I was cupbearer to the King.
It reads a bit like a throwaway line seemingly unconnected with all that’s gone before, coming as it does at the end of a passionate, heartfelt prayer.
So what, we might say - Nehemiah, now you tell us that you’re the wine waiter in the Kings Palace. A nice clean job for a slave in exile, at least you don’t get your hands dirty and there are certain fringe benefits with the quality of the dinner menu.
There’s much more to this statement – and to the position it describes – than meets the eye. It’s a position of responsibility (you’re tasting the King’s food and drink) and it provides intimate access to the corridors of power where the movers move and the shakers shake. It is also a position of trust, one that it is neither won easily nor awarded lightly.
For such a time as this.
It was (and is) no accident that God ensures that the right people are in the right place, at the right time. Whether you are Queen Esther, wine waiter Nehemiah or any member of Christ’s Church, God has put you where you are, with the talents you have, for His reasons and plans.
Some of this is already clear and we’re involved; still more is being worked out as God reveals step by step or with a sudden intervention, what He wants from us. The inescapable fact is that we are included in God’s Kingdom and are invited to share that Kingdom and its values with the world as it is and where we find ourselves at this moment.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Opportunities allow us to step up and to begin the process of change, by enlisting the support of those who hold the purse strings or the key to the store cupboard. Nehemiah had privileged access to the King and used his opportunity wisely for the benefit of the greater good, not to directly advance his own status (You can read about it in Nehemiah 2 verses 1 to 10).
Yes, he sailed close to the wind (you were supposed to look happy when serving the King as if you really enjoyed it) but there was a good reason for that: the King had to see what was wrong. On one level, it’s a masterful piece of diplomacy which recognises the position of the King yet also allows Nehemiah’s human concern for Jerusalem to be shared. It is only possible, though, because Nehemiah has already involved God (chapter 1) and continues to involve Him in all that he does. It’s a short phrase (verse 4) but it shows a big faith:
“Then I prayed to the God of heaven.”
We’ll see next time how this pans out but, for the moment, consider what God is asking of you and this fellowship. Do we recognise and are we led by our personal responsibility for sharing the Good News of Christ to the world? (Perhaps it’s a narrow one at the moment but there is a world beyond us, just the same). Are we choosing our time rightly and grasping the opportunities that come our way (Ephesians 5 verse 16)? Are we really concerned about the needs of those around us or are our “care horizons” more limited?
We aren’t Nehemiah nor can we be Queen Esther but like them we have a role and we have the opportunity. Like them, we have received God’s call to proclaim our faith, to rebuild and to stand for the truth in uncertain times. I pray that God will not find us wanting but will discover us willing.