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 2:5)
The book of Nehemiah takes place during a time of exile and captivity for the Jewish people. Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes, successfully petitions to take a group back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls after hearing they are in disrepair. King Artaxerxes not only allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem, he even agreed to a request for supplies (Nehemiah 2:8). From what we know of Artaxerxes heritage, this is hard to understand. What made him sympathetic to the plight of the Jewish homeland, even to the point of providing resources?
The books of Nehemiah and Esther actually appear in reverse order in our Bible. God raised Esther, a young Jewish maiden, to the throne of Persia as queen. Esther’s son is believed to be the Artaxerxes of the opening chapters of Nehemiah. This brutal, heathen king gave the command for Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to build up the walls of the city. Artaxerxes’ sympathy for the Jews probably had a lot to do with Esther’s witness, influence and integrity.
Apparently there was much “more” to Esther’s mission than the initial saving of the Jewish people from extinction recorded in the Book of Esther. Esther — as an instrument of God’s grace — was sent to the throne of Persia and so moved the heart of her son the king, that he allowed Nehemiah, his cupbearer, to return to Jerusalem. Then Nehemiah began the work of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.
**In a sense, the rebuilding of Jerusalem is just as much Esther’s legacy as it is Nehemiah’s.**
This observation thrills me beyond measure. There is always so much more than we can imagine when we share in God’s plans for us! He is definitely the God of “more”!
Father, thank you that when I give my will to your plans they surpass all that I ever dreamed or hoped for. Please open my mind to see beyond my capacity. Reveal to me “the unsearchable things of God” (Jeremiah 33:3) and bring light to those “treasures hidden in the darkness”(Isaiah 45:3). May I run and finish my race beyond all human expectation. Father, free me to your expectations.
In Jesus’ name I pray,