January 13, 2020
11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
This is how Nehemiah ends his prayer in the opening part of our story. He has confessed his sin, reminded God of His promises, and now, Nehemiah is asking God for attention and favor. We also get a really important part of the backstory of Nehemiah. He is cupbearer to the King. The Bible doesn’t always give lots of personal details about the people in it. So when we read things like, “Joseph was a carpenter”, or that Elisha, an OT prophet was bald, we should stop and ask why that detail is important.
The cupbearer role was one of critical importance in the royal court of Artaxerxes. The cupbearer was tasked with keeping the king’s drink safe from poison – sometimes being required to drink from the cup first to assure that it was safe for the king. So it was a position of very high responsibility and was only given to those who were proven to be the most trustworthy. The role was that of a chief butler – someone who knew everyone and everything happening in the royal household, and someone who had a close personal relationship with the king.
Imagine you are in a bar, and talking to someone on the stool next to you. Imagine that she is describing her plan to use her position and influence to address an injustice. That’s a commendable idea, until she adds that, “Oh by the way, I’m the president’s chief of staff.” That puts things in a very different light. She is someone with the ability, influence, and relationship to enact tremendous change. That’s kind of what happens in this story.
Not many of us wield the type of influence that Nehemiah did. And similarly, few of us have as much at stake as Nehemiah did when he made plans to talk to King Artaxerxes. Still, I firmly believe that God has put you in your position – whether in your family, your class, or your workplace – with the sincere hope that you will use that position to advance the kingdom of God. Bringing love to a damaged relationship. Perhaps bringing encouragement, speaking truth, or demonstrating patience. How might you be uniquely positioned to do good today?
Let’s take a moment, and, like Nehemiah, ask for God’s favor today. What is on your calendar that is an opportunity for God to use you? An employee review? A difficult conversation with a co-worker? Sick kids? Ailing parents? Watch for opportunities to do good. And believe that God has given you that opportunity because you are uniquely qualified to step up.