Nehemiah had come to Jerusalem from Susa with a single-minded objective:
to rebuild the massive but ruined wall of Jerusalem.
He was beset by obstacles.
First, he had to gain permission from the Persian emperor Artaxerxes,
which meant getting him to reverse an earlier state policy
against rebuilding the Jewish capital.
Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah had to devise a plan for accomplishing his task and
then find ways to motivate the people to tackle it.
When the work got started, he was opposed by the governors of the surrounding provinces and
by injustices within Israel.
Nehemiah’s enemies tried to stop the work by ridicule, threat of violence, intrigue, harmful rumors, and intimidation.
His wealthier countrymen almost sunk it by their oppression of the poor.
But Nehemiah pressed on.
So great was the task and so great its accomplishment that we can hardly miss the thrill of the superb understatement in verse 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” ()
the reconstruction of the massive wall was done—one and a half to two and a half miles of masonry.
The construction was completed within two months of his arrival in the city.
One major thread that is woven through this victory is the power of written and spoken exhortation.
I want you to think about this as we seek to have times of exhortation as a church family at the conclusion of our worship service.
We are also encouraging everyone to take the directory and write letters of encouragement to those who miss our Sunday gatherings!!!
Nehemiah’s journal is a magnificent commentary on the persuasive effectiveness of exhortation.
Throughout the campaign, Nehemiah was determined to acknowledge
either in speech or writing the source of their strength.
He began by exhorted in writing that all great projects for God begin in the place of honest, reflective and dependent prayer (1:4–11).
He then exhorted that it was because ‘the gracious hand’ of God was upon him that he obtained permission to leave Persia with authority, protection and provisions (2:8).
Once in Jerusalem, he exhorted to the prospective builders about the miracle of that ‘gracious hand’ (2:18), and
he continued to exhort not only to sympathetic believers but to unbelieving scoffers as well: ‘The God of heaven will give us success’ (2:19–20).
He exhorted compassionately, when morale was low: ‘Don’t be afraid … Remember the Lord’ (4:14).
He testified gratefully, placing on record his indebtedness to God’s sovereign power in frustrating the evil designs of the enemy (4:15).
He exhorted confidently as the wearied team divided into builders and soldiers: ‘Our God will fight for us’ (4:20).
To his wealthy but loveless contemporaries he exhorted perceptively: ‘Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?’ (5:9).
In writing, he exhorted humbly, that ‘out of reverence for God’ he ‘did not act like that’ (5:15).
When troubles began to mount daily, he exhorted dependently about a God who would strengthen his hands (6:9) and now,
with the walls rebuilt, he exhorted adoringly that even his enemies acknowledge that this work has been done with the help of our God (16).
What perseverance! What courage!!
Let’s be very clear about what is encapsulated in that statement of the 52 days in v15.
This the victory of the plan and purpose of God for His people.
It’s a speedy outcome, the result of effective leadership.
Watching the people of God may not seem very entertaining but our God is the God of small things as well as the God of big things.
Note how Nehemiah puts it in 16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” ()
They were disheartened, the enemies of God were. God had frustrated their plans and humiliated them.
They will no longer be able to dominate and exploit the people of God as they had been doing.
“this work was done by our God.” Nehemiah throws off any personal congratulations in the matter and
points to the decisive factor in their achievement. “this work was done by our God.”
God has called us to build the city of his church; we too must not let ourselves be deflected from this great task.
Apathy and procrastination are twin enemies which the church has constantly to combat.
Now watch this: Nehemiah’s appeal in 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.”” ()
6:16 is a fulfillment of that appeal but, there’s no pause to congratulate ourselves.
The wall is just the frame work. Look at the attitudes and activities of the people who live behind those walls.
And what we see is there’s indications of danger already. There’s still the need for more reform, which we’ll see later in the book.
Look at 17 Also in those days ...
That introductory phrase looks beyond the eight-week building project.
This is what else is happening both during and after those days.
How painful would it be, as a leader like Nehemiah, to see like in 6:14 that many of Jerusalem’s prophets were opposed to him.
He goes on to discover that many among Judah’s nobility had also joined their ranks.
17 Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them. 18 For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. 19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.” ()
This is possible the worst affliction of all. If the enemy can be precisely identified, then the source of the trouble is evident and suitable precautions can be taken.
But the sinister dimension of the latest attack is that the determined opponent has so secretly infiltrated the ranks of the region’s nobility that now it’s virtually impossible to distinguish enemy from friend.
