We’ve all been there. The offer you were expecting never came; the sure deal blew up just before closing; or worse, your loved one received the dreaded diagnosis. Things go wrong. Bad things don’t just happen in the world, they happen in your world.
Think about the critical moment you received word of a crisis. What did you do next? Who received your first call? This is where we meet Nehemiah, in 445 B.C. just as he received the news, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 1:1-3) Talk about a crisis! Without the protection of their surrounding walls, the Israelite people were in grave danger, jeopardizing any opportunity to restore order or revitalize that region.
When I look back in history, I am always amazed at how God orchestrates an unusual convergence of circumstances and places individuals in just the right position to respond to unique opportunities. The Bible teaches a very important lesson about how we are called to respond to those unique circumstances that are often wrapped up in adversity. Consider the “perfect storm” that had been brewing when Nehemiah heard about the wall:
In 586 B.C. the city walls had been destroyed when King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian empire invaded Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:18-19)
In 539 B.C., under Cyrus the Great, the Persian empire defeated the Babylonians and absorbed the lands of Israel and Judah.
The next year King Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return home and rebuild the temple of the Lord. Several waves of returning Jews resettled in Judea.
During the captivity, God had been shaping Nehemiah’s heart to depend upon Him greatly . . . and Nehemiah “just happened” to serve the king as his cupbearer.
So there stood Nehemiah, facing a very specific need and a very unique opportunity. Because of his past relationships during captivity, he had the network and the credibility to make a special request of the king who had the authority and the resources to help him rebuild the walls (in real estate language, he knew it was possible for him to get his entitlements and pull a permit). Still, it must have felt like a long shot. Even if the king gave him what he needed, who knew if the former exiles would buy into his vision?
How do you think Nehemiah responded? Did he pull in some consultants to develop a strategy? Did he set off designing his own plans for the project? No. First, he turned to God: “ As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants . . .'” (Nehemiah 1:4-6a)
Nehemiah offers us an essential lesson for business and for life–the answer to a crucial question as you begin your week, “Who do you call upon first in every crisis or opportunity?”
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Father in heaven, I am always amazed at how often I find myself already on the fifth or sixth step of trying to solve a problem before it hits me, “ I need to pray about this.” Lord, help me to learn from Nehemiah. Teach me to pray, first, to seek Your counsel and provision, first. And teach me to pray like Nehemiah—with humility, teachability, eager repentance, dependence and boldness.
“You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” A.J. Gordon