“In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before” (Neh 2:1)
Four months had passed, since Nehemiah had heard the news about Jerusalem, when he went to the king. This quite surprised me when I first read it. After the clear pain in the weeping and praying of Nehemiah in chapter 1, how could he wait so long to ask for help?
The answer is that Nehemiah had faith in God’s timing.
I am not always the biggest fan of God’s timing. It hardly ever runs parallel to my own desired timing. Sometimes, God makes us wait for things we really don’t want to have to wait for. In waiting, however, Nehemiah was presented with the perfect opportunity to make his requests to the King.
“so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart” (Neh 2:2)
Not only did his waiting mean he was able to present his requests to the King, it also meant that he found himself in a situation where he was being asked for them. The likelihood is that, if he had simply gone to the king with his list of needs, the king may not have agreed. Instead, Nehemiah waited and prayed for the right moment.
But he hadn’t just been praying. He had also been planning.
When the king asks Nehemiah what he wants, Nehemiah has an exact detailed list of what he needs. And not only does he ask the king to allow him to leave…
“send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it” (Neh 2:5)
…he also has a longer list of requests:
“If it pleases the king, may I also have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe – conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?’ And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.” (Neh 2:7-8)
It’s not always enough to simply wait. Waiting is something that I find incredibly difficult a lot of the time. I often rush in to do something myself, without waiting for the moment that God gives me. But I think that Nehemiah’s method of planning alongside waiting, is one that all of us can apply to our own lives.
Sometimes, when we talk about waiting on God’s timing, we have the idea that all we can do is just that: wait. But we also need to be ready for when that time comes.
We need prayer for patience to wait on God’s timing, but we also need prayer and planning, to be ready for when God says that time is now!