The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa…. I was cupbearer to the king.
A day after we booked our December flight to be with our families on Christmas, my sister called to announce God’s big answer to our prayers: she’s finally graduating medical school! Considering her very long, difficult years enduring those thick books and erratic hospital duties, plus all the sacrifices my parents and relatives made in order to pay her six digit fees on time, it’s really a shout-out for everyone. It felt we’re all graduating with her. But my next question is, will our budget allow another flight back home this May? I even bluffed about a nice graduation gift instead just to see how she’d react with me not coming, and she pleaded as expected. And so although our finances says we can’t, Tris and I chose to work around the line how we can, and clicked that literally precious booking : )
Nehemiah likewise faced the same emotional height when the news about Judah came to his hearing. But his was on the other extreme. His heart escalated with the image of his lineage back home in great trouble and disgrace. With Jerusalem’s wall still broken down, his countrymen not only await enemy attacks, they were also daily ridiculed for their past sins which caused those ruins. But how different was Nehemiah from them? He himself acknowledged being one with his people in disobeying God. He can give the reason that he can’t receive heaven’s favor as well. How can he help? He’s out-of-the-country and can’t do much being far away from home. And, what can He do? Others may see his position as prominent being close to the king, but really, what can a cupbearer do? At the end of the day, he’s just another servant, without any power to promote Israel’s welfare.
If Nehemiah followed the track most of us usually take, this part of Israel’s history might have not been written. If he highlighted on the CAN’T and saw himself as unfit, unavailable, and unable, we will all not witness God’s strength made perfect in such weaknesses. Even Nehemiah’s unworthiness as a sinner God used to remind His people of His forgiveness and grace. His location abroad was exactly God’s image of reaching out to His people and calling out any and every vessel to save them. And, Nehemiah’s position as a cupbearer was part of the grander plan, whether you perceive it as a high or low post. God has that reputation of turning a mess into a message. Our I CAN’Ts into HE CAN. His grace is all we need.