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Nehemiah, Serving God with a Determined Faith

Notes & Transcripts

Introduction to Nehemiah

“Let’s Start Building”

Wednesday, January 04, 2006 through May 17, 2006

Nehemiah 2:18

And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.

            This verse seems to be the theme verse of Nehemiah.  Many churches, including those I have served have turned to the book of Nehemiah for inspiration during a building program.

            Anytime a church enters into a building program, or a rebuilding program it requires faith and sacrifice.  I like the response of Nehemiah there in Nehemiah 1:20.

“The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build,….”

            Tonight we begin our January Bible study of the book of Nehemiah.  Our theme throughout our study will be “Serving God with a Determined Faith.”  That certainly captures the heart of Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem.

            The book begins in chapter 1, verse 1 with these words, “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.”  Most of the book is Nehemiah’s personal testimony of the actions he took to fulfill his God-given task of restoring life and worship in the city of Jerusalem following their exile to Babylon. 

MEANING OF THE NAME

 

            Nehemiah means “Yahweh comforts.”  God indeed brought comfort to the people of Israel through his servant Nehemiah.

            Nehemiah was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes of Persia from 464-423 B.C.  Queen Esther was Artaxerxes’ stepmother.  She may have been influential in recommending Nehemiah a fellow Jew to this trusted position for the King.  In any event, God’s providential hand was upon Nehemiah as he courageously goes to the King requesting that the King equip him with the necessary resources to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall and restore community.  God’s hand was so with Nehemiah that he accomplished this great task in a mere 52 days.

RELATION TO EZRA

 

            Some of you will recall the book of Ezra, and another man named Ezra, a priest and scribe that God also used to help restore worship and rebuild the house of God.  Ezra was also appointed by Artaxerxes 13 years before Nehemiah.

RELATION TO 1 AND 2 CHRONICLES

 

            Nehemiah is a part of a four book series that includes 1 and 2 Chronicles and Ezra.  These historical books detail how God worked through his people Israel from Adam through the restoration of worship in Jerusalem in Nehemiah 13.

            A key emphasis in these books is that God commended or condemned his people based on their faithfulness to God’s house and its worship!

NEHEMIAH AS GOVERNOR

 

            Nehemiah served two terms as the chief civil authority of Judah.  During his tenure, he gave leadership in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, the repopulation of the city and area after the exile, and he restored the people’s support of the priests and Levites.  He also worked with Ezra to restore spiritual revival that led the people to renew their relationship to the Lord. 

KEY IDEAS

 

            1) The book of Nehemiah magnifies who God is and what He does for His people.  He is “the Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments.”  1:5

            2) The book of Nehemiah also magnifies serving God with determined faith.  Like Nehemiah, we must often overcome many obstacles and opposition to fulfill our own God-given ministries. 

            3) Finally, the book of Nehemiah gives the key to successful ministry.  Both Ezra and Nehemiah fulfilled their ministries by “the gracious hand of God.”  As we step forward in determined faith to do what God has put in our hearts to do, we must believe that the gracious hand of God is also with us to lead us to success in all we do. 

Nehemiah 6:15-16

15So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16And 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.

Respond Courageously to Spiritual Challenge (1:1-3:32)

Chapter 1 – Looking to God for Help (1:1-11)

GOD’S PEOPLE IN TROUBLE (1:1-3)

 

1The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, 2that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”

 

“Cheslev”  the 9th month of the Hebrew calendar, corresponds to Nov-Dec in our calendar.  Scholars date the year in history as 446 B.C.

“Susa” (Shushan in the KJV) the winter capital of the ancient Persian Empire.

“Hanani” one of Nehemiah’s blood brothers.

NEHEMIAH 1:2

“the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity”  the remnant of Jews who survived the Babylonian Captivity and returned to Judah in 538 B.C. at the decree of Cyrus the Persian King.  Remember that the Prophet Jeremiah had foretold of a 70 year captivity in Babylon, (see Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10).

NEHEMIAH 1:3

“great distress and reproach” – refers to both the conditions within the city and the scorn of their enemies and the Jews inability to defend themselves.

“wall of Jerusalem” cities in ancient times fortified their cities with great walls built around the heart of the main city.  The wall represented security and protection.  The gates were the fortified entrances built into the wall at various points around the city.

As foretold by Jeremiah the Prophet, the wall of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.  (see Jeremiah 52).

 

 

 

 

 

CONFESSION OF SIN (1:4-7)

 

4So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 6“please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. 7“We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

            A compassionate person is one who feels and acts to relieve another’s suffering.  A parable tells of Compassion and Concern being passengers on an ocean liner.  When a man fell overboard, Concern cried, “Man overboard.”  Compassion also cried, “Man overboard,” but in addition Compassion jumped into the sea to rescue the man.

NEHEMIAH 1:4 – Nehemiah the man of compassion combined his grief with redemptive action. 

Notice that Nehemiah did a number of things as a result of his grief and sorrow:

  1. He sat down
  2. He wept
  3. He mourned
  4. He fasted
  5. He prayed

NEHEMIAH 1:5 – records the beginning of Nehemiah’s prayer.  Nehemiah was a man of prayer.  He knew where to turn when He needed help.  “From whence cometh my help?  My help comes from the Lord.”

Nehemiah’s prayer fell into four sections:

1)      Praise, NEHEMIAH 1:5

2)      Confession of Sin, NEHEMIAH 1:6-7

3)      Petition for God to redeem His people as He had promised, NEHEMIAH 1:8-11a

4)      Petition for God to make Him successful as he acted to deliver his people, NEHEMIAH 1:11b

By the way, in verse 5, as a side note, the phrase “O great and awesome God” is translated in the KJV as “terrible.”  Both phrases are adjectives describing the nature of God.  It is the word “Reverend” which should only be applied to God.  It should never really be applied to men, to ministers.  I do know some who should be introduced as “The Terrible Mr. So and So.” 

“Call me Mister, call me friend,

A loving ear to all I lend,

But do not my soul with anguish rend,

PLEASE stop calling me Reverend.”

            —Author unknown

NEHEMIAH 1:6 - 6“please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned.

          In what sense were Nehemiah and his “father’s house” responsible for the sins of Israel and for their being under judgment?  We are guilty of corporate sin and under its judgment to the degree we have sinned individually, have influenced others to sin, are part of a sinful society, fail to oppose evil, and fail to act for good.

PLEA FOR GOD’S HELP (NEHEMIAH 1:8-11)

 

8“Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; 9‘but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ 10“Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 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 1:8 – 9 – Nehemiah concluded his prayer with four petitions.

First, he asked God to remember His promise to restore His exiled people when they turned back to Him. (Leviticus 26:3-45)

NEHEMIAH 1:10 – Second, Nehemiah asked God to remember that the Israelites now destitute in Judah were his own people whom God had redeemed from Egypt to serve Him.

NEHEMIAH 1:11 – Third, Nehemiah asked God to hear in the sense of bringing full restoration and redemption to the Israelites now living in Judah.

Finally, Nehemiah’s final petition was for himself.  He asked for God’s favor.  He prayed for God to move on the heart of the King so that he would be allowed to serve God by returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. 

Chapter 2, Respond Courageously to Spiritual Challenges

“Taking Steps of Faith”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thus far Nehemiah has helped us to understand that as we face spiritual challenges in our own lives that we are to look to God for help.  Here are the steps we should take to find help in the Lord.

1)      Pray according to God’s word.  We can do nothing more important or more profitable than pray.  Pray with an understanding of how God may be leading us to respond.

2)      Confess sin.  Like Nehemiah and the people of his day, sin is often the root of our problem.  Confessing our sin, our failures, our weaknesses, ensures God’s forgiveness and his power to be released in our lives once again.

3)      Act in faith.  To act in faith means we move forward with determined and dependent faith to accomplish what we understand God wants us to do.  Through God’s gracious hand, we will succeed. (NEHEMIAH 2:18)

I remember the time in my life when I thought God may be calling me into the ministry.  It was a difficult time for a young man whose ambition in life was to be a doctor.  I was nearly overwhelmed with the thought and challenge that God would desire to use me in such an honorable profession.  I couldn’t see myself in front of people speaking, or speaking loudly with emotion.  I also felt I would never be able to pronounce those difficult names and places in the Old Testament.

I recall wrestling with that calling and actually bargaining with God to reveal His call to me.  I prayed that if the Lord was truly calling me to preach that He would save my parents first as a sign that He was calling me to preach.  As I did so, it was if I sensed the Lord saying to me that He didn’t work that way.

He wanted me to step out in faith, declare my call to the ministry and then He would save my parents.  That’s exactly the way it happened.

Nehemiah also had to take steps of faith to fulfill God’s will for his life.  As we come to chapter 2, we see Nehemiah taking these steps of faith.  Notice first Nehemiah’s courageous commitment.

I.                   COURAGEOUS COMMITMENT, NEHEMIAH 2:1-8

 

1And 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. 2Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.” So I became dreadfully afraid, 3and 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?” 4Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5And 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.” 6Then 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. 7Furthermore 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, 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.

 

            As Nehemiah approached King Artaxerxes the Bible tells us he was “dreadfully afraid.”  The KJV says “sore afraid.”  He was overwhelmed with fear.

            Courage is not the absence of fear, but willingness to do what we believe is right in spite of fear.  Persian Kings had absolute power and often violent tempers.  Servants were required to keep a cheerful countenance while in the king’s presence.  Nehemiah found courage to overcome his fear because of his faith that God would enable him to do what God had put in his heart to do.