Let me give you an example of what some of you do and you’re probably not aware of really what you’re doing.
So you say, “Hey can I talk with you pastor Joel?” “Sure!”
“Ok…me and some people were talking and we’re not really happy with such-and-such!”
“I don’t like such-and-such a change…and I’m not the only one who thinks this!”
“Well tell me who else, because we need to talk this through!”
“Well I’m not going to mention names...” You see what happens?
Then I come up here and look at all the faces and you can imagine what the devil does to me!
Who here is opposing the leading of God’s church?
Because that’s what it is, it’s opposition not submission. Yet we are called upon by God to submit ourselves to one another.
If the key ingredients of God’s Word is present, the prayers of God’s people.
Let me just list for you of where God has led us, as we think about the real ingredients of a true church. [go to hand out]
High view of God
Absolute authority of Scripture
preaching and teaching God’s word
The Great Commission being set before God’s people.
The call for holiness among God’s people, the call to the Great Commission being set before God’s people.
prayer as a priority.
building up families
Not to mention the absolute Headship of Jesus Christ our Lord!!!
Head (to rule over us)
His blood (to wash away our sin)
His resurrection (to empower the hope of eternal life)
Jesus is called shepherd three times in the New Testament:
In He’s the “good shepherd,”
in He’s the “chief Shepherd,” and
in He’s the “great Shepherd.”
Many times the Bible refers to ungodly people as sheep without a shepherd (; ; ; , ; ; ; ).
Believers are sheep with a shepherd.
If anyone asks who’s in charge of FBC of Roselawn we will tell them, “Jesus Christ.”
says that “Christ is the head of the Church.”
He’s the teacher of the Church. Christ rules His church through His Word, the Holy Spirit, and specially gifted men of God.
When we come together, you need to know (not my opinion) but the mind and heart of the Savior.
Christ is the teacher and I’m only a servant of His.
I don’t cook the meal, I only deliver it to you.
So if these things are present in the church, and you come to me and say, “I don’t like the time change!”
Please be on notice: those words do not carry a lot of traction. Do you want to know why?
It doesn’t pertain to the ingredients of the true church.
God has appointed leadership in the church to lead you. (let me repeat that)
We should pray for more leaders, but for now, this is what He’s given.
And I’m saying these things not to “get them off my chest” but to teach you exactly what you should be focusing on.
The things on that list are what your eyes should be upon.
And when you ridicule Joel or Don, or say things that discourage and tear down, the real disheartening thing is this:
Your complaints are really against the Lord Himself, aren’t they?
If it’s outside the scope of Scripture, just let your leaders lead!
Please focus upon the things of Christ! What am I doing right now? I’m modeling exactly what Christ told all of us to focus upon.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” ()
Teaching one another to obey Jesus will take up the rest of our lives!
You ask, “Well how can I serve in this church body?” Obey the Great Commission is the answer!!
Followers of Christ aren’t just taught what to believe but also how to obey.
So in going back to our text and the short-lived victory.
Now, Nehemiah doesn’t know who to trust.
18 For many in Judah were pledged to him, ...” () That is Tobiah.
The work going on, on the walls and the changes that Nehemiah was implementing and look at what was happening.
19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.” ()
Sometimes rabble rousers in the church gain a sympathetic ear and become a influential source of opposition to biblical leadership.
This is what’s happened now to Nehemiah.
Tobiah married into these families, giving him strong links with the nobility, the renowned leaders.
Do you want to know how to combat this? Get the households together, get the families in order.
You see there was a cultural shift now, in the nation of Israel.
The nation’s spiritual priorities would not in the future be under the scrutiny of great prophetic and priestly leaders.
The days of those famous exemplars were gradually drawing to a close.
Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah were among the last of Israel’s celebrated leaders.
But this fact shows how far away Israel had departed from God’s ways.
God has always desired His truth to be treasured within families!
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” ()
20 “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand;” ()
Go over to .
25 Pour out Your fury on the Gentiles, who do not know You, And on the families who do not call on Your name; For they have eaten up Jacob, Devoured him and consumed him, And made his dwelling place desolate.” ()
Here Jeremiah implores the Lord to pour out His wrath upon the pagans who do not know God (; ; ).
Now watch this. How are those to name God’s name escape this judgment if they practice the same sin?
