A principle of good leadership is that, before we begin we must develop a plan. We must know exactly what work needs to be done. What needs exist, and what problems can be expected?NEHEMIAH 2 :1 And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. 2 Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.”So I became dreadfully afraid, 3 and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?”
4 MONTHS GO BY WHILE NEHEMIAH CONTINUES TO POUR OUT HIS SOUL TO GOD . FINALLY THE NEED OF THE ISRAELITES WEIGHS SO HEAVILY UPON NEHEMIAH'S HEART THAT HE COULD NO LONGER KEEP THE SADNESS FROM SHOWING ON HIS FACE. Nehemiah had not in the past been sad or sorrowful , when he was in the presence of the king. BACK IN THOSE DAYS THE KINGS' SERVANTS WERE EXPECTED TO KEEP THEIR FEELINGS HIDDEN AND TO DISPLAY A CHEERFUL COUNTENANCE. However, on this occasion he appeared to be sad, and the king noticed it and asked the cause. This gave Nehemiah the opportunity he had been praying for to ask the king’s help .
But when the time came, Nehemiah HAS great fear. WE ARE NOT TOLD why Nehemiah was fearful, but if we would put ourselves in his place we can see several reasons why we might be fearful. He was about to ask for a great request of the King. He would not lightly make such a request. HE KNEW THE WHIM OF AN ABSOLUTE RULER COULD MEAN LIFE OR DEATH. There was the possibility that the king could become so angry he could punish Nehemiah. Or he could deny the request and demand that Nehemiah stay in Shushan and not leave.
So as Nehemiah is about to make his request of the king. He first expresses great respect for the king. He said, “Let the king live forever!” This is similar to the modern expression, “Long live the king!” This was a common expression for praising the king.
THEN NOTICE THAT NEHEMIAH ANSWERS THE KING WITH A QUESTION.JEWISH RABBI'S OFTEN ANSWERED A QUESTION WITH A QUESTION.NEHEMIAH FOLLOWED THAT EXAMPLE.INSTEAD OF TELLING THE KING WHAT HE PLANNED TO DO, HE AROUSES THE KINGS' SYMPATHY AND INTEREST WITH A QUESTION.
Wisdom would teach us to speak respectfully to people in positions of power, especially when we have a great request to make of them.
Nehemiah then explained that he was troubled by the problems in his homeland. The city where his fathers had lived and been buried now lay in waste and its gates consumed by fire .
This was Nehemiah’s burden and he uses the opportunity to honestly speak to the king about it.
NEHEMIAH IS CAUTIOUS ABOUT BRINGING HIS REQUEST AND WE GO TO EZRA CH 4 FOR THE REASONS WHY-
[PARAPHRASE briefly]- WHEN THE ENEMIES of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the LORD, the God of Israel. ....
THEY wrote a letter of accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
Ezra 4 :12 The king should know that the Jews who came here to Jerusalem from Babylon are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city. They have already laid the foundation and will soon finish its walls. 13 And the king should know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, it will be much to your disadvantage, for the Jews will then refuse to pay their tribute, customs, and tolls to you....17 Then King Artaxerxes sent this reply:......18 “The letter you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I ordered a search of the records and have found that Jerusalem has indeed been a hotbed of insurrection against many kings. In fact, rebellion and revolt are normal there! 20 Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and the entire province west of the Euphrates River, receiving tribute, customs, and tolls. 21 Therefore, issue orders to have these men stop their work. That city must not be rebuilt except at my express command. 22 Be diligent, and don’t neglect this matter, for we must not permit the situation to harm the king’s interests.23 When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read.... they hurried to Jerusalem. Then, with a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building.
Through these verses we see that Nehemiah had every reason to be concerned that the King may not honor his request.
The king, with the Queen by his side, listens to Nehemiah’ request –
NEHEMIAH 2: 4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
NOTICE HERE NEHEMIAH ONCE AGAIN OFFERS A PRAYER( AND HE'S BEEN PRAYING & FASTING FOR 4 MONTHS). THIS IS ONE OF THOSE SHORT AND SPONTANEOUS PRAYERS- JUST BEFORE HE SPEAKS- WE WOULD PROBABLY SAY - "OH GOD ,PLEASE HELP ME.
