Stephen Caswell © 2000
Leadership By Example
Leaders in God's work need to do so by example. Leadership is graphically illustrated in the U.S. Army. The symbol of the infantry foot soldiers is pictured like this. A soldier with a rifle in one hand, helmet cocked, and head looking back behind him. The rifle is pointing forward, the other arm is giving a come on ahead motion, and the leader is shouting back, Follow me! This illustrates leadership by example, as the soldier calls his men to follow him into battle.
In our first two sermons on Nehemiah we have seen the importance of prayer and planning. Even though Nehemiah was very concerned for his people he didn't rush in to do something. He prayed and waited on God first. He gathered information and planned carefully. He relied on God completely as he sought to help the situation in Jerusalem. A week ago we saw how God answered his prayers and moved the King to help him. In today's passage we see Nehemiah present his plan to the people of Jerusalem. Yet, again he doesn't rush into this. Nehemiah takes further time to prepare himself. Today we will see how Nehemiah calls his people to go to the wall for God. Three things out regarding his leadership:
1. Examination Of The Work 2. Encouragement To The Work
3. Enemies Of The Work
a. Adversaries Appear
Nehemiah 2:9-10 Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.
Nehemiah delivered the king's letters to the various governors as he traveled to Jerusalem. This allowed him safe travel to Judah. It also revealed that the king supported the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls. But not everyone was happy about this. Sanballat and Tobiah were deeply disturbed that someone wanted to help the children of Israel. The words deeply disturbed mean displeased, grieved, sad. They liked the way things were. Whenever you start a good work for God expect the enemy to appear. Satan always resists God's work. This is another reason why we must bathe our plans with prayer. Sanballat was the governor of Samaria. Whilst Tobiah was an Ammonite official. Satan usually has his men in high places.
b. Assessment Attained
Nehemiah 2:11-15 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.
Rest & Research
After Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he took three days to rest and evaluate the situation first hand. This was very wise. He had spent at least three months traveling from Persia. He was tired and needed to rest. This also gave him time to meet the priests, leaders and people. He found out what life was like in Jerusalem. It is never wise to rush into something.
Nehemiah planned each step. After three days he surveyed the city to find out first hand the state of the walls and the gates of Jerusalem. Nehemiah needed to know the situation exactly. Then he could plan where to build and what materials would be required. The walls that Nehemiah built around Jerusalem were different from the first city. Originally some of the city houses were terraced into the valley had collapsed down the valley when Jerusalem was overthrown. The walls were broken down and the houses next to the walls had collapsed into the Kidron Valley. The city Nehemiah rebuilt was smaller than the previous city.
The Importance Of Plans
In 1981, the Italian shipbuilding firm Inter-Marine at Ameglia landed a contract from the Malaysian government worth four million British pounds! Though they usually built smaller vessels, Inter-Marine contracted to build a mine sweeper and three military launches. It was only after the work was completed that they remembered their shipyards were connected to the sea by the Magre River, and over the river hung the Colombiera Bridge. Not one of the four new vessels could pass beneath it.
Ÿ What is planned ahead of time can be done quickly.
Ÿ He who plans his program for tomorrow takes confusion out of the day.
Ÿ When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
Ÿ He who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.
Ÿ Plan ahead -- it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark!
Ÿ Light your lamp before night overtakes you.
c. A Secret Plan
Nehemiah 2:12,16 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.
After three days he assessed the city by night. Why did he go by night? Why not view the city in the daytime? He didn't want everyone to know what he was planning to do. This proved to be a wise course of action since some his own people had contacts with the neighboring nations. Nehemiah wanted to keep his enemies in the dark as long as possible. Nehemiah was proving to be both a clever man and very able leader.
It is never wise to underestimate an enemy. We look upon the enemy of our souls as a conquered foe, so he is, but only to God , not to us. -- Oswald Chambers
Wisely, Nehemiah didn't reveal his plans until they were complete and he was ready to act!
a. Adversaries Appear - Whenever believers start a good work for God expect opposition. This is why we should earnestly pray beforehand. Have you experienced opposition? Do you pray for God's help to overcome it? Are you determined to win, or do you quit?
b. Assessment Attained - Nehemiah never rushed into this task. He rested and gathered further information in Jerusalem. He carefully made plans for the task. All the time seeking God's help. Do you plan carefully? Do you find out all the facts first?
c. A Secret Plan - Nehemiah was careful not to present his plan to early. He waited till he had it all worked out first. He also kept the enemy in the dark as long as possible. This was wise.
