Trembling in the king’s presence, Nehemiah quickly breathed a prayer.
Appearing sad or gloomy before the king was a serious offense. Yet, how could Nehemiah hide the sorrow in his heart? His brother and several men from Judah had informed him that the wall of the city of Jerusalem had been broken down and its gates destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:2–3).
What a beautiful city Jerusalem had been, the center of worship to Almighty God. Now, it lay in ruins, and most of its people were still in exile in a foreign land. Nehemiah was fortunate to serve as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. He did not have to worry about finding food or shelter, as many of his Jewish brothers did. But the news about Jerusalem broke his heart.
After mourning, fasting, and praying for several days, he asked that God would give him favor when he appeared before the king.
“Why are you so sad?” the king questioned. Shaking with fear, Nehemiah told the king that his heart was broken because the city of his ancestors remained in ruins. Then, after a silent prayer, he boldly requested that the king send him to Jerusalem so he could rebuild it.
After speaking those words, Nehemiah probably cringed while he awaited the king’s response. But God gave him great favor, and the king not only allowed Nehemiah to leave, but also provided army officers and cavalry to accompany him, as well as letters to the governors of the area and to the keeper of the king’s forest.
The prophet Daniel also had a potentially fatal encounter with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Furious because his astrologers could not interpret his dream, Nebuchadnezzar had sentenced all the wise men, including Daniel, to death. Daniel, and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, prayed earnestly that God would reveal the meaning of the king’s dream to Daniel (Daniel 2:17–18). The next morning, Daniel went before the king and explained what God had shown him about the king’s dream.
Later, Nebuchadnezzar threatened to kill anyone who did not worship the golden image he had erected. The king’s herald announced, “As soon as the music begins to play, everyone must bow down to the king’s statue.” Of course, when the music played, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego would not bow down and worship the statue. They, alone, remained standing.
Although Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be thrown into the fiery furnace, they still refused to dishonor their God by bowing to an idol. The guards who threw them into the furnace immediately perished because of the heat. The three young Jews, however, could be seen walking around in the fire, unharmed. A fourth man, the pre-incarnate Jesus, had joined them in the furnace.
Someday we may be called to “face the music.” In Matthew 10:19–20, Jesus said, “‘When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you'” (NIV).
Like Nehemiah, Daniel, and Daniel’s three friends, we may be required to give an account of our faith, not knowing if God will deliver us from unpleasant consequences. But, one thing is certain: Jesus will be with us. The apostle Paul had many encounters with the authorities, but he testified that when everyone else deserted him, the Lord stood at his side and gave him strength and the words to speak (2 Timothy 4:17, NIV).
Though we may feel frightened and weak, when we must take our stand, Jesus will strengthen us and help us to remain standing, even if everyone around us falls.