As the taster of wine (cupbearer) for the king, Nehemiah was in a position that the king paid particular attention to; Nehemiah had a sad countenance, and the king noticed (2:1-2). Nehemiah was able to convince him there was no threat to his (the king’s) life, but that his countenance was the result of the circumstances in his homeland. Having received permission to take a party back there, Nehemiah leaves with the king’s authority, with the ultimate desire to return to the king’s service. Having arrived in Jerusalem, Nehemiah surveyed the landscape and gave encouragement to the people about the work that needs to be done, and the king’s authority will bring about its accomplishment.
Application: The NKJV says, “Then they set their hands to this good work” (2:18). In the midst of this work that had to be done, there was opposition (2:19). Paul and Barnabas encouraged the brethren many years later that with much tribulation we shall enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22; cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). In such circumstances this calls upon each of us to take inventory (2 Corinthians 13:5), and to determine what is of value to us (Matthew 13:45-46).