Nehemiah

"Thriving in Troublous Times"

By Dr. Edgar Pierce

(c) 2006/07

 

 

Outline:

Session 1- Setting The Times ...Neh1:1-4

Session 2- The Heart That Touches Heaven... Neh 1:4-1

Session 3- Brave, Bold and Brassy... Neh 2:1-8

Session 4- Meeting the Enemy...Getting Ready for the Task...Neh 2:9-18

Session 5- The Tactics of the Enemy (Part 1) ...Neh 2:19-20; 4:1-10

Session 6- The Tactics of the Enemy (Part 2) ...Neh 5:1-5; 6:1-19

Session 7- The Gospel in the Gates (Part 1)...Neh 3:1-32

Session 8- The Gospel in the Gates (Part 2)...Neh 3:1-32

Session 9- Model of Leadership... Neh 6:15-16

Session 10- Blessing of Obedience...Neh 8:1-18

Session 11- Lest We Forget...Neh 9:1-38

Session 12- Keep Up the Guard...Neh 13:1-30

 


 

Session 1- Setting The Times ...Neh 1:1-4

 

    How do we succeed in the face of trouble that never seems to end? We have a lot of quaint saying that gives us some amount of wisdom into this matter. Someone said, "In order to realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the stress of the storm." Another said, "The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks." There are also a lot of interesting stories told that can pertain to this as well.

    Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor at St Peter's Church in London. “One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him. Jobless, the man invested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop, where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars. One day the man's banker said, "You've done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?" "Well," replied the man, "I'd be janitor of St. Peter's Church in Neville Square."” (Bits and Pieces, June 24, 1993, p. 23.) This man had to thrive in the face of trouble and rejection.

    In the Bible there is an example for us to see, study and imitate that is far better than a saying or a story. We have before us a study of Nehemiah, a man who can teach us how to thrive in times of trouble.

    Nehemiah is a biographical account set in the times of the Bible. This book is the closing of the Old Testament history recorded in the Word of God. It records the activity of the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem after their destruction during the time of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. We will discuss the times in which this narrative is set in a moment.

    It has been said that Nehemiah as a book contains, “in it nothing miraculous, nothing particularly exciting or extraordinary.” (Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 7 p iii.) This book while it may be plain and ordinary and a simple slice of the history of Israel contains some inspiring and edifying events and characters. It contains no prophecy but it does contain fulfillment of prophecy. It contains no miracle, that is unless you consider God using ordinary men to accomplish impossible task in the face of huge odds and giant opposition, a miracle.

    The book of Nehemiah can be broken down many different ways but basically it breaks down as follows:

    Rebuild- the Walls- Neh 1-7

    Revive- the Word- Neh 8-10

    Reform- the People- Neh 11-13

    We will not address each verse in this book but we study it in a topical fashion. My 0bjective is to focus on the lesson we need to learn in a time thousands of years removed from the actual events. While thousands of years have passed the emotions and the fabric of mankind has not changed.  

I-  The Times of Israel and Judah:

    God promised Israel if they would obey Him that He would bless them. Deuteronomy 28:1-2 “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.”  God only requirement was that they be obedient to Him and walk in His ways. Now notice what it says if they would not walk after His ways and serve Him.

    Deuteronomy 28:15  “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.”

    The setting of the times of this was after the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and the generation He was speaking to having seen the death of a generation because of disobedience.

    It is also very instructive to see what God told Solomon at the time of the dedication of the temple. 1 Kings 9:4-7  “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: 5 Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.  6 But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:  7 Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people.”

    We know the story of Israel well in that after Solomon failed to keep the commandments that God divided the kingdom into two nations in 931 BC. The Northern Kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The Southern Kingdom was taken into captivity in 586 by the Babylonians.

    Did this surprise God? Certainly  not! Notice what God’s prophet had to say about what a king, yet to be born, would do. Isaiah 44:28 “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Albert Barnes in Barnes Notes says, “He began his reign about 550 b.c., and this prophecy was therefore delivered not far from a hundred and fifty years before he ascended the throne.” May I also remind us that the nation of Persia was not ruling at the time of the prophecy.

    After 70 years in captivity we know that Cyrus made a decree that they could return to the Promised Land. Few returned. They had settled into a life and routine in the foreign land that was their prison. A new generation had come on the scene that did not have the same passion for the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

II- Troublous Times- The Prophecy:

    You may wonder why I chose the title “Thriving in Troublous Times.” Daniel the prophet gives us the prophecy that the rebuilding of the walls both triggers and fulfills.

    The prophecy is known as the “Seventy Weeks” of Daniel. Dan 9:25 “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

    We are going to discover in our journey through Nehemiah that indeed the times were troublous. The opposition was strong and at ties ruthless but Nehemiah stayed on course and in fact thrived in troublous times.

III- The Times of Nehemiah:

     Neh 1:1-4 “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,  2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.  3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.  4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.”

    There is little information about exactly who Nehemiah was. We know his father was a man named Hachaliah. Neh 1:1 We have internal evidence that he also had at least one brother, Hanani. Neh 1:2 His parents probably had been taken captive in the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians were no longer ruling. As we have seen the Medes and Persians had conquered them.

    Nehemiah was one who did not return just a few years before at the time that Ezra lead a group back in 458 BC. But some 15 years later Nehemiah had ascended to a place of importance in his captive land.

    If I may address something before I move have properly lain the groundwork. Nehemiah was living and working in the palace of the king of Persia, a cushy job in all probability. Neh 1:1

    The Pulpit Commentary points out an interesting thought:

“Nehemiah was humble amidst the pride of the palace; he was pure amidst the luxury of the palace; he was faithful to his Jewish faith and to his god amidst the heathenism of the palace; he was sympathetic amidst the conventionality of the palace; he was prayerful amidst the levity of the palace; he was pious amidst the anxieties of the palace life.” (p 6)

    I said that to say this, one principle of thriving in trouble is that we do not lose sight of God in the good times so that when trouble comes it is natural to find comfort in our relationship with God. While Nehemiah could have settled into his good life and not been concerned with others and the things of God he did not do this.

    As we have set the times into which we are adventuring let me point out one more thing. Lest someone would say that this is not history let me leave us with one more thought. In 1852 the remains of the palace was discovered by Sir Fenwick Williams. These events are history not fable.

    We know from the first few verses of this book that these were indeed troublous times because we see the report that comes to Nehemiah was, “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire…” Neh 1:3.

    Let us learn together how to thrive in troublous times.  Maybe we can learn that not all troubles are bad.

    "A farmer near London wrote to the Scripture Gift Mission enclosing a five-shilling ($1.25) offering. In his letter he requested prayer that no bombs should drop on his small farm. His harvest had not been good, and his farm was very dry, with no water, and he had to buy water. The secretary of the Mission wrote back and said he could not ask that, but instead would pray that God's will might be done.

    Soon afterwards Hitler's biggest bomb came down on this man's farm. It broke all his windows, but no one was hurt. It was so big that it went down very deep and unearthed a spring. The spring not only watered his farm well, but it enabled him to let others have water too. Last year, therefore, he had a very good harvest, and he sent a fifty-pound check as a thanksgiving offering. The Lord had done "exceeding abundantly above all" he asked or thought. How good and how wise is our God in all His ways!”  (William Moses Tidwell, "Pointed Illustrations.")

        May God use our trouble to make us stronger and closer to Him.

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Session 2- The Heart That Touches Heaven... Neh 1:4-1

 

    There was a country song out recently that use the catch phrase, “Live like you are dying.” What is the one thing that you would like to do before you die? In the song it was to go skydiving, ride a bull by the name of Fu-Man-Chu. What is the one thing that moves your heart? What is your passion? Would it be something that would touch the heart of God? What if we each would live like we are dying for the things of God? What if our heart was so in tune with the things of God that we could touch heaven?

    Neh 1:4 “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,"

    “…when I heard these words…” Remember that Nehemiah has just found out that the walls of Jerusalem are broken down and that the city is in disrepair even thought the temple has been rebuilt.

    How would he react? Would he ignore it and say let someone else who can afford to give their time go. Or perhaps he could have said I am far too important in the work I am doing now to go let someone else.

    Remember we are attempting to learn how to thrive in times of trouble. Notice with me in the next few verse how that Nehemiah heart was one that would touch heaven.

    Someone said that Hanani, his brother that brought him the report, saw the rubble but Nehemiah saw God.  One thing that will help us to thrive is troublous times, and sometimes thrust us into those times, is to have a heart that is touched by the things of God. Nehemiah was one who had not forgotten Jerusalem. The Psalmist said in Psa 137:5-6 “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

    The city walls being destroyed and in disarray was critical.  A city without walls in that time was a city open to plunder and at the mercy of roving criminals.

I- His Prayer To God:

    The prayer line was open between Nehemiah and God. As a matter of fact you will find Nehemiah prayers scattered through the book of Nehemiah. You may recall that when Daniel was being set up by his accusers notice what is said in Dan 6:10  “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

    Nehemiah 1:5-11 records the prayer of Nehemiah as his heart reached out toward heaven.  An interesting thing is that in neither Daniel nor Nehemiah character do we see a flaw revealed.

    Neh 1:5-11 “And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:  6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.  7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.  8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:  9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.  10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.  11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man….”

II- Learning from the Prayer:

    Let us look at this prayer and see the way he addressed God and his partition to God.

