Wednesday 30 September 2009

Bible Book:

"And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me." (v.8)

Nehemiah 2:1-8 Wednesday 30 September 2009


The relationship of an exiled people with those in power isprofoundly complex. The people are exiled through no choice oftheir own because they have been taken as captives. The story ofexile and captivity is indeed at the heart of much of the JewishScriptures. A faith that depends so much on place, on God'spresence made real and concrete through the Temple (which wasthought to be the throne of God), is now to be experienced far awaywhere there is no Temple and no certainty. The liberty of God'schosen people, to whom God has promised faithfulness, isexperienced and understood at this time in their history incaptivity and through abandonment. In such circumstances, helpcomes from unexpected places. Captor and captive connect as KingArtaxerxes allows his slave and cupbearer Nehemiah to rebuild hishomeland. In his surprise, Nehemiah remarks that "the gracious handof my God was upon me".

It is curious that such a mighty king should notice the feelings ofa captive forced to serve at his master's table. Nehemiah's sadnessin verse 1 is noted because it is so unusual. That in itself iscurious. How hard Nehemiah must have worked at being cheerful, ifthe king (who it is hard to imagine would care that much about suchan insignificant person) might notice when he was not.

A connection has been made between the two men, one that transcendsnationality, status and religion. The profound sadness of the exilefar away from home is noticed and the king has compassion. Howstrange that God's care for Nehemiah should be expressed throughthe ruler of the country that has caused the hardship in the firstplace.

The sense of Psalm23 comes to mind: "Even though I walk through the darkestvalley, I fear no evil; for you are with me" (verse 4).

To Ponder

Help comes from unexpected people in strangeways. How good are you at noticing this?

How do you behave before your enemies?

Where are the dark valleys for you at the moment?Take time today to ask God to help you through them.

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