Sermons

Summary: Nehemiah, Pt. 2

PUT IT IN WRITING: FROM ASPIRATION TO ASSIGNMENT (NEH. 2:1-9)

At the height of the phone wars, AT & T, MCI, and Sprint advertised their advantage over another in the papers, on TV, and through telemarketing. Many people were bombarded with slogans like Get 100 Free Minutes, Save 20% or more, or 3 Free Months. When customers decided to switch their carriers to take advantage of the offers, they discovered they weren¡¦t getting more savings, longer minutes, or better service.

And when they complained, the operator¡¦s retorted: "We didn’t say that," "Who did you talk to?" or "I am not the manager." The last response effectively induced a guilt trip, a red face, and a sympathetic and regretful sigh from most callers.

One commercial made the most sense to me at that time. An operator said, "If so-and-so calls you again, ask them to put it in writing." That made sense. If you confirm a transaction, make a complain, apply for a job, what do you do? Put it in writing. It’s not easy. You will have to think it through, write it down, and cut to the chase or get to the point.

Four months had passed (1:1, 2:1) since the day Nehemiah first heard that the walls of Jerusalem were broken. He awoke from his indifference, ignorance, and inaction, acknowledged three great confessions in chapter 1, and prayed for an opportunity to make a difference. The opportunity arose in an unlikely manner. Artaxerxes the king asked him three questions, and Nehemiah was ready. In fact, he had a detailed request or plan in a few lines, from four months of prayer. He was sharp in his thought, snappy in his answers, and sound in his requests. The king was convinced and the gracious hand of God was upon him.

Note the king’s three questions to Nehemiah.

THE FIRST QUESTION IS "WHY ARE YOU SO SAD?"

2:1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2 so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"

(Neh 2:1-3)

One evening in 1808, a gaunt, sad-faced man entered the office of Dr. James Hamilton in Manchester, England. The doctor was struck by the melancholic appearance of his visitor. He inquired, ¡§Are you sick?"

The man replied, "Yes, doctor, sick with a mortal disease." To which the doctor asked, "What sickness?"

The man confessed glumly, "I am frightened of the terror around me. I am depressed by life. I can find no happiness anywhere, nothing amuses me (or makes me laugh), and I have nothing to live for. (Doctor,) If you can’t help me, I shall kill myself."

The doctor said, "(Come on,) The sickness is not mortal (deadly. It won’t kill you). You only need to get out of yourself (and have a change of pace). You need to laugh; to get some pleasure in life."

"What shall I do (then)?" said the man. "Go to the circus tonight to see Grimaldi, the clown. Grimaldi is the funniest man alive. (I saw him a couple of nights ago, and I’m still laughing. Go and see Grimaldi the clown.) He¡¦ll cure you."

A spasm of pain crossed the poor man’s face as he said, "Doctor, don’t jest with me. I am Grimaldi the clown!" (Tan, 7,700 Illustrations # 3188)

First, put in writing this question: Why are you so sad? Or, what motivates you to pray?

How do you express or resolve your sadness? Do you drink, smoke, or worse, damage property, injure others, or forget God? Do you eat ice-cream, chocolate, or other snacks to forget your unhappiness? Do you take it out on your own family, close friends, church brothers and sisters or the house pet?

In Nehemiah 2:1-3 the Hebrew word "sad" appears four times (vv 1, 2, 2, 3). Sadness was a feeling in Nehemiah¡¦s heart that showed up on his face and disrupted routine work, normal relationships, and daily life. The king suggested plainly, ¡§Your face tells me you are not happy, your body tells me you are not sick, so I gather your heart must be broken.¡¨

When Nehemiah was sad, he meant it, showed it, and more importantly, he talked plainly, concisely and rationally about it (2:3): ¡§May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned by fire?¡¨

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