1- Addressing the God of Heaven:

    Neh 1:5 “And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:”

    The term God of heaven was one that denoted at least a couple of things. One it spoke of the state of affairs in Israel related to God. The glory of God had dwelled in the temple when it was dedicated but they had seen the glory depart back into heaven. God of heaven reminded them of this. Notice what JV McGee said about this:

    “This expression occurs in the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel. It is a designation of God which is peculiar to these three books. After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Jerusalem, God could no longer be identified with the temple as the One who dwelt between the cherubim. The glory had departed. ‘Ichabod’ was written over the escutcheon of Israel. The Lord God had returned to heaven. For this reason in the post captivity books He is ‘the Lord God of heaven.’” (Thru the Bible, vol. 2 p 504.)

Notice also that Nehemiah refers to God as “the great and terrible God.” This is a reference to  Deu 7:21  “Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God is among you, a mighty God and terrible.” Many times we lose reverence to thing we get close to. One author said, “If we feel that our Maker is our friend, we must never forget that our friend is our maker.” (Puplit Commentary, Vol 7, p 9)

    A heart that touches God in heaven by prayer must be one that knows the awesomeness of God as He is addressed.

2- Persistent in Prayer:

    Notice one thing that touched the heart of God was that he was persistent in his praying. Neh 1:6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night…”

    He went before God day and night. We will see next session that this went on for months.

    John E. Marshall said, “Saying a prayer is not the same as praying a prayer. The former is rote; the latter is earnestness. The former is speaking unto self; the latter is an awareness of God.” (from notes on Nehemiah provided at Pastor’s conference.)

    This is indeed a challenge to most of us about giving diligence to our prayer life and making sure we are not only in constant contact but also long term intercession for the things on our heart.

3- We have sinned:

    Notice who he was praying for and why he was praying. First it was for, the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.”

    While we are not told of sin in the life of Nehemiah, nor need to attach sin to it unduly, we see he did not pray for the sins of others but said, “we have sinned, both I and my father’s house.”

    I am afraid today that we have gotten away from having sin. We deny it, we defend our actions when someone points out a defect in our character. We get downright mad and say how dare them. We have let the world buffalo us into thinking we are good sinners. Is there one among us who has done all we know to do and not done anything that we should not have. Remember that Job sacrifices for his children in case they had sinned. 

    Job 1:5 “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.”

    We might ask how have they sinned? Notice his confession in Neh 1:7 “We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.” 

    Perhaps the words of Moses in Deut. 30:1-5 were on his heart.  Deu 30:1-5 “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,  2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;  3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.  4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:  5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.” Look at other things related to this as well in our next point.

4- Plea Based on the Promise:

    If someone makes us a promise that they will do something for us then when we go to them we go only to see if they will keep their promise. Nehemiah knew God was faithful to fulfill his promises. He went in faith knowing this. After all he knew God had kept His promise to scatter them.

    Neh 1:8 “Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations.  9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.  10Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.”

    Jesus told us that God knows what we need. Mat 6:8 “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” The heart that touches heaven is one that has learned to trust in the promises of God, even in the direst of circumstances.

5- Specific Praying:

    All things in life are not done in a vacuum. They are done in the world as we are engaged in life. God is concerned about the details of our life. Nehemiah prays a very specific prayer to God. He ask God to hear and them to grant his favor in the eyes of the king. Neh 1:11 “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man….”

    This man has not been identified until this point in time but notice what the next line says, “For I was the king's cupbearer.”

    The heart that touches heaven will not be afraid to ask very specific for the need in the time at hand. Remember He knows what we need but joys in the heart that trust and asks. May we know the holiness of God, go before Him on our knees, take Him at this word and ask Him in faith. May our hearts be so in tune that we move heaven with our prayers.

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Session 3- Brave, Bold and Brassy... Neh 2:1-8

 

    Have you ever noticed that some men just seem to be used of God to accomplish some great things? I think of men like Jerry Falwell who has literally built a empire, if there ever was one built, for the cause of Christ. He started a church that thrived and God’s had was upon it and him to accomplish great things. The ministry now has a thriving college and university that is world class. They are building a new church that seats thousands. How did he do this? I am sure that first and foremost Jerry would say he did not but God did. The gig on Jerry at times is he has asked for money at every opportunity.

    We come into the story of Nehemiah four months after he first heard the condition of the city of Jerusalem was it lay in waste and the walls were down. Remember he has been praying for this the whole time.

I- Brave: Neh 2:1-2

    We learned last time that Nehemiah was praying day and night that God would give him mercy in the sight of the king. Nehemiah we learned was the cupbearer of the king. Nehemiah had almost unfettered access to the king’s presence. This was because he had to sample all the wine and food the king consumed just on the chance it was poisoned by an enemy. So he was probably never far away.

    The time has now come to put his life in the hands of God and at risk of death from the king.

    Neh 2:1-2  And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.  2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid…”

    For Nehemiah to let down his guard and show his sadness of heart was a brave act. I think that it was an intentional action on his part. He had been praying and dealing with this for four months now. He chose the time.

    May I say that few things are ever accomplished by the faint of heart? Nehemiah takes a calculated risk that could have cost his life. Notice it says, “…Then I was very sore afraid…”

    One important thing that need to be pointed out here as well is that Nehemiah was a layman. Remember that Ezra the Priest had taken the group before him back to rebuild the temple. Nehemiah was not in the ministry as we would say today. He was an ordinary man that God called to be used.

    A couple of questions keep racing through my mind. What am I willing to risk to serve God? May I ask you as well, what are you will to risk to serve God? Is it life and limb or very little? May I say in order to thrive we must be willing to risk it all. Remember Mat 10:28  “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    If God lays something on our hearts it may take courage to do it but may I say thought through right it takes foolish courage to not do God’s will.

    Nehemiah had never been sad before the king before. He chose to let the king know what was on his heart this day.

II- Bold: Neh 2:3-6

    Another element in thriving in doing the things of God many times is what we may call a holy boldness. Notice that Nehemiah was very bold in his request. He begins with was seems obvious once observed. He knew whom he was addressing very well.

    Neh 2:3 “And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?”

    He understood that the thing that would move the heart of the king was the fact that the city and tombs of the forefathers were in ruin. The Persians and Jews had in common a great respect for the tomb and regarded its violation with horror. Nehemiah had certainly not just come up with this off the cuff, so to speak. He had thought about what he would say. We must understand those that would be opposed to things and seek to know how to handle things in a positive manner as much as possible.

    Neh 2:4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.”

    The king said, I know you want something from me what is it. Notice that in this tense and dangerous situation, Nehemiah prayed. Probably not a long prayer, not on his knees or even with this eyes shut but with his heart he reaches toward heaven.

    Nehemiah 2:5 “And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.  6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.”

    Notice the boldness of Nehemiah’s request. He asked that the king give him a leave of absence from his job of serving him.

    The Pulpit Commentary says, “He has looked sad in the king’s presence. He is about to ask permission to quit the court. These are both sins against the fundamental doctrine of Persian court life, that to bask in the light of the royal countenance is the height of felicity.” (p 10)

    The king asked how long he would be away and when he would return. Notice that God was already moving on the heart of the king. He granted the request. Nehemiah gives him a time.

    There may have been other factors involved here as well. Perhaps the king had come to trust Nehemiah so that he knew he could trust him to build the walls without it being an insurrection against him.

III- Brassy: Neh 2:7-8

    The thing that separated the ones used by God from the ones mightily used of God at times is that the mightily move beyond bold to what we might call brassy. Most of us are satisfied with a small miracle and have a small God in our minds.

    DL Moody, who God used in a great way, told his sons to dream big because we have a big God. How big is your God? How big is my God? Many times He is only as big as our dreams, not because of His lack of power but because of our lack of faith.

    Nehemiah has had a prayer answered. Why stop now. He moves into another request.

    Neh 2:7-8a “ Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;  8  And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.”

    Notice he asked for a letter to those the king had placed in position of ruler over the land he would pass through telling it was with the kings authority he came.

    He also asked for the king to give him the material that would be required to rebuild the walls. Man this is not only bold but it is brassy.

    How could he make such a request? Well it seems obvious that Nehemiah understood that everything belongs to God anyway. All the timber in the king’s forest was available because it belongs to God and the king was only the steward. Remember what Psa 50:10 says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” Everything today belong to God the only problem is men have built fences around God’s cattle. Anybody got a good pair of wire cutter handy?

    Another thing this shows us is the need to plan and thing through the plans we might endeavor to do that God has lain on our hearts.

    Luk 14:28-30  For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?  29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,  30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

        Many times we hear that the only thing preachers talk about is you need to give more. One old preacher said that when he died they would probably put, “And the beggar died” on his tombstone. May I say at times we need to be bold and even brassy in our asking for thing to do the work of God?  Neh 2:8b “…And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.” God granted Nehemiah favor in the eyes of the king. His bravery, boldness and brassiness was rewarded by God as he moved the kings heart. What have you ask for and risked? Maybe it is time we tear down a few fences and walls that stand in the way.

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Session 4- Meeting the Enemy...Getting Ready for the Task...Neh 2:9-18

 

    Nehemiah comes to the land known as the Promised Land, the land from which his immediate forefathers had been taken from by force by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar. The land to which Cyrus, the Persian king, had allowed those who wanted to return to rebuilt the temple under Zerubbabel. The land, which now had a temple, but still had no walls around the city.  He had been given permission by Artaxerxes to return and rebuild the walls. 

