Summary: Learn how God used Nehemiah to spark a renewal in Israel and how he can use you to spark renewal.
I want to look at a man I call God’s spark plug. You know the purpose of a spark plug. A spark plug is the little device that sends a spark into the engine of a car, lawn mower or similar device to ignite the engine. Even so, God wants to use you to serve as a spark plug in His service: at church, at home, at work and wherever you go. The man of whom I speak was Nehemiah. Follow his story. In Nehemiah 1:3 we find Nehemiah receiving a burden from the Lord. He was told of the devastation of Jerusalem. He was told of the discouraged spirit of the Israelite people. Nehemiah was living in a place called “Susa” or “Shushan”. This city is located in the southwestern part of what we call Iran. The Israelite people had been carried into captivity by the Babylonians. Many of the Jewish people had returned home. Nehemiah was still living in the area where the Israelite people had been held captive. He receives the report from some of his fellow Jewish people. In 2:5 we read where Nehemiah goes to the king and requests a leave of absence so that he can visit his homeland. He was a cup bearer in the King’s palace. Nehemiah received permission from the king to visit his homeland and so he returned home. He found his homeland tattered and torn. The wall around Jerusalem was torn down and the people’s spirits were broken. In 6:15 we find the rest of the story. Nehemiah did not sit idly and take this sitting down. He became a spark plug to get something moving. He lead the Israelite people to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. They were able to complete the job in 52 days. What an accomplishment! What was there about Nehemiah that God used in making him a spark plug for God’s people? Let’s learn from him.
I. God’s spark plug is moved by a burden. Many people watched in apathy while the wall around Jerusalem lay in ruins. Not Nehemiah. God gave him a burden to do something about the conditions. If God shows you something it may mean he wants you to do something about it.
A. Many people are afflicted by apathy. Nehemiah‘s burden motivated him to get involved.
Illustration: Many people are like the player Frank Laden confronted. Frank Laden was a former coach of the Utah Jazz in the seventies. He had problems with a basketball player, and so he summoned the talented but troubled man to his
office. Looking at the player, the coach finally asked, "My son, I can’t understand it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?" What was the player’s typical unconcerned response? The player said, "Coach, I don’t know and I don’t care!"
(Sports Illustrated "They said it!" 1990 Oxmoor House 26) (Contributed to Sermon Central by Dan Cormie)
B. Look at Nehemiah’s burden. It is found in verse 4. “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (NKJV) Lets take a closer look at several words in this verse.
First, the word “wept.” You expect people to weep over certain things. You expect a parent to shed a tear when their child marries. You expect a person to cry at a loved ones funeral. However, Nehemiah wept because Jerusalem was in shambles and God’s people were discouraged.
There is nothing wrong with crying. Consider the following Biblical examples.
“Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.” (Ps. 126:5-6 NKJV)
“Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jer. 9:1 NKJV)
“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it” (Lk. 19:41 NKJV)
Illustration: Across the street from the bombed out Federal Building in Oklahoma City, where 168 people died needlessly and senselessly, there stands a memorial. At the heart of that memorial is a nine foot statue of Jesus. But this statue is not one of a stony Jesus with arms out wide like you may have seen in the Ozarks or in Brazil. No, this is a nine foot statue of Jesus with his face in his hands, turned slightly away from where the acts of terror took place, and the plaque reads, "And Jesus Wept."
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Dean Kennedy)
A second word that described Nehemiah’s burden is the word “mourned.” Nehemiah was burdened, as if somebody had died. We should not be people who reflect a depressed spirit. We ought to be happy! However, we should be burdened for those who are lost and for the things of God.