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One scary step can lead to great success

R.A. Mathews Special to The Star

Famous walls: The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, Trump’s Wall.

Can you think of others? Think hard.

Perhaps not. Few stand out unless you’re a history buff.

And why should they. Walls are pretty hum-drum. They go up, stand forever, or come down. They’re walls. Right?

Oh, no.

If the Trump Wall has taught us anything, it’s that walls have drama. People are for them, against them, or running for cover. Walls can become a first-class fight.

That was true roughly 2500 years ago with what is perhaps the most famous one in Scripture--- “Nehemiah’s wall.”

Nehemiah? Who’s Nehemiah?

I know, few read the book of Nehemiah. But his story is one of the finest in Scripture. Nehemiah is lower than today's minimum-wage worker; he’s a servant. But God has a plan for Nehemiah, and he becomes one of the greatest success stories of Scripture.

Here’s how it happens.

Nehemiah is a Jew, but he lives far from Israel---a three months journey away. Scholars differ greatly on what happened and when during that era, but we’re certain Nebuchadnezzar burned Jerusalem nearly 600 years before Christ. Many, if not most, of the city’s Jews were deported to Babylon.

Roughly a half-century later, Cyrus the Great ends the exile and lets the Jews return. But apparently most don’t go; it’s a long dangerous trek.

The book of Nehemiah opens in autumn, and Nehemiah’s brother has just arrived from Jerusalem. He tells how badly the Jews there are suffering. The city wall needs to be rebuilt for their safety.

Nehemiah is a servant, a cupbearer. What can he do?

Apparently, Nehemiah is a pleasant man, but the situation so upsets him that by the following spring the king notices that Nehemiah is sad. When the king asks why, Scripture says Nehemiah is really afraid to tell him.

But Nehemiah overcomes his fear. He explains the situation and asks the king to let him go to Jerusalem.

In one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, the king asks, “How long will your journey take and how long will you be gone?” Nehemiah 2:6

The king doesn’t want to lose him---obviously, Nehemiah is special. But the king allows him to go and Nehemiah travels with the king’s cavalry and with the king's materials to rebuild the wall.

Don’t get the idea that the Jerusalem wall is like your six-foot backyard fence. During the reign of Hezekiah it was massive, as wide as some houses.

When Nehemiah arrives, he takes a night-time ride around Jerusalem. He then organizes the Jews, and they rebuild the walls and the many gates to the vast city.

The leaders of the neighboring countries constantly harass Nehemiah and the Jews. Ultimately, these leaders decide to kill them and put an end to the work. Scripture says from that day on, half of the Jews carried spears, bows, and armor while the other half worked. Nehemiah 4:16

During this time, Nehemiah learns how the Jewish nobles have taken the fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses of poor Jews and tells them to immediately give them back.

“We will give it back,” they say, obviously ashamed. Nehemiah 5:12

Nehemiah’s fearful first step with the king led to a second, third, and fourth step until the servant finds himself appointed by the king as governor over the land. Nehemiah will hold that position for 12 years.

You are as special to God as Nehemiah was; there’s no one like you. Whatever God has laid on your heart, do it.

Nehemiah must have been surprised at what he was able to accomplish. The servant had no grand plans; no intention to become the governor or to tell Jewish nobles how to behave. A fearful Nehemiah asked his king to be allowed to go. He took a first step.

Now is the time as we shelter in place. Ask your King: What ministry have You given to me?

It might be to plant a garden and share with those in need. Or to write a Christian novel and publish it on Amazon.

You might be led to build a website, a greenhouse, anything---You Tube is your friend. Or God may be asking you to hold your family close, to strengthen your kids’ self worth.

In your heart, you know what it is.

God will lead you; He will inspire you. Like Nehemiah, be bold. Take the first step.

Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved. The Rev. Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at or follow her on Twitter @RA_Mathews.