Summary: Set-backs can have a great purpose in fulfilling the will of God if we will allow them to work for us.
Nehemiah 13:1-2 KJV On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever;  Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.
I. INTRODUCTION—THE BACKGROUND OF NEHEMIAH
A. Nehemiah’s Dilemma
-This story that Nehemiah tells is a sad one in the beginning. The walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he had besieged Jerusalem. There had been some abortive attempts to rebuild them (Ezra 4:6-23).
-As a side note, you can read the book of Ezra in conjunction with the book of Nehemiah. Ezra’s book tells about the rebuilding of the Temple and Nehemiah is concerned with the story of the walls.
-The walls had remained in ruins for a century and a half. Because of the destroyed walls, Israel was left in state that made her susceptible to her numerous enemies that were around. Apathy, fear, discouragement, and complacency had allowed the walls to remain down far longer than what they should have been.
-One scholar (Kenyon, Digging Up, p. 170) notes:
“The effect of Jerusalem was much more disastrous and far-reaching than merely to render the city defenceless. . . The whole system of terraces down the (eastern) slope, dependent on retaining walls buttressed in turn by the fill of the next lower terrace, was ultimately dependent on the town wall at the base, forming the lowest and most substantial of the retaining walls.”
-Nehemiah comes along and appears to be the man that God has set aside for this choice job. But before Nehemiah ever got started building the wall, he had a great crisis in his heart at the condition that he saw his home in.
Nehemiah 1:3-4 KJV And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.  And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
-The astounding fact about this whole story is that in a matter of fifty-two days, Nehemiah had marshaled his men and they had fought through the challenging circumstances and moved past their enemies to rebuild the walls.
-The passage we read from Nehemiah concentrates the story of the mercenary prophet, Balaam, who went to curse Israel in the audience of Balak and the Moabites.
-He looked down on the encampment of the Israelites and when he opened his mouth, it came forth blessing instead of cursing.
A. God’s Reversal
-There is something about the reversals of God that works out for the saints of God in a powerful way. The devil is always working in the opposite direction. He seeks to turn blessings into cursings and he accomplishes this by turning man against God. It is through subtlety, temptation, and sometimes sheer strength that he may work.
-Man isn’t much better because he can turn a blessing into a curse too! Through his mental capacity, his social position, and sometimes his wealth, he can work against the purposes of God.
-Man is not basically good. . . he is depraved and he will use every instrument and occasion to evil to be corrupt.
-But God starts working in all of it to let His prevailing will be worked out! God works in mysterious ways.
• Fine gold has often been found under a barren and unprotected surface of rock.
• Rare jewels have been found in crevices of rocks and in among the pebbles in river beds.
• Beautiful flowers can often be found in the rock confines along Rocky Mountain ranges.
• Palm trees have lifted their long leaves in the middle of deserts.
-God can do things so out of the ordinary and so unexpectedly that it astounds us. In places where we would expect curses, we find blessing!
• Joseph in the Egyptian courts.
• Obadiah hidden among Ahab’s henchmen.
• Saints growing in Caesar’s household.
• Nehemiah in the middle of a wicked eastern king.
-Cursings turned into blessings!
B. Nothing But Slag
I read a story told by Russell Conwell about a young man who lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania years ago. It just so happened that he inherited an iron furnace after his grandfather and father had passed away. He was a young man who had inherited a passel of wealth and as many have in the past was not accustomed to know what to do to handle it.