The Time for Tears is Over
UTAWALA BAPTIST CHURCH
Unknown to him, Nehemiah was about to join the glorious ranks of the “champions of faith”; and in the centuries to follow, his name would be included with heroes like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Deborah, and David. One person can make a big difference in this world, if that person knows God and really trusts in Him. Because faith makes a difference, we can make a difference in our world to the glory of God.
“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace,” said Martin Luther. “It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” The promise is that “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23, NKJV). Jesus said living faith can move mountains! (Matt. 17:20)
This chapter describes three evidences of Nehemiah’s faith. As we study these evidences of faith, we must examine our own hearts to see whether or not we are really walking and working by faith.
1. He had the faith to wait (Neh. 2:1–3)
2. 2. He had the faith to ask (Neh. 2:4–8)
3. 3. He had the faith to challenge others (Neh. 2:11–18a)
four months have passed since Nehemiah received the bad news about the plight of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah patiently waited on the Lord for directions; because it is “through faith and patience” that we inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12).
We must know not only how to weep and pray, but also how to wait and pray.
Three statements in Scripture should have a calming effect on us whenever we get nervous and want to rush ahead of the Lord:
“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Ex. 14:13);
“Sit still...until you know how the matter will turn out” (Ruth 3:18, NKJV);
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
1. When you wait on the Lord in prayer, you are not wasting your time; you are investing it.
2. God is preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished.
However, when the right time arrives for us to act by faith, we dare not delay.
Eastern monarchs were sheltered from anything that might bring them unhappiness (Es. 4:1–2);
On that particular day, Nehemiah could not hide his sorrow. “By sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Prov. 15:13), and Psalm 102 certainly describes Nehemiah’s feelings about Jerusalem.
Perhaps each morning, Nehemiah prayed, “Lord, if today is the day I speak to the king about our plans, then open the way for me.”
The king noticed that his cupbearer was carrying a burden.
Had Artaxerxes been in a bad mood, could have banished Nehemiah or even ordered him killed;
instead, the king inquired why his servant was so sad.
World leaders are only God’s servants, whether they know it or not.
II Chronicles 20:5-6
2. He had the faith to ask (Neh. 2:4–8)
The king asked him, “What is it you want?”
What an opportunity for Nehemiah! All the power and wealth of the kingdom were wrapped up in that question!
As he was accustomed to do, Nehemiah sent one of his quick “SMS prayers” to the Lord (4:4; 5:9; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31).
But keep in mind that these “emergency prayers” were backed up by four months of fasting and praying.
“He had only an instant for that prayer,” wrote George Morrison. “Silence would have been misinterpreted. Had he closed his eyes and lingered in devotion, the king immediately would have suspected treason.”
Nehemiah had to wait for an invitation before he could share his burden with the king, but we can come to the throne of grace at any time with any need (Heb. 4:14–16).
People approaching the throne of Persia had to be very careful what they said, lest they anger the king;
but God’s people can tell Him whatever burdens them. (The word boldly in Heb. 4:16 means “freedom of speech.”)
You are never sure of the mood of a human leader, but you can always be sure of God’s loving welcome.
He aroused the king’s sympathy and interest with a question regarding how he should feel about the sad plight of his ancestral city and the graves of his forefathers.
God used Nehemiah’s reply to get the king’s sympathetic attention (Luke 21:14–15).
A pagan monarch would probably not sorrow over the ruins of Jerusalem, but he would certainly show respect for the dead.
Not only had Nehemiah prayed for this opportunity, but he had also planned for it and had his answer ready.
His reply to the king can be summarized in two requests: “Send me!” (Neh. 2:4–6) and “Give me!” (vv. 7–10)
Nehemiah had done his research well. He knew what would be needed.
Nehemiah is a good example of how believers should relate to unsaved officials as they seek to do the work of God.
Nehemiah respected the king and sought to work within the lines of authority that existed in the empire.
Daniel and his friends took the same approach as did Nehemiah, and God honored them as well (Dan. 1).
While it may be helpful to have believing officials like Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah, we must remember that God is not required to use only believers.
Moses and Nehemiah made similar decisions of faith and similar sacrifices (Heb. 11:24–26).
3. He had the faith to challenge others (Neh. 2:11–18a)
Traveling (Neh. 2:9–10).
No description is given of the trip from Susa to Jerusalem, a journey of at least two months’ time
When the official caravan arrived, it was bound to attract attention, particularly among those who hated the Jews and wanted to keep them from fortifying their city.
Three special enemies are named:
Sanballat, from Beth Horan, about twelve miles from Jerusalem;
Tobiah, an Ammonite;
and Geshem, an Arabian (Neh. 2:19), also called “Gashmu” (6:6).