Neh 2:5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
NEHEMIAH HUMBLY ASKS THE KING TO SEND HIM- Nehemiah doesn't ask for someone else to be sent- He ,himself ,would go .
6 Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
The king, as would be appropriate before making such a decision, asked for specifics. He wanted to know how long the trip would take and when Nehemiah would return. Note that he assumed Nehemiah would want to return.
We are then told that the king was favorable to Nehemiah’s request and granted it.
Nehemiah set a time (apparently for when he would leave). He had evidently thought this out well ahead of time, and he had a specific plan to propose.
Nehemiah’s plan, however, involved yet more requests of the king.
Neh 2:7 Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Nehemiah asked for letters to the governors in the territory that he would pass through, giving him authority to travel to Judah. Since the entire area was subject to the king of Persia,the local governors would be required to cooperate with Nehemiah and not cause him trouble.
Nehemiah’s third request was for a letter to a man named Asaph, who supervised the forests of the king. Nehemiah wanted this man to be required to provide the timber that would be needed to rebuild the city gates and wall of Jerusalem and a house for Nehemiah himself. We will see that the house was not just for Nehemiah’s benefit, but he was very generous in caring for others .
The king was favorable and granted all Nehemiah’s requests. But Nehemiah gave thanks to God for this favorable result. Neh 2:9 Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.
THE JOURNEY FROM SUSA TO JERUSALEM TAKES ABOUT 2 MONTHS AND WE'RE NOT GIVEN ANY DETAILS ABOUT THE JOURNEY. BUT WHEN NEHEMAIH ARRIVES THE WELCOMING COMMITTEE WAS NOT THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE.
These verses introduce the villains of the story. They are Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Later accounts include Geshem the Arabian .
These men were greatly upset that someone had come to help the Israelites with their problems.We may wonder why anyone would oppose efforts to help the Jews. The answer, of course, is that these men were all enemies of the Jews.
Nehemiah 4:2 tells us that Sanballat was with the army of Samaria. This meant he was part of the mixed breed of Samaritans who had been brought into the land by the Assyrians after they removed the northern tribes of Israel into captivity.
As such, they were not real Israelites and had no inheritance in Israel . Their worship to God was a perversion, which professed to serve God but included idol worship.
Tobiah was an Ammonite. The Ammonites were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot.They lived near the desert east of the Jordan River. Geshem was an Arab. The Arabians have not been mentioned much in the Old Testament and appear to have traveled from place to place without settling in any one area. By this time, however, at least some of these people must have lived in or near the area of Jerusalem. So they were not happy to see the Jews prosper.
All three of these men apparently had some local authority. The fact they are mentioned immediately after Nehemiah reported to the governors may imply they were among the governors. ,or had close ties to them .
We will see THROUGH OUT THIS STUDY the problems they caused as the story progressed and how Nehemiah and the Jews dealt with them.
Neh 2: 11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode.
FOR THE 1ST 3 DAYS NEHEMIAH DOES NOTHING .
Then he went out at night to view the wall. He took a few men with him, but he didn't tell anyone of his intentions. He didn't even take an animal except the one he rode on.
A principle of good leadership is that, before we begin we must develop a plan. We must know exactly what work needs to be done. What needs exist, and what problems can be expected?
Then we must determine where to start and how to proceed. Too often people jump into a project without having thought it through. They are disorganized,
have no plan, and have set no priorities. This often leads to discouragement and failure. Nehemiah began by inspecting the situation so he could formulate a plan.
Neh 2 : 13 And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. 15 So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.
IN VS 11-16 WE'RE TOLD NEHEMIAH DID ALL THESE VISITS AT NIGHT- PRESUMABLY SO THAT THE ENEMY DID NOT KNOW WHAT HE WAS DOING.
But as he went, he viewed the condition of the wall and the gates. We are told little except that, at the King’s pool there was no room for the animal to pass. we can presume that the rubble was so bad it was impassable for his animal.
