11) The BackPage: Nehemiah Cared about the Poor

In addition to this role of advocacy, which was mainly a ministry of words, Nehemiah also followed through with action for the poor. For example, because of his position of power (as acting governor), he must have been provided with quite a dinner spread. In fact, the Bible says that in those days, the governor of Jerusalem was typically served a meal hearty enough for 150 hungry eaters! Rather than gorge on the feast at what was left at the Jerusalem palace, he would typically invite 150 common folks over for dinner each day. These were hungry people. They would enjoy a fine spread, fit for a king, and — all the while — Nehemiah would apparently just quickly pack up a sandwich and head back to the work on the wall, his driving dream (vs. 14-16).

With his head and heart in the right place, and his hands and feet at the right work, it’s no wonder that Nehemiah led his volunteers to finish the work on the wall (6:15-16). There really isn’t a lot of fanfare. Apparently, Nehemiah didn’t even organize the proverbial ribbon-cutting. Instead, he just helped everyone focus on the fact that it was only due to God’s power that they had overcome the odds. He talks the townspeople into returning to rebuild their homes (Chap. 7), then organizes a big worship service (Chap. 8). What a fitting end to a challenging project! The people confess their sin (Chap. 9), then sign a covenant for purity and focus, thereby rededicating themselves to God. Nehemiah turned a hands-on project into heart-on worship. And after all this… the successful rebuilding of the wall, the refocusing of the city of Jerusalem, and a grand rededication for Israel the nation-state, how does the book of Nehemiah close out? With Nehemiah still praying, “Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services” (13:14). It closes with him still advocating for purity and holiness (13:15-22). It closes with him standing up for what was fair and honest (13:23-31). It closes with Nehemiah praying one, simple, one-line prayer: “Remember me with favor, O my God.” Somehow, I have a hunch that He did.

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