I- Meeting the Enemy:

    It does not take long for Nehemiah to come face to face with those who are the kingpins that will lead the opposition to the work.

    Neh 2:9-10  “Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.  10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.”

    The king had not only allowed Nehemiah to return and given him a letter of passage but notice he had sent with him a military guard. God’s provision is found all over this situation.

    The first time that Sanballat and Tobiah are mentioned is in these verses.  It says they were grieved that someone had come who had the welfare of the children of Israel on his heart. It is probably obvious to them that this is not someone they can dismiss lightly.

    But who are these men? Why is it they are so against anything that is going to benefit the Jews? Allow me to offer the following quote from Arno C. Gaebelein from his commentary.

Sanballat may have been the governor of the Samaritan mongrel race….Sanballat (hate in disguise) is called the Horonite, and inhabitant of Horonaim, which was a southern Moabite city (Isa. 15:5; Jerem. 48:3,5,34) and Tobiah, the servant, an Ammonite. They came from Moab and Ammon, blood-relations of Israel, being bastard offspring of Lot. The Moabites and Ammonites were not to come into the congregation of God forever; the curse rested upon them. They did not meet Israel with bread and water when they came forth from Egypt. They hated the people of God, and had hired Balaam the son of Beor to curse Israel (Deut. 23:3-6). They were the bitter enemies of Israel, which explains the displeasure of Sanballat and Tobiah when Nehemiah came with the king’s credentials. (Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary of the Whole Bible, P. 390)

    Sanballat, governor of Samaria to the north, and Tobiah, ruling over the transjordan (East) side of the Jordan River, had a political interest in the situation.  This gives us some insight into just why these men were so opposed to any plan that would allow Judah to rise from the rubble.

    The ancient enemies of Israel did not want the walls built. They were one reason that they needed to be rebuilt, to keep the enemies out. Harold Willmington says in addition to this there was another reason the walls need rebuilt. “It was necessary for separation, that is, to keep the insiders in. This would cut down upon the growing worldliness of the Jews who had been associating freely with the surrounding pagan people.” (Great Truths From God’s Word)

    There is another cohort of these two mentioned in Neh 2:19 “But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian…” All those surrounding Judah were not pleased.

    In our next session we will discuss our enemy in more detail but let me give us a couple of verses as we move on concerning our enemy.

    2Co 2:11  “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”

    1 Pe 5:8 “ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

        Nehemiah identified the enemies of God very quickly when he came into the land.  He meets the enemy and recognized them for who they were. We must learn to recognize the enemy as well. 

II- Spiritually Preparing:

    Neh 2:11 “So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.”

    Nehemiah did not seek to set those who would oppose him straight at the beginning. Nehemiah came into town and did not run out and shout what his intentions were.  The three days were not idle resting from the trip but were probably used in spiritual preparation for the beginning of the task. I think we can rightfully assume that Nehemiah spent these days praying as well.

    Many times the spiritual preparation is what determines success from failure. I am reminded of this illustrated so vividly in an event in the history of Israel.

    The day before Joshua was to lead the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land notice how Joshua instructs them. “And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”  Jos 3:5

    How do we prepare spiritually for facing trouble? May I quickly suggest that we see what Nehemiah did as a model?  Remember he confessed his sin, he prayed for God’s guidance; he placed his cares upon God and did his part. I suggest that ultimately he placed the outcome of the project into the hand of God. So we can say to be spiritually prepared we need to confess, pray, cast our cares upon him and place our battle and their outcome in His hands. Easy said, hard done, but necessary. 

III- Inspecting the Walls

    Neh 2:12-15 “ And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.  13 And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.  14 Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.  15 Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.”

    For many years I thought that Nehemiah made this ride under the cover of darkness by himself. He took “…some few men…” with him on his journey.  We are not told who they were. Perhaps they may have been a security detail for his safety from robbers and criminals.

    One thing that his midnight ride showed was the vulnerability of the city. He could ride around it unimpeded. If he had been an enemy could have attacked.

    His purpose was to assess the situation first hand. It says he, “viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.” 

    Nehemiah saw what a massive job he had gotten himself into. We have no indication that he checked his sanity about being there and undertaking the task. The debris was so great that one place the beast he rode could not pass through it. He had to take another route.

    How many of us would have turned back and retreated when we saw the task? To accomplish a task like this was going to take a lot of faith. 

IV- Jerusalem WE Have A Problem:

    Nehemiah had not told anyone why he had come back to Jerusalem up until this point. Certainly the rumor would have been running wild by this time. He calls the leaders of the Jewish people together and addresses them the next day after his midnight ride.

    Neh 2:16-17 “And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.  17 Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.”

    Nehemiah did not blast them for their failure, remember he had prayed and confessed the failures before God. He new the reason the walls were down were God’s hand of judgment.

    Notice how he says, WE, not you but we, have a problem. By now you may have caught the hint of it was a we problem and not a you problem. We might say he identified the obvious. They were living there and perhaps they had gotten used to the way things were. Many times in our churches we will accept things that are certain ways even though they may not be what is right or what is needed to reach the lost world. Sometimes it takes someone new to identify the problems for us.

    Years ago at a church I pastored the people had gotten so use to things that they accepted them. The only problem was when someone new came in the smell of the septic tanks was offensive. Yet those who were there all the time didn’t seem to notice or at least to not acknowledge it.  In order to thrive many times we need to take a good long look and evaluate what we are doing, why we are doing it and is it accomplishing what it need to. Unfortunately we have some who are like Sanballat and Tobiah in our churches. They do not want things to change because it would upset the power structure they have managed to work themselves into.  

V- Assurance of God’s Hand and Purpose:

    What keeps God’s servants on task in face of opposition, in the face of the hardships and trial associated with serving Him.  May I say the strongest thing is the compulsion on the Holy Spirit and the clear revelation of God’s will.  Being certain of God’s hand and purpose keeps men and women moving forward against any and all odds.

    Who can forget the almost haunting words of Jeremiah found in Jer 20:9  “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

    Jeremiah wanted to quit preaching. He wanted to give up but the fire of God compelled him forward.

    Beloved Nehemiah had no less compulsion from God. Notice what he tells the leaders in Jerusalem.

    Neh 2:18  “ Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me….”

    What a great motivation speech. He tells them about how God had placed His hand upon him to accomplish the task. He also tells them about what God had already done in the events leading up to this time in the heart of the King.

    Perhaps these were only waiting for a leader to come along to lead them. It seems so because notice their reaction, “And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.”

 Return to Outline:


Session 5- The Tactics of the Enemy (Part 1) ...Neh 2:19-20; 4:1-10

 

    In our previous session we meet the enemy, in the form of the leaders around Israel. The enemy was quickly identified by Nehemiah when he came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. We know the three individuals from Neh 2:19a “… Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian…”

    “These three opponents of Nehemiah are now know from extra-biblical sources to have been governors or high officials in Samaria.” (Bible Study Textbook Series, College Press, p 731.)

    You may not have noticed that these three were from completely different backgrounds and points of view. The one thing they had in common is their opposition to the rebuilding of the walls. It is strange to me that they stood together. But where they the true enemy of Israel?

I- The True Enemy:

    I remind us all that sometimes, what we might call the true enemy, can us anyone for his purpose. So let us spend just a few moments and discuss what we touched on last session.

    1Pe 5:8 “ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

    There has always been an adversary against anything that is godly. Paul warned us about our enemy in Eph 6:12  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

    We could talk about the enemy more in detail but let us move to his tactics and reveal him in this way.

II- Do Not Be Ignorant:

    Today as most are aware we are in what many term a war on terror. While some are sounding the alarm about a world war other discounts it as much to do about nothing. I personally feel the war against radical Islam is a real war because the objective of these movements is to place the world under Islamic rule. The tactics used by the terrorist is to create fear and chaos. We are having a hard time identifying the enemy on a one to one basic. Still some are ignorant to the fact there is an enemy and a war.

    The same is true many times in our spiritual battle. We are ignorant of the war or deny that it is even going on.

    The Bible says in 2 Co 2:11  “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”  This word devices in the KJV is translated many different ways into various English translations. It is translated: methods, schemes, designs, purposes, thoughts, mind, devices, enterprises, plans, intentions, sly ways.

    In the next couple of sessions we will focus on the tactics of the enemy used against Nehemiah and see that they are often paralleled into our lives as we live the Christian life. Se let us look so we will not be ignorant. We also will see the response of Nehemiah to each tactic.

III- Tactic of Ridicule: 2:19-20; 4:1-5

    Notice the first tactic used by the opposition found in Neh 2:19 “But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?”

    We see a continuation of this in Neh 4:1-3 “But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.  2 And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?  3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.”

    They all join in and ridicule the effort to rebuild the walls. They laugh at them even attempting or thinking they can do this task. Tobiah says what they are doing would be knocked down by the light footed fox that walks so soft to almost leave no tracks.

    They even accused them of rebellion against the king. How discouraging it is to hear even the enemy ridicule and tear down with belittling. Satan has used this tactic many times against God’s people. He browbeats them and they get discouraged and begin to believe it themselves it not careful.

    Notice the response of Nehemiah found in Neh 2:20 “Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”

    He was a man of conviction and purpose who responded that God would do this not merely the human element. He confronted them with a strong faith in God. Another statement he makes is what has become obvious they had not portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem. They had no claim to anything that was being done for God because they were so ungodly.

