Nehemiah was just a guy. He needed to be introduced a bit. (v.1)
He was a regular guy. He didn’t see any angels. He did still hear from God, though. No doubt about that. He was not reported to have heard any heavenly trumpets, but he still got a book named after him in the Bible.
Ultimately, he teaches us that we can all work miracles, whether or not God blesses us with fireworks.
His brother came to visit, and Nehemiah found out that “Things are not going well” (v.3) in Jerusalem. But how is this possible? We have just read, in the book of Ezra, that the temple was rebuilt! This nice emperor Cyrus of Persia was super-helpful! Hooray! The exile was (apparently) over! Things should have been great!
Yet, almost a century later, Nehemiah learns, “they are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down and the gates have been burned.”
Not going well, indeed.
So Nehemiah got bent out of shape. He “mourned, fasted and prayed” for days.
It was intense, heartfelt prayer.
There is no record that God showed up and blessed his crazy idea in any sort of audible or visible way. But Nehemiah still went for it and told the King his trouble, despite all the rational reasons not to.
He perhaps heard a still small voice.
Nehemiah was king Artaxerxes’ cup-bearer. (v.11) I’ve seen this described as a high position, and it is clear that Nehemiah had the king’s trust.
However, I’ve also seen this position described as a role of testing the king’s food, to make sure it is not poisoned. This suggests that Nehemiah was not too important.
In any case, Nehemiah regularly had his hands on the king’s drink. He was close to the king and trusted by the king. He had obviously assimilated well into the empire, as had his family.
Or, as he put it in his prayer, “We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, laws and regulations that you gave us through your servant, Moses.” (v.7)