            “Nisan” would indicate that the time frame was some four months after Nehemiah has first learned of the terrible conditions back in Jerusalem.   

NEHEMIAH 2:3 – Nehemiah responded respectfully and wisely to the king’s request to know the reason for Nehemiah’s sadness.  May the king live forever!” was the address commonly used to honor the king. 

NEHEMIAH 2:4 – “What is your request?” indicates the king’s willingness to help.

“So I prayed to the God of heaven.”  I call this a Nehemiah prayer.  I believe it was a quick prayer breathed quickly under his breath.  Did he say, “thank you, Lord!”  Or, “Help me, Lord!”  He probably did both.

NEHEMIAH 2:6 – Nehemiah had spent the past 6 months praying and planning for God to use him to relieve the suffering of the Jews in Jerusalem. 

NEHEMIAH 2:8 – With the statement “the king granted my requests for I was graciously strengthened by my God,” Nehemiah testified as to how he succeeded in his conversation with King Artaxerxes.  He began the interview with prayer, NEHEMIAH 1:11, prayed during the process, NEHEMIAH 2:4, and concluded by giving God credit for the success.

 

II.                AN HONEST APPRAISAL AND BOLD CHALLENGE,

NEHEMIAH 2:11-18

 

11So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12Then 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. 13And 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. 14Then 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. 15So 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. 16And 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.

17Then 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.” 18And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.

 

NEHEMIAH 2:11 – Nehemiah probably used the first three days to rest and to fulfill the social amenities befitting his position.

NEHEMIAH 2:12 – the phrase what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem is the key to understanding his success.  Faith is a two-way street that begins with God laying hold of us for redemption and service.  Our response is vitally important.  Our response ought always to be to trust and obey.

We sing the song, “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way.  To be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey.”

NEHEMIAH 2:12-13 indicate that Nehemiah took a secret expedition to survey the physical condition of the city walls.  We are also introduced to the names of some of the city gates.  The city gates were always important both for the access they provided for travel to and from the city, but they also served an important commercial or civil service for the city.

The Valley Gate – was located midway of the western wall and opened toward the Tyropoeon Valley.  He then moved counterclockwise to examine the Serpent’s Gate.

 

The Serpent’s Gate – also known as the Dragon Gate, KJV, which may have received its name from a shrine there dedicated to a pagan deity, represented by a serpent or dragon.

 

The Refuse (Dung) Gate – was about 1000 cubits south of the Valley Gate.  This gate led to the city dump, where people deposited their garbage.  You may know that another well-known valley lay outside the Dung Gate called the Hinnon Valley.  Garbage, human waste, dead animals were often thrown down the sloping hill leading to the Hinnon Valley and then set afire.  Jesus referred to this valley as Gehenna in a direct reference to Hell, where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched.

 

NEHEMIAH 2:14-15 – Nehemiah continued east along the southern wall and then turned north in inspect the eastern wall. 

The Fountain Gate was located on the north wall facing the Kidron Valley. 

The King’s Pool was probably named such because of its close proximity to the king’s garden.  Later in the Bible, this pool would be called Siloam’s Pool. 

NEHEMIAH 2:16 – Again reminds us of the secrecy of Nehemiah’s mission initially.  The list of people at the end of verse 16 describes the various groups living in Jerusalem at the time.  The Jews refers to the lay population or common people living in Jerusalem while priests denotes the religious leaders, nobles the heads of houses or families, and officials the city magistrates.

NEHEMIAH 2:17 – Finally, following Nehemiah’s honest appraisal of the condition of the city and its walls, he now makes his bold challenge.  He gathers the Jewish people and their leaders and challenges them to join him in what God had sent him to do. 

He motivates them by reminding them of the distress the city is in.  The word literally means, “The evil,” referring to the trouble the city and its citizens faced if they did not honor God. 

The word at the end of NEHEMIAH 2:17, translated reproach also means disgrace in means to be devalued or to be thought less of.  The Jews, their city and even their God were brought down in the eyes of their pagan neighbors and surrounding nations. 

Nehemiah challenged the people of his day to honor God and restore the value and worth of the Jews and their homeland by joining him in this rebuilding effort.

NEHEMIAH 2:18 – Then to further motivate them to join him, Nehemiah testifies of God’s gracious hand upon him to do the work.  As evidence of God’s hand of blessing, Nehemiah refers to the king’s provision or material resources and the king’s edict to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. 

Then the ears of Nehemiah heard what every spiritual leader must hear in order to experience success in ministry.  Let us rise up and build! 

These were words of commitment and determination, determined faith.

The phrase then they set their hands to this good work probably refers to both Nehemiah and the people.

 

For God’s people in any generation and under any situation to experience positive growth, revival, rebuilding, and restoration there must be a determined faith, and commitment to trust and obey God in all that He asks us to do.

 

III.             A GOOD BEGINNING, (NEHEMIAH 3:1-5)

Nehemiah 3 records for us the good beginning the Jews made under Nehemiah’s leadership in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.  The work was divided into approximately 40 sections.  These assignments moved counterclockwise around the wall beginning and ending with the Sheep Gate. 

 

1Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

3Also the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4And next to them Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, made repairs. Next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs. Next to them Zadok the son of Baana made repairs. 5Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.

NEHEMIAH 3:1 – Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests built the Sheep Gate,

 

The Sheep Gate was located close to the northeastern corner of the city.  It was a major entrance into the temple so it would have been especially important to the work of the Levitical Priesthood.  It is the gate through which animals to be sacrificed were brought into the temple.

Spiritually, the Sheep Gate speaks of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  Jesus whenever He entered Jerusalem always entered this gate, the Sheep Gate, the place of sacrifice.  In John 10:1, Jesus speaks of this Sheep Gate.  1“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  There is but one way to salvation, through the Sheep Gate through which the Lamb of God first walked. 

This was the first gate repaired, for without sacrifice, there is no salvation.  The Sheep Gate had no locks or bars, for the door of salvation is ever open to the sinner.  And this is the only gate sanctified or consecrated, setting it apart as a very special gate.

NEHEMIAH 3:3-5, tell us of the men of Jericho built next to Eliashib and the other priests.  Their work lead down from the northern wall to the eastern wall which would have been convenient for those coming from Jericho. 

The Fish Gate was located on the northern wall close to where the wall turned south, and probably got its name from the proximity of the fish market.  The fishermen of Lake Galilee would bring their fish through this gate.

The fish gate was one place you would not have any problem locating. Your nose would lead you right to it. Now, what does the fish gate symbolize? Well, the Lord Jesus said to the men who followed Him, “… I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).  So the Fish Gate reminds us of soul winning.  We are called to be fishers of men. 

NEHEMIAH 3:5 - 5Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.

These nobles thought they were too good to do this type of work—or perhaps they had some other excuse. You suspect that they had lily-white hands and would not think of lifting stones to repair the walls of Jerusalem. They just would not put their shoulders (KJV says “necks”) to the work. It took a lot of manpower to move those stones. It took a lot of grunting and groaning to build those walls. This work created a lot of sore backs, sore hands, and sore feet. In fact, a person was sore all over from this hard labor. However the nobles were lazy, consumed with themselves and fell down on the job.

 

It is interesting to note that the nobles were right next to the fish gate, which speaks of witnessing. These men were not witnesses for God at all. I don’t know about you, but I would not want to be in that group. I would hate to have it reported in the eternal Word of God that I did not do what He called me to do.

In our day I am afraid that there are many people in the church who are not doing what God has called them to do. I am talking about saved people, not the unsaved. These Christians are not doing anything. They are not serving God.

In Proverbs 11:26 it says, “He that withholds corn, the people shall curse him….”

Corn represents the Word of God, and it is a terrible thing to hold back the Word of God from those who are hungry. Have you ever stopped to think about that?  We are also told that there will be certain people in eternity that will rise up and call an individual blessed. I think there will be people in hell that will rise up and curse some folk who are in heaven because they withheld corn from them.

NEHEMIAH 3:6 - 6Moreover Jehoiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors, with its bolts and bars.

The Old Gate speaks of the old paths and the old truths, the foundational, fundamental truths of the word of God. 

Jeremiah 6:16 says “16Thus says the Lord:

“Stand in the ways and see,

And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,

And walk in it;

Then you will find rest for your souls.

Now look at NEHEMIAH 3:13 and the Valley Gate - 13Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Refuse Gate.

The Valley Gate could have been any gate leading from the city.  For all gates lead to a valley leaving Jerusalem.  Remember, the Psalmist of Psalm 23, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

The Valley Gate reminds us of humility before the Lord.  It is the gate of humility, the gate of humbleness. God sometimes has to lead us through trials and difficulties in order to teach us some lessons. We are told that faith develops in us different virtues, and one of them is lowliness of mind. In the Epistle to the Colossians it is called “… humbleness of mind …” (Col. 3:12). This is something that you cannot cultivate in your own human strength.

Humility has to come from the inside. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

I am reminded of the man who said to his friend, “I have been trying to be humble and at last I have succeeded.” The friend said, “Well, I know you are proud of that.” The man replied, “I sure am.” Humility is not attained by human effort. We have to be humbled by the Spirit of God.