    The response to the ridicule in chapter four is to pray and turn it over to God. Neh 4:4-5 “Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:  5 And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.”

    It could be said as Nehemiah build the wall of brick and mortar that he also build a wall of prayer.

    So the principle for thriving in troublous time is simply. When ridicule comes, and it will, make sure you are in the center of God’s will and then turn it over to God and keep on working.

IV- The Tactic of Aggression: 4:7-8, 11

    The walls of the city were completed to about half height, “all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof.” Neh 4:6

    Notice the response of the enemies. You could call this a tactic of conspiracy or perhaps intimidation. Certainly it is a tactic of aggression. Neh 4:7-8, 11 “But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,  8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it…. 11 And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease”

    They were planning an attack against the work. As we can see the enemies are getting more aggressive in they attempts to derail the work.

    Notice the response of Nehemiah.  Neh 4:9 “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them…” Nehemiah prays, sets a watch and keeps on working. How many times do we get sidetracked from doing by saying, “I’m praying about it.” Certainly there is a time for prayer, Nehemiah prayed constantly, but there is also a danger of hiding behind the pretense of praying to do nothing.

    We notice from Neh 4:12 that the enemies 10 times come to the people and try to draw them away from the work by telling them that their families were in danger. They were trying to get them to abandon the work and submit to the rule of Sanballet and the others.

    We see the response of Nehemiah here in Neh 4:13-14  Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.  14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

    My, what a man of faith and encouragement to all of the workers. He reminded them of God’s greatness and that this work was in fact for their families future.

    Why do we need to stay of task of reaching out to the lost world with the gospel? It is because our families’ future depends of it. We need to remember this is a critical work we do for them. Sure the enemy will plot and scheme but may I say it is not our greatness or resolve but God’s greatness that will give the victory. We are in a fight for the soul of our nation and our community and homes.  We must recognize this. Notice what happened when the enemies found out their plot was known. Neh 4:15 “And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to naught, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.”

    Remember we are not ignorant of the devices of the devil. The Bible also teaches us in Jam 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

V- The Tactic of Discouragement: 4:10

    Intertwined within the last verse we see another tactic of the enemy. The tactic of discouragement is found here. Neh 4:10 “And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.” Perhaps the plot to attack was the result of those outside knowing that they were discouraged.

    However, this was not an attack by those forces outwardly but inwardly in the hearts and minds of the people. Peter told us, 1 Pe 1:13  “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

    While the enemy outside the walls were conspiring to attack and trying to get the Jews to abandon the job we see that they were beginning to succeed. The work was a giant task and they looked around and became discouraged. I think one of the things that has happened in a lot of churches today in America is they have become discourage. They have been attached, ridiculed and put down both from within and without and they have become discouraged.

    We have already looked at the response of Nehemiah. He reminded them of how great a God they served and encourage them. One thing that helps us all thrive in times of trouble is encouragement from others.  Remember Gal 6:2 “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

    An elderly lady was once asked by a young man who had grown weary in the fight, whether he ought to give up the struggle. "I am beaten every time," he said dolefully. "I feel I must give up." "Did you ever notice," she replied, smiling into the troubled face before her, "that when the Lord told the discouraged fishermen to cast their nets again, it was right in the same old spot where they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing?"

    Perhaps we just need to focus on the good and deal with the bad knowing we are doing the work of the Lord. One thing that sticks out in this is that they continued to work in face of opposition.

    We see that in the rest of the preparation that Nehemiah did in the last few verses of chapter 4. Notice a few highlights.

    “…the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows…” Neh 4:16

    “…with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.” Neh 4:17

    Nehemiah also set up a system of warning of attack. (4:18-21) They continued to work and in fact if anything they become more resolved to do the work at hand.

    May we not be ignorant of the devices of Satan and when faced with opposition make sure were are where we need to be in relation to God’s will and redouble our efforts. The battle and victory is God’s.

  Return to Outline:


    We began in our last session to look at the tactics of the enemy. Remember Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2Co 2:11  “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” We have seen that the tactics used by the enemy against Nehemiah were, ridicule, aggression and discouragement. As we continue on with this though we will discover some additional tactics the enemy used against Nehemiah and will use against us as well. Remember, 1 Pe 5:8 “ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 

V- Levels of Conflict:

    Before we look at this tactics of our enemy lets take a moment to look at a related topic. In the lecture of last session I told we would discussed the different levels of conflicts.  I think one of the things that causes more harm to the cause of Christ is internal conflicts in the church. Churches that do not deal with conflict in a construction way usually end up on a plateau or declining or many face a constant forward and then backward growth pattern. It is hard to overcome bad publicity in a community when all the community knows that the church is constantly fighting about something.

    In the book Mastering Conflict and Controversy, Speed B. Leas gives five levels of conflict within churches. He states, “In lower-level conflicts, parties usually stay focused on the problem or difficulty. In higher-level conflicts, the goal of the parties shifts to trying to hurt one another or gain control.” (p84)

His five levels are:

        Level I- Predicaments- There is a problem but the major objective is to solve the problem.

        Level II- Disagreements- Parties begin to be concerned about self-protection and about coming out of the situation looking good.

        Level III- Contest- the players are less concerned about looking good and not want to win, to get their way.
Traits he lists are dichotomizing (seeing it in black and white), universalizing (broad generalizations), magnification, fixation on feelings and not facts.

        Level IV- Fight/Flight- objective is to break the relationship, either by leaving or getting the other to withdraw.

        Level V- Intractable- People believe the opposition is so evil and so virulent that simply getting ride of them will not do. The opposition must be punished or destroyed. For example, people at Level V are not satisfied with have the congregation fire a pastor. These people continue their battle a the denomination level. 

    Dr. Charles Williams says the five emotional stages of conflict are 1-Frustration; 2- Aggravation; 3- Irritation; 4- Anger (desire to punish and lash out at someone); 5- Rage.

    My motive for discuss this is simple. The more we understand about what we are feeling when we interact the less likely we will be to allow things to get to a destructive level.  VI- The Tactic of Internal Conflict:

    Neh 5:1-5  And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.  2 For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.  3 Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.  4 There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.  5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.”

     There is an internal conflict going on in the city of Jerusalem among those rebuilding the walls.  The labors were being taken advantage of by the rich. They were having to sell their land and their children into slavery to pay taxes and for food. The old say applies, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

    We will not spend much time on this point but let me give us a very applicable to us. Phi 2:3-4 HCSB “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

    What these rich Jews were doing to their poorer brothers was forbidden by the Law. Deu 23:19-20 “Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:  20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.”

        Oppression of the poor is very displeasing to God. This is also seen in the New Testament as well. Jam 5:4 “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.”

        This internal conflict was dealt with quickly by Nehemiah.  He presented their wrong acts to the guilty and to their credit they accepted the rebuke and restored the possessions of the poor to their owners. May we also have a heart that will allow us to see our wrong and correct them!

VII- The Tactic of Distraction 6:1-4

     As we enter chapter six we see the project was almost complete.  Neh 6:1 NASB  “…I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates.” The enemies are beginning to pull out all stops. It is getting desperate for them.

    The next tactic the enemy used was an attempt get Nehemiah to be distracted or to compromise the work by leaving and meeting them in Ono some 19 miles away. He recognized that they meant to do him harm and refused to meet with them.  He remained focused on the task at hand.

    Many times the enemy will use this tactic with us. I laugh at times at the projects that have been begun and abandoned by churches. The hardest part of ministry at times is to remained focused. The enemy will put other things before us. Just because something is good and wholesome does not necessarily mean it is God’s will.  The enemy will distract us with so much good that we do not do the best. Nehemiah response shows that he was focused on the task God had given him. Neh 6:3 “And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”      

VIII- The Tactic of Slander 6:5-9

     When all else fails tear down the reputation. We live today in America where it is expected in our political climate to ripe apart the opposition candidate. Nehemiah’s enemies may have invented the game.

    After four attempted to lure him away they sent what is called and open letter. It was a letter unsealed with the intent that it could be read by anyone.

    The accusations were that they were doing this to rebel against the King. By the way the same King that gave Nehemiah permission to rebuilt the walls. They accused Nehemiah of hiring false prophet to prophecies that he was king. Neh 6:6-7  “Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.  7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.”

        Let me make a couple of observations before we move to his response. One, something doesn’t have to be true to be said, two it doesn’t have to be true to be believed.

        Judy Canty, a lady in Tennessee replied to her granddaughter Alexis when she came to her crying because someone had said she was such and such, “You are not are you, just make sure it is not true and what does it matter.”

    I love the response of Nehemiah. He knew he and those working with him was not doing the thing they were being accused of. Neh 6:8 HCSB  “Then I replied to him, "There is nothing to these rumors you are spreading; you are inventing them in your own mind."”

    Slander is a great tactic of the enemy. He will soil our reputations and will use others to accuse us of things.  

IX- The Tactic of Deception: 6:10-14

    Next we find Nehemiah in the home of someone who was supposed to be unable to leave his own home with through self imposed or ritual uncleanness it is not clear. He was a son of a priest and claimed to be a prophet of God. Neh 6:10 “ Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.”  He claimed that Nehemiah was in grave danger and must go immediately to the temple and hide. We see from Num 18:7 that it was a punishment of death for Nehemiah to do this. Notice “Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve…and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.  Nehemiah was not a priest.

