I recently picked up my Bible and began reading from the book of Nehemiah. I was inspired. Much of the book of Nehemiah is written in the first person, suggesting that Nehemiah himself was the author. Nehemiah records the history of the third return of God’s people to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon. It tells of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and the renewed faith of God’s people.
The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: 1 In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.
Father, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer. Amen
It never ceases to amaze me how quick the world around us is to complain, moan and gripe about problems of our world. It is very easy to sit back and analyze and talk about such things. But, what we really need are people who will not just discuss those situations, but who will do something about them. Nehemiah was one such person.
So who was Nehemiah anyway? He lived in the city of Susa and he was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. His job was to ensure the safety and quality of the King’s food and drink.
One day, Nehemiah’s brother came to visit. He told Nehemiah some sad news about the city of Jerusalem where their family had once lived. His brother said, “The wall and gates surrounding the city are had all fallen down.
Nehemiah knew that the Jewish people who had been captured and held captive in other lands had begun to return to their home in Jerusalem. But despite so many returning, the wall of the city had yet to be repaired and rebuilt. The wall was torn down during the battle to capture the Jews and still remained in disrepair. Without the wall God’s people were defenseless and vulnerable. When Nehemiah heard about the dilemma he immediately began praying.
He recognized God’s holiness. He asked God to hear him. He confessed his own sin. He asked for specific help in approaching King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah could have lost his job if not his life just for being so bold as to request a time of leave in order to go to Jerusalem on this mission.
How often do we pour out our hearts to the Lord? How often do we give Him a specific request to answer?
Each Sunday morning we meet in the prayer room prior to the service. One of our requests of God is that we will each feel his Holy Spirit’s presence during the service and that the Holy Spirit will guide each one of us.
Most of you would have been unaware of this but last Sunday morning Bill told me that as a part of leading the worship he wanted to share about our support of Lexi Tate for the month of January. He also said he had a scripture to share if that was OK. I said yes go right ahead. When he shared the scripture with us he read Matthew Chapter 28 the story of the great commission. I was sitting here behind him just smiling. You see God had led Bill to share that particular scripture and Bill had no idea that my sermon for last Sunday would end with the sharing of that same scripture. It was just another moment of God taking care of the details of our service.
On Wednesday evening when we met for our book study, “Anxious for Nothing” by Max Lucado, Bill had arrived early and went into the prayer room before our meeting. When he came out of the prayer room he said he had been thanking God again for putting that scripture on both his heart and mine to share. It is so awesome to see how God blesses us each week. I said to him, you know, we shouldn’t be surprised and yet each time we see His hand in our service we are amazed. And when we see those things, we need to follow Bill’s example. Instead of just saying how nice that was, we need to be thanking God and acknowledging how he has blessed us.
Prayer today is still God’s mighty force. But specific prayer and action have to go hand in hand. Through prayer God guides us to be able to carry out His will.
Nehemiah knew God wanted him to help his people. But he was serving King Artaxerxes. The king noticed that Nehemiah looked upset. He asked Nehemiah what was upsetting him. Nehemiah told the king the report his brother had given him about the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The king asked what he could do to help.
Before answering the King, Nehemiah went to God and said, Here’s where you can help, God.” Nehemiah was putting the expected results into God’s hands. He also made sure he gave God the credit for what happened.
Giving God credit for what happens before it happens keeps us from being tempted to take more credit for ourselves than we should.
4 “The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
Nehemiah had position, power and many good organizational skills, but he knew that without God’s strength his efforts would be in vain.
Do you acknowledge God as your power source and as the giver of the gifts you are blessed with?
Nehemiah set out on a 3 month journey to Jerusalem. When he arrived, he went to the temple and became acquainted with the people. Before they were taken captive to another land the Jews had their own language, their own king, their own army and their own identity. But now none of that was true. Not only was that true but they were also lacking leadership. They had no one to show them where to start or what direction they should take.
Now Nehemiah was a back to basics kind of guy. The first thing he did was minister to the peoples physical needs. He set up a fair system of government. He also cared for the people’s spiritual needs. He helped the people to rebuild their broken lives. Nehemiah became a model of commitment and a God honoring leader. His book contains many useful lessons for us even in today’s world.
Nehemiah’s mission was to reunite the Jewish people, to remove the shame of Jerusalem’s broken-down wall, and to restore the reality and power of God’s presence among God’s people. The important thing to remember here is that Nehemiah was not in this alone. During every step of the way Nehemiah was in direct communication with God through prayer.
Now all was not smooth going for Nehemiah. When he arrived in Judah he was met with opposition. Opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem had been going on for 90 years by those who had settled in the area when the Jews had been taken captive.
