Illus: Once, a man was taking a stagecoach across the country. When he went to buy his ticket, he was informed that first class seats were P100. Second class seats were P50. Third class seats were P25. The man looked in the stagecoach and all the seats looked the same to him, so he bought a third class seat. The man congratulated himself on saving money.
Well, after a while, the stagecoach started up a mountain road. After about 30 minutes, the bus came to a steep hill. The stagecoach stopped and the conductor stood up and said: "First class passengers, please remain seated. Second class passengers, get out and walk. Third class passengers, get out and push!"
This next year is going to be an exciting time for this congregation.
I truly believe that next year around this time, we’ll own a piece of land here in Camp 7.
But it’s not just going to happen by itself.
If we’re going to move forward as a congregation,
If we’re going to buy this land and keep growing as we should,
Then all of us need to get involved.
All of us need to sacrifice.
All of us need to do what we can to make this happen.
The church around the world today has too many FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS —
People who just sit back and let others do the work.
And the church has too many SECOND CLASS PASSENGERS —
People who just walk away when there’s work to be done.
What the church needs is more THIRD CLASS PASSENGERS —
People who’ll get out and push!
People who will help with the work of the church.
People who will sacrifice some personal comfort and pleasure for the sake of the work of God.
Today we’re beginning a new series of Sermons from the book of Nehemiah.
And as we look at this Old Testament book, the theme for our series is going to be all about
DOING GOD’S WORK IN CAMP 7
The first thing we need to do in our new series is look at some historical background:
Way back, about 1,000 years before Jesus was born, David became king of Israel.
After David, his son, Solomon was king,
But after Solomon, the kingdom was split in half:
the southern half became known as Judah
and the northern half was still called Israel.
Well, both these kingdoms had bad king after bad king
Both kingdoms were worshipping other gods and living immoral lives.
but the northern kingdom was a little bit worse than the southern kingdom, so God punished them first.
God allowed the Assyrians to conquer the northern kingdom, but not the southern kingdom.
But even after the northern kingdom was disciplined by God,
the southern kingdom still didn’t learn their lesson,
so God allowed them to be conquered as well — about 130 years later.
But by that time, the Assyrians had been conquered by the Babylonians.
So it was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who carried the southern kingdom away into exile.
Well, 47 years later, the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Persian Empire under King Cyrus.
So the Jews, who had been the slaves of the Babylonians, now became the slaves of the Persians.
Cyrus is the king that we read about in the book of Ezra who allowed the Jews to begin returning home again.
51 years after Cyrus, the king of Persia was a man named Xerxes, who we read about in the book of Esther.
His son, Artaxerxes, is the one we’re going to be reading about in the book of Nehemiah.
So the events of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther took place during the same period in Jewish history.
Actually, in the Hebrew Bible, Ezra and Nehemiah are the same book
because they’re basically telling the same story:
Ezra tells the beginning, Nehemiah tells the end, and the story of Esther takes place in between.
In fact, if you remember the story of Esther, she was Queen of Persia and king Xerxes was her husband.
In the book of Nehemiah, the king of Persia is king Artaxerxes,
who was the son of king Xerxes and quite possibly the son of Queen Esther as well,
which would account for his kindness to the Jews that we’re going to see in the book of Nehemiah.
So, just so we’re clear, the Jews were carried away into captivity by the Babylonians,
but were allowed to return by the Persians.
And they returned home in three waves or groups:
The FIRST GROUP of Jews to return to their homeland was led by SHESHBAZZAR.
The SECOND GROUP was led by ZERUBBABEL, who rebuilt the Temple.
(Haggai and Zechariah were both prophets during this time)
The THIRD GROUP was led by EZRA,
but when they encountered difficulty in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah came to help.