Thus, if we read the Book of Malachi carefully, we shall find much that throws light on Nehemiah’s history; and we can easily imagine how much the prophet’s sympathy and help must have cheered and strengthened the great reformer in his trying and difficult work.
What became of Nehemiah, the great cup-bearer, the faithful governor of Jerusalem, we do not know. Whether he returned to Persia and took up his old work in the palace, standing behind the king’s chair in his office of Rab-shakeh, or whether he remained in Jerusalem, guarding his beloved city from enemies without and from false friends within, we are not told. Whether he died in the prime of life, or whether he lived to a good old age, neither the Bible nor profane history informs us.
But although we know nothing of Nehemiah’s death, we know much of his life. We have watched him carefully and closely, and there is one thing which we cannot fail to have noticed, and that is that Nehemiah was emphatically a man of prayer. In every trouble, in each anxiety, in all times of danger, he turned to God. Standing behind the king’s chair, Nehemiah prayed; in his private room in the Shushan palace, he pleaded for Jerusalem; and all through his rough anxious life as a reformer and a governor, we find him constantly lifting up his heart to God in short earnest prayers. When Tobiah mocked his work, when the Samaritans threatened to attack the city, when the people were inclined to be angry with him for his reforms, when he discovered that there were traitors and hired agents of Sanballat inside the very walls of Jerusalem, when he brought upon himself enmity and hatred because of his faithful dealing in the matter of the temple store-house, when he had to encounter difficulty and opposition in his determination with regard to the observance of the Sabbath, and when he still further incensed the half-hearted Jews by his prompt punishment of those who had taken heathen wives, and by his summary dismissal of Manasseh; in all these times of danger, difficulty, and trial, we find Nehemiah turning to the Lord in prayer.
There was one prayer of which he seems to have been especially fond, three times over does Nehemiah ask God to remember him.
‘Think upon me, my God, for good,’ v. 19.
‘Remember me, O my God,’ xiii. 14.
‘Remember me, O my God, for good,’ xiii. 31.
Can it be that this prayer was suggested to him by the words of his friend, the prophet Malachi? Can it be, that as he and Nehemiah took sweet counsel together, and spoke together of the Lord they loved, Malachi may have spoken those beautiful words which we find in chap. in. 16, 17, of his prophecy, in order to cheer and encourage his disheartened and unappreciated friend:—
’They that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.’