Cupbearers to the King
The Bible can be a very hard book to get into and many people give up before they start to
The story of Nehemiah is found in the Old Testament after the History books of Kings and Chronicles and before the Psalms. We are going to look very quickly at the story then there are two lessons I want us to consider.
One is the idea of being a cup bearer for the King
Second is how Nehemiah responded to the challenges of his life.
This is a well documented piece of ancient history. The story of how the people of Israel who had again been in captivity (like they were in Egypt with Moses) found themselves feed from slavery by one of their own- with Moses there was a show down with the plagues and the red sea and the desert.
This time a well placed servant of the Persian King, discovered the state of His home and through a series of amazing incidents found himself halfway across the ancient world rebuilding his home and re-establishing the nation, without a single shot being fired.
The story of Nehemiah is not very long- And you could read it in a couple of weeks at about 20 mins a day. But I’m gonna give you the quick highlights.
The story of Nehemiah.
Chapter 1- We find young Nehemiah as a servant to the Persian King Artaxerxes. This is in the palace @ Susa (Iran). Some friends from back home arrive and tell him about the state of Jerusalem- It’s a ruin- destroyed by the Babylonians, who have subsequently conquered themselves by the Persians. Nehemiah’s response is immediate and dramatic- He is really upset by what he hears weeping for his homeland and remembering all its past glories- David & Solomon- as well as the sinful state they had got into that led them abandoning God and finding themselves led away into captivity. He prays and fasts seeking God for an answer.- We discover right at the end of this chapter that he is a cup bearer to the King- More on that in a minute.
Back to the story- Chapter 2 and we discover that King Artexerxes notices that Nehemiah is unusually sad- Notice how Nehemiah responds in verse 4 right in the middle of his conversation with the king he prays and God answers his prayers with the kings permission to return and rebuild the walls along with letters of approval and materials to help him do it.
When he gets to Jerusalem he begins by making his own assessment of what needs doing and then sets about persuading the people to help him rebuild- He does that in two ways
1st by showing that he had a good understanding of the challenge-that’s where his own research came in and
2nd by reminding them that God would be with them using his testimony of the kings favour.
They immediately faced opposition from outsiders who mocked what they did not understand.
But they were ignored and the building went on. They built in families and groups such as priests or tradesmen- teams that knew each other, trusted and commetted friends and family.
We see in Chapter 4 that the opposition grew and Nehemiah listened carefully to the concerns people were making- ensuring that guards were stationed at the weakest points andthat these guards were armed to protect the builders.
Ne 4:13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.
Further opposition came when Nehemiah was tempted to hide in the temple by a seeming friend but God provided Nehemiah with the insight necessary for him to realise that this was also a trap- this time from within his own people.
All through this opposition Nehemiah kept encouraging the people reminding them of God’s faithfulness, but also making sure that practical stuff was in place- food and protection. They built the entire wall in 52 days.
The building of the wall now meant that many of the Jewish people felt free to return and live in Jerusalem. They came and stayed.
Once the community was gathered, Nehemiah got his friend Ezra the priest to read the law, which many of them had never heard. The truth and power of the words made the people sad because they realised how far from following his laws they had been. But Nehemiah encouraged them by saying
Ne 8:10 “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
This community of God’s people then committed themselves to following Gods law.
And this is the last we hear of Nehemiah. Encouraging God’s people as Governor of the city.
Nehemiah- Cup Bearer to the King
Now I’ve left out huge important chunks of story. But that is the plot line. It is an amazing story of God’s help, but there are no thunderbolts, you might say no mighty demonstrations of the power of God.
In that way it contrasts so much with the story of the escape from Egypt. But for us it may help us identify with this man Nehemiah more.
On one level he is a simple servant doing his job- Cup bearer
I love this expression cup bearer- The cup bearer was given the job of bringing wine to the King. But he also had to taste it to see that it was not poisoned. In that way, he became well known to the king and the title developed to include the idea of an advisor or counsellor to the King someone whom the King confided in.
Artexerxes knew Nehemiah well enough to know his moods and to consider him a trusted servant. He clearly liked him and wanted his best. But Nehemiah’s job was to carry the cup for the King.
This expression should remind you of a particular incident in the life of Jesus. Matthew 26 Just a few verses before Jesus handed to his friends and to us a cup that would forever remind us of His love for us a cup promise– But just an hour later in the garden of Gethsemane – Jesus asked of His father
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matt 26:42
It is a pivotal moment in human history because at that moment a cup bearer chose to drink from the King’s cup a drink that He knew would kill him.
As I said We all are given by Jesus a cup to carry- we too are cup bearers to the king.
Every day our cup is filled with all that God has for us and we like Jesus sometimes say –Please can I have different drink this one looks like it’s gonna kill me.
But Jesus went to the cross for us so that we would not have to die. However much the cup looks like its gonna kill you.
How did Nehemiah carry his cup?
Nehemiah had learned well how to carry the cup- both the real one for the King and the one that was the life he lived and there are some excellent lessons from his life that can help us.
I’m going to use some key words that demonstrate what we see in Nehemiah. We will find there is a wonderful divine TEN SHUN as Nehemiah lives his life for God.
Here are the Ten Shuns
· Handling Opposition
These act as a cycle through the story.
1. Nehemiah is a compassionate man
he hears of the state of Jerusalem He has compassion even though he could have carried on his life happily as a servant in the court
2. He demonstrates emotion and weeps for his home. Emotion is fine sorrow, anger,
but they should always drive us to
3. devotion-Like Nehemiah Prayer and fasting mean we can hear God. We see to that Nehemiah is someone who has a joyful intimate relationship with God someone who turns to God in the moment and encourages others to see god as a source of strength and help. This devotion leads to
4. revelation. Knowing what God is saying about a situation- this can be as a result of your own prayers or hearing God through others-
5. Always share your conviction with others well before acting on it.
6. Communication enables others to stand with you, but also bring confirmation But having heard and checked-
7. Stand firmly on your conviction being prepared to take action.
8. We know just as we saw in Nehemiah’s life there is opposition. This opposition can be from external forces things outside ourselves – The unexpected stuff from elsewhere
Opposition can come from amongst those close to us –disagreements in family or in friends. Challenges to our conviction Or Opposition can even be internal those voices of doubt and fear that come.
9. Nehemiah responded by careful reflection- Sometimes this had to be quick but it was always there- Yes there might be an emotional response but then again he would turn to devotion and so the cycle continues.
Each time we like Nehemiah grow in faith and understanding- we see what is important and what is not.
It is always an honour to carry the cup for the king