Have you noticed that some people seem to beat the odds when it comes to acquiring high positions in organizations. The supermarket check-out boy who rises to chief executive, the coffee server who becomes head of a design house. The immigrant who changed an industry. The closer you look, however, the more their story makes sense when you begin to see them clearly.
It takes Nehemiah a while to tell you his job title. It’s often the second item in today’s conversations after “what is your name?”. Since you have it, however, you can look through into his mind, character, style and even his prayers. “Cupbearer to the king” he tells us and, in so doing, reveals his resume.
Remember there were no HR departments in a Persian court so staff were chosen using whatever criteria the King wanted, and the King got whatever he wanted. Kings tended to surround themselves with beauty and attractiveness. Nehemiah would have had to at least pass that test. But the cupbearer wasn’t just there for decoration he was there to be trusted. His job was to make sure the King’s wine was fine, safe, and appropriate. Again he was more than a sommelier, he was a confidante and advisor. Not merely a sycophant, the king needed some people close to him who would not just tell him what he wanted to hear. Often such people would be thoroughbred culturally astute operators, yet Nehemiah holds the position as a foreigner from a conquered class.
Somehow he has progressed into the inner circle of the king to a place of deep trust, profound privilege and great responsibility. You don’t get to such a place by accident or luck. Nehemiah fitted the job and the job fitted him.
Armed with this information you can now listen to him pray and read his mind.
Having heard from his brother the state of his ancestral home, Nehemiah takes several days and fills them with spiritual disciplines. What you see in his journal is bound to be some form of summary of what has been occupying his mind. His prayer starts with the invocation of the title of God. He uses the words, Lord, great and awesome.
It’s not just a prayer, it’s an expression of his mind. Nehemiah knew about greatness and spent his entire work life in the presence of awesome power and absolute Lordship, he was cupbearer to the King. His mindset was already King-centred. He knew everything revolved around the one he served.
His prayer is that of someone who knows how to move into the inner circle of power and greatness. He knew he only lived and breathed on the say-so of his king and that his was a royal position.
That is how he prays, maybe that’s why he prays. For Nehemiah, getting close to the source of power was the secret of his whole life. Every day he saw physical illustrations of how lordship worked, but his mind took him to a power even greater than the King of Persia.
So for Nehemiah his mind was already theocentric, God was his central focus. Praying, for him, was not in order to prepare for life or the job, it was life and it was his job. If you don’t know how to move into the inner-circle of divine greatness you are not doing your job. Like Esther, like Daniel, like Joseph, Nehemiah was in this job by royal appointment – not the obvious royalty but the divine royalty. Everything about him spelt cupbearer. He was first and foremost God’s cupbearer, trusted, reliable and strategic. His mind was a cupbearer’s mind focused on the needs, desires, commands and wishes of the King and his prayers come out of that mind.
Nehemiah’s title didn’t change when his story developed, he was always God’s cupbearer wherever he went.
As you look into his mind you can take some wisdom into your week. Here are my suggestions. Everything about you contributes to your fitness for purpose. Your looks, your history, your character, your style, perhaps even your name. Again, if you function authentically, the person you are will overflow into your prayer, your tears, work and your conversation. Authenticity will be most pronounced as you focus your mind on God Himself.
Nehemiah’s next journey was formulating in his mind but the clarity was emerging as he went deep into the inner circle of greatness and communed with his God.
Can you see yourself like that? Can you see your job as a royal position? Can you see the harmony between who you are and what you do?
This is a mindset worth cultivating and it will inform everything you do.
We are not done with Nehemiah’s prayer nor his job title, but perhaps now would be a good time to sit down and move into spiritual disciplines; it will shape your mind and prepare you for the jobs to come.
5 Then I said:
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
I was cupbearer to the king.
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