Nehemiah: Studies on Leadership | Week 01

inSight: A Holy Purpose to Restore Jerusalem

Nehemiah, a Hebrew exile, occupied a position of influence and honor in the Persian court. As cup-bearer of the king, he was familiarly admitted to the royal presence; and by virtue of this intimacy, and his own high abilities and tried fidelity, he became the monarch’s counselor. Yet in that heathen land, surrounded by royal pomp and splendor, he did not forget the God of his fathers or the people who had been entrusted with the holy oracles. With deepest interest, his heart turned toward Jerusalem, and his hopes and joys were bound up with her prosperity. Days of peculiar trial and affliction had come to the chosen city. Messengers from Judah described to Nehemiah its condition. The second temple had been reared, and portions of the city rebuilt; but the work of restoration was imperiled, the temple services were disturbed, and the people were kept in constant alarm, by the fact that the walls of the city were in ruins, and the gates burned with fire. The capital of Judah was fast becoming a desolate place, and the few inhabitants remaining were daily embittered by the taunts of their idolatrous assailants, “Where is your God?”

The soul of the Hebrew patriot was overwhelmed by these evil tidings. So great was his sorrow that he could not eat or drink. He “wept and mourned certain days, and fasted.” But when the first outburst of grief was over, he turned to the sure Helper. “I prayed,” he said, “before the God of heaven.” He knew that all this ruin had come because of the transgression of Israel; and in deep humiliation he came before God for pardon of sin and a renewal of the divine favor…

God had been faithful to His threatenings when His people separated from Him; He had scattered them abroad among the nations, according to His word. And Nehemiah found in this very fact an assurance that He would be equally faithful in fulfilling his promises. His people had now returned in penitence and faith to keep His commandments: and God Himself had said that if they would do this, even though they were cast out into the uttermost part of the earth, He would gather them thence, and would cause the light of His countenance again to shine upon them. This promise had been given more than a thousand years before; but through all the centuries it stood unchanged. God’s word cannot fail…

Nehemiah had often poured out his soul thus before God in behalf of his people. And as he prayed, a holy purpose had been forming in his mind, that if he could obtain the consent of the king, and the necessary aid in procuring implements and material, he would himself undertake the arduous task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and seeking to restore the national strength. And now, in closing his prayer, he entreated the Lord to grant him favor in the sight of the king, that this cherished plan might be carried out.

Lessons from the Life of Nehemiah by Mrs. E. G. White, pp. 5–7 (SW March 1, 1904, Art. A)