I was overwhelmed with fear and replied to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then, the king asked me, ‘What is your request?'” —Nehemiah 2:2b-4
Artaxerxes was a pagan king who was under no obligation to ask anyone the question, “What is your request?” Nehemiah was a cupbearer. His job was to hold the king’s cup. He was a professional coffee table. He certainly had no business, in the worldly sense, making demands to a king. Yet, king Artaxerxes here asks liquid container support engineer Nehemiah what he wants. God is sovereign over the pagan king and the pagan king clearly has great respect and affection for the believer Nehemiah. I wonder how Artaxerxes saw Nehemiah’s faith. We can see from the text that Nehemiah was forthright with his passionate beliefs while also being respectful to Artaxerxes (“May the king live forever…”) and that God’s will is realized through this relationship between a pagan ruler and his believing cupbearer.
As you prepare to lead students, take to heart the rapport that Nehemiah has with Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes is genuinely concerned for Nehemiah’s emotional well-being according to verses 1 and 2 and Nehemiah leaves no stone un-turned in making his requests to the king according to verses 5, 7, and 8. This fascinating relationship are fascinating examples of Romans 13:7, Colossians 4:5, Romans 13:1, and John 19:11 at work. This week in your relationships with people who are not yet Christians, act through the lens of Nehemiah’s example. See God’s sovereignty at work and be equipped with your own illustrative story to share with your students.