Seeds of Dreams
"Now I was the cupbearer to the king." This unassuming sentence is how Nehemiah introduces himself to the reader in the book that bears his name. The story of how God, through Nehemiah's efforts, re-built the walls of Jerusalem 140 years after the city's destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is remarkable -- and it all begins with the tears of a cupbearer.
On one autumnal day in November/December 445 B.C., in the city of Susa, located in modern day Iran, a man named Nehemiah asked his brother who had just returned from Judah about what was going on in Jerusalem and how the exiles were faring there. The news his brother shared with him -- that the walls of Jerusalem were still in disrepair and burnt, leaving the city and its people utterly defenseless to marauders -- drove him to the point of tears.
Nehemiah's tears helped water a seed that had been planted in his heart. He wanted to help rebuild Jerusalem. In response to the growing dream within his heart, he prayed to God with a request that he would be able to curry the good favor of his boss. His boss just so happened to be King Artaxerxes I, the king of the Persian empire, the most powerful empire at the time.
It's very easy for the modern reader to miss the significance of Nehemiah being a cupbearer. The main role of the cupbearer at the time was to choose and taste the king's wine to make sure it wasn't poisoned. Thus, Nehemiah had to be a man who the king had to have absolute confidence and trust in. Their close relationship is evidenced when on a spring day in March/April, the king sees a discouraged Nehemiah serving him wine and asks him what's wrong.
With bluntness, Nehemiah tells the king that he's sad because Jerusalem, the city of his ancestors, is in ruins. Surprisingly, Artaxerxes asks Nehemiah what he wants to do about it. I love that Nehemiah pauses here to pray to God before he answers the king. Nehemiah is smart enough to recognize this was the opening he had prayed for a few months earlier and pauses to ask God to confirm his request. Finally, he answers the king: He wants to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. Not only does Nehemiah get his request granted, he also received letters of safe passage and timber to take with him to Jerusalem. God had blessed his dream.
What about you? What seeds have been planted in your heart? I am certain that God has placed in all of us seeds that dare us to dream big and act boldly for His kingdom. Nehemiah teaches us three lessons that we need to take to heart when it comes to our dreams.
First, pray and pray often. As you read Nehemiah, you cannot help but be struck by how often he prays. He knew that nothing is possible without God's blessing.
Second, realize that you are the only person in your position and that God placed you there for a reason. No matter how lowly or lofty our position is in life, we all have a unique mix of experience, connections, and ambitions. What has God given you to make your Kingdom dream happen? Don't have it? Have you thought to ask?
Third, step forward. Nehemiah bravely asked the king for a favor, and he got it and more. A dream doesn't happen just by thinking about it. You need to actually move on it.
Nehemiah was so driven and passionate about his dream that the entire wall was built in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). Stone by stone, the seed in Nehemiah's heart blossomed into a tangible reality. God's people were finally protected once more because one man dared dream big and step forward.
What about you? Are you ready to see how God grows your seed of a dream?
~ Matt Aggen
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