Nehemiah 1.1-2.9

Title: When God Calls You

Text: Nehemiah 1.1-2.9

Introduction: Recording? We’re in Nehemiah 2. We began last week with a message in Nehemiah 1 and stopped at chapter 2.11. I don’t think that has ever happened before in 28 years of ministry. There have for sure been interruptions and unintended bumps, but never have I had to just stop.

Let me let you in on my personality: when something like that happens I ask God what He is doing. I’m really good at missing a moment and I didn’t want to miss what God was doing. So I got scared. Responding to moments like that is crucial and critical. You guys made me proud.

Last week I began with a question: What do you do when you’re in a wonderful job, life is good and begin to feel the call of God on your life to do something else? Maybe it is a one time thing or for the rest of your life, but its God’s call nonetheless? Maybe the call begins with information. There has been a tug on your heart. There has been something inside – you’re not sure what to call it – but something inside that has drawn you to this. Then, it hits! There is the unmistakable reality that God has been working in your life for this moment.

You can pull away. You can choose to ignore it and hope that someone else might go. Or, you can face it.

We than began a look at a man who was in a grand place. His life would seem to indicate that he has arrived. He has position. He has power. He has Prestige. He has access to the king himself. But something happens to shake his world. Let’s meet him in Nehemiah 1.1-4a…rd 1.1-4a; As we meet Nehemiah, he is in the service of the King. V11 tells us he was cupbearer to the King. Nehemiah inquires of his homeland of a brother who has just returned from there. And something happens to Nehemiah. He is moved. He is pained when he…

  1. He Hears of the plight of his homeland

exp.: he hears in v 3 that the walls are torn down and the gates are burned ; this news just destroys him! It knocks him off balance. This is not what he had expected. It had been that way for 50 years, why was he so hit by this news? He must have thought his people would have made the repairs by now. Note how it affects him in v 4: I sat, I wept, I mourned for days!

ill.: Pause for a moment: When was the last time you were moved to tears over the matters of God? Maybe this morning God is tugging on your heartstrings concerning the matters of God. Maybe it is his house – the church. Maybe it is over his people – church. Maybe you’re struggling with his name and his fame among the people?

app.: Are you being called to preach, teach, to go into the world? Has God put into your heart a people, a place, a plan? What will you do about it?

t.s.: Well, let’s look at what Nehemiah does…rd v4b;

  1. He Prays to God according to God’s Word 4-9

exp.: fasting & prayer; these two have a way of humbling God’s servant. There is nothing in this life as wonderful as an extended fast and time of prayer before the Master. Nothing. Fasting and Praying takes you into the presence of God in a powerful way. It cannot really be explained. It can only be experienced. The joy – the pure joy of experiencing this closeness to God is something that must be felt – enjoyed. Look at how he prayers:

  • His Praise: rd v 5; The Great and Awesome God, who is faithful! He keeps his covenant; he keeps his promises; He remains steadfast! Would you like a simple way to learn to praise God? Learn a lesson from Nehemiah – list God’s characteristics. Next,
  • His Petition: rd v 6; Please hear my prayer! Please give me your full attention – open your eyes and see me in my desperate state; open your ears and hear my desperate plea; Hear my confession of sin! 3rd,
  • His Confession; rd v 7; We have; When I was a teenage, I heard a sermon on confession; I wrote in my bible and it has stuck with me all these years. Confession is the acknowledgement that He is right and I am wrong. Note the acknowledgement of Nehemiah:
    • Acknowledgement: we have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules. “Lord, your commandments are right. We haven’t kept them. We’ve acted corruptly toward you.” Now, how does he know this? How can he identify his failures and that of his people? Easy, you ready? God’s Word; rd v 8;
    • God’s Word – The Source of his knowledge: What we have here in v 8-10 is a summation of Leviticus 26. In Lev. 26. He offers blessings for obedience and following him; however, in v 14 he gives them fair warning about not following them – he says he will discipline them – And if they still won’t obey: 27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. He is basically quoting God’s Word in v 8; compare v 8 w/ 26.33; rd v 9-10 he’s paraphrasing the rest of 26 in Leviticus. You’ll find it again in Deuteronomy 4; “we’re talking about your servants and your people – whom you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand; rd v 11a;

app.: he sounds like he’s repeating v 6; hear my prayer, O Lord.

