Summary: How do you respond when life is going along "fine" and God brings a difficult opportunity into your life?
When bad news arrives
Background of Nehemiah:
“Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it”
The HISTORY of the people of Israel was given to us SO THAT we could learn the lessons and avoid repeating their mistakes. “Warnings from Israel’s history” (says the NIV chapter heading):
“Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hears on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did– and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did– and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did– and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)
**What is the lesson?? I want to learn the lesson!! God’s chosen people, the Jews, couldn’t seem to get it right...so it must be really complicated– right??
It’s actually AMAZINGLY simple!
It’s so simple you wonder how anyone could get it wrong!
It’s so simple, you have to ask yourself, “Why do I so often forget this?”
The primary lesson is Obey and honor God and He promises to bless you
2 fold: Disobey and ignore God and you will experience trouble and suffering
“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul , according to everything I command you today, THEN the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-4)
And generation after generation of Israelites experienced this cycle of OBEDIENCE for a time, followed by a DECLINE (growing cold and compromise) into sin and idolatry, followed by God’s JUDGMENT and usually their defeat and slavery to some military power.
**The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are a glimpse into one of those periods when Israel had fallen into sin and rebellion against God and were being dominated by the Persian Empire. They had been either KILLED or REMOVED from their homeland and most of the things important to them lay abandoned and ruined.
**BUT GOD WAS AT WORK!!! In the 5th century B.C….after almost 70 years of dominance… the Persian rulers began to...not “allow”...but INSIST that Jews to return to Jerusalem.
“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia…” (Ezra 1:1)
The result of this first movement was that almost 50,000 Jews got to return and they attempted to rebuild the temple...BUT it would be ALMOST 50 YEARS LATER that a priest named Ezra would be sent back by King Artaxerxes with the authority and resources to rebuild the temple.**Now “JUMP AHEAD” another 15 years...and you find God moving in the heart of a man who was uniquely gifted to TACKLE another important task that needed to be done for the sake of Jerusalem’s IDENTITY and PROTECTION. That man is King Artaxerxes “Cup Bearer”...a man named Nehemiah.
1.) Nehemiah has genuine concern for his people- (verses 1 and 2)
“The words of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah (Ha-ca-lee-ah): In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.”
**I don’t know if this question has ever come to your mind: “Why did Nehemiah CARE about what was going on with people hundreds of miles away from him?” He had a good job...a very prominent and important job. As long as he didn’t fall out of the king’s favor, he was really “set for life”. So, why did he care?...
- Was it “Because HE was a Jew!” Oh really? So we care about every other person who is an American? We always show concern for homeless Americans? And when a flood or tornado rips through a community in our nation, we always feel a tug in our heart?