    This tactic of deception first was to claim that he was a prophet of God. We will find out in verse twelve that he was a hired prophet of the enemies. The second deception was that Nehemiah should do something forbidden to protect his life. Many times the enemy will deceive us into justify wrong for a good reason.

    Notice Nehemiah’s response. Neh 6:11  “And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” 

    Nehemiah recognized the deception and that it was only to ruin his witness and testimony and tempt him to sin. Neh 6:12-13 “…I perceived that God had not sent him… for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.  13…he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

    Remember that recognizing the enemy and his tactics is the first step and then resisting him is the second in our battle.

    We must constantly be on guard that we do not fall into a trap of deception. 

X- The Tactic of Infiltration: 6:17-19

    The last tactic we look at is one I call infiltration. Remember what Jesus said about the tares among the wheat.

Mat 13:24-25; 38 “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:  25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way… 38The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.”

    I have heard prominent men in the Southern Baptist Convention say they believe that as many as ½ or more of our church members are lost.

    Neh 6:17;19 “Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them…19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.”

    Nehemiah was fighting against an enemy that had infiltrated his camp and was telling his enemy everything going on. May I say that the work of God has been infiltrated by the world? Our churches are full of people who embrace Christianity as a religion but do not have a personal relationship with Christ.

    Nehemiah not only had to contend with the words he spoke being told his enemies but he also had to endure the constant “talking up” or recommending of Tobiah by those around him. Many times we hear different people in the church do this to serve their own interest. Remember what he told Tobiah in Neh 2:20  “…The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”

    Another thing that strikes me is the grapevine as we might call it to get the information or misinformation out. One time in the midst of trouble in one of my churches someone said to me the next day they bet the phone lines were melting from the call after a practically contested business meeting.  

XI- Review and Conclusion:

    Remember the tactics of the enemy that we have identified are:

1- Tactic of Ridicule: 2:19-20; 4:1-5

2- The Tactic of Aggression: 4:7-8, 11

3- The Tactic of Discouragement: 4:10

4- The Tactic of Internal Conflict: 5:1-5

5- The Tactic of Distraction: 6:1-4

6- The Tactic of Slander: 6:5-9

7- The Tactic of Deception: 6:10-14

8- The Tactic of Infiltration: 6:17-19

    So how do we thrive when we are faced with the enemies tool bag of tricks and tactics. Remember how Nehemiah did it. He prayed, discerned, prayed, focused on the task, prayed, set the record straight about his character, would not give into temptation to sin even thought it may have cost his life, and  stuck to his guns about right and wrong.

    Notice as we conclude a verse that will need more time in upcoming session. Perhaps perseverance was the best trait of Nehemiah because it says in Neh 6:15 “So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.”

    Keep up the fight and do not be ignorant of the devices of our enemy.

 Return to Outline:


 

    We digress chronologically for a couple of sessions. We saw in the last session that the walls were complete and the gates were all set up. Many Bible scholars see the gates of the wall having a spiritual significance. Any time we attempt to spiritualize meanings into things like the gates of the wall that Nehemiah rebuilt we run the risk of reading something into the Word of God that God never intended. Having said that, it seems entirely appropriate to spiritualize these gates to understand the spiritual meaning of them. As we take a look at them you will quickly see that they certainly have a divine order to them.

    Before we get to these gates let me make us aware of a couple of other items of interest. Not all the walls required the same amount of repairs. Also the work was not simply divided by gates. In fact one of the great things about Nehemiah’s leadership was that he divided the work in manageable portions. The rebuilding of the walls was done in a total of forty-two sections.

    Another thing Nehemiah did was what we might label the “Inspector 12” technique. What do I mean by this? Have you ever bought a pair of pants or another item and found a ticket inside that said something like “Proudly inspected by Inspector 12.” This is the way that different inspector put their name on their work. Nehemiah put a great number of names down as being the one doing the work. This led them to do quality work because everyone would know who did it. If it were shoddy work then it would show up and those that did the work would be ashamed.

    May I ask, would you be proud to sign the work your have done for God? Remember what 1 Co 3:8 says, “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

    Another thing that Nehemiah did was, without accusing or scolding he reported those that did not carry their load. Neh 3:5 “And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.” This group has forever been remembered not for what they did wrong but for what they did not do. James would have called these the sins of omission. Jam 4:17  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

 I- Sheep Gate 3:1-2

    Neh 3:1a “Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of i…”

    The first gate that Nehemiah mentions is the Sheep Gate. This gate was the one through which the sacrifices for the temple was brought. JV McGee said, “This is the gate where the Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem. We have on record one occasion when He came through this gate and came to the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2). Frankly, I think He used the sheep gate to enter Jerusalem every time until His triumphal entry—when He entered though the east gate.” (Thru the Bible, p 510.)

    So what is the significant of this gate? The sheep gate symbolizes the cross of Christ. Remember John cried in John 1:29b “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

    The sacrifice of Christ makes it possible for us to have a relationship with God. It also does something else as well. It makes it impossible for us to have a relationship with God without Christ. 2 Jo 1:9 “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.”

    Nehemiah begins with the gate that symbolizes the place we must begin with our relationship with God, at the cross of Christ. We cannot have a Christ-less salvation and we cannot have a sacrifice free Christ. He was the Lamb of God slain for our sins. 

II- Fish Gate 3:3-5

    Neh 3:3 “But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.”

    Next to the sheep gate was the fish gate. Outside this gate could have either been the fish market or it may have been the gate through which the fish were brought into the city.  It was one gate that some say you would not have trouble locating. You can probably guess why.

    Remember what Jesus said he would make us if we would follow Him. Mar 1:17  “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary says, “After we have passed through the sheep gate we must go through the fish gate, to catch fish, to be soul-winners. In this way, leading others to Christ, bringing other to Christ, bringing sinners to a knowledge of the Saviour, the Church is built up.” (p 392)

    There is no doubt that Christ has called His followers to be actively involved in sharing the gospel. The question needs constantly asks is, “are we doing what Christ has called us to do?” The only question is not are we called to fish but are we being obedient.

    There are many methods of fishing for aquatic type and there are many methods of fishing for the fish Jesus spoke about as well. Some fish door to door, some fish with relationship building, some fish by inviting and loving people to come here the gospel. So let’s get busy fishing. 

III- Old Gate 3:6-12

    Neh 3:6 “Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.”

    This gate has been seen to have a couple of different spiritual applications. One is found in applying Jer 6:16  “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” This encourages us to follow the old paths. If this is the old paths of righteousness and walking in a godly lifestyle than that is one thing. If it is applied that we have to reject everything modern and live like they did a 100 or 1000 years ago than I do not think this is a correct interpretation of this. The Amish are attempting to do this to be spiritual.

    Others think this speaks of the old nature of man. Rom 6:1-6 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

    We are called to cast off the old nature of the flesh and to walk in the new nature of Christ.

    Still another application to this is found relating to Christ. Mic 5:2 “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

    Certainly we can never be reminded enough of the fact that Jesus is not just a human of history but was God from the beginning and became human in the flesh. We must always elevate Him to His proper place of honor as God from everlasting.

IV- Valley Gate 3:13

    Neh 3:13 “The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate.”

    The next mentioned is the valley gate. The old city of Jerusalem is situation on the top of the mountain so there is a valley on three of four sides of the main city. Anyway you go from Jerusalem you go down in the valley.

    This gates speaks of the suffering of life with all of us must face. Sure some have more than what seems their share of trouble but it is in every life at sometime or another.

2 Co 1:3-5  “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;  4  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

    While suffering is certain in life so is its purpose. God allows us to suffer for a variety of spiritual reasons. One reason is that we might help others along the journey of life. Did you catch what it said “that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” If we never suffer we will never understand how to help someone who is going through tough times. JV McGee said when he thought of this valley gate he remembered the 23 Psalm. “Ye thou I walk through the valley of death…”

    Another reason is humility. Jam 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”  The Apostle Paul understood this as the purpose of his suffering. 2 Co 12:7  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

    When we go through the valley gates of life may we look to see the lessons we need to learn or in the case of suffering maybe it is earn not learn. Let’s not waste one precious drop of the blood of suffering.

    One must also be reminded of what must have been the depth of the valley that Jesus endured for you and I. We can hear Him on the cross crying as the Father turns His back on our sin that was placed upon Jesus. He turned His back and the valley must have been agony for Jesus because He was without sin and our sin put Him in the valley.

NOTE: We will look at the final six gates in our next session.

 Return to Outline:

 


Session 8- The Gospel in the Gates-(Part 2)...Neh 3:1-32

        In our last session we began a two part teaching on gates that Nehemiah rebuilt and set up in the walls of Jerusalem. We saw the recorded account begin with the sheep gate which speaks to us of the cross of Christ where our relationship with God must begin.

        Next we saw the fish gate which tells us after we pass by the cross and become a believer we are called to fish for men. Next in the wall was the old gate which can speak about several things. Among those is that Christ if from eternity past, that we need to seek out the old paths of righteousness, and that we need to cast off the old man of sin. The last one we looked at last week was the valley gate that speaks about the sorrows of life.

        We now come to the last 6 of the 10 gates in the wall.

V- Dung Gate 3:14

        Neh 3:14 “But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.”

        This is on of the most important gates in the wall for the health of the city. One thing that is important for all sorts of disease and illness to not cause death and destruction is proper disposing of the garbage and refuse of any city. This gate was used to take out the garbage and refuse from the city.

