Summary: Ezra and Nehemiah provide a biblical background for us. They led a people facing far more difficult circumstances to a point of great success in their work, in their national identity, and in their new understanding of faith.
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What is your purpose? How do you pursue your purpose?
People around the world find themselves facing the greatest struggles of their lives today.
People are squeezed financially by rising costs, unemployment is on the high, and then the fears of a national recession. On the other side, there is corruption, suicide, atrocities against women and the struggles are just increasing.
People individually are going through challenges; relationship problems, emotional challenges, physical illness, and spiritual dryness. These are tough times. From the kingdom perspective, the gospel has to reach 97.7% of the population in India. That makes almost 130 Crores of Indians.
Do you know that God wants you to be a catalyst of hope to the world in the midst of this? You are not an accident. You have been called by God with a purpose to make a difference to the world.
How to start working towards the purpose God has for you?
Today we are starting a new preaching series called ‘Kingdom Builders’ straight out of the book of Nehemiah. We are going to look at the introduction to the book of Nehemiah today. This message is going to deal with how to work towards the purpose God has for us.
This Series will also answer us the following:
How to pray when there seems to be no human solution to our problem?
How to face spiritual and personal challenges?
How to plan our work and work our plan and trust God?
How to boost morale in God when it is failing?
How to face personal attacks and how to react when lies are told about you?
Jewish history began with God calling Abraham out of Ur to go to a land where he would become the father of a great nation. But the descendants of Abraham didn’t become an influential power in the world until 1,000 years later.
It was during the time of King David (1000 BC) that Israel became the richest & most powerful nation in the world. That was Israel’s golden age! David passed the kingdom to his son Solomon. His heart went away from God. When Solomon died, the kingdom divided. The northern section became the nation of Israel. The southern section became the nation of Judah.
Finally, Assyria attacked the northern kingdom & wiped it out in 730 BC.
Years later the armies of Babylon conquered the southern kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar & destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. The finest of the survivors were taken back as hostages to Babylon some 1300 KM away from their homes. They lived as captives in a foreign land.
Nebuchadnezzar passed the kingdom to his grandson Balthazar. This situation lasted for almost 70 years until Cyrus, King of Persia, attacked & conquered the Babylonians. Now the Jews were under the rule of the Persian Empire with Cyrus as King.
A King with a heart for the Jews
Now God moved the heart of Cyrus and Cyrus freed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. Was Cyrus a believer? No. He did not believe in God, but God can use both those who believe & those who do not believe in Him to accomplish His purpose.
So the migration back to Jerusalem began. Three separate times large groups migrated back to Jerusalem.
Group 1 was led by Zerubbabel and this group immediately started rebuilding the Temple, & building homes for themselves. But they left most of the city & its walls still in ruins
King Cyrus dies & during the next 45 years, several kings rule over the Persian Empire. Then we come to Xerxes I, the greatest of the Persian Kings. Xerxes was also the one who made Esther his queen. When Xerxes dies, his son, Artaxerxes, who is the stepson of Queen Esther, becomes King. He also treats the Jews very kindly & authorizes the migration of another group of Jews back to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra, the Scribe.
Ezra’s group, Group 2, arrived at Jerusalem 80 years after Group 1. But Ezra was not a builder. He was a teacher of the law, & outside of building a few homes, they leave the city & the walls just as they found them in ruins.
Here is where Nehemiah comes into the picture.
Nehemiah lives in Babylon and worked as a cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes.
1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: 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 had 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.