The story is told about a minister in Scotland who while in seminary was the leading student in his class. Once during his student days he was invited to preach in a certain church because of his fine scholastic record. Since he was a star pupil, he entered the pulpit with great pride. When he stood before the congregation to preach, it was confusion. He found out that it was easy to put a sermon on paper in his study, but to get up and deliver it was another thing. He became frightened. He forgot everything he knew. He left the pulpit at the close of the sermon in great shame and humility. A dear little Scottish lady had watched his every action and met him as he left the pulpit. She said, “Young man, if you had only gone into the pulpit as you came down, you would have come down as you went up.” God has put us in the school of humility. Humility is a fruit of the Spirit. The valley gate is one that many of us need to go through.

NEHEMIAH 3:14 - 14Malchijah the son of Rechab, leader of the district of Beth Haccerem, repaired the Refuse Gate; he built it and hung its doors with its bolts and bars.

The Refuse Gate, or the Dung Gate, was the gate through which waste, garbage and refuse from the city was brought. 

In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Paul dealt with this subject in the Christian life as much as any other. You and I need to recognize that we need to confess our sins to God. Honest confession is the means by which we get out the garbage.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

NEHEMIAH 3:15 - 15Shallun the son of Col-Hozeh, leader of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate; he built it, covered it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah by the King’s Garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David.

The Fountain Gate illustrates the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  I believe that the gate of the fountain refers to what our Lord meant when He said to the woman at the well, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

 

At the Feast of Tabernacles Christ stood up and said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

In the next verse John explains His statement: “(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)” (John 7:39).

In Romans 8:9 Paul says, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

The gate of the fountain, therefore, teaches the fact that every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God, and that he needs an infilling of the Spirit. When a believer is filled with the Spirit, he is not just a well, but a fountain of living water which will gush out to be a blessing to other people. All of us should be a blessing to others in these days in which we live.

NEHEMIAH 3:26 – The Water Gate, 26Moreover the Nethinim who dwelt in Ophel made repairs as far as the place in front of the Water Gate toward the east, and on the projecting tower.

The Water Gate speaks of the Word of God which cleanses the believer.  The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).

In His prayer in John 17:17 the Lord said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” The water gate pictures the Word of God. We are washed by the water of the Word. It is through this gate that we are trying to spread the Word. We all need to be water boys, helping to bring the water to those who are thirsty.

The psalmist asked the question, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” How is he to get clean? “By taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps. 119:9).

The startling thing about the water gate is that it was not repaired. Apparently when the other gates and walls were torn down, the water gate remained intact. That was unusual. It did not need any repairs at all. Does that tell you anything? The Word of God, friend, does not need any repairs. This seventh gate – perfect word of God, needed no repairs.  Psalm 119.89, Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.

NEHEMIAH 3:28 – THE HORSE GATE

28Beyond the Horse Gate the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house.

The Horse Gate introduces the idea of warfare.  The horse was a symbol of warfare in the Bible.

Now the horse was an animal ridden by a warrior. Zechariah 1:8 speaks of a man riding upon a red horse. Behind him there were red horses, speckled, and white.

Revelation 6:4 says, “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” These symbolic horses are powers making war.

The Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a little donkey. He was not meek because He rode upon that animal; it was the animal ridden by kings. It was not considered a humble little animal in that day. Men only rode horses during a time of war. The horse was the symbol of war.

The horse gate speaks of the “soldier service” of the believer today.

There are battles in the Christian life to be fought.  2 Timothy 2:1-4, 1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

Ephesians 6:11-12, “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” There is a real battle to be fought. It is a spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12 continues: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

          We are not fighting against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces in this battle.

NEHEMIAH 3:29 – THE EAST GATE

29After them Zadok the son of Immer made repairs in front of his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs.

The East Gate speaks of the Second Coming of Christ, Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Obviously, this gate was located on the east side of the city. It was the first one that was opened in the morning. The east gate in modern Jerusalem is sealed. There are those who seem to think that it is the gate through which the Lord Jesus Christ will come when He returns to earth. He may do that, but Scripture does not say that He will. Scripture indicates that He will enter through the golden gate, which is not in the wall of the city but in the temple.

Although the east gate is now sealed, it was the first gate opened each morning, because it was facing in the direction of the rising sun.

We as believers ought to be gathered at the “east gate” because there is a glimmer of light on the horizon—the sun may be coming up before long. But before the sun comes up, the Bright and Morning Star will appear.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16–17).

This event is what we call the Rapture. “Caught up” is a translation of the Greek harpazoµ, and one of the synonyms is the word rapture. When someone says that the Bible does not teach the Rapture, they are just arguing semantics. The Scripture says that He is going to take His own out of the world before the sun comes up.

NEHEMIAH 3:31 – THE GATES MIPHKAD

31After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the Nethinim and of the merchants, in front of the Miphkad Gate, and as far as the upper room at the corner.

What is the gate of Miphkad? Miphkad means “review” or “registry.” This gate, the Miphkad (Mif-Kad) Gate speaks of judgment.  Now let me tell you why.

When a stranger came to Jerusalem, he had to have a visa—not like those we have today, but he had to stop at this gate and register. It was also a gate of review. When the army had been out fighting a battle and returned, they passed through this gate. It was here that David reviewed his soldiers returning from battle. When they passed through this arch, David was there to thank his battle-scarred men for their unselfish loyalty and daring.

As we saw in 1 Thessalonians 4, at the time of the Rapture we are going to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Some people say, “Oh, that is going to be wonderful.” Well, it is. But did you know that after the Rapture we are going to appear before the judgment seat of Christ? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).

This is not the same judgment as that at the Great White Throne mentioned in Revelation 20:11–15. Only believers will be present at the judgment seat of Christ, because this judgment does not concern salvation but reward. Believers will receive rewards for things done in the body. You will not be there if you are not saved. You will be rewarded according to what you have done, whether it be good or bad.

That is the picture of the gate Miphkad. David knew his battle-scarred men and what they had done. Every once in a while he would call one out of the ranks and say, “I have a reward for you.” There are going to be many unknown Christians who will be called out before the judgment seat of Christ and rewarded. We think of the preachers, the missionaries, the officers of the church, and the Sunday school teachers receiving great rewards, but I think that some of the greatest rewards will go to some of the unknown saints who live for God in this day. Miphkad can be a wonderful gate for you and me to come to someday. The prospect of it should cause us to examine our lives a little more closely.

NEHEMIAH 3:32 - 32And between the upper room at the corner, as far as the Sheep Gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.


We have been through ten gates, and now we are back at the sheep gate. We have been all of the way around the walls of Jerusalem, and we are right back where we started. As you will recall, the sheep gate symbolizes the Cross of Christ. We began with the Cross of Christ and we end with the Cross of Christ. It is Christ’s Cross that is all important.

As we stand at the sheep gate, I would like to close with a story of the late Dr. MacKay, the great Scottish preacher who was holding meetings in London. After a service a young man came to him and said, “Dr. MacKay, I would like to speak to you for a moment.” Dr. MacKay replied, “Well, I must take the train back to the place where I am staying, but you may walk with me to the train.” On the way as they walked, the young man said, “What you say about trusting Christ is not clear to me.” Dr. MacKay went over the plan of salvation once again, but the young man said, “I am sorry, but I cannot seem to feel that I understand savingly. It does not seem to get through.” The preacher heard his train coming and he asked the young man if he had a Bible. He said, “No, I don’t.” Dr. MacKay said, “Here is my Bible. Take it and turn to Isaiah 53:6 and read that verse. When you come to the first ‘all’ you bend down low and go right in there. Then, when you get to the last ‘all’ stand up straight and you will come out right.” So the young man took his Bible and Dr. MacKay rushed down to get his train.

The young man stood there holding the Bible, a little puzzled. He moved over under a street light and turned to Isaiah 53:6. Now what did he say to do? He said at the first “all” to bend down low. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way….” The young man thought, That sure is a picture of me. He continued to read the verse: “… and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” He stood there puzzled. Oh, yes, I am to stand up straight and come out. I see it now. I am to trust Christ. The Lord God has laid all of my sins on Jesus. Now I can stand up straight—He has forgiven me!

The next evening Dr. MacKay arrived early and sat on the platform looking for the young man. The service started and he had not located him yet. He had his Bible and, after all, Dr. MacKay, being Scottish, was not about to part with that Bible. Finally he saw the young man come in, and Dr. MacKay went to meet him and get his Bible. He said, “Young man, did you do what I said?” The lad replied, “Yes, I did. I read Isaiah 53:6. I bent down at the first ‘all’ and stood straight up at the last ‘all.’” Dr. MacKay asked, “And what happened?” The lad replied, “I know now that Jesus is my Savior and I have trusted Him.”

My friend, we begin at the sheep gate, and we come out at the sheep gate. I think that throughout eternity we are going to talk about the sheep gate, where Jesus died nearly 2000 years ago for your sins and mine.

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Stay Focused on God’s Work, (NEHEMIAH 4:1 – 7:73)

 

Chapter 3 – Overcoming Obstacles (NEHEMIAH 4:6-23; 5:1-13)

 

Basic truth:  Obstacles to God’s work are bound to come, they’re inevitable.  But by trusting God and being determined to continue His work, God’s people can find ways to overcome obstacles.

1But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” 3Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”

4Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

6So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

            God’s people who are determined to obey God will always face obstacles.  We will always have our enemies, those who resist the will of God.  The sad fact is that often our opposition comes from within our own ranks and not always from outside.

NEHEMIAH 4:1 – Remember that Sanballet and Tobiah had opposed Nehemiah and his work from the beginning, (NEHEMIAH 2:10). 

10When 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.

