June 16 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.’” ~Nehemiah 2:4-5

Ezra and Nehemiah are contemporaries (see Nehemiah 8:9), although Ezra arrived in Jerusalem earlier. Ezra provides spiritual leadership while Nehemiah guides the people as a political leader. Ezra focuses on the temple while Nehemiah gives his attention to rebuilding the city walls. The men work in tandem to restore the people of God and share a deep concern for the Israelites’ spiritual and political wellbeing.

If Nehemiah’s role in Israel’s restoration seems rather vaunted for a guy who carried cups, you probably need to know more about the cupbearer’s role. Nehemiah was part of the exiled Israelite community living in Persia, and his position was a prominent one for a man of any race. The cupbearer was a high-ranking official and royal confidant. He had direct access to the king and queen at all times. (Notice that in Nehemiah 2:6 the royal couple want to know how long he plans to be gone.) Among a cupbearer’s varied responsibilities was the burden of overseeing all the preparations for dining in the king’s palace. He ensured the beauty, order, and safety of the royal household.

And yet, Nehemiah willingly leaves his comfortable and prestigious post in Persia to join ranks with his beleaguered people. God gave Nehemiah a vision to rebuild the city of his forefathers, and his bold vision inspires others to action. Nehemiah asks the king for three things: a leave of absence, military attachments for safe conduct, and materials for the work he plans to do. He approaches the king with the tact and diplomacy one expects from a man in the king’s inner circle. And while he does so, he prays (Neh. 2:4). The king and queen grant all of his requests and send their trusted official to the land across the Euphrates (literally called “Trans-Euphrates”), to the ancient city of Jerusalem.

God, as He so often does, worked through means. He heard the prayers of His people—the prayers to restore the exiled community—and He answered by raising up Nehemiah. God moved Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the city of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:12) and formed for him a band of followers willing to work alongside.

God was at work through His people then and He is still at work through them today. Just as the people in today’s New Testament reading were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do awesome things, we are too. Are you willing to be used? God wants to do good and amazing things in this world, and He most often accomplishes His work through those who believe in Him.

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.