Cupbearer to the king

Pastor Bob began his sermon series on the book of Nehemiah this past Sunday, and as with any opening sermon, a lot of groundwork must be set. Yet one particular phrase stuck with me from the text last Sunday. At the end of chapter one, in verse 11, as he finishes his prayer, Nehemiah tells us something, gives us a piece of information that’s important for us to understand as he recounts his story. The NIV simply translates it “I was cupbearer to the king.” But the literal translation of the Hebrew is more as if Nehemiah is an actor on stage, playing through this narrative, and he breaks the fourth wall and says, “side note, just so you’re aware: I was cupbearer to the king.”

For us following Nehemiah’s story, this means little to us. We can maybe assume he might have friends in high places, that maybe he drinks a lot of wine, maybe even that he has a complete drinkware set from Bed Bath & Beyond. But what is the purpose of him telling us this? I am eager to see the reasons for this as we go forward and hear more from God’s Word as Pastor Bob preaches. Yet, this has got me thinking, why is it important that God has placed us where we are? What could we say about the place we are right now, whether we like it or not? Perhaps its important that we should consider what our “cupbearer to the king” role is. Maybe, it’s “I am the parent to 4 kids”, maybe it’s “I am a seller of cars”, maybe it’s “I am a student at Grand Valley State University”. It could be any number of places where we find ourselves, but Nehemiah reminds us that no matter where we are stationed, God can and will use us in the place that we are.

Nehemiah’s place in the world may seem small to us, it may seem boring or insignificant, but within the Kingdom of God and the story of Redemption, it is large. Nehemiah as cupbearer to the king is able to use his position close to the king in order to return and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the city where God was present.

Nehemiah’s story reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth. He writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Our tendency is to think that only large, grandiose gestures are those things that can give glory to God, but no, everything we do, every place we are, we have opportunities to give glory to God and join in His mission. Where are you stationed? What is your cupbearer to the king moment? We all have them, and they are all opportunities to give glory to God.

Tim McHugh – Temporary IT Guy & Pastor Kathy’s son-in-law