            Initially they mocked and despised the Jews and even lied about their true intentions claiming they were rebelling against King Artaxeres.  (NEHEMIAH 2:19)

19But 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?”

            Who were these characters with funny sounding names that stood in opposition to the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem?  Sanballet was governor of Samaria, and Tobiah was the leader of the Ammonites.  The name Sanballet means “Sin (the moon god) has healed.”  Tobiah’s name means “Yah is good.” 

NEHEMIAH 4:3 - Tobiah had ridiculed the Jews by saying that even a light-footed fox would break down the wall that the Jews were building.

            How did Nehemiah and the people respond to this kind of criticism and opposition?  First by praying, remember Nehemiah was a man of prayer.

NEHEMIAH 4:4-5 – Nehemiah prays a prayer many of us would like to pray.  A prayer for vengeance called in the O.T., an Apprecatory Prayer. 

4Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

To his credit Nehemiah did not seek vengeance himself, but left vengeance to God. 

In Romans 12:19 Paul wrote, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

There are certain matters that we should turn over to the Lord and He will handle them. If we attempt to handle them, it means that we are not walking by faith.

NEHEMIAH 4:6 – Second, Nehemiah continued with the task God had given him to do.  6So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

We must remember that the life of God’s people is not simply a life of prayer; it also is a walk and a warfare.

NEHEMIAH 4:6 is one of the great verses in the Book of Nehemiah.  To say that the people had a “mind” to work referred to their internal fortitude, their heart, their will.  They refused to quit.

Our study of the Book of Nehemiah is called SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH, and we are trying to Stay Focused on God’s Work, (4:1 – 7:73).

 

Last week we began in chapter 4 looking at the subject, “Overcoming Obstacles,” from (4:6-23; 5:1-13).

Look at NEHEMIAH 4:6 again,       

6So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

 

          In spite of opposition and obstacles, Nehemiah continued with the task God had given him to do. 

Remember we said that the life of God’s people is not simply a life of prayer; it also is a walk and a warfare.

To say that the people had a “mind” to work referred to their internal fortitude, their heart, their will.  They refused to quit.

But Satan’s crowd never quits either.  Look at what happens, NEHEMIAH 4:7-9.

7Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

Sanballet would bring his Samaritan army from the north.

Tobiah and the Ammonites would strike from the east.

The Arabs were Geshem’s countrymen.  They would attack from the south.

The Ashdodites were Philistines.  They would arrive from the west.

In other words, God’s people were attacked on all sides!

NEHEMIAH 4:9 – indicates Nehemiah’s response as a wise leader.  Again, he first prayed.  God must always be our first resource.  However, prayer without vigilance is presumption.  Nehemiah also “set a watch” or an armed sentinel on duty around the clock. 

NEHEMIAH 4:10 - Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”

Next comes the internal conflict and opposition that often arises from within the ranks of God’s own people.  Watch what this verse tells us happened next.  “Judah said…” 

The people of Judah and Jerusalem were also discouraged.

ILLUSTRATION

A legend tells of the auction at which the devil offered his tools for sale. One tool, however, was marked “not for sale.”  When asked why he would not sell that tool, the devil spoke of it as his best tool of all.  “With this tool,” he hissed, “I can work my way into the hearts of the strongest saints and plant in that heart whatever destruction I desire.”  Asked the name of that tool, the devil replied, “Discouragement.”

Discouragement invaded the ranks of Judah from three sources:

1)      The long and difficult task of rebuilding had exhausted the workers.

Exhaustion and the enormity of the task remaining can pull one down into discouragement.  “Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”

2)      The second source of discouragement was the continued threat of a surprise attack. 

We saw this in the previous NEHEMIAH 4:7-8.  But in verse 11 we are told, 11And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.”

3)      Finally, the third source of discouragement came from the Jews living outside the city among or near their enemies.  Look at NEHEMIAH 4:12,

NEHEMIAH 4:12 - So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”

Some believe these Jews to be alarmists or collaborators with the enemies.  Others hold that these Jews were asking their brethren who had left their villages to labor on the wall to return to protect them and their families.

Whatever the case, Nehemiah and the builders did not let discouragement stop the work. 

NEHEMIAH 4:13 - Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

This verse tells us Nehemiah took three actions to prepare for battle. 

1) He armed the people with swords, spears, and bows for both defense and protection,

2) He set the people behind….the wall, at the lower parts of the wall, (the most vulnerable areas) and,

3) He organized the defense by families to provide the greatest motivation for victory in battle. 

NEHEMIAH 4:14 – Then Nehemiah gives them a pep speech equal to the greatest of champion coaches or military leaders.

14And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

NEHEMIAH 4:15 - And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.

Through the strength God offers we can overcome any obstacle!

NEHEMIAH 4:16-18a, Nehemiah prepares his people for opposition:

16So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. 18Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

1.     He organizes the men (servants) for possible attack. NEHEMIAH 4:16

2.     He assigns the leaders (the officers) responsibilities as well.  NEHEMIAH 4:16

3.     He armed the other laborers “those who carried burdens” as well.  NEHEMIAH 4:17

4.     NEHEMIAH 4:18-20, Nehemiah did a fourth thing, he developed an effective communication system,

NEHEMIAH 4:18b-20 - And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20“Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

5. Finally, the fifth thing he did was to schedule the people’s activities for building the wall and defending the city.

NEHEMIAH 4:21-23 - 21So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared. 22At the same time I also said to the people, “Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day.” 23So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Stay Focused on God’s Work, (NEHEMIAH 4:1 – 7:73)

 

Chapter 3 – Overcoming Obstacles (NEHEMIAH 4:6-23; 5:1-13)

Topic this evening, Unjust Practices, from Nehemiah 5:1-13.  That section begins in your books on the bottom of page 40.

 

Chapter 5 continues to describe obstacles Nehemiah and his workers had to overcome to fulfill their God-given task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall.  Remember, Nehemiah has been met by opposition in many forms.

Again, the more things change, the more things remain the same.  The challenges and problems, the opposition and the obstacles we face today as God’s people are much like those Nehemiah and his people faced in their day. 

The devil never takes an off day.  He does his work well.  He is so subtle. First the enemy laughed at the Jews. Then the enemy ridiculed them. Finally there was open opposition. It was so intense that Nehemiah had his builders put a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other hand while they worked on the wall. Nehemiah and his associates worked so hard that they did not take their clothes off except to bathe.

Now we see opposition coming from within. This is where the Devil strikes his greatest blow. In the history of the church we have seen that when the Devil could not destroy the church by persecution, the next thing he did was to join it! The Devil had already caused discouragement among the Jews, and now he goes a step farther and causes conflict within.

     Have you heard of the parable called, “The Rebellion Against the Stomach?”  It tells about how the brain along with the hands, feet, and even the mouth led other body parts in a rebellion against the stomach.

     Sounds rather absurd doesn’t it?  But not so absurd when you recall Paul’s description of the church as a body, the body of Christ.  So often the members of the church find themselves in opposition to one another and often fight against one another.  We forget that the head of the body is to be Christ.  He controls all other parts of the body that should function together in harmony for health and happiness.

In any event, look at Nehemiah 5:1.  1And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren.

     We’ll learn later in this passage that the reference to “their Jewish brethren,” or Jewish countrymen refers to the nobles and the officials of verse 7.  The first cry against unjust practices came from the poorer people, the common, ordinary, lay men and women of the Jewish community.

     To use the word, “brethren,” indicates those people who by their association together, their relationship from within the same family or fellowship, should by their very nature surround and protect one another.  What a tragedy that this was not so.

Nehemiah 5:2-4, 2For there were those who said, “We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” 3There were also some who said, “We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.” 4There were also those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our lands and vineyards.

     These verses tell us of three problems faced by the Jews in Jerusalem during that day.

First, a famine in the land had depleted their grain (corn) supplies.  They had very little food.  Inflation was out of sight.  The law of supply and demand was just as true then as now.  The people simply had no or very little food, and even less money to afford what food was available to them.

Second, because of their labor on the wall, and their fear of constant attack from neighboring enemies, they had been unable to work for money to buy the food needed for their families.  Are you beginning to see the problem? 

Well there’s a third problem, its called taxes.  We don’t have any problems with taxes in our day do we?

The King, the very King Artexeres who had provided the free materials for the rebuilding of the wall to Nehemiah and the Jews was also exacting high taxes and tariffs from the Jews at the same time.  The poor Jews were forced to take loans or borrow money from their wealthier noblemen and officials of the city.  In order to secure these loans they had to put up their lands and or their own children as collateral. 

Nehemiah 5: 6 – Nehemiah’s response was the same as what we might be expected from any one of us.  6And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.

Another version says, “became extremely angry.” 

 

Nehemiah 5:7a - 7After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.” By their very nature, “nobles and officials or rulers” should have helped, not hurt, their needy brethren. 

Nehemiah “rebuked” to speak out against, to call to an account their wrong doing.  He did so privately at first.  Only later after there was no apparent change did Nehemiah bring public his charges against the leaders.  So I called a great assembly against them.

Nehemiah 5:8 - 8And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say.

 

These verses give insight in handling what is a very difficult and uncomfortable issue in the church today, rebuking fellow church members of sin or inappropriate practice, behavior or lifestyle.  Sometimes this refers to church discipline.

Nehemiah used great wisdom in dealing with this issue of internal conflict within the Jewish community.  We can afford to do nothing less. 

