1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, 2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
Finding Comfort in Crisis
The main message of the book of Nehemiah is contained in the first sentence. The name Nehemiah means “Jehovah comforts” and the name Hachaliah means “whom God enlightens”. In Scripture God often uses the names of people to convey a message Abraham, Isaac, Jacob/Israel, to name just a few, each have specific meanings to remind us of God’s purpose or judgment in specific situations.
This is also true for the book of Nehemiah, which details how Nehemiah went about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed earlier by the Babylonians and now that the Hebrews had returned home there was no wall. In this period of history, unwalled cities were vulnerable: they lacked both physical and economic security. As a result, the Hebrew nation was being oppressed by hostile clans around them. How could they cope?
God’s answer came in the form of Nehemiah son of Hachaliah: God comforts whom God enlightens. The secret to coping in situations where one is vulnerable and/or being taken advantage of, is to have our understanding illuminated by God.
At the beginning of Psalm 73, the Psalmist expresses despair at the seeming success of the unjust compared to the suffering of the just:
“But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” ~Ps. 73: 2-3, 12-14
But then the psalmist is enlightened:
“When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” ~Psalm 73:16-17
And by that enlightenment he finds comfort:
“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” ~Psalm 73:24-26
Likewise, when the Syrian army surrounded Elisha, Elisha’s servant was terrified. But when God “opened” the eyes of Elisha’s servant so he could see the Army of Angels encamped around them (“the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire”), then he was comforted (2 Kings 6:14-18).
The message for us is the same. As we face the various crises that come into our lives—whether it is job-loss, sickness, death or even depression—we can only receive God’s comfort when we accept His enlightenment. It is only as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of His Word, through the work of the Holy Spirit, as we read the scripture and commune with God in prayer, that we will gain the “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
“Jehovah comforts whom Jehovah enlightens”