about Iran for a moment. You may remember there was a massive take over, 586 BC, the Jews were taken captive by the Persians, brought to Babylon (also Persia/Iran), and that this was actually the hand of the Lord. In 2 Chronicles 36:15-21 we read that the removal of the people of Israel was the consequence of the people not honoring the law of letting the land rest, The Shemitah, every seventh year. Because the people didn't honor this law for 490 years, the Lord removed the people from the land for 70 sabbath years to allow the land to rest.
Now remember, the Jews were in Persia now 70 + years because there had already been two returns to the land before we read Nehemiah. The first return, led by Zerubbabel, and the second led by Ezra. (This is covered in the book of Ezra) So Nehemiah, along with many others, decided to stay in Persia and not to return to Jerusalem. They say that today many, many Jews still live in Iran, and that it is a quite content place for them to live compared to other places in the Middle East. In fact, Iran has the second highest Jewish population next to Israel.
1. READ NEHEMIAH Chapter 2.
Chapter two opens with Nehemiah, the kings's cupbearer (a most honorable position), in conversation with the king. They must have had a close relationship because of the nature of Nehemiah's job, but also because the king knew Nehemiah's "face". It was the king who prodded as to what was bothering Nehemiah. If there was no relationship the king wouldn't have cared so much nor would he had noticed Nehemiah was looking "heavy-hearted". Why is this important?
Nehemiah was a 'layman', not a priest, not a prophet. He held a high, secular position. Similar to Daniel, he was a prayerful man in what we might call today the "marketplace". His position in the palace was that through his work, he became very close to the king, to the point of being a confidant. So while he and the king had a close relationship, I can imagine the king would have grown attached to Nehemiah, after all he had most likely been raised in the palace and grew in position over his lifetime until the story picks up here.
"Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and I have found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it." Neh. 2:4-5
2. Reflections for today
Think about the favor Nehemiah had with the King. In what area(s) has God placed you? Consider the people you grew up around, your workplace, and ministries you may be involved with. Ask God this question: Do You have me here for a bigger purpose? See, Nehemiah didn't initially want to return to Jerusalem, in fact He probably made good money and led a nice life right where he was. But God positioned him with a King that released Him to be the catalyst for an entire people group back into worshipping their God. These were God's plans for Nehemiah, therefore God set him up so that at the right time he would have the favor and resources to carry out God's restorative plan for His people.
Ok, this one is a little harder... it might hurt a little... Are you happy in Susa? Or does your heart long for Jerusalem? What that means is, are you content living for your own plans and purposes in your life? Or has God wooed you into His plans? See, the Lord will pour out all the favor & resources we need to accomplish His plans. (Isaiah 55:11) To position yourself with the FAVOR of God you must position yourself to have the HEART of God.
My prayer for you today is that God would draw you into His heart that you would be full of the desire of God's plans and purposes for your life. Like a pregnant mother, FULL of God's heart! He has a great plan for you that only you can accomplish. In the unique you that He created, for His unique plan, He will pour out the exact FAVOR you need and position you to carry out your calling. Let's pray:
Father of mercy, I ask today that You would fill my heart with Your heart. Open my heart to hear and to see and feel Your drawing me in. Align my heart to Your heart, my will to Your will. Father, I desire to be closer to You. I surrender my life, my agenda, and all my personal goals. I lay them before You and I ask You, what is on YOUR mind toward me? I thank You for positioning me exactly where I am in life and who you have surrounded me with. Open my eyes that I may see the divine order You have in my life that has led me to this very place. I surrender to You, and thank You for opening Your heart to me, in Jesus Name, amen.