Let us spend a little while in looking still more inwardly into this travail of Nehemiah’s. What were the features of his travail? I have been trying to understand him, to read him, to get into his heart, to get behind his cry, behind his sorrow, his burden in his distress. As I have done so, it has seemed that these are some of the things which lay behind this travail of his.
Nehemiah saw how things ought to be, and how things really were; and then he saw his own position. There he was, away there in Shushan, the palace, cupbearer to the king. He was an exile, and he was virtually a slave, one who had been taken on as a servant in the palace. From the standpoint of that palace, and from the standpoint of Babylon, it may have been an honourable position; but from his own standpoint he was like a slave in the world: he was spending his time in the world, the business of this world, and his whole soul was groaning. ‘Here am I in the business of this world, having to go to work every morning and finishing late at night, and this is repeated day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and my soul cries out to be doing something about the purpose of God and the situation of the Lord’s people’. This cry against his own position was a feature of his travail.
God is sovereign even in that. Perhaps that touches you who are reading these lines. You are going to work every morning and coming home every evening, and by far the greater amount of your time and strength is occupied with serving this world. You feel like a slave to this world, and you say, ‘Oh, that I might be free to do something for God!’ My dear friend, there is value in travail like that. There were many in Babylon who had settled down and accepted the situation, who were taking up business and earning wages, and were making this now their life. They saw nothing more than that, or other than that. But not so Nehemiah. His soul revolted against his position in the world. ‘Oh, to be free to do something for God!’ That travail meant something to God. That travail was the birth pangs of something for God.
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