Remember Nehemiah

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Nehemiah was a Jew during the period where most Jews were in exile in Babylon.  He served as a cup-bearer to Artaxeres, king of Persia and ruler over Babylon, around the time 445 BC. His duty was to taste the king’s drink to verify that it was not poisoned.

Nehemiah learned that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the Jews in that city were suffering.

He prayed:

[4] And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
[5] And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
[6] Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.  (Nehemiah 1)

The King then granted Nehemiah permission to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gates.

As he began the reconstruction, Nehemiah was opposed by Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah and by Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines.  These adversaries were very wroth and conspired to fight against Nehemiah and his fellow workers.

Nehemiah armed his men and told them to trust in the Lord.

[14] And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.  (Nehemiah 4)

The builders completed the wall.  Ezra, the priest and scribe, and Nehemiah  then revived Sabbath day worship among the Jews in Jerusalem.

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Remember Nehemiah, who was charged with building a wall to protect Jerusalem. Some wanted him to come down and compromise his position, but Nehemiah refused. He was not intolerant of others; he simply explained, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease … ?

Elder Robert D. Hales, Stand Strong in Holy Places,
General Conference, April, 2013

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Nehemiah of the Old Testament is a great example of staying focused and committed to an important task. Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in exile in Babylon and served as cupbearer to the king. One day the king asked Nehemiah why he seemed so sad. Nehemiah replied, “Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ [graves], lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?”

When the king heard this, his heart was softened, and he gave Nehemiah the authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. However, not everyone was happy with this plan. In fact, several rulers who lived near Jerusalem grieved exceedingly “that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.” These men “took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.”

Fearless, Nehemiah did not allow the opposition to distract him. Instead, he organized his resources and manpower and moved forward rebuilding the city, “for the people had a mind to work.”

But as the walls of the city began to rise, opposition intensified. Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, conspired, and ridiculed. Their threats were very real, and they grew so intimidating that Nehemiah confessed, “They all made us afraid.” In spite of the danger and the ever-present threat of invasion, the work progressed. It was a time of stress, for every builder “had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”

As the work continued, Nehemiah’s enemies became more desperate. Four times they entreated him to leave the safety of the city and meet with them under the pretense of resolving the conflict, but Nehemiah knew that their intent was to do him harm. Each time they approached him, he responded with the same answer: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”

What a remarkable response! With that clear and unchanging purpose of heart and mind, with that great resolve, the walls of Jerusalem rose until they were rebuilt in an astonishing 52 days.

Nehemiah refused to allow distractions to prevent him from doing what the Lord wanted him to do.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down
General Conference, April 2009

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The example of Nehemiah strengthens me as I face opposition.

– Tom Irvine

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