I have learned to do this when dealing with members and or staff within the church.  I try to follow this strategy, “Praise publicly and criticize privately.”  If that does not produce the desired response, then like Nehemiah, and other N.T. Scriptures prescribe, we must bring sinning brethren before the church for the whole church to take action. 

I know this.  Our motives must be pure.  Our hearts humbled.  The motivation must always be love and concern for our sinning brethren with the goal to instruct and improve the individual and the church. 

Nehemiah 5:9 – 9Then I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?” 

 

When the officials could not defend their actions, Nehemiah cited a second reason why what they had done was not right.  They had brought reproach on the Jewish community by creating division among them.  Nehemiah appeals to “the fear of God” as the basis for reform.

Nehemiah 5:10-11 - Nehemiah next proposes a solution to the problems.  10“I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! 11“Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them.”

 

First, he magnified their oneness as God’s people and every person’s responsibility to work to solve their problems.  In verse 10, Nehemiah included himself as a part of the problem and the solution.  He said, Please, let us stop this usury!

 

Second, Nehemiah urged the people to follow the example of responsible compassion set by him, his brethren and his servants when lending to the poor.  They had loaned to their poor brethren but without interest.

Third, Nehemiah urged both moneylenders and borrowers to take steps to comply with this example or responsible compassion.  “Restore now to them, even this day….

 

Nehemiah 5:12 - 12So they said, “We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.

Nehemiah called the priests as a witness or an oath for what they promised to do.

Nehemiah 5:13 - 13Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise. 

A promise or oath carries with it a curse for failure to fulfill its requirements.

As conflict was restored, the whole congregation gave praise to God.  In doing as they had promised, their unity was restored and the work of rebuilding the wall went forward.   

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Stay Focused on God’s Work, (Nehemiah 4:1 – 7:73)

 

Chapter 4 – Finishing God’s Work (Nehemiah 6:1-19; 7:1-5a, 66-73a)

 

     In chapters 6 – 7, Nehemiah continues to describe how God enabled him and his workers to finish their God-called task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.  What He discovered and what we are going to see as well is that God provides His people all they need to accomplish the work He gives them to do. 

     God provided Nehemiah with strength to avoid distractions (Nehemiah 6:1-14), wisdom to avoid pitfalls (Nehemiah 6:15-7:3), and helpers to provide needed resources (Nehemiah 7:4-73a).

1.     STRENGTH TO AVOID DISTRACTIONS (Nehemiah 6:1-14)

1Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. 3So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” 4But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. 5Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. 8Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” 9For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

10Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” 11And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

14My 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.

     Chapter 6 opens with the work of rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall nearly complete.  Two tasks remained: to “set the doors in the gates,” Nehemiah 6:1, and to secure life and worship within the city

(Nehemiah  7), which was the purpose of rebuilding the wall.

Nehemiah 6:1 – reminds us that Nehemiah’s enemies had not given up.  “Sanballet, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab were Nehemiah’s chief enemies.

Their evil strategy included stopping the work before it was finished by destroying Nehemiah as a leader.  Their plan called for killing Nehemiah either outside the city or inside the temple.  When those plans failed, they sought to frighten Nehemiah to quit the work, to discredit Nehemiah’s character, and finally to encourage him to find peace by embracing his enemies.

Nehemiah 6: 2 – The Valley of Ono was nearly 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem and would have caused Nehemiah to be away from the work of rebuilding the wall for 3 to 4 days.  Some have speculated that Tobiah would lead an attack against the city during that time.  So Nehemiah said “Oh no!” to Ono!

Nehemiah 6:3-4 – Nehemiah refused their disingenuous offer primarily because of his passion and commitment to finish the work God has given him to do.  He called it “a great work.”  

Do we see the work God has called us to as members of FBCP to be a great work?  Paul challenged the members of the church at Corinth to remain passionate and faithful in this way.  1 Corinthians 15:58, “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.”

Nehemiah 6:5-7 – Sanballet’s fifth demand for a face-to-face meeting with Nehemiah was filled with threats, lies, and rumor.  This is one of Satan’s favorite strategies to interrupt the work of God’s people.

Lie # 1 was that it was being noised abroad internationally that Nehemiah and the Jews were rebuilding the walls in order to rebel against the King.  This rumor and lie had been told before and it is often successful.

Lie # 2 was that Nehemiah had commissioned the prophets in Jerusalem to declare him the appointed Messiah saying “there is a king in Judah.” 

Nehemiah 6:8-9 – Notice Nehemiah’s response, 1st he simply denied these rumors.  2nd, he identified the true source of the rumors as Sanballet and the enemies of the Jews.  3rd, he explained they had spread the rumors to intimidate or “make afraid” he and his workers.  And 4th he did what we have seen him do many times before, he prayed.  He prayed for strength. 

In the same way, we find strength to accomplish all the Lord has assigned us in spite of life’s hindrances, through prayer and by turning to God’s certain word of blessing.

Psalm 56:3, Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.

Isaiah 41:10, Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Nehemiah 6:10-14, simply tell us of even more deceit and lies in order to discredit Nehemiah as a leader. 

10Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” 11And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

14My 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.

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Stay Focused on God’s Work, (Nehemiah 6:1 – 7:73)

 

- Finishing God’s Work (Nehemiah 6:1-19; 7:1-5a, 66-73a)

 

     In chapters 6 – 7, Nehemiah continues to describe how God enabled him and his workers to finish their God-called task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.  What He discovered and us as well is that God provides His people all they need to accomplish the work He gives them to do. 

     God provided Nehemiah three things he needed to finish the work.  He gave him strength to avoid distractions (Nehemiah 6:1-14), wisdom to avoid pitfalls (Nehemiah 6:15-7:3), and helpers to provide needed resources (Nehemiah 6:4-73a).

2.  WISDOM TO AVOID DISTRACTIONS, and other important details

Nehemiah 6:15 - So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.

By God’s gracious hand and the people’s determined faith, the wall was finished in 52 days.  The month Ellul would be at some point corresponding to our August or September. 

Fifty-two days may seem a short time for such a great work.  But it shows what God’s people can accomplish when they work together under God’s blessings. 

Nehemiah 6:16 - 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.

     One of the most important results of Nehemiah’s determined faith to rebuild the walls and finish the task was the impact it made on the surrounding nations. 

     Although they did not know or understand the God of Nehemiah and the people of Judah, they were more than aware that this work was a work of Almighty God. 

Nehemiah 6:17 – 19, 17Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them. 18For 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. 19Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.

     The point of these verses is that Nehemiah refused to compromise his position and purpose by cooperating with his enemies.  Tobiah was an Ammonite, a mixed Jew.  He would have surely sabotaged the reconstruction effort. 

     As God’s people, we must learn to remain focused on the task at hand.  There are many good things the church can do.  Many wonderful Christian organizations that would love for us to adopt their mission and support their ministries.  But our focus must be on rebuilding the church at Center Point to be a strong and viable Christian witness to this community in the 21st Century.

Nehemiah 7:1-3

1Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. 3And I said to them, “Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house.”

    God gave Nehemiah wisdom for securing Jerusalem from both inside and outside threats.

     The gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites mentioned in verse 1 were all a part of the Levitical priesthood.  Remember that God chose the Tribe of Levi of which Moses and Aaron were a part.  He assigned them the responsibility of caring for the work of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem.  Of the Levites, God chose Aaron and his sons to be the priests.

The Gatekeepers (porters, KJV) guarded the Temple doors.

The Singers were just that.  They were the Levitical choir that sang the psalms of the O.T.

The Levites are a reference to all the other members of the Levitical Tribe who were entrusted with responsibility for caring for and maintaining the temple ministry.  Nehemiah trusted the care of God’s House to those who had the greatest commitment to it.

Then in Nehemiah 6:2, we are told of Nehemiah’s trust in his brother, Hanaiah, whom he appointed as governor of Jerusalem, and Hananiah, a troop commander.  Both of these men are described as faithful men who feared God.

So much rises and falls on leadership.  We need highly committed, faithful leadership who fear God.

1.     ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF OTHER’S CONTRIBUTIONS, Nehemiah 7:4-5a, 66-73a

4Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt. 5Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy.

     Now that Jerusalem had been secured by godly life and worship, Nehemiah takes steps to increase its inhabitants. 

Nehemiah 7:66 – 69, describe the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their contribution to rebuilding the socio-economical and political aspects of society. 

Nehemiah 7:73 - So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinim, and all Israel dwelt in their cities.

Nehemiah 7:73 closes this passage by telling us all Israel settled into their towns and cities.

 

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Renew Your Relationship with God, (Nehemiah 7:73 – 10:39)

 

Chapter 5 – Renewing Your Worship (Nehemiah 7:73b – 10:39)

Nehemiah 7:73b – 8:18 is part of the larger passage that concludes with chapter 10:39.  Among other matters, this material records one of the great revivals of the Bible among God’s people. 

One preacher preaches a sermon from this passage and entitles it, “The Revival I am Praying For.”

Obeying God’s word is the key to revival.  For Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem obedience began when the people joined together with God’s man to accomplish the God-sized assignment of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.  After this was accomplished and the people were securely in their homes, the stage was set for God to do a great work of revival.  The job was not complete with the rebuilding of the walls.  Now it was time for the people to rebuild their lives spiritually.

In Nehemiah 8 we will read about the important role that the public reading of Scripture holds in the lives of God’s people. 

What we are really going to see as we move through this section of Nehemiah is that God’s people can renew and strengthen their worship and find joy in knowing God as they hear and obey God’s word.

