Summary: As we look at the life & experiences of Nehemiah we find again & again that Nehemiah deals with problems & decisions that are very relevant to us today. (Powerpoints available - #321)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the seventh of a Leadership series featuring Nehemiah. Some ideas & illustrations in these messages were based on or benefited greatly from, to varying extents, the book “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll.)
(The Powerpoints used with this sermon are available free. Just email me at email@example.com and request PP #321.)
INTRO: I have always considered myself a rather practical individual. "How do things work? Is there a better way to do them?" Maybe deep down I’m just a frustrated efficiency expert. However, I’m fairly sure that my wife would call me "frustrating" instead of "frustrated," & she probably wouldn’t use the word "expert" either.
But whatever the case, the Book of Nehemiah appeals to me because it is such a practical book. As we go through its pages & look at the life & experiences of Nehemiah we find again & again that Nehemiah deals with problems & decisions that are very relevant to us today.
A. During these past few weeks we have seen Nehemiah being called by God to leave his very important job in the palace of King Artaxerxes of Persia to go & rebuild the walls & city of Jerusalem.
Since then Nehemiah has faced great adversities: criticism, plots by his enemies, complaints by the workers, famine, inflation, greedy merchants, & much, much more. But step by step, problem by problem, Nehemiah has gone to God for help & guidance, & now the work on the walls is nearly done!
B. Adversity is a painful teacher. The dictionary says that "adversity" is "marked by unhappiness, hardships, & distress." Nehemiah experienced all of that, & to one extent or another, so have we.
It may have been the heartache of an unhappy job, or the discouragement of losing a job. It may have been the feeling that no one needs you or wants you anymore. It may have been the embarrassment of standing in the unemployment line or having to ask for help to make ends meet.
ILL. Thirty years ago the hottest thing going in the Houston area was the space program at NASA. People with PHD’s who were involved in the space program felt secure. There were planets to explore - rockets to be built - shuttle systems to be designed. It seemed that their task would never end. But almost overnight, for some, their dreams became a nightmare.
Space projects were shelved - contracts withdrawn - jobs terminated. Men & women, highly educated & skilled, suddenly found themselves either demoted or fired - & disillusioned. And some PHD’s were mowing lawns & pumping gas because jobs in their fields were gone. And now it seems to be happening again.
C. But that isn’t Nehemiah’s problem. In fact, as we look at Nehemiah 5:14 we find that Nehemiah has just been promoted. King Artaxerxes has appointed him Governor of Judah. Nehemiah is now the highest official in all the land.
So we can assume that Nehemiah’s adversities are over. He is Governor, & all of his problems are gone.
PROP. Don’t you believe it! If Nehemiah thought he had problems as a wall builder, wait until he comes face to face with the adversities of being the Governor. In fact, he soon found himself having to deal with 2 major problems.
I. THE PROBLEM OF CORRUPTION & OPPRESSION
The first problem Nehemiah faced was corruption, the corrupt practices of former governors. We read about those in vs. 15: “But the earlier governors – those preceding me – placed a heavy burden on the people.” In other words, taxes were too high.
Then it goes on to say “…& took 40 shekels of silver from them in addition to food & wine.” That is payola bribery. In other words, people came around & said, "Say, if you want to get your street paved, a little bread & wine & a few shekels of silver will sure go a long ways toward getting your job up toward the top of the priority list."
Vs. 15 also goes on to say that, "Their assistants also lorded it over the people." The people had been overtaxed, oppressed, & intimidated by a corrupt government that was caught up in an abuse of its power.
ILL. When Nehemiah walked into his office that first day in the governor’s mansion, I imagine the room was full of people waiting to see him. "Gov. Nehemiah, we’re so happy that you’ve been promoted to this exalted office. There is a lot of responsibility & you’re going to need some help. But we know exactly how things work around here, so leave it to us. We’ll take care of the details for you."
Maybe someone even whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry about it. That is just the way the system works. And if you have some buddies who need a job, nobody will squawk. So enjoy your position. You have the perfect setup here.”