        One thing I think that has been lost in our lives today is repentance. We have gotten to be good Christians. We feel like we are above sin. Oh, we may not admit it verbally and some may get upset at the fact that I would say that we all have a problem with sin. The fact is I did not say it, I just repeated it. God said it. Notice Rom 3:10; 23 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

        This gate speaks of the need we have to work toward getting the garbage out of our lives. God does indeed call us to righteous living.

        1 Th 4:7  “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”

        2Co 7:1 “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

        The way we get the garbage out is confess to God. No need to tell the preacher, the deacons. We cannot do anything about forgiving you of your sins. But the good news is there is one who can. 1 Jo 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

VI- Fountain Gate 3:15-25

        Neh 3:15 “But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.”

         The next in line after the dung gate was the gate of the fountain. How ironic and insightful this is. Remember what Jesus told the woman at the well. Joh 4:14 “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

        May I say that once we have been by the dung gate and got the garbage out then we can be a source of refreshment for the world around us.

        When I was young we worked in the fields picking beans and strawberries so we could by school clothes. On those days when the sun would beat down on us as well as rise from the ground a drink of water was always welcome. On rare occasion we would even get some with ice in it. Everybody loved the water boy.

        We need to be busy being the water boy for the world around us. We need to allow God to use us to refresh the souls of men in Christ that we come in contact with.  By the way we have help in doing this. We have the Holy Spirit that indwells us to make us living rivers of fresh water.

VII- Water Gate 3:26-27

        Neh 3:26  Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out.

        One of the most important things in life is water. We need it to live more than a few days. The Bible speaks of the Word of God being symbolized by water. Notice the following:

        Joh 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”

        Eph 5:26 “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”

        This water gate speaks to us of the Word of God. It is important if we are to be that river spoken of by the fountain gate we must be filled with fresh water of the Word.

        One interesting and insightful things about this gate is that it needed no repair. We are only told that the walls were built up to this gate.

        We are living in a time when many want to repair the water gate of God’s word. One thing that all the cults have in common is they have another revelation. Many of them are revelations that are supposable given to straighten out the error or perversion of the Word of God.  May I say that God and His Word do not need any repair? It is still relevant today and it was 200 years ago. We simply need to build our live close to it and join to it with our hearts.

 VIII- Horse Gate 3:28

        Neh 3:28 “From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.”

        The horse was an animal that was used to go to war. For the most part men only rode horses during times of war or when retuning in victory from war. This gate is in the sequence that certainly is true in our Christian life. Any time we would seek to become one who is engaged in spreading the gospel and getting into the Word of God there is certainly a battle that follows. Friends we are in a war, a spiritual war. We are all soldiers in the army of God and our enemy is ruthless.

        Remember the admonition that Paul gave to us in the letter to the Ephesians. Eph 6:11-13 “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

        The weapon we are told is the Sword of the Lord which is the Word of God. Eph 6:17 “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

        While we know that the battle will continue with skirmishes from time to time let us all be reminded that the war is already won. Paul when he was talking to Timothy, a young preacher, said to him, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. “ 2 Ti 2:3 

 IX- East Gate 3:29-30

        Neh 3:29 “After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate.”

        Years before this reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah we see a sad event take place related to this gate. During the dedication of the temple by Solomon the glory of the Lord came to dwell in the temple. It was so strong of a presence that the priest could not enter.

        One of the saddest events recorded for us is when Ezekiel the prophet saw the glory of the Lord depart the temple and out the eastern gate and then back into heaven. (See Ezekiel 3:23; 10:4;18-19; 11:23)

Commenting on Eze 11:23  Adam Clarke said:

The glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city - This vision is no mean proof of the long-suffering of God. He did not abandon this people all at once; he departed by little and little.

First, he left the temple

Secondly, he stopped a little at the gate of the city.

Thirdly, he departed entirely from the city and went to the Mount of Olives, which lay on the east side of the city. Having tarried there for some time to see if they would repent and turn to him -

        Fourthly, he departed to heaven. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)

        So what does all this mean to us? Beloved we know that soon the Lord Jesus will return. This gate is seal in Jerusalem today. Some think that when Jesus comes He will enter through this gate. The Bible does not say this but it could well be.

         We know this gate was a gate of anticipation. When the night was dark the watchman on the wall could not see the enemy sneaking up on the city. But when daylight would come this gate that faced east would be the first opened to a new day.

        May I remind us that we live as Christ followers anticipating the return of Christ? This gate speaks to us of this critical doctrine. Listen to what 1 Th 4:16-17  says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  17  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

        Beloved we live in anticipation of this glorious event may take place in our lifetime.

        X- Miphkad (Inspection) Gate 3:31-32

        We come now to the 10th gate given in Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the wall.  Neh 3:31 “After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner.” 

                This is a strange sounding name compared to sheep, fish, water and the others. So what is this gate? In the original Hebrew it is mif-kawd'. It is simply transliterated into English in most translations. Some translations have it as Hammiphkad. As you can see these are very similar. However this still does not give us insight. Notice some other translations.

        It is “Gathering Gate” in the Contemporary English Version, Judgment Gate” in Douay-Rheims Bible of 1899. “Muster Gate”  in the English Standard Version

        It is translation as “Inspection Gate” in the Holman Christian Standard Bible and the New American Standard Bible.

        John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says, “…some think was an house of visitation or correction; and others, where the sanhedrim sat, tried causes, and exercised justice.”  JV McGee said it means, “review” or “register.” Some say it was where David reviewed his troops.

        So what is the significance of this gate to our lives? May I say it speaks to me of the coming Judgment Seat of Christ?  Notice 2 Co 5:9-10 “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.  10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

        Doesn’t it seem fitting in the last gate for us to be reminded of the fact that there will be a judgment to come for the saints? Notice the next verse Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:11 “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…”  I confess this gate brings me great joy and anticipation but at the same time a fear. Great joy as I would anticipate the rewards for service but great fear as I know my failures. Beloved it is a serious matter to obey the God of the universe and walk in His will. Who does not want to hear at the Judgment Seat of Christ the words recorded in the parable of Jesus in Mat 25:21 “…Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”

        A good verse to live by is 2 Co 5:9  “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”

 XI- Close the Gates:

        As we began we again return to the sheep gate. Neh 3:32  “And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.” We began at the cross and end at the cross. Lets take another quick trip around the city as we “close the gates.”

                The sheep gate we all must pass through because it speaks of the cross. The fish gate compels us all to be about the work of evangelism. The old gate reminds us to worship He who is from everlasting as we walk in the old paths.  The valley gate reminds us that in the valley He is the strength. The dung gate teaches us to constantly repent and keep out hurtful things in our life. As we venture on to the fountain gate we are reminded that clean vessels that have been by the other gates brings forth rivers of water. The water gate reminds to be in the Word so the water can flow. The horse gate again teaches us that there is a spiritual battle in our walk. The east gate reminds us that the Lord we serve will return and then the Miphkad gate brings us to the judgment that we will all stand at.  So the gospel is preached and the Christian life is better understood in the gates that Nehemiah repaired as he rebuilt the city.

 

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Session 9- Model of Leadership...Neh 6:15-16

 

        Neh 6:15-16 “So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.  16  And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.”  

        We see that in 52 days the work of rebuilding of the walls was accomplished. The enemies had not been successful with all of their tactics in stopping the work. God had granted His blessing on the work. How did they succeed? What can we learn in our lives to help us?

       

I- Who Me?

        One of the topics that has been discussed and written about concerning Nehemiah was how he modeled for us leadership. If you look at the book of Nehemiah with this thought in mind you will find that he gave us some principles of leadership that we as leaders can learn from. You might ask is this really for me, I am not a leader in the church. Who is a leader?

        May I say that we all have our sphere of influence and leadership that we are vested with by God. It may be a leadership role in what man would thing is a grand scale or it may be on a limited scale from man’s perspective. I remind us all that David said in Psa 84:10  “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” David was willing to be a lowly servant and be in God’s will. Paul also reminds us in 1 Co 4:2 “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Sometimes being faithful requires us to be preparing for leadership roles. S9 we all can learn from the model of leadership that Nehemiah had.

        Before we look at the model leadership Nehemiah gave us let us get our anchor secure. Regardless of how good of leadership a man gives the ultimate glory of anything that happens in the work of the Kingdom of God is due to the working of God in the situation. I do not want to give the impression that we can overcome us being out of God’s will and purpose with good leadership. Having said that notice what Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary says, “God had worked and given His blessing. The success of it, next to God, was due to persevering prayer, personal and united effort, constant watchfulness and unfailing courage. And their enemies were cast down, ‘for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.’” (P 396)         

I-       Model of Leadership:

        I have complied a personal list of some things I noticed as we have studies Nehemiah concerning leadership. The following will make us of my list as well as others.

        The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Nehemiah exhibited many characteristics necessary for effective leadership.” (P 678).

        The commentary the quotes a work by Donald K. Campbell called Nehemiah: Man in Charge  in which he lists 21 factors.  I will use some of his thoughts intertwined with mine.

 

        1- Identified the Task: Nehemiah you will recall came into town and took a ride at night around the city. He identified the task and understood what need to be accomplished. We talk about vision and casting a vision as leaders. May I say the first part of this is ID the task? Campbell said he had a sense of mission.  

        2- Organized the Task: Campbell said he established a reasonable and attainable goal. Remember that Nehemiah organized the task of rebuilding the walls in 42 different groups. This broke the work down and made it possible for the people to see a portion of the work and not be overwhelmed.

