Right at the end of Nehemiah 1, he quietly states that he was cupbearer to the King, a position of high favour and trust in the royal household. Being cupbearer entailed him tasting the wine for the King to ensure it had not been poisoned. In chapter 2, still grieving about the state of the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah has to go to work, taking the wine into the King. According to the Jewish calendar, the difference in time between the months of Kislev and Nisan is four months. Four months after Nehemiah has prayed his prayer of petition in Nehemiah 1, God moves. Sometimes, we have to wait for God’s timing in situations. If Nehemiah was anything like me, he would have wanted to deal with the problem immediately, but he waited on God and eventually the opportunity comes…perhaps not in the way he was expecting. He goes to work as normal and unable to mask his grief the King notices and asks pretty much ‘Why the long face?’ Understandably, Nehemiah is afraid.
Living with members of my family who have close connections with the Royal Family, I know how discrete and unobtrusive they are expected to be in the presence of royalty. It isn’t like a normal relationship where you talk, ask questions, make requests or show your emotions as you might normally with your boss. Being successful in royal service, is fulfilling tasks with the member of the royal family being barely aware that you are even present. Nowadays, if a member of staff slipped up in front of the Queen and showed their emotions, it may be frowned upon, but I guess in the days of King Artaxerxes there may have been worse consequences. Nehemiah has to step out in faith that God has his back when he speaks to the King. Not only does he have to tell him what is wrong, he has to request leave so that he can go and deal with the situation. Not easy to do at the best of times, and I bet he didn’t have holiday entitlement either! In the heat of the moment, I like that Nehemiah does a quick arrow prayer in verse 4 before answering the King when he asks why he is sad? He then takes a leap of faith and makes his request. When he gets a positive response…realising that God’s hand is upon him, he goes on to ask for several other favours from the King. Why stop when he is on a roll? And he gets exactly what he wants. God has prepared the way and King Artaxerxes is sympathetic to his cause.
If you want change in a situation, make sure you have God’s attention, cry out, call out, demand he looks you in the eye when you make your petition. Continue in prayer and wait on him for the answer. It may take time, it may be answered quickly, but either way know that God knows when the timing is right. Don’t forget he has your back when the time comes, trust him and take that leap of faith!