Sermons

Summary: Looks at some of the various people who impacted Nehemiah as he rebuilt the walls.

Hanging with Who?

He was a little confused. There were some people who loved him and others who hated him. He thought he was doing a good thing, a necessary thing, even a God thing, but obviously there were those who disagreed.

Nehemiah was one of the Jews living in exile and was in the service of the King of Babylon a king by the name of Artaxerxes.

His life had been very comfortable, he had a great job, a nice place to live and job security for as long as he lived. His name was Nehemiah and he was the King’s cupbearer, which doesn’t seem to be much of a job today but then it was very important. In a time and place when leaders were deposed with more permanence then what Paul Martin did to Jean Chrétien, although probably the way that Martin would have preferred to have dealt with the former Prime Minister, a king couldn’t be too careful about who had access to his cup.

Thus, if you were a smart king, you had a cupbearer whose job it was to ensure that your cup was not hazardous to your health. He carried that cup with him everywhere he went, it never left his sight and he could always reassure the king that when his drinks were poured that there would be nothing wrong with the cup.

Now the only drawback with the job was that Nehemiah always got to have the first drink out of the cup, just in case. But being an optimist Nehemiah’s outlook was "so far, so good." Nehemiah had it made, and he knew it.

And then one day his comfortable little world was disrupted when his brother showed up after having been away for awhile. They were sitting down having a Tim’s and Nehemiah asked Hanani how things were going in the old home town, not really expecting an answer or at least not an honest answer. But Hanani obviously chose being honest over being polite because he said “You know brother, it stinks, Jerusalem is in ruins, the walls around the city have collapsed and everyone is just kind of moping around. It’s really kind of sad.”

And for some reason something clicked with Nehemiah, he had no real connection to Jerusalem, his grand parents had been brought to Babylon as slaves sixty years before and Jerusalem was no more tangible then was the far side of the moon. He had heard about it before, he even knew that it had been destroyed and left in ruins, but it had never been real before. And now for whatever reason it broke his heart. And the more he thought about it the more it bothered him, it began to gnaw away at his very being and eventually he began to mope around and it wasn’t long before the king noticed that something was bothering Nehemiah. After all Nehemiah was a constant fixture at the king’s table, he was always there with the king’s cup.

Well it didn’t take much prompting from the king before Nehemiah poured out his heart, telling his boss the entire story, how Jerusalem had been left in ruins and that it was breaking his heart. The king asked what he wanted to do about it and the words he spoke almost came from their own volition. He wanted to return to this city he had only heard of and do the impossible, he wanted to rebuild the walls and rehang the gates. And amazingly enough the king agreed and that is where we began our story.

He was a little confused. There were some people who loved him and others who hated him. He thought he was doing a good thing, a necessary thing, even a God thing, but obviously there were those who disagreed.

The story is found in the book of Nehemiah which is the 16 book of the Bible, if you’re keeping track.

We are told that the book was probably penned by the prophet Ezra drawing from Nehemiah’s memoirs. You’ll remember that the Babylonians had conquered Israel in 586 BC and had taken the residents of Jerusalem into captivity. Persia in turn conquered Babylon in 539 BC and later allowed the Jews who wanted to return home. Some chose to remain because Babylon had become home.

Under Ezra the remnant who returned had rebuilt the temple, but the city walls were still in ruin. The events that the book chronicles happened between 444 and 432 B.C. and the book was probably compiled around 430 BC. Why was the book written? To remind God’s people of their heritage.

So what’s up with Nehemiah? Well throughout the story we run into a multitude of different characters, each who has his own agenda and who effect Nehemiah and his quest in different ways. As I read through the book I realized that the same is true with us as well, that none of us function in a vacuum, in isolation. We all are surrounded by people, for good and for bad. It was John Donne who wrote “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” So, who are some of the people that Nehemiah comes in contact with and what effect do they have on our hero?

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