        3- Gave the People Ownership: Neh 3:10 “And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house…” He assigned the different parts of the wall according to the locati0n of the homes of the builders.

        At my first church we went from the low 40’s to an average of 170 one month two years later. During the time we had a Sunday School workshop sponsored by the Association.  I by that time was becoming very exhausted and frustrated because it seemed that people had quite following.  I probably whined like Elijah that I was the only one doing anything. I felt they had become satisfied among other problems. I will never forget what the man who was sent to do our workshop told me. He said you picked this church up and began to carry it on your back and move forward. You worked and worked and the church has grown. The problem he said was that I had ran over the hill without the people. I had left them behind and out of the work in my zeal to do it. I learned a valuable lesson in that time. We must as leaders give the people ownership in what we do.

         4- Put People in Right Positions: This in some ways overlaps the giving of ownership to the people but in some ways it does not. Nehemiah organized the people by placing them in areas they needed to be in as we have mentioned.  One of the things that makes for good leadership is attempting to understand the people you work with and place them where they can be most productive. Some people thrive in some jobs while others would fall apart. Nehemiah understood the need to have the right people in the right place.  

        5- He Became One of Them:  I hear people says all the time something like, “I don’t know what you people are doing.”  I am quick to point out that you people includes them. Many times people want to disassociate with the group of which they are a part. The worst of this is when the leader tries to lead from the outside.

        I feel that church staff should quickly become church members after being called. If you can’t lead from the inside you can’t lead effective.

        Notice how Nehemiah identified himself as one of them. In his prayer in Neh 1:6 he said, “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.”

        Now notice when he spoke to the leaders of the Jews in the city what he said, Neh 2:17 “ Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.” When he finished he told them, “We will rise up and build.” Neh 2:20

        Before we can lead we must become a part. I think it is hard for a leader in a church organization to be effective without being in attendance regularly.  Often in churches the opposition to different thing that need to occur are the ones who are not faithful in their attendance.

         6- He Held them Accountable: We have discussed this in the past sessions. Let me remind us now simply how that Nehemiah recorded for us the names that built the portions of the walls and also those who were lazy and would not do their portion of the work. Neh 3:4-5  “And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.  5  And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.”

        One of the hardest and fearful things in leadership is holding others to accountability.  What makes it difficult is that it is froth with danger because you never know how others will react. This leadership trait required wisdom in knowing how to do it.

         7- Stood With a Stiff Backbone: How man leaders lead out of conviction and not just popular opinion. The great leaders are strong in intestinal fortitude. Some of the traits of leadership that Campbell identified that could fit under this point are, “He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles...He displayed God’s confidence in facing obstacles…He did not argue with his opponents…He was not discouraged by opposition.”

        Nehemiah stood his ground and did not back down when confronted with all the tactics of the enemy. He was a great leader for this.

        Neh 6:3 “And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” 

        8- Modeled Honor: Nehemiah had several opportunities to do the wrong thing. One of those was to enter into the temple for protection. Neh 6:11-12  And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.  12  And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 

        There was also the open letter that was sent accusing him of being dishonest with the people and having dishonest motives.

        Through it all Nehemiah proved over and over again that he was a man of honor. One of the things that we need to always guard is our name and honor. Pro 22:1 “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.”

 III- Encourage Leadership:

        It is easy to get discouraged as leaders. May I say that most leaders for the most part do not feel they do a good enough job leading. We all need to become an more effective encourager of others. This is another character of Nehemiah that we could have included in the list before. I chose not to but on thing that makes a leader great is his or her ability to encourage others in their task.

        I pray these characteristics of leadership can help us all to become better and more effective leaders for the kingdom of God. I might ask a question for you to thing on in conclusion.

        What is one or more of these characteristics of leadership that you need to work on. Will make a commitment to working on this in your life?

 

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Session 10- Blessings of Obedience...Neh 8:1-18

 

        The walls are built the gates are set up and the city is secure. We now enter into a second division of Nehemiah. It is the post-wall blessings, which I have entitled the blessings of obedience.

        The children of Israel had been faithful in the face of the opposition. They had accomplished in 52 days a God sized task. They had persevered even during what Daniel called troublous times.

        We will not spend as much time in the last part of the book of Nehemiah as we have in the first part of Nehemiah and the rebuilding effort of the walls.

        Some have called these last chapters of Nehemiah the restoration of the people. The walls have been restored now the people will be restored.

        Nehemiah chapter seven gives us the record of those who returned from captivity and is census record of those who returned. 

        In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, places Neh 7:73  as Chapter 8’s first verse.

        Neh 7:73  So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.

        The city was populated and life could settle into a routine with walls to protect them from harm. It is now the 7th month in the Jewish calendar.  The walls had just been completed and the blessings lay ahead.

        Let us look at some of the blessing that came about from the obedience that they exhibited by trusting God and rebuilding the walls.

        The first blessing we will look at is the blessing of the Word of God. Their obedience caused the word of God to be taught, valued, understood and practiced.

I- Word of God Was Taught: Neh 8:3

        The narrative of Nehemiah eight begins with a gathering of the people.

Neh 8:1  “And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.”

        There will be a transition in these last chapters. One of the things that we must admire about Nehemiah was that he was willing to step back into the shadows and let Ezra the priest do what God had called him to do.

        The people gathered at the water gate, remember this speaks of  the Word of God.

        Ezra bring for the books of the Laws of Moses. Beloved it is worth pointing out that God had faithfully preserved His word even while they were taken into captivity and scattered in foreign lands. Ezra has the law of Moses to read to the people.

        Neh 8:3  And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

        Notice that they gather and hear the word of God read to them from morning to noon. I find the most precious statement here is “…and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.”

        There is an old saying that says, “you have not taught until someone has learned.” Beloved I feel we can say that Nehemiah taught the Word. What a blessing to have and hear the precious Word of the God of the universe.

                This first day of the seventh month was set aside in the Law of Moses as the Feast of Trumpets.  Lev 23:24-25  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.  25  Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

        Notice what Matthew Henry had to say about event. “That which was now the seventh month had been reckoned the first month, and the year of jubilee was still to begin with this month, so that this was their new year's day.”

        How fitting that the celebration and the blessing of obedience was on this day.

        Beloved we know that the God of glory is always interested in blessing those who will turn to His word.

 II- Word of God Was Valued: Neh 8:5

        Ezra stood on a pulpit of wood that was constructed for this occasion (see 8:4) with others standing with him.

        Please notice with me what the response of the people was to being in the presence of the Word of God.

        Neh 8:5 “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up.” The people stood up in honor of God’s Word.  Some assert, although it is not evidenced in the Bible, that from the time of Moses to the New Testament times that the Word of God was learned standing.

        This was probably the first time most of these had even laid eyes upon the scrolls of the Word of God. It has been said also that they looked past the scrolls and saw God.  For certain we can see that they held the words written on the scroll as precious and of great value.

        We might ask what makes the Word of God so valuable. One thing is it contains the words of life. During the time that Jesus was on the earth He had an exchange with His disciples. Notice what they said to them when He asked if they would depart from following Him as some had just done. Joh 6:68 “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”

        Phi 2:16 says “Holding forth the word of life…”

                The Bible is also the holder of truth for spiritual man. The AWANA programs across the nation use the verse 2Ti 2:15  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

        Another reason it is of great value is that it reveals to us the will and ways of God.  It gives us the message of hope from sin and reveals to us the answer of God to the problem of man’s separation from God.  

III- Word of God Was Understood: Neh 8:7-8

        How can any mortal man expect to understand the words of an immortal God? 

        2 Co 4:3-4 says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:  4  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. We have an enemy who would like nothing more than to keep God’s people in ignorance about what God’s Word teaches. 

        The first key of understanding the Word of God is to understand that it is a spiritual matter.   1 Co 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

        The second thing is that we all do not know it all. We all must have a teachable heart. Notice what it says in  Neh 8:7-8  “Also Jeshua… and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.  8  So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”

        The people were helped to understand the Word that Ezra read by the leaders. By the way it is no different now as it was then. May I say that to be a leader in the Kingdom we must be able to help others to understand the things of God?  In the qualification of a bishop or pastor we find in 1 Ti 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach.” When we look a little farther along we see that likewise the qualification of a deacon is likewise. (See 1 Tim 1:8)

        The prophet Isaiah said in  Isa 28:9-10 “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.  10  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”

        The blessing for the people on this day in Nehemiah was that they revered and understood what the Word of God taught them.  

IV- Word of God Practiced: Neh 8:13-18

        The next day they gather again to hear what the Word of God had to say to them.

                Neh 8:13 “And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.”

Neh 8:14 “And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:  15  And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.” They found that they were supposes to be holding a feast in the seventh month. Remember we are now on the second day of this month. The people were confronted with a crisis in their life. Would they obey God’s clear will or would they attempt to do as we do often, justify it away. After all they did not have it properly planned, it had not been approved by the proper committee and voted on by the congregation. What were they to do?

        Notice the sweet response that followed. Neh 816 “So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.  17  And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.  18  Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.”

        This obedience was a direct result of the previous obedience of the people. They obeyed when they built the wall and now the next opportunity for obedience is given them and they pass the test with flying colors.

        I am reminded of what Saul was told by Samuel when he did not obey what God instructed him to do. 1Sa 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

        Obedience to the will and ways of God is the only way that we can be assured of the blessing of God on our lives.