Sanballat was Nehemiah’s chief enemy, Holding an official position in Samaria only made him that much more dangerous (4:1–3).
Nehemiah would soon discover that his biggest problem was not the enemy on the outside but the compromisers on the inside, a problem the church still faces today.
Investigating (Neh. 2:11–16).
After his long difficult journey, Nehemiah took time to rest; for leaders must take care of themselves if they are going to be able to serve the Lord (Mark 6:31).
He also took time to get “the lay of the land” without arousing the concern of the enemy.
A good leader doesn’t rush into his work but patiently gathers the facts firsthand and then plans his strategy (Prov. 18:13).
We must be “wise as serpents” because the enemy is always watching and waiting to attack.
A wise leader knows when to plan, when to speak, and when to work.
Challenging (Neh. 2:17–20).
Nehemiah’s appeal was positive; he focused on the glory and greatness of the Lord.
He spoke of “we” and “us” and not “you” and “them.” As he did in his prayer (1:6–7), he identified with the people and their needs.
It is to the credit of the Jewish nobles that they accepted the challenge immediately and said, “Let us rise up and build!”
The good hand of God was upon the leader, and the followers “strengthened their hands” for the work (Neh. 2:8, 18).
It takes both the hands of leadership and the hands of partnership to accomplish the work of the Lord.
Nehemiah was not only able to challenge his own people, but he was also able to stand up against the enemy and deal effectively with their opposition.
Just as soon as God’s people step out by faith to do His will, the enemy shows up and tries to discourage them.
Sanballat and Tobiah heard about the enterprise (v. 10) and enlisted Geshem to join them in opposing the Jews.
In chapters 4–7, Nehemiah will describe the different weapons the enemy used and how the Lord enabled him to defeat them.
They started off with ridicule,
” They laughed at the Jews and belittled both their resources and their plans. They even suggested that the Jews were rebelling against the king. That weapon had worked once before (see Ezra 4).
Our Lord was ridiculed during His life and mocked while He was hanging on the cross. He was “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3).
On the Day of Pentecost, some of the Jews in the crowd said that the Christians were drunk (Acts 2:13).
The Greek philosophers called Paul a “babbler” (17:18).
and Festus told Paul he was out of his mind (26:24).
Ridicule is nothing new!
In his reply Nehemiah made three things clear:
Rebuilding the wall was God’s work; the Jews were God’s servants;
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem had no part in the matter.
Sometimes leaders have to negotiate, but there are times when leaders must draw a line and defend it.
Unfortunately, not everybody in Jerusalem agreed with their leader; for some of them cooperated with Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem and added to Nehemiah’s burdens.
The stage is now set and the drama is about to begin.
But before we join the workers on the wall, let’s ask ourselves whether we are the kind of leaders and followers God wants us to be.
Like Nehemiah, do we have a burden in our hearts for the work God has called us to do? (2:12)
Are we willing to sacrifice to see His will accomplished?
Are we patient in gathering facts and in planning our work? Do we enlist the help of others or try to do everything ourselves?
Do we motivate people on the basis of the spiritual—what God is doing—or simply on the basis of the personal?
Are they following us or the Lord as He leads us?
As followers, do we listen to what our leaders say as they share their burdens?
Do we cling to the past or desire to see God do something new?
Do we put our hands and necks to the work? (v. 18; 3:5)
Are we cooperating in any way with the enemy and thus weakening the work?
Have we found the job God wants us to complete?
Anyone can go through life as a destroyer; God has called His people to be builders. What an example Nehemiah is to us!
Observe Nehemiah’s his “so” statements and see how God used him:
“So I prayed” (2:4);
“So I came to Jerusalem” (v. 11);
“So they strengthened their hands for this good work” (v. 18);
“So built we the wall” (4:6);
“So we labored in the work” (v. 21);
“So the wall was finished” (6:15).
Were it not for the dedication and determination that came from his faith in a great God,
Nehemiah would never have accepted the challenge or finished the work. He had never seen the verse, but what
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:58 was what kept him going: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (NKJV).
“Christlike leadership is needed both in the church and society in Africa. Such leadership will require purity of heart (God looks at the heart not the head), passion for people, power to serve through prayer, a pioneering spirit, practical wisdom to solve problems and perseverance. Christlike leaders will be imaginative, visionary, knowledgeable, wise caring and responsible – leaders of integrity. Needless to say they will also be humble. They will be known for their character, competence, courage, commitment and compassion.”
Dr. Tokunbo Adeyemo
Chancellor, Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology
No matter how difficult the task, or how strong the opposition,
Dr. V. Raymond Adman used to say, “It is always too soon to quit.”