Sermons

Summary: The Old Testament stateman Nehemiah heard of the difficulties that his fellow Jews were having in rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple after the time of exile in Babylon. His plans and burdens were brought before the LORD and were answered. So, what's our excuse?

The Old Testament story of Nehemiah presents his account of life and service in the royal court of the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes around 445-444 B.C., and how, upon hearing of the plight of his fellow Jews as they were in the process of rebuilding Jerusalem along with a new Temple for the worship of the LORD, went before the LORD in prayer with a specific plan to assist them in their task and for everything necessary to accomplish it. His prayer was presented to the LORD in an attitude of faith, humbleness, and a cry for not just the forgiveness of His own sins, but that of the nation of Israel, which had been totally obliterated by the forces of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. The invasion and destruction of the Kingdom of Judah was both a judgment and punishment for the nation's sins and idolatry, along with the barbaric practices that accompanied it, such as child sacrifice, divination, witchcraft, demon worship, and the actions of wicked kings who ignored God's prophets or attempted to get rid of them. Prophets such as Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel had spent their lives warning the people to repent and get right with God or face the consequences, and most of them were rewarded with threats and martyrdom for the Word of the LORD.

The end of the historical book 2 Chronicles summarizes the sins of Israel and the seventy year period of exile they would face. The prophet Jeremiah instructed them to settle in Babylon and make a new life for themselves until the anointed time of return which by then would forever purge God's rebellious people from idolatrous worship and had given the land the Sabbath that God had told the Israelites to follow every seven years, but had neglected and refused to observe. In 538 B.C. the end of the Babylonian Empire came when the Medes and Persians under Cyrus and Darius captured Babylon and put and end to the life of Belshazzar, the acting ruler (Daniel 5). The Persian Empire lasted until 323 B.C., when it was conquered by the army of the Greek general/king Alexander the Great. Nehemiah's time in Persia was about a hundred or more years beforehand. A characteristic of the Persian Empire that was not part of other conquering kingdoms was that the Persian rulers allowed all conquered peoples to return to their ancient lands and resume their lives under the watch of local governors and officials appointed by the Emperor or his representative. Jews such as Nehemiah, were given the privilege to hold offices of high rank and authority in the Empire, and he held a high rank in the Imperial court as a personal servant to the Emperor. This position was not only honorable, but also a divine placement on the part of the LORD in order to fulfill His promises and the prophecies He had declared decades before to His people.

Nehemiah was most likely born when the Jews were under the rule of the Babylonians. He grew up hearing about the exploits of both good and evil kings which had ruled both the nations of Israel and Judah, and of the longings of the exiles to return home and rebuild the beloved city of Jerusalem (Psalm 137). As stated earlier, Nehemiah received word that all was not well in the old country. He was deeply grieved by what was happening and went before the LORD with a sense of sorrow and concern. When we read Chapter 1 of Nehemiah's story and the first eleven verses, he presents a prayer before God that is an excellent pattern for addressing our own needs, burdens, and concerns. He was sure, as we should be, that there is nothing that our great God cannot handle. It is worth our time to read what Nehemiah did in that atmosphere of trust and faith.

We are to focus on the LORD and not the problem (1:5). Nehemiah presents characteristics of God that deserve our attention. He is, first, self-existent, LORD of all, and cannot be thwarted, deterred, or stopped by anything we may say or do. He is the Sovereign Lord God Almighty who rules and reigns over us with absolute control, power, authority, and affection. He is great and infinite, perfect in all Being and fills the whole of creation with HIs majesty and glory. He is the God dreaded and feared by His enemies and revered by His elect and is forever faithful in His obligations. Our thoughts about God are to be founded upon the authority and truth of HIs Word (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21), and not upon what we or anyone may say or think about Him or what you might have read or heard from non-believing, non-Scriptural sources.

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