Yet that quaint old saying of John Flavel the Puritan is right, ’The man who watches for Providence will never want a Providence to watch.’ In other words, he who trusts his concerns to a higher power, he who puts his cause in the Lord’s hands, will never be disappointed. The God who rules the universe will not forget to attend to him, but will watch him, and guide him, and help him, as tenderly as if he was the only being in that universe.
St. Augustine used to say, ’Lord, when I look upon mine own life, it seems Thou hast led me so carefully and tenderly, Thou canst have attended to none else; but when I see how wonderfully Thou hast led the world and art leading it, I am amazed that Thou hast had time to attend to such as I.’
How much more must we wonder at God’s loving care, when we look beyond this tiny world to the countless millions of worlds in the universe!
Nehemiah was watching for Providence. He had taken his case to God, he had trusted all to Him, and Nehemiah did not want a Providence to watch; the God in whom he had put his confidence did not disappoint him.
‘Let me go that I may rebuild Jerusalem,’ says the cup-bearer; and the great Persian king does not refuse his request, but (prompted, it may be, by the queen who was sitting by him) he asks: ’For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return?’
‘And I set him a time.’ How long a time we are not told. Nehemiah did not return to Persia for twelve years; but it is probable that he asked for a shorter leave of absence, and that this was extended later on, in order to enable him to finish his work.
Cheered and encouraged by the king’s manner, feeling sure that God is with him and is prospering him, Nehemiah asks another favour of the king. The Persian empire at that time was of such vast extent, that it reached from the river Indus to the Mediterranean, and the Euphrates was looked upon as naturally dividing it into two parts, east and west. Nehemiah asks, ch. ii. 7, for letters to the governors of the western division of the empire, that they may be instructed to help him and forward him on his way.
He asks, ver. 8, for something more. There is a certain man named Asaph, who has charge of the king’s forest or park (see margin of R.V.). The real word which Nehemiah used was paradise—the king’s paradise. The derivation of the word is from the Persian words Pairi, round about, and Deza, a wall. Up and down their empire, in various places, the Persian kings had these paradises—parks or pleasure grounds—surrounded and shut off from the neighbouring country by a high fence or wall. These paradises were places of beauty and loveliness, where the king and his friends might meet and walk together, and enjoy each other’s society.