Then he returned to the Valley Gate by which he had begun.
Neh 2: 17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.
NEHEMIAH'S APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE WHO WERE WITH HIM WAS POSITIVE- HE FOCUSED ON THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF GOD. HE HAD ONLY BEEN IN THE CITY A FEW DAYS AND SPOKE OF " WE"& "US"- NOT "YOU" AND "THEM"
First he challenged them by describing the problem they faced. He talked about the distress they faced because the city was still laid waste (specifically referring to the wall), and the gates had been burned . The people, of course, knew this. But sometimes people live with a situation so long they fail to see the seriousness of the problem. They had done little or nothing about it for years, so Nehemiah had to begin by motivating them to see how bad things were so
they would want to do something about it.
NEHEMIAH CAME WITH A NEW VISION AND NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THE PROBLEMS. He urged them to build the wall so they would no longer be a reproach. The wall was a source of protection, but to be without the wall was also a reminder to them and everyone else that they were a defeated, fallen, and defenseless nation. The city had been destroyed because of their sin. To restore the wall would indicate a restoration of their favor with God and of their commitment as a nation to work for Him.
NEHEMIAH THEN GAVE THE PEOPLE A TESTIMONY OF HOW GOD HAD HELPED HIM .
Neh 2:18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.
NEHEMIAH WORKED NO MIRACLES BUT HE GAVE THE PEOPLE A NEW VISION OF GOD'S SUFFICIENCY THAT CAUSED THEM TO RISE UP AND BE MOTIVATED TO REBUILD THE WALL.
Nehemiah motivates the people by telling the good as well as the bad. He tells of the work that needed to be done, but he also gave them reason to believe they could do it. We need to do the same in motivating ourselves to work for God. Yes, we often face great problems.But we shouldn't be discouraged but trust in God to provide what we need to accomplish His work.He can give the victory if we will use what He provides.
NEHEMIAH WAS NOT ONLY ABLE TO CHALLENGE HIS OWN PEOPLE ,HE WAS ALSO ABLE TO STAND AGAINST THE ENEMY AND EFFECTIVELY DEAL WITH THEIR OPPOSITION.
Neh 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”20 So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”
When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem SAW THAT THE ISRAELITES MEANT BUSINESS THEY LAUNCHED A CAMPIAGN TO STOP AND HINDER THEM.
As with most enemies, their first attempt was to discourage the work by speaking against it.They laughed at the people and expressed their hatred and spite. Then they implied that the action constituted rebellion against the king.Nehemiah’s response to the ridicule was that God would prosper the Jews in their work, so they would proceed with the work trusting in Him. People may ridicule and say it cannot be done, but if we are on God’s side, He will provide what we need.
Then Nehemiah argued that these enemies had no heritage, right, or memorial in Jerusalem.Basically, this was not their job. They had no right to be involved in it anyway, so why should the people pay any attention to them?
They were not really Jews, but were people of other nations. Their service to God was a perversion, so the Jews would not allow them to participate in the
work even if they had wanted to do so. In essence, Nehemiah was saying it was “none of their business.”
We must always remember whom we work for, whom we seek to please, and who is the source of our strength. If we work for people or to please people, such as these enemies, then it might make sense to quit if they are unhappy by our work. But if they are not the ones we seek to please, if they ultimately have no power over us, and if they are not involved in the work anyway,why should we care what they think or say? Why should their opinions alter our work? Too often we are unduly influenced by people who have no right to influence us. They will
not ultimately be our judges. They will not determine our reward. They cannot ultimately bless or punish us. We are working for Someone far greater and more important, Who can give us a true reward. We must ignore those feebleminded humans who oppose us and determine instead to please the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
BEFORE WE JOIN THE WORKERS ON THE WALL NEXT WEEK WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES- WHETHER WE ARE THE KIND OF LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS GOD WANTS US TO BE.
WERE IT NOT FOR THE DEDICATION AND DETERMINATION THAT CAME FROM HIS FAITH IN GOD - NEHEMIAH WOULD HAVE NEVER ACCEPTED NOR FINISHED THE WORK ON THE WALL.