Everything in our world revolves around time. In fact, a sense of timing is one of the most important elements determining the success or failure of a project or the resolution of a conflict. We see examples of timing in public issues such as the release of a new movie or album, investing in the stock market, or even a politician announcing his or her candidacy for a public office. However, personal issues are also at the mercy of timing. Consider a marriage proposal, a job application, or even a difficult confrontation with a spouse or family member…timing is definitely a consideration in these situations as well!
As we rejoin Nehemiah this week, let’s look at how God answered Nehemiah’s prayer for favor with a dose of perfect timing! Chapter 2 begins with an encounter between Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes occurring in the month of Nisan, which coincides with the month of March on our calendar. A glance back at chapter one reminds us Nehemiah fasted and prayed for “some days” during the month of Kislev, what we know as November. Although we aren’t given the specific details during Nehemiah’s four-month wait, one factor could be the law forbidding anyone to come into the King’s presence without being invited, upon penalty of death. (See Esther 4:11) It is also possible King Artaxerxes was traveling and Nehemiah did not serve him during this period, or perhaps the King and Queen were entertaining guests and Nehemiah had no opportunity to speak to them privately.
What we observe in Nehemiah’s four-month wait is the dependence on the sovereignty of God as well as a respect for those in authority over him. Four months gave Nehemiah time to move past an emotional response to the plight of the exiles living in Jerusalem, and also for God to unfold His plan in Nehemiah’s heart and mind. Only when the timing was right did Nehemiah have the ear of the King, and a close look at their conversation reveals God’s favor in this encounter:
First, note the King’s attentiveness to Nehemiah’s countenance. The Persian Empire was vast and riddled with constant threats of war. Despite this, Artaxerxes was not so distracted with obligations or duties that he overlooked Nehemiah’s presence. On the contrary, he observed Nehemiah closely and determined that he was not ill, but grieved.
Second, it was Persian law that no one would come into the King’s presence while mourning. Perhaps this law was to keep the reality of suffering outside the palace walls. Regardless, it was dangerous for Nehemiah to display a sad appearance, but as God intervened, the King responded with compassion instead of anger to Nehemiah’s sadness of heart.
Third, because verse 6 makes a point to record the presence of the Queen, I believe we can ascribe significance to her influence. History records that King Artaxerxes ruled from 465-424 B.C. His predecessor was King Xerxes, who ruled from 486-465 B.C. and was the husband to Queen Esther, a Jewess who risked her life to protect her people from destruction. Surely Esther’s legacy of wisdom and bravery promoted good will toward the Jews among the Persians, and Artaxerxes’ queen would have been highly influenced by Esther’s example. Can’t you picture her giving the King the slightest of nods across the table?
Personally, I believe that authority is one of the biggest elements God uses in our lives concerning timing, and Nehemiah showed great wisdom in waiting for God’s favor to manifest. So, when we ask God to give us favor, especially through another person, let’s trust His timing to be perfect, and be ready to move when He opens the door…
Because Every Heart Matters, Angie
Heart Matters is a weekly column written by Angie Land, Director of the Family Life Ministries of the Lafayette Baptist Association, where she teaches bible studies, leads marriage and family conferences and offers biblical counseling to individuals, couples and families. Contact Angie with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org