By Michael E. Brooks
“So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode” (Nehemiah 2:11-12 NKJV).
It is more than 10,000 miles by air from my home in Alabama to South Asia, to where I have traveled this past week. There is twelve hours difference (twelve time zones) between Alabama time and Bangladesh time. In other words they are exactly on opposite sides of the earth.
Jet lag is a concept with which I am very familiar. After flying for about 26 hours of actual time in the air over an elapsed total time of 36 to 42 hours on average, I am always tired and physically confused. My mind may say “It is morning, let’s get to work.” My body however responds, “I am tired; it is time to sleep.”
When Ezra the scribe led a company of Priests and Levites from Babylon to Jerusalem, the journey required exactly four months (Ezra 7:7-9). We do not know how long Nehemiah and his guards took to make the same trip, but it was certainly a long and arduous journey.
Similarly, we are not told just why it was three days after arrival in Jerusalem before Nehemiah began his mission. My own personal experience suggests he may have required a little resting time. Perhaps he was suffering from “Camel Lag” from his long trip across the desert.
Time is a valuable resource, yet our use of it must reflect physical reality. Nehemiah’s example leads us to a few reasonable guidelines which will help us become good stewards of our time.
First, do not hesitate to use necessary time for rest and recuperation. When the disciples returned from the limited comission Jesus invited them to “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). He understood the body’s demands. It is not a waste of time for us to get the rest which is required for good health and strength.
A recent news report suggested that in America there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation — too many people just don’t get enough sleep to be healthy.
However, the body’s need for rest however in no way justifies laziness and idleness (Proverbs 24:30-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Second, Nehemiah shows us that when rest has been acquired, promptness and careful haste are appropriate. Certainly his arising in the night was partially in order to preserve secrecy for his mission. Yet there is also the inescapable conclusion that Nehemiah wanted to waste no available time. His task was urgent. He moved decisively and quickly.
The New Testament teaches us, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). We are to “Walk circumspectly, . . . redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16). Time is one of God’s gifts to us. Let us be good stewards in its use.
Third, Nehemiah made excellent use of the time which he was given. When he asked the king of Persia to be appointed governor of Judah, the King said, “How long will your journey be?” (Nehemiah 2:6). Nehemiah was conscious of a limited time-frame in which to act. He worked swiftly therefore without delay or hindrance.
When enemies of Israel sought to distract him from his labors he responded, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). As a result of his determination, the wall of Jerusalem was completed in a remarkable span of only 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).
There are physical limitations within which we all must work. Yet we must also give an account for the way we use our time, as is the case with all our possessions and resources. Nehemiah teaches us to be time conscious. In so doing, we too can accomplish great works for the Lord.
By Michael E. Brooks