1.     ATTENTIVENESS TO GOD’S WORD (Nehemiah 7:73b – 8:8)

When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.

Nehemiah 8

1Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. 8So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

Nehemiah 8:1 –  1Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.

The phrase “all the people” occurs 13 times in verses 1 – 18.

The reference to “the book of the Law” is to the first five books of the O.T.  We call these books the Pentateuch and they were written by Moses, God’s man.

Nehemiah 8:2 – 2So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.

The “Ezra” of verse two is the Ezra who came from Babylon some 13 years prior to Nehemiah.  When he came, he brought a copy of the Book of the Law with him.  There’s no doubt that God worked through Ezra the Priest over these long thirteen years to prepare the people for revival just as Nehemiah had done in rebuilding the wall in 52 days!

Ezra’s name means “the Lord helps” and like Nehemiah, Ezra provides a powerful example of the blessings that come from serving God with a determined faith.

The assembly of all the people included men, women and children who had the ability to understand or comprehend the Scriptures.

The reference to the “first day of the seventh month” speaks of an annual time of religious festivals commencing with the Blowing of the Trumpets or the Feast of Trumpets, calling the people to a holy convocation or assembly.  This was followed by the Day of Atonement on the 10th day of the month, and the Festival of Booths on the fifteenth through the 22nd day, (Leviticus 23:23-36). 

Nehemiah 8:3 - 3Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 

The word “read” contains the idea of calling out, proclaiming aloud, or summoning an audience to hear a reading or message to be delivered publicly. 

The word of God was read publicly from morning, (daybreak) until noonday. 

Most importantly, the people listened with attentive ears.  To say they listened attentively means they listened with open ears to hear, to understand and to obey God’s word to them. 

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,”

Romans 10:17.

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” James 1:22.

Revelation 1:3, Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it;

Nehemiah 8:4 - 4So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood 13 men, leading laymen or other Levites or priests.

An extremely large pulpit indicating some prior preparation for worship renewal.

Nehemiah 8:5 - 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.

Whereas in verse 3 we saw the people giving attention to the word, in verse 5 we see the people giving reverence to the word of God.  “All the people stood up.”

Nehemiah 8:6 - 6And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

Ezra the priest blessed the Lord, that is he praised God or worshipped God.  The response of the people below included three things: 

1) They raised their hands to give praise to God as well,

2) They said “Amen,” to confirm their agreement, and

3) They bowed before the Lord in humility with their face to the ground.

Nehemiah 8:7 - 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.

The men listed in this verse were all Levites who were to be teachers of the Law.

Nehemiah 8:8 - 8So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

The NLT reads this way:  8 They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage.

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Renew Your Relationship with God, (Nehemiah 7:73 – 10:39)

 

Chapter 5 – Renewing Your Worship (Nehemiah 7:73b – 10:39)

1.     ATTENTIVENESS TO GOD’S WORD (Nehemiah 7:73b – 8:8)

2.     The Joy of the Lord, Nehemiah 8:9-12

3.     Celebration by Obedience, Nehemiah 8:13-18

9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

 

     One of the results of the word faithfully preached and taught is revival.  When God’s people finally learned what God required of them they were broken and convicted of personal and national sin.

     Faithful proclamation of God’s word leads to three things:

1)    Conviction of sin and disobedience

2)    Convincing one of their need for righteousness

3)    Conversion or consecration of one’s life to God

Similar to John’s reference to the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the unsaved, John 16:8, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:”

2 Kings 22 records the revival that occurred at the beginning of young King Josiah’s reign.  Beginning with verse 11, Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. 12Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 13“Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

But the purpose of revival is to turn our mourning into joy.  That may have been what the priests and counselors were trying to tell the people.

2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that weeping may imply “godly grief” that produces repentance and forgiveness. 

10For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation,

 

Nehemiah 8:10 - 10Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Eat the fat, drink the sweet was a common proverbial saying suggesting a time of celebrating.  One of the things common to all nations, tongues and tribes is the use of food in our celebrations.

This special, holy day was a day of celebration for the forgiveness and restoration God had provided Israel. 

The joy of the Lord is your strength could be interpreted to imply one of the following:

1)    As God’s delight in His people who have confessed their sins and returned to Him.  The bible says God has saved us and called us with a holy calling.  2 Timothy 1:9

2)    As the delight we, as God’s people, have in Him as our God.  We find strength in the Lord knowing that we find in Him all we need for right living now and eternal life to come.

Now,

3. Celebration by Obedience, Nehemiah 8:13-18

Nehemiah 8:13 - 13Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.

Let me show you something here.  Do you know how to know when genuine revival has come to God’s people? 

When lives are changed, not just moved emotionally, but changed permanently.  Some of the people came back the next day, the second day.

 

Representative members of the households returned hunger for the word and determined to live in obedience to its teachings and truths.  They were not content with the initial spiritual awakening.  They desire to shape their entire community life in obedience to the law of God’s word.  Obedience is key.

Nehemiah 8:14 - 14And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,

 

This idea of dwell in booths is a strange one to our culture and customs.

The word booths can be translated “tabernacles” or even, “tent.”  In any event, it was a temporary dwelling place the Jews were to live in during the seventh month celebration of the Festival of Booths. 

It was an acknowledgement of our dependence upon God.

It was an act of separation from the normal course of life in order to focus more sincerely on God.

Nehemiah 8:15-16 -  15and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths,(just) as it is written.” 16Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim.

Nehemiah 8:17 -  So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. (Joy)

 

Nehemiah 8:18 - Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.

 

As a part of the Festival of Booths the word of God was read by Ezra throughout the day for 8 days. 

They kept the feast for seven days, fellowship and sharing with those in need, joyfully celebrating God at work among them, forgiving and renewing them, revival.

On the final day, the eight day, there was a sacred assembly or a solemn assembly, that involved several days of fasting and prayer.

 

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Renew Your Relationship with God, (Nehemiah 7:73 – 10:39)

 

Chapter 5 – Renewing Your Worship (Nehemiah 7:73b – 10:39)

1. ATTENTIVENESS TO GOD’S WORD (Nehemiah 7:73b – 8:8)

2.     The Joy of the Lord, Nehemiah 8:9-12

3.     Celebration by Obedience, Nehemiah 8:13-18

Chapter 6 – Renewing the Covenant Community (Nehemiah 9:1 – 10:39)

 

     Nehemiah 9 – 10 continues the description of the spiritual renewal of the Israelites during Nehemiah and Ezra’s day.  What we are going to see are the evidences of genuine renewal through the 1) confession of sin,

3)    hunger for God’s word, 3) worship of God and 4) a commitment to shape Israel’s community life through God’s law.

We too must commit to personal spiritual renewal in our own lives and then commit our lives to pursue renewal of God’s people.

     Remember what has occurred in Nehemiah and how God is already at work bringing renewal and revival to the people of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. 

1.     Ezra returns with the book of the law of the Lord determined to obey it and to teach its precepts in Israel.

2.     Nehemiah returns in obedience to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem which he accomplished in 52 days.

3.     Revival fires begin to ignite as the people of Jerusalem saw the gracious hand of God upon Nehemiah and joined him in the work.

4.     Experiencing God’s hand upon them as they worked with Nehemiah to complete the God-given task of rebuilding, renewal begins to spread.

5.     Renewal continued as the people assembled together to hear the reading of God’s word and His law.

6.     They listened attentively, did what God told them to do, and therefore experienced joy, worship and a deeper relationship with the Lord.

Now we come to Nehemiah 9 with revival fires burning in the hearts of the people.

CONFESSION AND PRAISE, (Nehemiah 9:1-37)

Nehemiah 9:1 - 1Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads.

Some have pinpointed this exact date to be October 31, 445 B.C.  It occurred one day following the Festival of Booths.

Fasting indicates they had gone without food to humble themselves before God and brokenness over their sinfulness.

Wearing of sackcloth which was older, poor quality clothing, usually dark in nature, symbolically declared the people’s willingness to humble themselves and their desire to repent.

Dust on their heads symbolized brokenness over their sinful conditions.

Nehemiah 9:2 - 2Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.

Separation and consecration is what is mind here.  Come out from among them….

 

Confession of sin again is emphasized as a major component of revival.

Nehemiah 9:3 - 3And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.

     This is the fourth time in the past few chapters that we see the importance the word of God plays in renewal and revival.  Once again they go to God’s word to discover God’s will.

To say that they stood up in their place and read from the book of the Law for one-fourth of the day means three hours.  For three hours they stood to hear the word of God read to them. 

     And for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.  Confession included their desire to turn from sins to walk in God’s way.

Nehemiah 9:4 - 4Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the Lord their God.

 

     These men would have been the spiritual leaders of the community, the preachers and teachers of their day.  They too, were experiencing spiritual renewal and encouraged the people to seek God in full renewal.

     When God’s leaders experience revival, the doors of revival are flung open wide for God’s spirit to work powerfully among His people.

Nehemiah 9:5 - 5And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said:

“Stand up and bless the Lord your God Forever and ever!

“Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise!

 

     This prayer, perhaps lead by Ezra, continues through verse 38.  It includes praise, confession and promises of renewal.

Nehemiah 9:6-8, a Doxology of Praise

6    You alone are the Lord;

You have made heaven,

The heaven of heavens, with all their host,

The earth and everything on it,

The seas and all that is in them,

And You preserve them all.

The host of heaven worships You.