6 Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me,” says the Lord.” ()
That ideal of family unity, security, and testimony depended essentially on the head of the household in obeying God.
When the men didn’t obey (in particularly) on the issue of marriage, many potentially good people in Israel fell.
People who don’t obey God merely become pawns in the devils manipulative campaign to frustrate God’s work.
We are not going to escape this however. Even our Lord, when His ministry was initiated,
there was a period of severe testing by the devil, doing his utmost to deflect Christ from His mission.
Let me show you this in Luke’s gospel.
The devil met Jesus in the wilderness with temptations that are very similar
to those encountered by Nehemiah and his contemporaries.
2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”” ()
They were temptations to please himself (bread from those stones which lay in the sand),
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”” ()
parade himself (ruling over the nations in return for allegiance to the enemy), and
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.” ()
prove himself (leaping from the temple pinnacle) rather than
22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”” ()
accepting that what God had said (‘You are my Son, whom I love’) is true.
It’s the same temptations that you see people fall into in the gatherings of the Lord’s people!
Many seek to please themselves, therefore they have their own criteria for what pleases them.
Certain music styles
Certain versions of the bible.
And a million other unbiblical things that cause people to seek to please themselves.
People are tempted to parade themselves. “I’m in charge of this committee!” “I run this ministry my way!!”
And the other, people seek to prove themselves and all the while you forget with God said.
Just like in Genesis, in the garden with Adam and Eve, you still hear the whisper of Satan, “Has God really said…?”
He tempted our first representatives and they fell for satans lie.
He tempted Christ our second and final representative and He believed His father and not the father of lies!
The tactics change as they did in this chapter’s account of Nehemiah’s testings.
Here we can see the enemy as
cunning (1–3), luring a good man on to dangerous ground,
persistent (4) as a ‘roaring lion’ constantly on the prowl ‘looking for someone to devour’, untruthful (5–8) like ‘the father of lies’, versatile (10–14), constantly changing his tactics, undeterred (17–19), always stumbling across clever fools who do not know they are being used—but, thank God, frustrated when believers pray (9), and when they leave their daunting disappointments in God’s hands (14) as they trust him both for strength (9) and wisdom (12).
persistent (4) as a ‘roaring lion’ constantly on the prowl ‘looking for someone to devour’,
untruthful (5–8) like ‘the father of lies’,
constantly changing his tactics,
undeterred (17–19), always stumbling across clever fools who do not know they are being used—
but, thank God, frustrated when believers pray (9), “But now, my God...”, and
when they leave their daunting disappointments in God’s hands (14)
14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.” ()
as they trust him for both
strength (9) “But now, my God strengthen my hands.”
and wisdom that you see in v12.
This chapter’s second great lesson is that the Lord is sufficient.
Throughout this section of the memoirs one adversity has followed hard on the heels of another. When sorrows come, they do not come in single soldiers but in battalions.
Life is like that, and Nehemiah’s account has been preserved in Scripture to demonstrate how we too,
faced with multiplied testing,
can handle such pressures trustingly and faithfully.
So as we conclude this chapter I want to apply these things to us as a church, as we think about facing difficulties and so forth.
Run with me quickly as we close to feast our eyes upon the glorious and sufficient grace of God.
Go to 1 Peter. Threatened by imminent persecution, the Christians of Asia Minor were assured that life’s multi-faceted troubles, ‘all kinds [poikilois] of trials’,
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,” ()
These various trials are matched by ‘grace in its various [poikiles] forms’.
10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” ()
Whatever the suffering, it is always accompanied by sufficient strength.
As James says, ‘he gives us more grace’.
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”” ()
The prologue or introduction to John’s Gospel puts it superbly,
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” ()
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” ()
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” ()
Grace is the ground on which fresh grace is constantly provided or, as
Grace is the ground on which fresh grace is constantly provided or, as each blessing appropriated becomes the foundation of a greater blessing.’
each blessing appropriated becomes the foundation of a greater blessing.
That word ‘fullness’ (pleroma) was part of the ancient world’s nautical vocabulary; it described the ship’s completion.
Before leaving port the vessel was carefully checked to ensure that
there was an adequate crew and
that the cargo included
spare cloth to replace torn sails,
ropes, in fact
everything necessary for its journey.
That was the ship’s completeness.
John’s Gospel began by assuring those who follow Christ that,
however great the pressures of life,
all their needs would be converged and intersected out of
the abundant completeness and
inexhaustible sufficiency of Christ.