It's easy to focus on Nehemiah's grand story that begins with him hearing the news of Jerusalem's fate, rebuilding the walls of his ancestral city, and becoming the leader of a nation. But I want to highlight the last verse of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2, verses 1-8.
"Now I was the cupbearer to the king." - Nehemiah 1:11
Nehemiah introduces himself as the cupbearer to the king. He was not performing menial work. He served in the king's court, a fact that undoubtedly helped him once he began leading others.
"..I took up wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence." - Nehemiah 2:1-2
Nehemiah had not been sad in the king's presence. He did his duties cheerfully and dutifully. He must have been an exceptional servant for the king to notice that he was a) not himself, b) not sick, and c) saddened.
"And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me." - Nehemiah 2:5-8
Think of the goodwill Nehemiah had to have built up with the king to even ask for the following:
- Send his servant to Jerusalem
- Issue letters to governors authorizing safe passage
- Authorize the use of royal timber to rebuild the walls, the gates, the temple, and Nehemiah's own house
It is easy to think of God performing a miracle and compelling the king to grant these requests. But when we see how Nehemiah manages the rest of his story, I think we can be confident that Nehemiah has built up substantial goodwill with the king from how Nehemiah managed his affairs in the years leading up to these requests.
Do we work at our jobs with such fervor that we would even dare ask for such things? Even if we are never in a position to leverage the goodwill for something great, we will still be noticed and that can be a testimony in itself.