Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Do you have a vision for this broken world? See the need, feel the need, share the need and then meet the need.


It was a beautiful day that afternoon so I decided to go for a walk. I was in the city of Cochabamba Bolivia August 1986. For 3 months I had worked in a medical clinic as part of a summer missions trip. Today was an off day so I did a little shopping at the market and was relaxing . I had just bought an ice cream and was sitting on a park bench in the downtown square when I saw a large group of people coming towards me down the street with signs and banners. I thought to myself, “great – a parade!” and sat back to enjoy the show. As the parade came closer I tried to make out the words on the banner they were holding. I was still learning Spanish. The words seemed familiar “Matar Gringos”. I knew the word gringo meant foreigner – people like me. I didn’t understand the word Matar. I took a picture as the parade approached. Just then I noticed something. Everyone was staring at me. Then it hit me – Matar meant KILL. Unknown to me, weeks earlier American forces had entered Bolivia and began burning cocaine fields. Thousands of Bolivians were marching in protest and the object of their hate – Americans. People started pointing and shouting at me so I ran for my life. What I thought was a parade turned out to be a mob who wanted me dead. That sunny town square into riot zone as people burned flags and acted out in rage. Today too many Christians and churches are basking in the sun, taking the day off, blissfully unaware that the world around them is changing.

Nehe 1:1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, `If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ 10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king.

The setting is about 500 years before the time of Christ. God’s people had lived in Israel for centuries before. God had told them: “Obey Me and you’ll live in the land for a long time. Disobey Me and there will be consequences.” That’s what happened. The Babylonians came and conquered God’s people and took the people far away. But the discipline was ending. Several years before Nehemiah’s day, some of God’s people were given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild a broken down temple and a broken down city.

The attempts to rebuild the protective wall around the city (destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC) had been frustrated by some of ‘the enemies of Judah’ (Ezra 4:1, 7-16). As a result very few people lived in the capital city (Nehemiah 11:1). Jerusalem was a city of ruins.

Nehemiah lived in the royal city of Susa, the winter residence of Artaxerxes, the Persian king. Judah, the homeland of Nehemiah, was a thousand miles away. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. He was more than a “butler”. A cupbearer held a position of great responsibility. At each meal, he tested the king’s wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. If he died, then the king wouldn’t. Doesn’t sound like a great job. But think. A man who stood that close to the king in public had to be handsome, cultured, knowledgeable, and able to advise the king when asked. Because he had access to the king, the cupbearer was a man of great influence.

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