Summary: This sermon is part of a series I preached on Nehemiah’s one holy passion, the glory of God.
One Holy Passion
February 18, 2001
¡§Credit Where Credit is Due¡¨
„h Israel and Judah conquered by outside invaders due to their sin.
„h Nehemiah is distressed at the plight of the city.
„h Nehemiah determines to pray and act.
¡§Learn this lesson from Nehemiah: you never lighten the load until you have first felt the pressure in your own soul. You are never used by God to bring blessing until God has opened your eyes and made you see things as they are. There is no other preparation for Christian work than that. Nehemiah was called to build the walls, but first he had to weep over the ruins.¡¨ Alan Redpath
(Read Scripture & Pray)
I like sayings. My Granny always had sayings to live by. She said, ¡§¡¥can¡¦t never could do anything.¡¦¡¨ The Army says, ¡§The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.¡¨ The question is asked, ¡§How do you eat an elephant?¡¨ the answer is given, ¡§One bite at a time.¡¨ And another goes like this: ¡§if we always do what we¡¦ve always done, we¡¦ll always get what we¡¦ve always gotten.¡¨ These all address one subject: performing a seemingly impossible task!
Nehemiah faced a difficult task; he was going to go to a place he had never been and work with people he had never met to do a task he had never done. As we will see today, his response was to pray like he had never prayed and to plan like he had never planned; in the final analysis, he saw God use him like he had never used him before!
Sometimes the hardest part of a job is preparing to do the job. Painting isn¡¦t particularly difficult; the harder work is doing all of the work it takes to get ready to put the paint on the wall!
In the story of Nehemiah, the lion¡¦s share of the work was done before Nehemiah and company laid their first brick! Once the workers had their tools and bricks in hand, the hardest part of the job was completed!
What was a cupbearer? (1:11)
The last sentence of chapter 1 is really where we begin today. It reads like this, ¡§Now I was a well-schooled building contractor.¡¨ That what your Bible says? Actually, some translations read ¡§butler¡¨, but ¡§cup-bearer¡¨ is more accurate, but even there we are given to understand that this was a position that usually was more than just a person who brought the wine to the king.
„h Well-trained in court etiquette
This is important to remember when we get into the passage; Nehemiah knew what was expected in the presence of the king¡Xand what was unallowable as well!
„h Knowledgeable as to which wines to place before the king
„h Probably a confidant, a good listener
Very likely a person in whom the king could and did confide.
„h One who might have wielded great influence with the king
„h One who enjoyed the confidence of the king
The king trusted this person to taste his wine¡Xand make sure that it wasn¡¦t poisoned¡Xand so this person was a man who had earned the confidence of the king.
Interestingly, there is some suggestion that Esther, who would have been the stepmother of Artaxerxes, might have even played a role in likely the hiring of a fellow Jew, Nehemiah. Whether or not that is the case, it is possible that she was living during this time and almost certain that Nehemiah would have known of the story of how she had risked her life to save her people. Her example of bravery was no doubt an inspiration to all who heard it; her words ¡§if I perish, I perish!¡¨, uttered in the face of adversity and signifying her willingness to lay her life on the line for her people, might have proven a real inspiration to Nehemiah to do the same. Mordecai had said to Queen Esther, ¡§Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?¡¨
A couple of weeks ago, I was excited to renew acquaintances with my best buddy from junior high school¡Xwhom I had not seen face-to-face in 25 years! It has been my joy in the last couple of years to reconnect with Wayde, and to try to help him in his walk with God. I encouraged him to get back into fellowship with God and with a good local church in the town where he and his family are living. They¡¦ve done just that, much to my delight. As we ate lunch together, his wife, who works as a nurse in an elementary school, told me of her concern for children in the area who are poor and need some very basic things like shoes and clothing. Wayde and Connie had out of their own pockets provided for some of these kids. Her question to me was, ¡§why doesn¡¦t the church do more for some of these folks in need?¡¨ I was able to share with her this encouragement: ¡§what is the possibility that a sovereign God has been arranging the events in your life so that you can take some leadership in your church to provide a ministry to these folks? Is it possible that God has put you where you are for such a time as this?¡¨ I got an email from Wayde early last week in which he indicated that they were going to go to the pastor of their church to talk about how they could lead out in just such a ministry!