Summary: Caution: Studying the book of Nehemiah may lead to doing things God’s way. You will find the world will marvel, worldly Christians will snipe and criticize, and...God will be pleased.
October 6, 2002
A few short quotes about the man called Nehemiah, before we dig-in to the book called after the man:
“Nehemiah was an energetic leader who combined a deep trust in the Lord with precise planning, careful organization, and discreet but energetic action.”(1)
“He stood like an anvil, till the hammers of opposition wore themselves out vainly beating against him.”(2)
“As a self-contained man. A man of his own counsel. A man with the counsel of God alone in his mind and in his heart. A reserved and resolute man. A man to take command of other men. A man who will see things with his own eyes, and without all eyes seeing him. A man in no haste or hurry. He will not begin till he has counted the cost. And then he will not stop till he has finished the work.”(3)
In his commentary introduction , J. Vernon McGee calls Nehemiah the “loyal layman.”(4)
At the outset, let me tell you – I LIKE THIS MAN! This is a man’s man. Had I any choice in the matter, I would go back to the days before I became a “religious professional” and I would strive to be the kind of loyal layman we see on the pages of God’s account – I’d follow Nehemiah around, learning how to be a servant and prayer warrior.
Our journey through the Nehemiah Journal must begin with a bit of background, so that we may fully appreciate what God did with this man. What we have is Nehemiah’s personal account, or journal, set against the backdrop of history.
In the 8th Century B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophets foresaw it; the Lord brought it to pass. The people had become backslidden. Instead of worshipping the Lord God, they had fallen-in with the pagan nations surrounding them. It isn’t much different in America today.
A few centuries later the southern kingdom followed suit, as Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian empire. Later it was the Persians whose dominance in the ancient world replaced Babylon. We are talking here not only about ancient history. The regions extend from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The problems we face today internationally, as we stand on the brink of war, frame just another chapter in the ongoing saga of strife in the Middle East. Jacob and Esau have never ceased their struggle.
In the 5th century, seven decades after being conquered and deported, the Persian rulers began allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. It happened in stages.
First a man named Zerubbabel led a group to begin the rebuilding process. The city had been destroyed, and lay in rubble. But, Zerubbabel’s efforts only partially restored things.
Fifty years later Ezra, a priest, returned to rebuild the temple.
Then, fifteen years after Ezra the story we are about to investigate begins to unfold in Susa, the capitol city of the Persian Empire.
Nehemiah was a Jew, probably born in exile. He was a sharp pencil, trained in the art of business and administration. He was also the man God would use to change history’s map and the courage of a nation he called “home” – even though his eyes had never seen the place.