After prayer for Jerusalem and Israel, Nehemiah is still a bit down.  He is assured that God is faithful, but Israel has not been.  He is not feeling his usual joy in life.

And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.  Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,  And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?  Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.  Nehemiah 2:1-4

When the king of Persia notices that his servant is sad, it is unusual.  When he questions him, Nehemiah is fearful because of the size of his problem, and how the king may react.  Will the king view this as an imposition on his generosity?  Still, he lets honesty be his guide in revealing the plight of Israel.  When the king asks what he needs, he has the wisdom to seek God first.  Perhaps this request to pray first impresses the king, as our actions confirm our faith.  Now Nehemiah reveals the need of his people.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.  And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.  Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;  And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.  Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.  Nehemiah 2:5-9

Nehemiah asks to rebuild Jerusalem, and the king was willing to allow him to go, and to get materials as well.  He was escorted on his trip by military guards and met with the governors of the land.  There were a few who hated Israel, and they were unhappy to hear this news.

When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.  So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.  And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.  And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.  Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.  Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.  Nehemiah 2:10-15

Knowing that there was opposition, Nehemiah decided to inspect Jerusalem quietly after dark.  In the shadows of night he found the city destroyed and blackened by fire.  The rubble was so strewn that his mount could not climb through the streets.  Building stones fallen haphazardly could break a horse’s leg.  Everyone in his party could see the size of the work ahead of them on that dark night.

And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.  Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.  Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.  Nehemiah 2:16-18

In that dismal sight he encouraged the leaders of Israel with the testimony of how God had already helped him.  They were encouraged to be brave and to get started on the work.  They will need courage for more than just the reconstruction work ahead of them.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?  Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 2:19-20

So now we again see the enemies that Ezra resisted.  At first they try mockery and scorn, but then suggest that Nehemiah is leading a rebellion against the king.  We read in Ezra that they had offered to help, intending only to hinder.  Their intentions were known and rejected.  They were being exiled from Jerusalem as they should have been when Israel first came to the Holy Land.

You know these spirits today.  They may join your church, but they are working for division and strife.  I have neighbors who greet me with smiles, and wear a Christian bumper sticker.  They also seem to be the source of anonymous complaints and have reported me to the building inspector.  I have not broken any laws, but false accusations have still come.  These are working for the accuser of the brethren, who is Satan.  Fear not; these have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in New Jerusalem.