The Persian King Cyrus decreed that the Jews held in captivity could begin their return home to Jerusalem. Remember, Israel had lost control of their kingdom because they were not attentive to the testimonials of God’s grace, justice and mercy: their march from Egypt, the Red Sea, the covenant at Mt. Sinai, the song of Moses, the blessing and the curse. God had chosen Israel and gave them the “Law” that they might know how to live with perfect praise and worship toward God. But they simply failed and the “curse” that both Moses and Joshua warned them about came to fruition. They lost their kingdom and their Temple; but hopes of a Mashiach are rumbling in the words of the prophets.
In their captivity God heard the cry of His people and used Cyrus, allowing Israel remittance to the land. They’re allowed to rebuild the Temple, their central place of worship where God’s presence alights among the people. Also, the wall surrounding Jerusalem is being rebuilt. Nehemiah is a faithful man who comes to lead Israel as governor.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes, the new ruler of Persia. Persia had conquered Babylonia, whom had forced the nation of Israel into captivity and now held sway as the superpower of the world. A man of good political sense and deeply devoted to God. Though he lived in captivity and served the King wine; Nehemiah would request from Artaxerxes that he’d be granted the position of Governor over Jerusalem. A bold request, but decisive action was needed to rebuild the city walls and Temple as several outside smaller conclaves sought to prevent the Israelites from both rebuilding and rekindling an identity (Nehemiah 1-2).
Remember that God is calling Israel (insert “Man”) back to himself. Their central most holy place is the Temple (1 Kings 8:43). Jesus will say sometime later, “Destroy this Temple, and I will rebuild it in three days” (John 2:19). With their success, the covenant of the Lord is read to the people by the scribe Ezra from daybreak till midday. All the people wept, as they understood the words of the law (Nehemiah 8:1-12). They will soon fail to keep the law. Jesus will sometime later discuss this law and explain why He is the fulfillment of this great story – Matthew Chapter 5. But for now, the people hear and understand clearly; and they’re told by Nehemiah to rejoice for rejoicing in the Lord is their strength. Bishop Robert Barron stated “A man does not know who he is until he understands his mission”. A cupbearer rose-up, heard the cry of his people and discovered who he was meant to be. Ain’t it so!