7    “You are the Lord God,

Who chose Abram,

And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans,

And gave him the name Abraham;

8    You found his heart faithful before You,

And made a covenant with him

To give the land of the Canaanites,

The Hittites, the Amorites,

the Perizzites, the Jebusites,

And the Girgashites—

To give it to his descendants.

You have performed Your words,

For You are righteous.

 

Nehemiah 9:9 -15, their prayer recalls the graciousness and greatness of the Almighty to remember Israel and deliver them from the Egyptian bondage of 400 years. 

Nehemiah 9:16 – 21 describe how the Israelites responded to God’s goodness.  Instead of being thankful and obedient, they acted arrogantly….became stiff-necked and did not listen to God’s commands.

 

Nehemiah 9:22 – 25, God’s graciousness is also seen as He leads them into the Promised Land, the Land of Canaan.  God gives them victory after victory yet the Israelites once again backslide by turning to the foreign gods of the nations around them, forgetting the One true God who delivered them.

Nehemiah 9:26 – 31, What did the Israelites do once they were firmly established in the Land?  They rebelled and once again became disobedient to His word.  They even killed His prophets that God sent to warn them to repent of their wickedly. 

Nehemiah 9:32 – 35, Once again the people acknowledge their sin.  They beg for forgiveness acknowledging God’s righteous judgment.

32  “Now therefore, our God,

The great, the mighty, and awesome God,

Who keeps covenant and mercy:

Do not let all the trouble seem small before You

That has come upon us,

Our kings and our princes,

Our priests and our prophets,

Our fathers and on all Your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until this day.

33  However You are just in all that has befallen us;

For You have dealt faithfully,

But we have done wickedly.

Nehemiah 9: 36 -37

36  “Here we are, servants today!

And the land that You gave to our fathers,

To eat its fruit and its bounty,

Here we are, servants in it!

37  And it yields much increase to the kings

You have set over us,

Because of our sins;

Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle

At their pleasure;

And we are in great distress.

38  “And because of all this,

We make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”

 

What covenant have you made with God?

 

 

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Renew Your Relationship with God, (Nehemiah 7:73 – 10:39)

 

Chapter 6 – Renewing the Covenant Community (Nehemiah 9:1 – 10:39)

 

1.  Confession and Praise, Nehemiah 9:1-37

2.  Renewed Commitments, Nehemiah 9:38 – 10:39

38  “And because of all this, We make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”

We need to begin with the phrase in verse 38, and because of all of this.  What is meant by the phrase and because of all of this? 

 

     Remember, to understand your bible we must constantly read it and interpret it within its context.  What is the context of Nehemiah 9:38?  The answer is the 37 verses that preceded it.  And what did they tell us?  The need for Judah and the residents of Jerusalem to repent of sin, confessing their failures and to return with a full heart to faithfully serving Jehovah and keeping His covenant.

     Nehemiah 9:37 made reference to their great distress.  The great distress of being a post-exilic nation seeking to rebuild not only the walls of their city, but the walls of society, community and family.

     They probably also had in mind their proneness to unfaithfulness.  So they make a sure covenant, or a binding agreement to prove their sincerity in returning to God and renewing their faithfulness to keep His covenant agreement.  They put it down in writing.  Their leadership, priests and Levites put their seal of approval on it as well.

     Now the first 27 verses of Nehemiah 10 we read that the Israelites are making a covenant with God. They are signing on the dotted line. Have you ever made a covenant with Him? Have you ever promised the Lord anything? A covenant is a serious matter, but I believe the Lord likes to know that we really mean business with Him.

In this chapter we find that Nehemiah, the governor, and twenty-two priests are listed first. They sign the covenant. Individual Levites sign the names of their families on the covenant. Also, forty-four chiefs of the people are listed.  By the way, Ezra belonged to the priestly family of Seraiah whose is among the first listed in Nehemiah 10:2.

Look at Nehemiah 10:1-2, 1Now those who placed their seal on the document were: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, 2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

Nehemiah 10:28-30, 28Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— 29these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:

     These Jews demonstrated two qualities that we need to emulate today.  First they had the ability to understand what their commitment involved.  In fact, they were willing to make a commitment and keep their commitment, a thing that many of our generation know so little about.

     Second, they further proved their sincerity by separating themselves from the surrounding peoples to obey the law of God. 

     Separation from the world is not understood and very often and not practiced by today’s Christian and today’s churches.  Listen to this great explanation of what it means for Christians to live separate from the world that I took from your book.

Separation from the world to the Lord does not mean isolation from neighbors and their concerns, but a repudiation of worldly values and beliefs to live according to God’s word.

 

     Their covenant to walk in God’s laws, His commandments, ordnances and statues in Nehemiah 10:29, was once again evidence of revival and personal renewal as they returned to live by and faithfully follow the teachings found in the word of God.

Nehemiah 10:30 - 30We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons;

Beginning with verse 30 and continuing through the rest of chapter 10, the people of Nehemiah’s day made three specific commitments in their covenant agreement with God.

First, they committed themselves to live by God’s command forbidding intermarriage with unbelieving foreigners.  God’s commandment forbidding marriage with unbelievers is designed to keep families together and fully committed to Christian values. 

The Apostle Paul continues this biblical practice in 2 Corinthians 6:14ff he says, Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them

And walk among them.

I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.”

17Therefore

“Come out from among them

And be separate, says the Lord.

 

Nehemiah 10:31 – Declares a second vow or commitment made to keep covenant.  It was a commitment to keep and honor God’s Sabbath Day. 

31if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt.

No business would be transacted any longer on the day of rest.  It would be a day of reflection and worship instead.

We desperately need believers today to renew commitment to honor the Lord’s Day and to keep holy day as a day of worship!

Nehemiah 10:32-33 share with us a third commitment made by the Jews, but it involved four distinctive steps to maintain proper worship at the house of God.  Let’s read these verses.

32Also we made ordinances for ourselves, to exact from ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33for the showbread, for the regular grain offering, for the regular burnt offering of the Sabbaths, the New Moons, and the set feasts; for the holy things, for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.

1.     First they imposed a temple tax requiring each individual to exact from themselves yearly one-third of a shekel (which was about an eight of an ounce of silver) in order to provide for the various required offerings or service of the house of God, for all the work of the house of our God.  These people understood the concept of supporting God’s house financially.

Nehemiah 10:34 -  We cast lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for bringing the wood offering into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at the appointed times year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God as it is written in the Law.

2.     A second step involved a commitment to keep the fires of the altar burning.  I like that idea.  Keeping the fire on the altar.

Leviticus 6:12-13 says, 12‘And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13‘A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.

Nehemiah 10:35 – 37b, 35And we made ordinances to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 36to bring the firstborn of our sons and our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks, to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God; 37to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God;

3.     A third commitment was to provide for the needs of those who ministered to them in spiritual matters.

These offerings provided for the sustenance of the priests of the temple.  The Law required that the Levitical Priests were not to do any work outside of the temple sacrifices and services within the temple.  The people of Israel were to provide for the needs of the Levitical Priesthood through their offerings such as these.

     The church today continues that practice by providing for the needs of those who minister to the church membership full time.

     I Corinthians 9 is a great chapter on this matter.  Beginning with verse 7, Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock? 8Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

4.     A fourth commitment the people made was a commitment to faithfulness in tithing. 

Nehemiah 10:37c – 39, and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites, for the Levites should receive the tithes in all our farming communities. 38And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the rooms of the storehouse. 39For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.

 

We will not neglect the house of our God should be the commitment of God’s people at all times. 

SERVING GOD WITH A DETERMINED FAITH

Renew Your Relationship with God, (Nehemiah 7:73 – 10:39)

 

Chapter 6 – Renewing the Covenant Community (Nehemiah 9:1 – 10:39)

 

1.  Confession and Praise, Nehemiah 9:1-37

2.  Renewed Commitments, Nehemiah 9:38 – 10:39

Seek Opportunities to Serve, (Nehemiah 11:1 – 13:31)

 

Chapter 7 – Willing and Determined to Serve

 

CITOpportunities to serve God abound, and all of God’s people are to seek ways they can serve.

 

     Our Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples that the one who was to be considered the greatest should be the least among his brethren.  In Matthew 23:11 Jesus said, ““But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

     We do best when we remember this servant principle.  To have the mind and heart of a servant is to be willing to do whatever is required to please one’s master.  And since our Master is the Lord Himself, we need to remember, we are not here to please ourselves, or to be served, but to serve and to please Him!

     As we head down the homestretch of our Nehemiah Bible Study, we begin a new emphasis entitled “Willing and Determined to Serve.” 

     We are in chapter 11 as we begin tonight in the book of Nehemiah and on page 83 in your books. 

     We are called to identify opportunities we have to serve God and determine to serve willingly in every opportunity He gives us!

     We will find encouragement in the peoples’ of Jerusalem willingness to relocate to repopulate their city in chapters 11 and 12.  Also, in their joining with their leaders to celebrate and dedicate Jerusalem’s rebuilt wall (Nehemiah 12:27-47) and finally, in Nehemiah’s vigilant leadership to help the people live by their covenant commitments in Nehemiah 13.

I.                   SERVICE THROUGH RELOCATION, Nehemiah 11:1-18

Nehemiah 11:1-2, 1Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. 2And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.

 

     Reformation, revival and spiritual renewal began when God put it into the heart of man, a layman, to attempt something beyond his own ability for God.  Nehemiah, the king’s cup bearer, left the capital of Susa to return to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding project that included the walls around the city but also the walls of social and spiritual reform. 

