“In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:1–8 ESV)
Nehemiah takes a bold step by “being sad” in the king’s presence. Part of his job was to be uplifting and positive, not sad and downcast. The king notices and asks what is the cause of Nehemiah’s sad heart. Nehemiah instantly prays before responding to the king – Nehemiah was acutely aware that this was God’s mission not His. The king asks what he is requesting and Nehemiah boldly lays out his request for his endorsement and safe passage and all of the resources that will be required to complete the rebuilding of a wall. He wants time off, with the king’s blessing & support and the king to provide the resources required to rebuild Jerusalem. What a bold request!
What is the fuel behind Nehemiah’s boldness? Nehemiah understood that this was God’s mission, not his. Nehemiah knew it was not up to him to accomplish it, he was just a tool in the hand of the Almighty. Nehemiah knew that the king’s heart is in God’s hand – “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1 ESV) Just like a skilled farmer who directs an irrigation stream wherever he wishes so it is with God and the hearts of man. Regardless of what you face, remember that God is in absolute sovereign control of all things – even the hearts of man. Yes, we have free will, but only inasmuch as they are subject to the Sovereign will of God. You have no reason to fear any man – regardless of power, prestige, or position – because no man has anything without it being allowed by the Creator and Sustainer of all things!