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There Is More

Sometimes we get to the top of the ladder and wonder, 'Is this it?'. Nehemiah's experience teaches that God has more for us.

There are three kinds of people: heart people, head people, and hands people. Heart people want to feel God, and thrive on spiritual experience. Hands people want to work for God, and thrive on getting stuff done. Head people thrive on understanding God, and thrive on biblical and theological truth.  Although we need all three of these in our lives, most of us have a tendency towards one.

In Nehemiah 1:1-3, we meet a man, Nehemiah, who seems to be a powerful combination of all three: he feels it when he hears about the broken walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3). This head knowledge immitedately drops down into his heart, and he weeps, fasts, and prays (Nehemiah 1:4).

In his prayer, we learn that he is theologically informed, holding in his mind and heart true belief about God (Nehemiah 1:5). But more than feeling remorse for Israel's sin, and more than a theologically-accurate prayer, Nehemiah's spiritual reflection produces results: he decides to take action.

Using his access to the king (Nehemiah 2:3), he makes a specific request Nehemiah 2:5) for the king to let him go build the walls of Jerusalem. The king says 'yes', grants him letters of approval, an armed guard, and timber from his forest. And Nehemiah goes to to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:11-16) and after a bit of process ( Nehemiah 3-6 ), gets the thing done:

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.

Nehemiah 6:15

It's a great story that ends well, but this is what I'd like you to see: in Nehemiah 1:11, we read this comment: Now I was cupbearer to the king. What does that mean? First, in very practical terms, it means that Nehemiah had a very important job. In his commentary on Nehemiah, notes that

The occupation of cupbearer in the Ancient Near Eastern court was of supreme importance, and the cupbearer was often the single most trusted person in the empire since he was the individual with the most direct access to the king (apart from the king’s family). As a result, he was the person most capable of carrying out a successful assassination. Xenophon writes, “It is a well known fact that the cupbearers, when they proffer the cup, draw off some of it with the ladle, pour it into their left hand, and swallow it down—so that, if they should put poison in, they may not profit by it”. The cupbearer could also be quite influential in the king’s decision-making process. He often served as a sort of personal confidant to the king and therefore possessed great influence over the monarch. The fact that Nehemiah occupied this position in the Persian Empire demonstrates that he was already a person of impeccable character and consummate administrative skill. Nehemiah had to be an individual who enjoyed the unreserved confidence of the king. The great need for trustworthy attendants is underscored by the intrigues that were endemic to the Achaemenid court.[4]

In other words, Nehemiah had reached the top. There was  no more 'up' for him; he was already at the peak of his career. And yet, as we learn in the story, Nehemiah came to understand that there is more.

Let's be honest: the cup-bearer job was a bit cush: although there is always going to be some stress related to 'getting things right' for the world's most powerful monarch, Nehemiah lived a comfortable, trouble-free, akuna mata existence.

When he encountered the bad news about Jerusalem, Nehemiah could have easily said, 'Oh no, that's too bad. I'll pray for them'. But that's not what he did. The knowledge caused him to feel deeply, and it moved him to action. Why? Because he believed, deep in his heart, that there is more. More than serving wine to the king, more than his comfortable life in Susa. Nehemiah was willing to give up the comforts of the Persian capital for identification and hard work with God's people.  

In the same way, God has more for  you. He created you for more than a comfortable life of career success. He created you to play an active role in his kingdom purpose. How you get there? Like Nehemiah:

  • With your head, hear the condition of the world around you (Nehemiah 1:3)
  • With your heart, feel how the Lord feels about that condition (Nehemiah 1:4).
  • With your hands, do what God is calling you to do: make a plan, and take action (Nehemiah 2:11-16).
  • Finally, when the time is right, bring others into the vision (Nehemiah 2:17-18).

You might be thinking, 'God's not called me to be a Nehemiah; he's called me to be part of the building team'. That's fine: there's only one Nehemiah leading the project, but it takes many people to buy in to the vision to get the job done.  The common point shared by all is feeling deeply the need to get the walls built.

What's the take away? Very simply, there is more. God has more for you, and as you pursue him wholeheartedly, he will bring you into his purposes for your life.





[4]Israel Loken, Ezra & Nehemiah (ed. H. Wayne House and William D. Barrick; Evangelical Exegetical Commentary; Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011), Ne.


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