We need to realize that when we set out to do God’s work some will oppose us, some will even hope we will fail. If we expect opposition we will be prepared rather than surprised and caught off guard. How many times has someone said something to you and you were caught off guard? Usually a few days later you think of a really good response you could have had but it is too late. If you expect opposition you can be better prepared to make an appropriate response.
There is actually a scripture about just that.
1 John 3:13
13 “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”
Knowing that God is behind your goal is the best incentive for moving forward in the face of opposition.
11 “I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the wall of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and for several days he quietly and carefully assessed the damage to the wall of the city. He took time to thoughtfully consider his plan. He got his information first hand. Before jumping into any project, we need to do the same.
Follow Nehemiah’s example and plan ahead. Check your information and make sure your ideas will work. Be realistic. Then you will be able to present your plan with confidence.
17″ Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.”
Spiritual renewal many times begins with one person’s vision. But Nehemiah didn’t keep his vision to himself. He shared it with enthusiasm and inspiration and the people realized this was something they could do.
Too often we underestimate people and do not challenge them with our dreams for God’s work. When God plants an idea in your mind to accomplish something for him, share it with others. Trust that the Holy Spirit will motivate them to make it their dream as well. Often God uses one person to share a vision and others to turn that vision into a reality. We need to encourage and inspire each other so that as a team we can accomplish God’s goals.
Chapter 3 of Nehemiah is a record of many of people and the particular portion of the wall and gate they rebuilt. All the citizens of Jerusalem did their part. This job of rebuilding the city wall and gates was a huge undertaking.
The work of the church requires every member’s effort in order for the body of Christ to function effectively. The whole body of Christ needs you. Are you doing your part? Let us help you find a place to serve God with the gifts he has given you.
In Nehemiah Chapter 4 we learn that Nehemiah and the Jews living in Jerusalem and rebuilding the wall were being ridiculed. But instead of trading insults Nehemiah prayed and the work continued.
When we are mocked for our faith and criticized for doing what we know is right, we need to refuse to respond in the same way or to become discouraged. Instead tell God how you are feeling and remember His promises to be with you always in all things. This will give you the encouragement and strength you need to continue on.
In Nehemiah Chapter 6:15-16 we learn that the wall was finally completed.
15 “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
They said it couldn’t be done. But God’s people, jointed together for a special task, can solve huge problems and seemingly impossible tasks. The tears Nehemiah originally shed when he heard of the condition of the wall and his vision to rebuild the wall became a reality with God’s help every step of the way.
Don’t let the size of a task keep you from doing it. With God’s help it CAN be done.
Nehemiah was a man of character, persistence and prayer. He was a brilliant planner, organizer and motivator. Under his leadership the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt. He was calm under opposition and his first step was always to pray. He knew that people under God’s direction can do great things, seemingly impossible tasks. He knew the importance of talking to God and walking with God.
Each one of us needs to realize the power of prayer and obedience to God because whatever struggles you are facing at the moment, however difficult life looks, however impossible the situation seems, you need to remember His love for you and trust that with God all things are possible.
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The book of Nehemiah is a powerful book full of examples of faithfulness, commitment, service, and accomplishment. No matter where you see yourself in this story, weather you see yourself as a leader like Nehemiah with the same sorts of gifts he had, or you see yourself as a servant or worker, willing to do your best with the task that has been set before you, you can learn many valuable lessons from this wonderful book.
The servants learned that by themselves the task before them was impossible and yet through prayer, leadership, cooperation, and hard work the impossible became a reality with God. The wall around the city was rebuilt in less than two months (just 52 days). When their enemies and neighbors saw what had taken place there was no doubt in their minds that God was by their sides all the way. That in itself was probably as much protection for the people of Jerusalem as was the new rebuilt wall.
I encourage you to read the book of Nehemiah in its entirety and take a lesson from Nehemiah and what he always did first.
HE PRAYED! Praying to God should always be our number 1 step.
Nehemiah prayed first and then he entered Jerusalem quietly. He didn’t go into the city shouting and ordering the people to start doing their part. He went in and quietly assessed the situation. He visited the temple to assess the damage there. He walked around the wall to see what needed to be done. And he prayed again. Remember up until that first day of entering the city Nehemiah had only heard of the disrepair and damage. He hadn’t yet seen it for himself. How do you think he felt after that first day of touring the city? He probably felt like some of us have felt when we have said yes to agree to taking on some position of leadership in the church.
Have you ever been in a situation where you agreed to do something and then you suddenly realize, “Oh wow, wait a minute, I’m not sure this is what I thought it would be. How am I going to accomplish what I agreed to?” The simple answer is that if you will follow Nehemiah’s example and will rely totally on the Lord, going to Him in prayer and asking Him to help you to faithfully serve Him, you will find that God will lead you to accomplish the impossible.