II. Encouragement To The Work
Nehemiah 2:17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.”
a. Remove Our Reproach
Firstly he described the ruined state of the city. Having prepared himself Nehemiah now shared his plans with the people. He described their most pressing need. We are in distress and reproach because the walls are broken down. Then he encouraged them to rise up and build the walls. Nehemiah's challenge was fairly brief but because he had prepared so well it was more than adequate. Having reminded them of their distress and reproach, he prompted them to do something about it. I love the way he says let us build the walls, that we may no longer be a reproach. Nehemiah identified himself with the people completely. Nehemiah wanted the people to join him in the work. He was committed to it and enlisted their help.
b. Rely On The Lord
Nehemiah 2:18a And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me,
Secondly he described the way that God had helped him. He shared God's faithfulness. No doubt he shared the petitions that he had presented to God. These were already being answered. He assured them that God would help them as he had already helped Nehemiah. He encouraged them to look to God and expect Him to work mightily.
c. Resources Of The King
Nehemiah 2:18b And also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.
Thirdly Nehemiah told them of the king's response to his request. God's good hand had bee at work on the King as well. King Artaxerxes gave his full support to the rebuilding project. He had also provided wood for the gates and the walls. The obstacle that had previously stopped the rebuilding of the walls had been removed. God was already at work on their behalf!
d. Response Of The People
Nehemiah 2:18c So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.
The people responded positively to his challenge. The people responded in faith. They echoed the same words that Nehemiah had spoken. They had caught his vision, the task could be accomplished. They didn't say, but we've tried this before and we failed. What's the use, we'll never do it, it's just too hard. Too often people respond negatively. They look at their limited resources and say that it can't be done. Instead of looking to God who is more than able to do the impossible. The people strengthened their hands for this good work. Remember that God's good hand was already working too. This is so important. Before we can experience success in Christian service we need to pray and seek the Lord's intervention. When God's good hand begins to work with us then we can use our hands effectively.
Ÿ More people fail for lack of encouragement than for any other reason.
Ÿ Strengthen me by sympathizing with my strength, not my weakness.
Ÿ Tell a man he is brave, and you help him to become so.
Ÿ Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.
Ÿ How many people stop because so few say, "Go!"
a. Remove Our Reproach - Firstly Nehemiah reminded them of their main need. To build the walls and remove their distress and reproach. He identified himself with the people. Do you lead by example? Do you identify yourself with the work when challenging others to join in?
b. Rely On The Lord - Secondly Nehemiah told them of God's goodness so far. He shared how the Lord's hand had been on him all along the way. Do you encourage people to rely on God's help? Do you remind them of God's faithfulness and unlimited resources?
c. Resources Of The King - Thirdly Nehemiah revealed the king's words. He supported the work providing materials to help. We need to use the provisions God has provided.
d. Response Of The People - The people caught Nehemiah's vision. They believed that God could help them. What is your response to ministry in Orange? Will you respond in faith, or say that we've tried it before and it didn't work? What's the use? I trust that we will catch a greater vision for evangelism in Orange, rely on the Lord and step out in faith!
III.Enemies Of The Work
a. The Enemies Response
Nehemiah 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”
It didn't take long for Israel's enemies to hear about this. They responded two ways: They Laughed At Them & They Lied About Them.
1. They Laughed At Them
Firstly they laughed at them. Whether in the area of science, exploration, invention, business, government, or Christian ministry, just about everyone who has ever accomplished anything has faced ridicule. Our Lord was ridiculed during His life and mocked while He was hanging on the cross. He was “despised and rejected of men.” On the Day of Pentecost, some of the Jews in the crowd said that the Christians were drunk. The Greek philosophers called Paul a “babbler”, and Festus told Paul he was out of his mind. Sanballat and his cohorts tried to discourage the Jews by mocking them. They ridiculed their work hoping that they would quit.
2. They Lied About Them
The second approach was to accuse them of rebellion. This was totally untrue. But this method had worked before. By making such a threat might the Jews would remember the previous incident and might become discouraged. Sanballat was a very crafty foe.
