Stephen Caswell © 2000
Faith - Dwight Lyman Moody
I prayed for faith and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. I had up to this time closed my Bible and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since. Nehemiah knew God very well. He had read God's Word and believed that God was able to deliver Israel from their suffering and shame. Hebrews 11:1 says this: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Nehemiah saw his faith move mountains. Is your faith active or dead?
Two weeks ago we saw the terrible state of Jerusalem. Nehemiah, cup bearer to King Artaxerxes was concerned enough to ask about the welfare of his people and Jerusalem. His deep concern was revealed by the grief and sorrow he showed when he heard the report. Then Nehemiah wept, fasted and prayed for many days. He humbly sought God's help and was willing to go to Jerusalem to help. Today we will see God's answer to his prayers. In this short passage we see the evidence of Nehemiah's faith.
I. He Had Faith To Wait
II. He Had Faith To Ask
Firstly He Had Faith To Wait
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. Jesus said living faith can move mountains! Matthew 17:20
a. He Had Prayed For The Kings Favor
Nehemiah 1:11 “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.
Nehemiah had fasted and prayed before God on behalf of his people. He had asked the Lord to remember His covenant with Israel. Although Nehemiah had asked for God's help he also had offered himself to the Lord in all of this. He was willing to go to Jerusalem if God desired him to. Nehemiah sought God's help in presenting his petition to the King. Since King Artaxerxes had stopped the building of the walls, he could certainly allow them to be rebuilt now. He wanted God to grant him favor before the King. He believed that God was more than able to do this. Nehemiah's God was sovereign over kings and rulers.
b. He Waited For God's Time
Nehemiah 2:1-2a And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.”
Since the Jewish month of Nisan would be our mid-March to mid-April, it would indicate that four months have passed since Nehemiah received the bad news about the plight of Jerusalem. As every believer should, Nehemiah patiently waited on the Lord for directions; because it is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises. He that believeth shall not make haste. True faith in God brings a calmness to the heart that keeps us from rushing about and trying to do in our own strength what only God can do. We must know not only how to weep and pray, but also how to wait and pray. Nehemiah waited on God and prayed. Psalm 46:10 says: Be still and know that I am God.
A Time to Be Silent -- John Killinger
A pilot had turned off his radio in order to elude the enemy, but as he came across the channel, he turned it on again and began turning the dial to find the proper frequency, which changed from time to time. His plane was almost out of petrol, and he was terrified of what might happen if he ran out and did not find his way precisely toward the goal he was seeking. As he twiddled the dial, he broke out in perspiration. Finally, he caught a faint signal and adjusted the dial. The signal came in strong and clear. He changed his flight path onto the signal and landed safely at his airport.
We're all trying to do that in life. We're trying to pick up those signals that tell us who we are, what direction we ought to be headed, and where home is. As we fiddle with the dial and adjust the signal receiver in our lives, we begin to hear in the stillness and the quietness a voice telling us where home is. We are able to readjust our patterns and head homeward. That's the promise of the text. If we will be still, we will know that God is God; we will know which way to go toward God. In the same way Nehemiah was content to wait upon God.
c. He Shared His Deep Sorrow
Nehemiah 2:2b-3 So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?
Eastern monarchs were sheltered from anything that might bring them unhappiness; but on that particular day, Nehemiah could not hide his sorrow. Nehemiah’s concern for Jerusalem caused him to have this deep sorrow. He had been fasting and praying for some months. 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, he might have banished Nehemiah or even ordered him killed; but instead, the king inquired why his servant was so sad. God brought this about. Proverbs 21:1 says: The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water He turneth it whithersoever He will.
World leaders are only God’s servants, whether they know it or not. God had caused the king to show an interest in his cup bearer. Nehemiah's prayers were being wonderfully answered right before his eyes. O how important it is to wait for God's timing.
The Importance of Waiting in Prayer
In prayer, we are aware that God is in action and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place, and when our hearts are prepared, he will call us into the action. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.
Do you bring your concerns and plans before God in prayer? Do your prayers reveal your deep concern for God's people? Are you burdened for the lost? Do you pray often for them? Do you witness to those you are praying for? God might want to use you in their salvation! Do you wait on the Lord for His time to share your faith? Do you wait for His time to start your plans? If we continue in prayer before the Lord, He will show us the right time to act!
Secondly He Had Faith To Ask
a. He Asked The God Of Heaven
Neh 2:4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
The prayer that Nehemiah offered here was like a quick telegraph sent to obtain immediate divine help. Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Nehemiah had been praying about this situation for months. Because He had a consistent prayer life with God Nehemiah had boldness and confidence to pray briefly now. He asked God for help to speak wisely. A man who prays much in private will make short prayers in public. -- D.L. Moody
He wanted to present his case clearly and graciously so He sought God's help in this too. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says: Pray without ceasing. We can never pray too much! Interestingly enough Nehemiah had freedom to bring his requests boldly before God at any time. But his request before king Artaxerxes had to be invited and caused him to fear greatly. Let us come before the Lord often. He waits for us to come! Matthew 7:7 says: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Prayer, Confident Access In
In Saudi Arabia, according to Arab custom, reinforced by a 1952 decree of King Abdul Aziz, every subject has the right of access to his ruler - whether the ruler is a tribal sheik, a governor, or the monarch himself - to present petitions of complaint or pleas for help. Even the poorest Saudi can approach his sovereign to plead a cause. Crown Prince Fhad, speaking about this custom said, Anyone, anyone can come here. That gives them confidence in their governemnt .... They know they may look to us for help. Every Christian has the right to approach an even greater monarch, the King of Kings. Nehemiah approached the Lord often.
