With his heart broken over the condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah carried on with his duties in the king’s court — but he could not hide his sadness. His body was in Susa but his heart was in his homeland. Nehemiah knew that he could make a difference in Jerusalem. His natural administrative skills combined with the special touch of God on his life (see v.8, 18) made him the right man for the job. But the problem was that he already had a job, and you can’t just walk away from a powerful king. God would have to open the king’s heart to the idea of his personal cupbearer taking a leave of absence — and that is just what happened.
The king saw that Nehemiah looked sad and when he asked about it, Nehemiah risked displeasing the king (a capital offense) by telling him about the plight of his people in Jerusalem. After a brief conversation (v.4-8) Nehemiah had the king’s permission to leave, documents to ensure safe passage to Jerusalem, and a promise of necessary building supplies for the construction of the gates and walls. Nehemiah acknowledged the hand of God in the process. The King of kings had turned the heart of powerful Artaxerxes to a position of unusual kindness. That is what often happens when your heart is broken for the work of the Lord and you catch a vision for some great task: you find Him intervening for you, working things out in ways you never could, and sending blessings from unexpected sources. When you pray to the God of heaven (v.4), you are accessing the unlimited resources of heaven!
Nehemiah made his way to Jerusalem and inspected the city by night. What he saw confirmed the reports he had heard: Jerusalem was a wreck. The protective walls were broken down and the gates had been burned. In a day when cities were regarded according to the strength of their defenses (especially their walls), Jerusalem was a joke, a laughingstock to the neighboring nations. After the inspection, Nehemiah gathered the leaders of Jerusalem and offered a simple challenge: “Let us arise and build!” In that moment the Lord had brought the right man to the right place with the right challenge at the right time. The people of Jerusalem were ready to do the right thing and they eagerly agreed to Nehemiah’s plan.
Isn’t it amazing how one person’s faith can inspire many others? Nehemiah’s we-can-do-it attitude, infused with faith in his nothing-is-impossible God, was contagious! Don’t underestimate the power of your godly influence on others. The vision you share and the faith you exercise may inspire someone else to get involved. Your example can change things. Let others see you trusting the Lord and turning vision into reality.