Nehemiah is one of the few Old Testament books with sections written in the first person. It’s interesting how Nehemiah introduces himself.
His name means “God comforts”. He tells us he is the son of Hacaliah, a man not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. He names his kinsman (Hanani), revealing that he is a member of the Jewish race. When the exiled Jews returned to Judah, he remained behind, living in the citadel of Susa, the winter palace of of the Persian empire.
Almost as an after-thought in the last verse of chapter 1, Nehemiah mentions he is a man of great political influence: “I was cupbearer to the king.”
During his life in exile, Nehemiah must have gained an good education and progressed up through the ranks of government to become the man who tasted the king’s wine before the king drank it. His position gave him intimate access to the most powerful king of the day, political standing, and presumably the wealth and stature commensurate to the title.
When we took our son to college, we attended a parents “Q&A” session with a panel of five deans of the university. To begin the session, each Dean’s introduced himself. I’ve never heard so many names dropped in my life! Each dean was determined to mention every famous person whose path he had crossed at any point in his career. After the fifth dean finished, we had been there an hour and no one had asked a question yet.
Contrast that experience with the humble way Nehemiah introduces himself:
- He tells us of his unknown father.
- He tells us of his commitment to his fellow Jews.
- He tells us where he lives.
- He recalls his prayer.
- Then — he finally tells us that he’s cupbearer to the king.
How do you introduce yourself? What things about you are the most important to tell someone first? Do people know about your prayer life before they get your business card? Do they know of your passion for God before they know your job title?
For Nehemiah, being part of the people of God was his identity. His job was an afterthought.
Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.