Nehemiah, a Jewish exile serving in the court to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, is a classic example of someone who penetrated his culture for God. When he heard about the broken-down condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah mourned over the city were God’s name dwelt.
But Nehemiah also knew how to pray, so he went before God in intense prayer — he called on God, coming to Him humbly and with fasting. Nehemiah repented of his sins and the sins of his people, and he sought God’s forgiveness and healing for the land of Israel. Notice how his prayer ended in Nehemiah 1:11: “O Lord, I beseech you, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today, and grant him compassion for this man.”
“This man,” of course, was King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah could pray for success because things were now in proper perspective. As soon as Nehemiah said amen, he realized that he was “cupbearer to the king” (v. 11). In other words, he was reminded that God had already positioned him to make a difference for his people. That was important because Nehemiah was about to go before the King and make an astounding request. He was getting ready to ask permission to go back and rebuild Jerusalem.
Up to this point, Nehemiah had not made the correlation between being the king’s cupbearer and the plight of Jerusalem. But now he realized he was in the most strategic position possible. Artaxerxes was an unsaved and unregenerate man, but the king had the power in his hands to solve Jerusalem’s problem.
A person in Nehemiah’s position didn’t normally ask for some time off to go and take care of personal business. As the king’s cupbearer, he was the one who daily tasted the royal wine and food before the king partook, so that no one could poison the king.
King Artaxerxes had learned to trust and rely on Nehemiah. The king wasn’t going to let him just disappear for months or even years. But Nehemiah had prayed and sought God for his land, and he was willing to put his career on the line to make an impact for God.
Today, many followers of Jesus Christ have separated their careers from their worship; they do not see the kingdom connection between the God they worship and the needs of their culture.
I don’t think it has occurred to many Christians that God has strategically positioned them to affect their culture for Him. One way to help rebuild our culture is to “kingdomize” our skills; that is, discover how God can use our so-called secular skills for sacred purposes. Your position of influence may extend to your family, your community, or well beyond that.
Whether your circle is small or large, God can use those who live righteously before him. Nehemiah’s prayer and his life are an example of 2 Chronicles 7:14 in action. As one called by God, he humbled himself, prayed, and sought God’s face.
Let me point out that God does not only use the positions of believers to influence culture. He can use the position of the unrighteous to fulfill his goal for the righteous.
We see this in the description of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 6:10-11. The land God was going to give Israel contained “great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, the vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant.”
Do you know how Canaan became such a luxurious land? Do you know how the cisterns were dug? The Hittites and the Amorites and all the others who lived in the land fixed it up for God’s people.
As Christians, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions. Are we going to sit and watch our culture fall apart? Are we going to sit and watch our families disintegrate? Or are we going to do something to turn America to God?