b. He Asked The King Of Persia
1. Send Me To Rebuild
2:5-6 And I said to the king, If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it. Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
His reply to the king can be summarized in two requests: Send Me & Give Me. 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. He didn’t say, I have a commission from the Lord to go to Jerusalem, and I’m going whether you like it or not! Daniel and his friends took the same approach as did Nehemiah, and God honored them as well. Nehemiah was very gracious in stating his request. He said, if it please the king, send your servant to Judah. He remembered his position as the king's servant. He left the decision with the king and trusted God to work it all out. We should follow this example when approaching our bosses or superiors.
Nehemiah asked the king if he might be allowed to go to Judah and rebuild his father's city. Wisely he didn't refer to the city as Jerusalem to start with. This might have reminded the king of the political situation before he was able to fully reveal his plans. He sought the kings sympathy by referring to it as the city of his father's tombs. He shared how it lay in waste and ruin. Basically Nehemiah sought authority from the king to oversee the rebuilding project. This would have required the king to make him governor, which he in fact did. Only the King could authorize someone to rebuild Jerusalem after he had stopped it.
The kings sympathies were immediately aroused as can be seen by the question he gives to Nehemiah. He asked how long Nehemiah would be away. This reveals that the king had accepted his request and was simply wanting to know when his valuable servant might return. Nehemiah was able to give the king a time. This showed that he had thought his plans through. He knew what needed to be done and was able to wisely inform the king. We can learn a lesson from Nehemiah here. God does not consider planning a waste of time. Nehemiah had prayerfully contemplated his plans for Jerusalem over some months. The king saw how Nehemiah had thought this through and was pleased to send him to Judah.
2. Give Me The Resources
Nehemiah 2:7 Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah,
Letters Of Safe Passage
Nehemiah wisely asked for letters of safe passage. He remembered the strife caused by the Samaritans and others who were opposed to the Jews. Since Nehemiah had to pass through the territory of these adversaries it was wise to seek the king's authority. These adversaries would have to respect his commands. Sanballat was the governor of Samaria at this time and he hated the Jews vehemently. The kings command would ensure his safe travel.
Letters For Provisions
Nehemiah 2:8 “and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Nehemiah also sought letters to obtain provisions to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He listed three building projects that required timber. Nehemiah had obviously done his homework.
He knew what was needed for the repairs. He also knew the name of the keeper of the king's forest. He had used his time wisely since he found out the situation in Jerusalem. All of this no doubt impressed the king. Nehemiah had displayed the leadership qualities required of a governor. Therefore the king was only to happy to grant Nehemiah his requests.
It was William Carey, the founder of modern missions, who said, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."
Romans 8:28 says this. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Nehemiah attributed all this to the good hand of His God being upon him. Nehemiah could see how the Lord was working all of these things out for him. God did far more than Nehemiah expected. Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.
The king’s response is evidence of the sovereignty of God in the affairs of nations. We expect God to be able to work through a dedicated believer like Nehemiah, but we forget that God can also work through unbelievers to accomplish His will. He used Pharaoh to display His power in Egypt and Cyrus to deliver His people from Babylon. Caesar issued the decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, and two different Roman centurions, Claudius Lysias and Julius, saved Paul’s life. Because God is sovereign over all rulers we should often pray for them.
a. He Asked The God Of Heaven
Nehemiah prayed often yet he still sent up a quick prayer for help. Do you seek God's guidance in times like these? When you have an opportunity to witness for Christ send up a quick prayer first?
b. He Asked The King Of Persia
Nehemiah graciously presented his request to the king. Do you present your requests this way to your boss? If they ask you to do something that you can't do because of your faith do you explain this politely? You should! Do you make your plans quickly or do you prayerfully think them through? Do you research the situation thoroughly first? Prayerful planning and research can keep us from making the wrong choices!
Today we have seen Nehemiah's faith. He Had Faith To Wait & He Had Faith To Ask.
I. He Had Faith To Wait
Do you bring your concerns and plans before God in prayer? Do your prayers reveal your deep concern for God's people? Are you burdened for the lost? Do you witness to those you are praying for? Do you wait on the Lord for His time? Do you wait for His time to start your plans? Nehemiah waited four months before the Lord showed him the right time to act!
II. He Had Faith To Ask
Nehemiah prayed often yet still sent up a quick prayer. Do you seek God's guidance in times like these? When you have an opportunity to witness for Christ send up a quick prayer first? Do you graciously present your requests to your boss? If they ask you to do something that you can't do because of your faith do you explain this politely? You should! Do you make your plans quickly or do you prayerfully think them through? Do you research the situation thoroughly first? Prayerful planning can keep us from wrong choices!
Let us have great faith in our God. Let us have faith to wait and faith to ask!
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.