Introduction: Book of Nehemiah
One of my favorite books because we see
Man’s faith and God in action.
I would like us to look at Nehemiah’s great project:
BUILDING THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM
Because it parallels the great job we have on the Marsh building up our churches.
Nehemiah had a problem:
How he went about it solving it, I think, gives us very helpful pointers if we want to see our Church St Nicholas’ grow.
Who was Nehemiah?
Cupbearer to Artaxerxes I
He would have been the confidante and favourite of King.
Often a position given to foreigners.
Wielded a lot of political influence.
His job: To taste the king’s wine before the king himself, in case of poisoning!!
I. THE PROBLEM: Neh. 1: 1-11
It must have looked a daunting task for Nehemiah
He wanted to be allowed to rebuild the Walls of Jerusalem.
Why did the walls need rebuilding?
Because in 587 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon had sacked the city, broken down the walls and taken the people into captivity
Why bother with the walls you might ask.
i) Symbolised protection physically
ii) Showed significance of Nation.
iii) Defined boundaries of city.
As we look at Nehemiah’s actions in Chapter 1 we see a number of practical points that we can apply in our situation.
1. Nehemiah recognized the problem (Neh 1:3-4)
He was realistic. He didn’t gloss over the problem.
The broken down walls were a disgrace and the lack of protection for the Jews, meant that God’s people were open to the attack from Samaritans and Arabs.
This drew Nehemiah to pray – not that someone else would be the solution but that he would be (Neh 1:11)
Thought: Don’t pray unless you are prepared to be the solution
2. Nehemiah took problem to the Lord - Neh. 1:5-10
Nehemiah got down to business with God. He showed his earnestness in prayer and fasting
Thought: Are we really earnest about our needs – that we will set aside time to fast and pray about it?
3. He confessed the sinfulness of his people and identified with them
Nehemiah did not take a holier than thou approach (Neh.1: 5-9.)
Thought: We need to be honest and frank with God.
4. He actually asked for what he wanted
He didn’t beat about the bush – he got down to prayerful business with God
He wasn’t afraid to ask God for success.
The ground must be properly prepared for God’s work.
We need to identify with the problem and be prepared to be part of the answer
II. NEHEMIAH EXPLOITED THE CIRCUMSTANCES Neh. 2:1-9.
God often prepares people for a work by putting them in the right place.
Nehemiah had an opportunity to present his request. He was probably in a unique position (among the exile Jews) to do so effectively.
What do we see about Nehemiah’s character?
i) Obviously Nehemiah had a good reputation with the king. He was a man to be trusted.
ii) He did his homework right
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Pr.15.22
When the king asked what he wanted he didn’t say: “Can I put a committee together to discuss what we need.”
He made specific requests: first for safe conduct and then for a grant (a letter to Asaph the king’s forester to give him all the assistance he needed) - Neh 2:7-8
iii) Why had Nehemiah planned out what he needed?
May I suggest that he believed God would grant his request, despite the fact that we work had been stopped before
Thought: When we pray do we really expect an answer?
iv) Nehemiah could have been proud of his success in being made Governor of Jerusalem.
But he was humble in acknowledging God and gave Him the glory for his success. "because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the King granted my request." Neh. 2:8
III: PERSEVERENCE IN ADVERSITY Neh. 2:10 & 19 & 20.
Sanballat the Horite and Tobiah the Ammonite opposed him.
Nehemiah rebukes them, not by name calling but merely by saying:
God has called us to do this. We will do it and
You have nothing to do with our work. (Neh.2:20).
FIRM AND FACTUAL.
i) Satan is out to stop us.
If it really is God’s work, expect discouragement and be ready for it
ii) Expect opposition in Christian work.
Just because someone is a Christian won’t stop him/her opposing God’s work.
Remember Jesus told us to be “as wise as serpents but as innocent as doves “(Mt 10:16)
iii) Popularity - forget it!!
Don’t be surprised if we aren’t popular with some folk if we are doing God’s work
Jesus is our Example – he was hated. Remember what he said
If the world hates you keep in mind that it hated me first (Jn 15:18)
No servant is greater than his master. (Jn 15:20)
iv) Use all legal means to achieve your goals: Neh 2:4.
Nehemiah used his access to the King to get permission to rebuild (Neh.2:8).
Moses actually got Pharoah’s consent for the Children of Israel to leave Egypt. (Ex.12:32)
Paul uses his Roman citizenship to avoid unfair treatment (Acts 16 and 22)
Paul uses his Pharisaical background to confuse his attackers (Acts 22);
God does not use dishonest methods.
IV. PREPARATIONS FOR THE ACTUAL RECONSTRUCTION
i. Nehemiah "cased the joint" Neh. 2:11-17
In God’s Work it is important to see what you are being called to do and to see if you are prepared to do it.
We need to use the brains the Lord has given us in preparing to do His work. After all those are the gifts He has given you.
Nehemiah had obviously been reliable in the service of the King of Persia. So much so that the king to be allowed to go – and didn’t fear that Nehemiah might start a rebellion.
b) He shared his Vision with likeminded people Neh. 2:17 & 18
In God’s Kingdom there is team work.
We do not build our bit of the wall alone with no reference to others.
a) We need to see the breadth and depth of the task God has for us.
b) We need to count the cost. Luke 14:28-34
c) Some are so "heavenly minded" that they are no "earthly use"
d) Team work:
Church building is not a one man show.
List of builders recorded to show us that each one how ever insignificant is valuable and God records their work.
e) True leader is necessary who can CO-ORDINATE the work.
f) Convert talk into ACTION - Build!
Key verse: -" Let us start rebuilding" (Neh 2:18)
V. THE ACTUAL RECONSTRUCTION
1. Allocation of the Work. Neh. 3
Nehemiah doesn’t do all the work himself. HE DELEGATES.
As Christians leaders we need to learn to delegate - especially the work with the greatest kudos.
Remember in the Kingdom of God, it is the leader that should be servant of all.
Although we don’t know much about many of the builders - other than their names, there is a warning with one the builders.
2. Watch out for the Eliashibs of this world
We see In Nehemiah 3: 3 that the Sheep Gate was repaired by Eliashib and the priests
Josephus tells us that Eliashib was High Priest when Ezra came to Jerusalem.
He helped building the wall but later compromised by forming a marriage alliance with Tobiah (Neh.13:4) one of the opponents of the work of reconstruction.
He even gave Tobiah a room in the Temple precincts (Neh.13.5).
One of his grandsons married Sanballat’s daughter.
You can’t have a traitor in the camp. Beware of Eliashibs. People who look like they are on board when they aren’t.
Also do not be fooled by past performance.
Just because Eliashib had worked for the Lord once, doesn’t mean he was still trustworthy. We need to be wise
It is the heart and not the work that God looks at. Remember how David was called a man after God’s own heart.1 Ki.3:6
3. Nehemiah took preventative measures to stop real attacks from enemy
In the euphoria of the work - be wise. Look what Nehemiah did
i) Resisted psychological attack.
- they (Sanballat and Tobiah) tried to destroy leader Neh 6:2
- they tried to dishearten the people Neh. 6:9
- they tried to dishearten the leader from within Jerusalem itself Neh.6:10-13.
ii) Nehemiah resisted physical attack Neh. 4:13-18
Guards = prayers
Builders = high profile Christian workers.
Nehemiah succeeded in his project Neh.6:15
The wall was finished in 52 days - Quickly and efficiently
Enemy lost heart (Neh.6:16) and God’s Work was accomplished (Neh. 6:15).