 

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Session 11- Lest We Forget...Neh 9:1-38

       

        It has been said something like if we do not learn from the past we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over again. The lessons of the past are a vital element in our spiritual growth and development.

        There are a number of places in the Bible that the history of Israel is recounted as a reminder for them. If I may state the reminder is not only for them but for us as well, lest we forget. 

I- New Testament Application:

        Before we venture into the book of Nehemiah let us look at a New Testament application of Scripture such as Nehemiah 9.

        In the letter to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul under the leadership of the Holy Spirit spans the gap of time and applies the events of Israel to his time, and may I say our time consequently.

        1 Corinthians 10:5-6;9-11 “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted…9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.  11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

        It is clear that God intends for us to learn from the past history of the national of Israel. Notice still one more verse. Rom 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

        Can anything be any plainer to us? So with that said our ears should be perked up as we see the things that take place in Nehemiah are for our learning as we get a history lesson from the Old Testament.    

II- A Time to Weep:

        We are told by the author of Ecclesiastes that everything has its time. Ecc 3:4 says there is “ A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

Nehemiah records that during the times of the feast of Tabernacles or booths that was celebrated in chapter 8 that sadness did not have any part in the time of celebration. Nehemiah 8:9-11 “…Nehemiah…and Ezra…and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.  10  Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.  11  So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.”

Chapter 9 moves us forward to a few days after the celebration ends. It is now time to address the things that had been put on hold by the celebration. It is time for a reminder from history.

We find them returning to the reading of the Word of God but the attire is now sackcloth and there is a solemn mood of repentance. It is a time to do business with God. 

III- Confessional Prayer:

        The priestly leaders, the Levites, stand and lead the people in a public prayer of confession. They not only confess their sin but also confess what a great God they served.

        Pastor John Marshall said the following concerning this prayer that he points out is the longest recorded in the Bible.

        “This prayer repeatedly intertwines five predominant threads: God’s grace, Israel’s sin, God’s chastisement, Israel’s repentance, God’s forgiveness.  These are brought to view alternately, as illustrated by historical events in Israel.” (provided at the Concord Baptist Association 2005)

        Let us look at some of the things that we need to be mindful of from the past to help us walk straighter and truer with God. 

1- God has a Chosen People: 9:6-8

        We know that the nation of Israel and the Jews have been a persecuted people over the history of mankind.  We also know that the Jewish people are special to God. In fact they are called His chosen people. Notice Deut 14:2 “ For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

        Some erroneously think that they claim this for themselves when in fact it is God who chose them. Why? Notice, Deut  7:6-8  “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.  7  The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:  8  But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

        Israel some have taught has been replaces by the church but I find this extremely foreign to the teachings of God’s Word. So the church is NOT the New Israel. However we see in the New Testament a connection made to this terminology of a chosen people to the church as well. Tit 2:14 “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

        Also notice,  1 Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

        So one thing we must not forget is that God has a special place in His heart for those that He would call His. It’s special to be special to God. God promised to give Abraham and his descendants what we call the Promised Land. He has promised to give us an inheritance in the next life.  

2- God Hears the Cries of the Afflicted: 9:9-21

        The next thing we see in the prayer is a reminder of the ear of God being tuned to the suffering of mankind. The historical background of this in Nehemiah is found in the book of Exodus. Exo 2:23 “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.”

        Exo 3:7  “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.”

        One of the attributes of God is that is He is all seeing, omniscient. He sees and knows all things at once. He hears cries from all around the globe simultaneously.

        Psa 46:1  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

        What a comfort to know that God hears our cries and is touched. Notice what is said about Jesus in Heb 4:15 “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Lest we forget we have a God who is so concerned He even keeps up with the number of hairs on our heads.

3- God Keeps His (Promises) Covenants: 9:22-25

        We are told in Neh 9:8  “And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous.”

        The reference in Neh 9:22-25 is to the Abrahamic covenant where Abraham was promised the number of his descendants as stars. Genesis 15:5 “And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”

        Abraham was told that God would give his descendant an inheritance of land. Nehemiah reminds us that God keeps his promises and covenants.

        What is the implication to us? May I say that the promise of our salvation resting in Christ is secure? Paul said in 2Ti 1:12  “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

        Some may say well my grandpaw believed Jesus was coming and did not see it in his lifetime. May I say that the promises are sercure and death of a human does not negate the promises of God. Notice Heb 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

        Beloved lest we forget God is good for His word. All the promises in the Bible are good. That is why we can say we are already seated in heaven with God as evidenced by Rom 8:30  “…whom he justified, them he also glorified.” 

4- God Judges Sin 9:26-30

        Does this mean that God will go back on His word and do something out of character by letting all men go to heaven? May I say no. God keeps His promises, and those promises today are to those who accept His offering for their sin in Christ. God will judge sin and we are reminded of this by the prayer here.

        First we see that they were disobedient. Neh 9:26. Because of their disobedience God sent bondage. Nehemiah 9:27  Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.”

        Even while talking about the chastisement of God we see that God was a forgiving God as well.  This is probably talking about the times of the Judges when the cycle was sin, punishment, cry, deliverance, sin, etc. 

        The point is that we need to not just simply preach God as a loving God that will forgive anything. We must realize that He is forgiving but on His terms not on mankinds.       

5- God Seeks Us to Serve Him: 9:31-37

        Neh 9:36 “Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it.” 

        They realized they were servants in the land that God had provided for them. We too are servants in the vineyard of God. Jesus said in Luk 10:2 “ Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”

        As we are aware this world is only the dress rehearsal of eternity where we will serve God. Rev 22:3  “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him.” So least we forget we need to be in the harvest serving.

 

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Session 12- Keep Up the Guard...Neh 13:1-30

 

        Our journey through Nehemiah comes to an end. It has been a journey that has taught us about God, ourselves and our enemy. It has been a book of strong teaching not for the faint of heart or spiritually weak. We have seen that God used this man of great faith and commitment to accomplish a God sized task.

        After the walls were rebuilt there was a spiritual rebuilding of the people. They turned to God in worship. Nehemiah 12:43 records for us “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.”

        Nehemiah records for us in chapter eleven the repopulating of the city of Jerusalem after it was made secure. We have a record of the priests and Levites who came with Zerubbabel and is an important historic document.  

I- Nehemiah’s Absence:

        Nehemiah had asked to return to Jerusalem, as you will recall, to rebuild the walls of the city. Neh 1:1 tells us in was the 20th year of the king. Notice now Nehemiah 13:6 “But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king.” So some 12 years had passed. It is not entirely clear if Nehemiah had returned to the King prior to this or not.

        The point is that Nehemiah left for just a short time and those left behind did not do what was right.

        May I say that strong leadership is needed to keep a nation, community, church or family on track? Nehemiah’s absence left no one keeping the guard. Nehemiah’s absence has been said to have been leaving the sheep without a shepherd.

        To further illustrate this I would remind us all that it was while Moses was on the mountain that they build the golden calf.

II- The Ongoing War:

        Remember when we talked about the enemy we were warned to, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pe 5:8 

        We are in a spiritual battle and may I say that the battle will have no finality in this life. There will be a constant warfare.

        Please notice before we move forward that in Nehemiah 13:1-3 a victory in the battle. The people understood that they were an ungodly alliance and disassociated with them.

        Still we see that the battle may have been won but the war still was on going. We will see we need to keep up the guard to continue to thrive in good as well as bad times. 

III-  The Breakdowns:

        1- The first event relayed to us by Nehemiah was that the enemy has infiltrated the inner rooms of the temple. Remember one of the enemies that had stood so in opposition to the rebuilding of the walls was Tobiah. Look at  Nehemiah 13:7-9  And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.  8And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.  9Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

        This reminds us that we must keep up our guard about our associations with the world. 2Co 6:14 warns us to “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” Many times this is applies to marriage but may I say it should apply to business and all things in life.

2-The second event that we have is that the offering intended for the Levites that worked in the temple was not getting to them. Nehemiah 13:10  And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. They had to go to work to eat.  We see the significance of this was that they were neglecting to take care of the house of God. Nehemiah 13:11a  Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken?

        During the time of the rebuilding of the temple, just before the events of Nehemiah, the work has stalled and come to a halt. God sent a prophet by the name of Haggai to preach to the people and get the temple rebuilt. Listen to what Haggai had to say in Hag 1:3-5 HCSB  The word of the LORD came through Haggai the prophet:  4  "Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?"  5  Now, the LORD of Hosts says this: "Think carefully about your way.

        We must constantly be on guard as God’s people that we do not neglect taking care of the houses of God. It is easy when we see things week to week to not notice the decline of things.

3- The next thing recorded in Neh 13:15-22 was the profaning of the Sabbath day. The Sabbath law was given to the Jews in order to keep them from spending all their time working and never taking a day or time to spend thinking of the Creator. It had become just another work day for them.

        Nehemiah has the doors of the city locked and even threatens those vendors who keep showing up that if they came again on the Sabbath he would lay hands on them.

        What is the lesson for us that we need to see to keep up the guard? We realize that Saturday is the Sabbath and that Sunday has become the day that we worship. May we always take time for the things of God. We no longer have blue laws that prevent commerce on Sundays. Many jobs require workers to be there on Sundays. However the old saying is true that if we are to busy for God we are to busy.

        We must all be on guard that we do not let the things of God slip. Notice 1Co 10:12  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

 

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 (c) 2006/07 Dr. Edgar Pierce