By His providence God often places His people in strategic positions in order to accomplish His purposes. Nehemiah was just such a man.
As the king’s cupbearer, Nehemiah held one of the most important positions a court attendant could have in the ancient world. Cupbearers tasted a ruler’s food and drink so as to test its safety and ensure against poisoning. In the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian courts, notorious for political intrigue and assassination, the position of cupbearer carried an enormous responsibility.
Usually foreigners, cupbearers often became trusted confidants of the rulers they served. Given the nature of their position, they tended to enjoy unusual political privilege and prestige. It was in a ruler’s self-interest to keep his tasters happy, so their requests were heard and their wishes frequently granted.
Nehemiah used his trusted position not for his own advantage but as a means to serve God and His people. Unburdening himself to the king concerning the situation at Jerusalem, he requested and received a leave of absence and letters of authority commissioning him to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
The lessons of Nehemiah are clear: Where has God placed us in order to accomplish His will? What positions and responsibilities do we hold that might be useful to do good, to serve others, and most importantly, to serve God?