t.s.: Now there comes a time when you get up off your knees – note, I didn’t say stop praying. You get up off your knees, you leave your prayer room and you take action; So far we’ve seen his pain, his prayers and now his plans…

  1. He Plans in faith, according to the promises of God.1-8

exp.: rd v 1.11b; Now I was cupbearer to the king. This was a very important position; He was in a place to protect the king, but he may very well have been one of his counselors, too. Williamson in the Word Biblical Commentary writes: Royal cupbearers in antiquity, in addition to their skill in selecting and serving wine and their duty in tasting it as proof against poison, were also expected to be convivial and tactful companions to the king. Being much in his confidence, they could thus wield considerable influence by way of informal counsel and discussion.

This brings us to a very important part of your calling after fasting and praying:

  1. Start where you are.
    1. God has brought you to where you are for a reason. I have no idea why he has you where he has you. Maybe it’s growth. Maybe it was because of your disobedience. Maybe the way to get to where He is calling you to go is through your current position. Whatever the reason, God has you right where he wants you – so start there. Which brings me to a question concerning the fact that God has brought you to where you are for a reason.
    2. How can you be faithful to where God is calling you to go, if you’re not faithful where he has you right now?

ill.: There is a couple that you are all familiar with. They are our missionaries to our unreached people group. They had felt the call to missions for years. And, even when they got here, they both still felt called to missions. We met her before we knew anything about him. Both of these two, served where they were. And the greatest example is when they were here. For just over a year, both knew that God’s call was on their lives. But they didn’t sit around waiting for a miracle to beam them overseas. No, they got involved in ministry where they were.

Here is something many of you may not know. CUB was not their first choice of ministry. There were other ideas that were shot down. Good ideas! Doors were closed, but that didn’t stop them. They looked for other areas to serve. Eventually came up with joining CUB.

app.: Listen, this couple isn’t perfect. They’re just normal people doing their best to serve God. But there example leads me back to this question: How can you be faithful to where God is calling you to go, if you’re not faithful where he has you now? I’m talking about in the smallest of matters. Is there something God has revealed to you but you’re just not doing anything about it. Luke 16.10-13 says:

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is obedience. We’re afraid of this word obedience. In this day and age we long to focus on Grace. We don’t use words like obedience, but rather call that legalism – and it can be. But, it is a very important word and a very important act on our part because obedience is the display of our faith and trust. Your faithfulness to service in little things will open doors for your service in bigger things.

t.s.: So, start where you are: Bloom where you’re planted. I heard a testimony from the pastor who coined that term. He was struggling with his call and didn’t want to be serving where he was. He longed to be in the place he felt God had called him to go. He was in an alley way, just crying out to the Lord. He got out of his car and started to walk to the place he was going and there in the crack of the asphalt, a flower had grown and blossomed. He said he felt the Lord saying to him: Bloom where you are planted. A sermon was born out of the experience.

Be faithful right where you are. 2ndly,

  1. In your season of prayer and service where God has you, take action.

exp.: rd 2.1a; Here we see Nehemiah has waited 4 months to approach the King. (1.1 – Chislev; 2.1 – Nisan) Surely this isn’t the 1st time he’s seen him or been in his presence. No, he’s fasted and he’s prayed, all the while working for the king. Now, he’s ready to act. rd 2.1-2; Ah, yeah! Of course he’s afraid. You’re not supposed to be sad in front of the king! But the moment presents itself and Nehemiah takes action.