     After the completion of the wall in 52 days, the people next renewed their covenant relationship with God.  Now the final piece of Nehemiah’s vision to repopulate Jerusalem is yet to be done.

     The repopulation began when the people were willing to tithe themselves by serving the Lord through relocation.  First they tithes their produce, now they commit to tithe themselves in order to consecrate the holy city.

     Nehemiah 11:2 is a great verse.  The words “willingly offered themselves” refers to the men and their families who were freely willing to give of themselves, to sacrifice far more than we can know, to relocate to live in Jerusalem.  It is the same phrase used to refer to the freewill offerings made to God in the Old Testament sacrifices.

They gave themselves freely.

Romans 12:1 contains this idea for Christians today.  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

     Just as the rest of the people praised all the men who willingly offered themselves a freewill offering in God’s service, we too, should praise those who give themselves to God’s service.

     The rest of Nehemiah 11 and the first 26 verses of chapter 12 contain a listing of all of these willing servants who were willing to do anything the Lord asked of them.  They are listed both by family and by the service they rendered.

II.                SERVICE THROUGH CELEBRATION, Nehemiah 12:27-43

We may not realize it, but joining together with others to celebrate what God has done is also a form of service.  We render to God what the writer of Hebrews calls “a sacrifice of praise,” Hebrews 13:15.

Nehemiah may have delayed this service of celebration until after the covenant renewal and the repopulation of Jerusalem so it would be the climatic celebration to express praise and thanks to God for what He had done through His people.

The celebration involved three things: 1) Preparation, Nehemiah 121:27-30,

2) Processionals of Thanksgiving, Nehemiah 12:31-42, and

3) a Service of Dedication, Nehemiah 12:44-47.

Nehemiah 12:27 - Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps.

     Music has always been a means of expressing the service of Praise and Thankfulness to the Lord.

Psalm 13:6 – I will sing to the Lord because he has been so good to me.

Psalm 30:4 – Your faithful people, Lord, will praise you with songs and honor your holy name. CEV

Ephesians 5:19 – When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. CEV

    Through the centuries music and the instrumentation we use to create music has changed.  But the important thing to remember is that we serve our Lord in our celebration first from the heart.  Jesus said that those who worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  John 4:24  I believe Jesus was referring to worship from the heart (emotion) and from the head, truth meaning accurate worship that correctly speaks of doctrinal truth.

     The style of worship is based more on one’s preference.  Some like it loud and upbeat while others prefer softer, gentler kinds of musical worship.  Some like Contemporary styles while many others prefer a more traditional approach to worship.  Many more enjoy a more blended approach.

Nehemiah 12:31 – 37, The time of celebration included a march around the wall.  Nehemiah assembled the people into two large processions.  The processionals actually occurred atop the wall around the city.  This wasn’t a difficult thing since archaeologists tell us the city wall was nine feet wide.

31So I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall, and appointed two large thanksgiving choirs. One went to the right hand on the wall toward the Refuse Gate.

Nehemiah 12:38 – 42, The other thanksgiving choir went the opposite way, and I was behind them with half of the people on the wall, going past the Tower of the Ovens as far as the Broad Wall,

 

Nehemiah 12:42b – 43, The singers sang loudly with Jezrahiah the director. 43Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.

 

Next week we will conclude our study of Nehemiah.

Seek Opportunities to Serve, (Nehemiah 11:1 – 13:31)

 

Chapter 7 – Willing and Determined to Serve

 

CITOpportunities to serve God abound, and all of God’s people are to seek ways they can serve.

Service through Vigilant Leadership (Nehemiah 13:6-31)

 

Watchfulness is also a form of service.  I read about the old prospector who in anger killed his faithful dog for waking him from his sleep with warning barks, only to die himself later that night at the hands of thieves who lurked outside his camp to rob him.  I wander how that prospector must have felt about his faithful dog’s warning barks as the thieves raised their hands to kill him?

In the same way we should be thankful for those who serve us faithfully like Nehemiah who exercised vigilant leadership to warn his people of the dangers of straying.

Nehemiah 13:6-7, But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, 7and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.

 

These verses describe the 2nd Administration of Nehemiah.  After 12 years as Governor of Jerusalem, Nehemiah had returned for a short time to Susa, the palace of King Artexeres I of Persia.  When he returned to Jerusalem he was shocked to discover the atrocities that the people had already fallen into.

1)    Desecration of the Temple, Nehemiah 13:4-9,

2)    Neglect of the House of God, Nehemiah 13:10-14

3)    Violation of the Sabbath, Nehemiah 13:15-22

4)    Defilement of the Priesthood, Nehemiah 13:23-27

Nehemiah 13:7b-9, I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God.

Eliaship was the High Priest!  Nehemiah called what he had done for Tobiah “evil.”  Nehemiah with bold leadership pointed out Eliaship’s sin, condemned him for it and took immediate steps to correct the wrong. 

Tobiah was Eliaship’s cousin.  Remember, Tobiah was an Ammonite official of mixed descent.  As such he was excluded by the Law from the congregation of God especially from living in a dedicated area of the temple. 

Also, remember that Tobiah was an enemy of God’s people, and of Nehemiah whom he even threatened to kill.  (Nehemiah 6:12)

Look at Nehemiah 13:8-9. 

8And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. 9Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

Embracing Tobiah also violated the covenant agreement of separating from people of mixed descent.  To correct the problem Nehemiah threw out Tobiah and his possessions.  He cleansed the Temple area where Tobiah had been living and then restored the area to its proper use.

I love this man Nehemiah. He said, “We are going to get rid of Tobiah. He is not going to be in the house of God!” Remember that our Lord commended the church at Ephesus when He said to them, “… thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). So Nehemiah went to the temple, got Tobiah’s suitcase, and pitched it out of the window.

Nehemiah 13:10, I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.

 

     Nehemiah discovers yet another violation of the people so soon forgotten.  The people had stopped bringing their tithes for the support of the Levites and singers of the house of God.  As a result the ministers had returned to their farms and fields to make a living and had ceased their service at God’s house.

In Nehemiah 13:11-13 Nehemiah takes three steps to correct this neglect of the house of God.  Look at verses 11-13.

So I contended with the rulers, and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their place. 12Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the storehouse. 13And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouse Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah; and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful, and their task was to distribute to their brethren.

 

First, he rebuked the officials for their failure to lead the people to maintain their covenant commitment to care for God’s house.

Second, he reestablished the temple singers and the Levites to their rightful place of service.

Third, he appointed as treasurers two priests and two Levites to insure proper distribution of the provisions (tithes) given by the people.

Nehemiah 13:14, Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!

 

God keeps two heavenly records, the book of life and the book of works which will be opened on the Day of Judgment to determine one’s destiny and rewards.

Nehemiah asked God to remember him and his faithful, determined service and He did just that. 

2 Timothy 4 records a beautiful and wonderful passage of Scripture I hope you know.  Beginning with verse 6, For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

Nehemiah 13:15-16, In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions. 16Men of Tyre dwelt there also, who brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

 

     The people also violated the covenant commitment concerning the Sabbath day of rest.  Keeping the Sabbath day holy is one of the Ten Commandments, foundational principles God gave to man for living.

     Sabbath means rest.  It was a day of rest from labor and remembering God the Creator, a day of worship. 

Nehemiah 13:17-22a, Nehemiah takes four steps to restore faithfulness to the Sabbath day.

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day? 18“Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”

19So it was, at the gates of Jerusalem, as it began to be dark before the Sabbath, that I commanded the gates to be shut, and charged that they must not be opened till after the Sabbath. Then I posted some of my servants at the gates, so that no burdens would be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21Then I warned them, and said to them, “Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you!” From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath. 22And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should go and guard the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day.

Beginning with Nehemiah 13:23 and concluding the chapter Nehemiah deals with the troublesome moral failure of mixed marriage among the Jews.  

Just one example of the mixed message that mixed marriages send and the danger of such is found in Nehemiah 13:28-29.

28And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I drove him from me.

29Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.

     The marriage of Eliashib’s grandson to Sanballet’s daughter brought defilement to the pure linage of the Levitical Priesthood.  Since this grandson was in line to one day become the High Priest, Nehemiah cast him out of the Priesthood.

     According to the sovereign choice of God, “the priests and the Levites” were messengers of God.  They were to reverence God, know His word, and give true instructions to the people. 

     In compromising God’s clear laws concerning marriage purity, they defiled the Law of God, and the covenant commitment the people had made earlier. 

The final verses of Nehemiah conclude with a summary of Nehemiah’s accomplishments during his second tenure as governor.

1)    He purified the community from foreign influences,

2)    He restored the priests and the Levites to their proper roles and

3)    He arranged for resources to maintain worship.

Nehemiah 13:30-31, Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan. I also assigned duties to the priests and the Levites, each to his service, 31and to bringing the wood offering and the firstfruits at appointed times. Remember me, O my God, for good!

 

     Nehemiah illustrates the power of serving God with a determined faith.  By the gracious hand of God, Nehemiah overcame every obstacle to fulfill his God-given role. 

     I have been encouraged through this study of the book of Nehemiah.  It is my prayer that I too, will through the gracious hand of God upon me, fulfill the purpose God has for me in ministry and service.  I have already committed my life anew to fulfill His purposes for my life. 

     I pray the same will be true for each of us here at First Baptist Church, Center Point.

Concluded on Wednesday evening, May 17, 2006

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