The Long Road Home



When we stopped in the story in my last post, Nehemiah had just received permission and favor from the king whom he served as cupbearer while in exile to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and city. He was granted a letter of safe passage and timber from the king’s own forests to rebuild the gates.


As we read the text in the Bible, the next scene is his arrival in his home city of Jerusalem. The thing I pause to consider is what the text does not include. How far was the journey and how long would it have taken him? It can be so easy for us today to give little thought to the distances from one place to another in the Bible and how long it would likely have taken them.


We would not have been talking highways, speed trains, buses, or planes. Even a roadway would have been primitive by our standards. If a person had the means, he might be blessed to ride on a donkey or perhaps a camel. Most of the time, the travel would be on foot for many of the people of that day.


We know Nehemiah was traveling from Susa, which was in Persia (modern day Iran) to Jerusalem. Historians tell us that he would have most likely taken the long overland route on what was known as the Persian Royal Road into northern Mesopotamia. He would then have needed to head west into Syro-Palestine to Jerusalem. The distance was about 900 miles and would have taken about four months.


The distance and difficulty of such a lengthy trip increases our understanding of why Nehemiah would have needed letters of safe passage through so many regions. Not all of the areas may have been friendly or at peace.


And where was the king’s forest he was permitted to harvest timber from for the gates? Again we look to historians for their guess. It is suspected that the forest was likely in Lebanon, which had been overtaken by the Persians in the sixth century B.C. There were also some areas of the coastal plain of Palestine that may have provided some of the timber needed. During those times the walls would have been made primarily of stone and mud brick, but timber was needed to stabilize the walls and for the gateways into and out of the city.


When I consider the trip, its length, danger, and requirements, I am impacted by the courage, tenacity, passion, and faith of Nehemiah. Prior to his role as a cupbearer, servant/slave of the king, there is no indication of his background. Yet because of his concern for his homeland, his name goes down in history and we hear of him.


How like God to choose an ordinary man whose heart was His to fulfill His purposes!


Today we can be tempted to look for the high profile persons among us for important roles or tasks. Very often these same people seek them for the added prestige it brings them, but not so with God. Time and time again, He demonstrates throughout the Bible that He chooses the youngest, the smallest, the weakest, the most lowly in station.


Clearly God had chosen Nehemiah for the task and the journey. It reminds me of the humbling His choice of any one of us truly is. It also takes my mind to God’s choice of David that we read about in 1 Samuel. Samuel was certain he would find the next king among Jesse’s sons when he arrived at his home. God reminded him in 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV of a characteristic of His election we should all remember:


“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


You may doubt your value or usefulness to the Lord for any number of reasons, but look anywhere from Genesis to Revelation and you will discover the truth of God’s words to Samuel.


Join me again next time as we look at another characteristic of Nehemiah as he arrives in Jerusalem.



14 thoughts on “The Long Road Home

  1. Such a good word, Pam. If only we could see our value through God’s eyes. All He needs is our obedience, He can do the rest. — I really like Nehemiah. I did a study a few years back on him — I want to say it was from Kelly Minter, but not positive. So much to learn from him. 🙂 Thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity today, Pam. ((hug))

  2. Thank you for giving me something to think about today. I can almost imagine the journey now, and I’ve never stopped to do so before. I also appreciate the encouragement this post offers to those of us who wonder if God can use “regular” people. I’m so glad you linked up at #EncouragingWordWednesday today!

  3. Hi Pam! I am always inspired by the people God and Jesus choose to lead. Invariably, it’s the very person we would completely overlook!
    It’s such a fruitful thing to meditate on the Scriptures, and your thoughts on Nehemiah are really great. Thinking practically helps me to have an even greater impression of this man, plucked from the prisoners, and as you said, maybe not having any leadership experience at all. But he was perfect. God sees the heart. Amen!
    May I never overlook anyone, or doubt that they can be useful in the hands of the Lord. I can only see the outside…a very limited view indeed.

    1. Hi, my friend! I am so glad this post blessed and encouraged your heart! This series on Nehemiah is one I am enjoying writing as I have never failed to be blessed when I go through this book. Each time I gain more understanding and insight. Love and blessings to you!

  4. This is such a beautiful hope-filled story that you’ve shared here. I think God chooses ordinary people to do big things, for one reason, because, that way, there’s no mistaking that it’s God to whom all glory is owed. Visiting from #coffeeforyourheart

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