*This post shares biographical info on the Old Testament character of Nehemiah who lived after the Jews had been in captivity and the Persians were in power. After the biographical sketch, there are 5 practical lessons for us.*
There are no details about Nehemiah’s birth or childhood. He is the son of Hachaliah and had a brother named Hanani. Possibly his great-grandparents had been taken captive when Judah fell to the Babylonians. The Jews were dispersed, but some had returned to Jerusalem in 536 and 457 BC. Nehemiah was living in Persia (capital Shushan), and had attained an important and responsible position as cupbearer to the king (King Artaxerxes). This fact reveals much about his capabilities. Ezra is a contemporary figure of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah leads the third and last return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile in 444 BC. His crowning achievement is leading and organizing the people to re-build the shattered wall of Jerusalem in only 52 days. He also has the task of continuing leadership after the walls have been rebuilt. He is governor of Jerusalem from 444 to 432 BC. He travels to and from Shushan twice.
Character traits would include courage, selflessness, godliness, dedication, and perseverance. He was willing to give up the luxury of the palace to toil among his people. He was strong in prayer. He was able to encourage or rebuke at the right times. He was a man of prayer and action. He seemed to strike a proper balance between prayer and action, or dependence and discipline.
He trusted God despite danger, deceit, slander, and treachery – external and internal opposition. Nehemiah can be seen as a picture of Christ in how he gives up a high position to identify with his people.
Three phases of his life would be: First, as a Jew in Persia as a cupbearer for the king. Second, as he returns to his homeland to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Third, as governor of Jerusalem. Along with Ezra’s spiritual guidance, he brings political reconstruction and leads the people in moral reform. There are no other biblical references to Nehemiah (outside of the book that bears his name), and we are not aware of when or how he died.
Here are some “lessons on service for God” from the life of Nehemiah. A summary phrase for his life would be “prayer and action.”
- Selflessness. Nehemiah 2. Nehemiah gives up a high position to toil and live among his people in Jerusalem. What are we willing to sacrifice in God’s service?
- Dedication to prayer. Nehemiah 1:5-11, 2:1-4, 4:1-10, 6: 9, 14. Nehemiah prayed frequently and specifically. Are we consistent in prayer?
- Courage and faith in God. Nehemiah 2:19-20, 4:14. Nehemiah did not lose heart despite opposition and problems from within and without. How is our faith and courage?
- Perseverance. Nehemiah 6:15-16. Nehemiah was not deterred but pressed on and maintained his course of action. He completed the task of rebuilding the wall. Do we finish the job the Lord has given us, or give up before it is completed?
- Disciplined work. Nehemiah 2 – 6. Nehemiah not only prayed but took action. He assessed, planned, organized, led, and worked along with the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Are we willing to work and be disciplined?