Learning from Nehemiah
1:1-2:18 - ‘You see the trouble we are in’ - How do you react when the going gets tough? Do you collapse in despair and succeed only in making your troubles seem even bigger than they really are? There is a better way of dealing with our problems. Believing that ‘the hand of his God was upon him for good’, Nehemiah looks at the problem - ‘Jerusalem lies in ruins’ - and sets about solving it - ‘Come. let us build the wall of Jerusalem’ (2:17-18). Our problems may be great. Our God is greater. When your problems threaten to overwhelm you, remember this: God has ‘redeemed us by His great power and His mighty hand’ (1:3-6,10). There is no greater problem than our sin and God has dealt with that problem - Christ has ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). ‘Pack up your troubles’ and take them to Jesus!
2:19-4:23 - Serving the Lord is not easy. There are always those who ‘mock and ridicule’ the Lord’s servants (2:19; 4:1-3). What are we to do when we encounter this type of thing? We must pray to God and we must work for Him - ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we His servants will arise and build’ (4:4-6; 2:20). When we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel, we must pray and we must be practical - ‘we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night’ (4:9). We need to know our God - ‘the people who know their God will be strong’. We need to know our enemy - ‘we are not ignorant about Satan’s scheming’. When Satan comes to us, we must be ready for him and we ‘must firmly resist him’ - in the Name of Christ (Daniel 11:32; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
5:1-6:19 - What are we to do when we face those who are ‘scheming to harm’ the Lord’s servants and the Lord’s work? - We are to devote ourselves to the ‘work’ of the Lord. We are to ‘pray’ for His strength (6:2; 5:16; 6:9). Critics of the Lord’s work want to argue with us. Are we to ‘come down’ to their level, going round in circles with arguments that lead us nowhere? Nehemiah shows us a better way, God’s way - ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ (6:3). ‘Completing the work with the help of our God’ (6:15-16) - This is the best ‘argument’ against the critics of Christ and His Gospel. Keep working for God and pray that’ many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:3).
7:1-73 - What kind of people are we? Are we ‘faithful and God-fearing’ people’ (2)? It is so easy to lose our way and become ‘unclean’ (64)? What are we to do when we lose our way, when we forget the Lord, when we wander away from Him? We must return to the Lord. We must begin again with Him, confessing our sin, receiving His forgiveness and learning to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. These words may help you to make a new beginning with God: ‘There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. There’s a door that is open and you may go in: at Calvary’s Cross is where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus’. ‘Cleanse me from my sin, Lord. Put Thy power within, Lord. Take me as I am, Lord, and make me all Thine own...’ (Mission Praise, 682, 82).
8:1-9:5 - What happens when God’s people ‘gather together’ (8:1)? - (a) We hear the Word of the Lord (8:2-3,8). We come to the Lord’s House, seeking a fresh understanding of His Word. We look to the Lord, speaking through His Word, to fill us ‘with great joy’ (8:12). (b) We thank God for His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (8:13-18). In ‘the feast of the seventh month’, ‘the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles’, God’s people remembered how much He had done for them (Leviticus 23:34,42). In the Lord’s Supper, we remember that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). (c) We dedicate our lives to the Lord (9:2). ‘Do not be conformed to this world’. ‘Be transformed’ by God’s Word (Romans 12:2). (d) We worship the Lord (9:5). Let us ‘praise the Lord our God...’.
9:6-38 - At the heart of Ezra’s prayer, there is a tremendous description of God: ‘You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’ (17). This is ‘our God’. ‘Our sins’ are great. The love of God is even greater. We look at ‘our sins’, and we feel that everything is hopeless. We look to ‘our God’, and everything changes. We see Him as the ‘gracious and merciful God’, and we are filled with hope. Our life need not be controlled by ‘our sins’. It can be changed by ‘our God’ (31-32,37). Our God ‘delights in steadfast love’. He ‘will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:18-19). How do we know that God loves us? - ‘Christ died for our sins’. Bring your sins to Jesus, and let ‘His blood cleanse you from all sin’ (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 John 1:7).
10:1-39 - God is calling us to commit our lives to Him. At the heart of our commitment to the Lord, there must be worship: ‘We will not neglect the House of our God’ (39). ‘Worship God’ (Revelation 19:10). This is our reason for coming to the Lord’s House. We come to worship Him. Our worship is to be more than mere words. We worship God when we bring our offerings to Him. God’s people brought ‘the tithe’ (tenth) to Him (37). We meet with the Lord when we worship in His House: ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven’. Through our giving - ‘Of all that You give me I will give You the tenth’ - , let us express our commitment to the Lord - ‘the Lord will be my God’ (Genesis 28:17,21-22).
11:1-12:30 - Like the walls of Jerusalem, our lives lay in ruins until Christ puts us together again. In Christ, our lives have been rebuilt. Now, we can ‘celebrate’. We can worship the Lord ‘with gladness’ (12:27). We are to build our lives upon Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). This will not be easy. Our faith will be put to the test. Often, we will be tempted to take our eyes off Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him. He is the solid Rock upon which we must build (Matthew 7:24-27). Again and again, we must make our choice. We must choose Christ. We must choose to be ‘holy’. This is the choice which is ‘blessed’ by the Lord. ‘Many’ choose the ‘other’ way, the way of self. We must choose the way of the ‘few’, the way of Christ, the way of holiness and blessing (11:1-2; Matthew 7:13-14).
12:31-13:31 - God’s people sang ‘songs of praise and thanksgiving to God’. Where does the song of praise come from? - It comes from the Lord: ‘God had given them great joy’ (46,43). Often, we seek our joy in other people and other things. We forget the Source of true joy - the Lord our God. God sees our self-centred way of life. He asks us to think about the way we’re living: ‘Why is the House of God forsaken?’ (11). We have forgotten Him. Have we any right to expect Him to remember us? Time and time again, we have failed Him. Our many sins have given Him plenty of reasons for turning His back on us. Does He turn His back on us? No! He remembers us ‘according to the greatness of His steadfast love’ (22) - He sent His Son to die for us. Let His great love fill you with great joy.