You have no enemies, you say?
Alas! my friend, the boast is poor-
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done;
You've hit no traitor on the hip;
You've dashed no cup from perjured lip;
You've never turned the wrong to right-
You've been a coward in the fight!
b. Nehemiah's Response
Nehemiah 2:20 So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah could have dealt with their ridicule in several ways. He might have ignored it, and sometimes that’s the wisest thing to do. But at the beginning of an enterprise, it’s important that leaders encourage their people and let them know that God has everything in control. Had Nehemiah ignored these three men who were important in the community, he might have weakened his own position among the Jews. After all, he was the official governor, and he was doing official business.
Or, Nehemiah might have debated with the three enemy leaders and tried to convince them that their position was false. But that approach would only have given “official promotion” to the three men along with opportunity for them to say more.
Why should Nehemiah give the enemy opportunity to make speeches against the God whom he served? 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.
1. This Is God's Work
The Lord has called us to rebuild the walls and He will prosper our work. Nehemiah reminded Sanballat and his friends that the God of heaven was Himself working with them.
2. We Are God's Servants
Secondly Nehemiah reminded Sanballat that they were God's servants. They would serve their God by rising up and building the walls. They were obeying their Lord in this work.
3. You Don't Belong Here
Thirdly Nehemiah told Sanballat and his friends that they didn't belong there.
Ÿ No Heritage - You don't belong to Israel. You are a Samaritan and have no place here. The Jews received the land from the Lord. He gave it to them. Sanballat didn't belong.
Ÿ No Right - You have no authority here, I am the appointed Governor. You have no legal authority to oppose this work. The King appointed me to oversee it. Leave us alone.
Ÿ No Memorial - You have no part in our worship and service for God. Both Sanballat and Tobiah served the Lord but in an illegitimate way. They had no jurisdiction over the pure religion of the exiles. With his reply Nehemiah clearly drew the dividing line between himself and his opponents.
The Assault of Aqaba
Aqaba in 1917 seemed impregnable. Any enemy vessel approaching the port would have to face the battery of huge naval guns above the town. Behind Aqaba in every direction lay barren, waterless, inhospitable desert. To the east lay the deadly "anvil of the sun." The Turks believed Aqaba to be safe from any attack. But they were wrong. Lawrence of Arabia led a force of irregular Arab cavalry across the "anvil of the sun." Together, they rallied support among the local people. On July 6, 1917, the Arab forces swept into Aqaba from the north, from the blind side. A climactic moment of the magnificent film Lawrence of Arabia is the long, panning shot of the Arabs on their camels and horses, with Lawrence at their head, galloping past the gigantic naval guns that are completely powerless to stop them. The guns were facing in the wrong direction.
Aqaba fell, and the Turkish hold on Palestine was broken, to be replaced by the British mandate and eventually by the State of Israel. The Turks failed to defend Aqaba because they made two mistakes. They did not know their enemy, and they did not have the right weapons.
Nehemiah knew who the enemy was and didn't underestimate him. He used the mighty weapons of faith and prayer! He rallied his people to work and fight if necessary.
a. The Enemies Response - When the enemy heard about Nehemiah's plan they got to work. Firstly they responded by laughing at them and ridiculing them. This is often Satan's first strategy. He tells believers that it will never work and mocks them. The plan is to discourage them or make them quit. Their second response was to lie about them. This had worked in the past. So they tried it again. Satan uses lies against God's people today.
b. Nehemiah's Response - How did Nehemiah respond to this? He stated three facts. This Is God's Work, He will help us. We Are God's Servants and will build the walls. You Don't Belong Here, You have no inheritance in Israel. You have no authority here. You have no part in the worship of our God.
I. Examination Of The Work
Like Nehemiah, do we have a burden in our hearts for the work God has called us to do? Are we willing to sacrifice to see His will accomplished? Are we patient in gathering facts and in planning our work?
II. Encouragement To The Work
Do we enlist the help of others or try to do everything ourselves? 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 you strengthen the hands of others and help them get involved? Do you put your hands and necks to the work?
III.Enemies Of The Work
Are we standing against the enemy? Are we determined? Are we trusting in the promises of God? Are we cooperating in any way with the enemy and thus weakening the work? Have we found the job God wants us to complete?
Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.