Summary: This is a sermon from a series I preached on Nehemiah’s one holy passion, the glory of God.
One Holy Passion
April 22, 2001
¡§Which Nobody can Deny¡¨
What a difference 9 months makes! Ask any woman who has ever had a baby¡Xor ask Nehemiah, either one! From Nehemiah receiving the report, until the time that the walls were completed, only nine months had elapsed¡Xand the first four months, give or take a few days, were spent in prayer, with another several months in transit from Persia to Jerusalem. It took less than seven-and-a-half weeks to complete a building project which seemed like an insurmountable task at the beginning! Let¡¦s briefly review what took place to get to this point¡Xand notice how this project is centered upon that one holy passion of Nehemiah: the glory of God!
In The Rebuilding Project, Nehemiah and the people
„h Began in the place of fervent prayer - 1:4-11
Nehemiah didn¡¦t take any action until after he had allowed the gravity of the situation to sink into his soul, and then he spent much time before God¡¦s throne in prayer. Here was a man with his priorities in the right place¡Xa man we all could learn from!
„h Acknowledged the gracious hand of God - 2:8,18
In testimony to us of God¡¦s working in the heart of the king, and in testimony to the people whom he was rallying to work on the project, Nehemiah made it clear that this project would go forward because God was in it.
„h Drew encouragement from God - 4:14
When the people were discouraged and the opposition was poised for impending attack, Nehemiah told the people to ¡§remember the Lord¡¨; he pointed them to God as their source of encouragement.
„h Feared God - 5:9,15
When there was dissension within the camp; when the poor people called to Nehemiah¡¦s attention their mistreatment at the hands of some of the well-heeled people, Nehemiah appealed to the fear of God that should have prevented the rich from abusing their brethren. He indicated that his motivation in acting with integrity was his reverence for God.
„h Answered critics by calling on God - 6:9
Nehemiah called on God to vindicate himself when the enemies stepped up their attacks. He asked God to strengthen his hands and his resolve to carry out the task God had called him to.
When we come to the last portion of Nehemiah 6, there are at least a couple of themes we could focus on. We notice that, even in the face of the completion of the project, the opposition continues. We learn here that Tobiah has inside connections, and uses them masterfully in a continuing effort to undermine the leadership and credibility of Nehemiah. But we¡¦ve talked about opposition enough; I want to focus today mainly on two verses, verses 15 and 16, because they point us to a miracle that God worked¡Xhow a group of dispirited people rallied together behind a God-ordained leader to accomplish an incredible feat.
(READ SCRIPTURE & PRAY)
I don¡¦t know if you are the kind of person who likes big cities or not; I am. I grew up in the city, and while there are some big cities that are too big for my tastes, I still like the city. Whether or not you consider yourself a big city person, one thing is for sure: the skyline and geography of downtown Pittsburgh combine to make it one of the more scenic big cities anywhere. Monday evening I drove to Pittsburgh to make a hospital visit and I arrived downtown around 7:15. It had been raining, but the sun had come out to shine brightly, even as it continued to sprinkle rain and even as there were very dark clouds covering much of the city. As I drove across the Veterans¡¦ Bridge, I was struck by the beauty of the downtown skyline as the sun reflected brilliantly off the glass of the tall buildings there, set against the backdrop of heavy gray skies and Mt. Washington. Looking further to my right I saw the Clemente Bridge and the lights of PNC Park. I remember thinking that this was hardly a night for baseball¡Xthe temperature was hovering just above freezing, and the wind chill had to make it even colder. I was amazed to leave Presbyterian Hospital and find that the game had been played and was now winding down!
Adding to the beauty of the downtown area is, of course, the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers into one, forming the mighty Ohio from the two. I enjoy going to Point State Park, or up onto Mt. Washington, and watching those mighty rivers as they converge. It is a thing of natural beauty¡Xand great power.
In the book of Nehemiah, we see the convergence of two great streams of power for the accomplishment of this monumental task. To speak of one without speaking of the other would be to miss much of the point of the book. For us to say that the completion of the wall project is testament to the leadership of Nehemiah and the determined efforts of the people would be true enough and yet incomplete. We cannot speak of the people¡¦s work without acknowledging the power of God moving through them. At the same time, to speak of the power of God without acknowledging that God chooses to use obedient people to accomplish his tasks would be to miss a key point as well. All through the book of Nehemiah we see these two streams converging: the hand of God sovereignly guiding, and the joint, determined effort of His people which seizes upon a God-given vision and will not be denied its accomplishment. And so today¡¦s three-point outline, which I give to you now and upon which I¡¦ll elaborate more fully in a moment, begins with these two points: