Summary: We pray & we pray but nothing seems to happen. "God, are you asleep up there? Don't you hear my prayers?" Weeks may pass & nothing seems to happen! So what do we do? (Powerpoints available - #316)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the second 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and request PP #316.)
A. In every area of life there almost always seems to be someone who is above us someone with authority over us. Like it or not, virtually everybody has someone, somewhere, to whom he or she is answerable.
So, how do we handle that? How do we deal with that one who is over us?
Usually we're a lot better at being leaders than we are at being led. That's the reason the saying, "Too many chiefs & not enough indians" is still around today. We all would like to be chiefs because few of us really like to submit to the authority of others.
B. Now, to lead our thoughts to the major point of my sermon this morning, I want to read Proverbs 21:1 as found in the American Standard Version of the Bible. It says, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord." Now you need to realize that when it mentions "channels of water," it is talking about irrigation channels.
So what that proverb is saying is that the king's heart, regardless of how powerful & strong he might be, in the hands of the Lord is like water in an irrigation channel. The Lord can change the direction the water flows. And He can change the way that king thinks & the way he responds.
And if the Lord can do that to a king think what he can do to those who have authority over you.
PROP. Now what does all this have to do with Nehemiah? Let's look at the book of Nehemiah once again.
I. NEHEMIAH HAS A PROBLEM
A. Nehemiah has a problem. He is cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, the ruler of the Persian Empire. Now, "Cupbearer" may not be an impressive title, but the cupbearer is a very important person. His task is to taste the king's food & wine to make certain that no one has poisoned it.
The king's life is in his hands. So the person who serves as cupbearer must be someone the king trusts completely & without reservation.
Historians say that the cupbearer oftentimes was the king's closest friend & advisor. Probably no one else, with the possible exception of the queen, had more influence on the king than his cupbearer. In the eyes of the people Nehemiah is an important man!
He is very important in King Artaxerxes' eyes too, because it is not easy to find someone you're willing to trust with your life. And when you do, if you are a king, you never want to let him go.
That was the big problem for Nehemiah. You see, Nehemiah is a very devout Jew who lives in Sousa, far from Jerusalem. His brother had just returned from there, telling him that Jerusalem is still in ruins, & the Jews there are in desperate straits.
As a devout Jew, Nehemiah is concerned about his homeland, & is so disturbed by the news that he mourns for days. He stops eating & starts praying to God for Jerusalem, asking, "What can I do about Jerusalem?" Somehow, some way, he must go to rebuild Jerusalem!
B. Now history tells us that King Artaxerxes, whom Nehemiah served, was a very autocratic ruler, stubborn & strong willed, & very difficult to deal with. We have all known people like that, haven't we?
Well, that was the attitude Nehemiah faced. So how was he going to get the King’s permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? And how was he going to get King Artaxerxes to let him go to supervise the work?
How? Is Nehemiah going to walk into the king's presence & say, "You can take this job & shove it?" Or should he just submit his resignation, give 60 days notice, & then join the earliest caravan for Jerusalem? What should Nehemiah do?
II. WHAT DID NEHEMIAH DO?
A. Well, the first thing Nehemiah actually did was to pray, & that prayer is recorded in Nehemiah 1:5-11.
1. He begins his prayer by praising God for who He is. He honors Him as one who keeps His promises to those who love Him & obey His commands. Listen to vs’s 5-6,
“O Lord, God of heaven, the great & awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him & obey His commands, let your ear be attentive & your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day & night for your servants, the people of Israel.”