I wonder if Nehemiah was filled with fear because he hadn’t expected to speak to the King at that moment. This is important for us to see because when God calls you and God prepares you, he then opens up the doors. My guess is that it won’t be in a way you expect. Nehemiah is expecting to pour a glass of wine for the King. Instead, God opens the door to share. This leads me to an application:

If you take action before you’ve prepared, you’re sure to fail. Too many people are just waiting around for the opportunity without the proper prior planning. They’re hoping to get lucky when the opportunity presents itself.

Steve Kerr, the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors played on 5 NBA championship teams. Three with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and two with Timmy Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs and one as head coach with Golden State. I remember well the last year of his time with the Spurs. He sat the bench most of the season. What we didn’t know was that he was working his tail off for the moment he would get to play. Game after game he sat the bench. Night after night, day after day he worked on his three-point shots. Then, his opportunity came. The year was 2003. It was game five against the Dallas Mavericks. Steve Kerr hadn’t played a single minute of the playoffs. But for some reason Coach Popovich put him in. And he went on a terror! Hitting threes from every area of the floor and sparking a comeback for the ages. The spurs went on to outscore the Mavericks 34-9. Steve Kerr went on to collect his 5th NBA Championship.

Later, when he was interviewed about that moment he said that he didn’t know if he would get the chance to ever play again – but if he did, he wanted to be ready. So he practiced and prepared for that moment. Success is when preparation meets opportunity.

If God is calling you, then he is preparing you. Don’t shun it. Soak it up! Take advantage of every moment where you are. Get education; get experience. Be observant if you can’t serve. Practice, Pray and prepare.

Look at what Nehemiah has done. We’ll see it as we read through this next few verses; rd v 3-4; Boom! Opportunity presented! He swallows, throws up a prayer (in keeping with his prayers over the past few months), and presents his requests to the King: rd v 5

  • Let me go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. Rd v 6
    • He planned it out in such a way that he knew how long he’d be gone and when he could return. Rd v 7
    • He knew what travel plans were needed. He needed papers, he needed protection (you see that in v 9); rd v 8
    • He knew he needed supplies. Wood for beams, for the gates, for the walls and for his house where he would live. That’s planning. That’s preparation. Rd 8b: And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

app.: Can I encourage you to make plans to fulfill the calling of God on your life? You may be asking: how can I know?


  1. Is there a burden on your heart? Is there something that has grieved you, something you see needing to be done? Where has God been active in your life? I believe God gives you a passion for where he is leading you. Some of you are set up perfectly: you’re retired or near there. Some of you have nothing holding you back except your sentimentality to this place. You think your momma needs you or your daddy needs you or your children need you. It makes me sad to think of the blessings missed out on because of fear or sentiment.
  2. Pray about it. Set aside time to fast & pray. And when you’re done – pray some more! Create a prayer journal to help. Make notes. Be observant in your prayers. Watch for where God is working in preparing you. If you think about it, Nehemiah’s position in Persia prepared him for the work he would do in Jerusalem.
  3. Take Action: start where you are and go from there. Outline the steps: do you need schooling? Do you need training? Do you need finances? Do you need backing? Do you need accountability? Do you need resources? Do you need to be discipled? Make a list; start checking off the items on your list; and finally,
  4. Be ready! Success is when preparation meets opportunity. The day will come when God will call your name to come in off the bench.

Do I have any Cowboys fans in here? We’re all gonna go home today and not watch our favorite team in the playoffs. That wasn’t the picture last August. Most everyone had picked the Cowboys to be in the super bowl! The best offensive line in football! Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray. What happened? Jerry Jones wasn’t prepared for what happened. Tony Romo went down and we went through three QB’s 11 loses and 1 win. One win. The opportunity came and the Cowboys weren’t ready.

My hope, My prayer for you is that you’ll be ready… let’s pray.


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Filed under Calling, Ezra-Nehemiah, Purpose, Sermon

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