Monthly Archives: February 2016

Nehemiah 8

Title: The Word of God at Work in the People of God

Text: Nehemiah 8.1-18

CIT: Ezra reads the Law of Moses and it greatly impacts the lives of God’s people.

CIS: if we believe the Word of God is power and effective, then we’ll demonstrate that truth with our actions by allowing it to dictate our existence.

Introduction: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? Is God’s Word important to you? If so, how important? Do you wake up on Sunday morning with an excitement about gathering together with God’s people to hear his Word and obey? For me, I’ve been blessed. Because of my position in the church, Lisa took it upon herself to get the kids ready and to let me worry about myself. Oh, sure, there were Saturday nights when I would be a part of getting things ready – but that was more rare than regular. I didn’t worry about kids eating or what they’d wear. Mom took care of that. She did everything so that I could focus upon my task as a pastor or staff member. For the most part, we didn’t even travel together. That’s what a 2nd car was for. But that isn’t the way it is with most families.

Tony Payne in his book, How to Walk into Church, writes:

I exit the car, usually with a wife and various kids in tow, an amble in the front door, tossing off a quick greeting to whomever is handing out the folded sheets of paper that in church-speak are called ‘bulletins.’

After a quick scan of the seating situation – who has already parked themselves where, who I might want to avoid and so on – I chose a spot not too near the front and sidle into the chosen row, smiling feebly at the person sitting on the other side of the seat that I’ve politely left vacant between us.

I wonder what it is like for most families. Is it like the experience Payne writes about when he and his wife had 5 kids – all under the age of 12: After a week of long days and short sleeps, followed by the chaos of getting everyone out the door on a Sunday morning, and culminating in a circus of noise and infighting in the car, I didn’t really walk into church. It was more of a stagger, followed by a semi-collapse into a seat, followed by lengthy periods of zoning out.

Maybe it isn’t like that at all for you. Maybe you’re more of a strategist. This is what you do. 1, 2, 3, 4 – checked it off my list. Now, to my next task on the agenda. Again, that wasn’t and isn’t me. I’ve been truly blessed. But, I digress. Let’s get back to the question at hand: How does one really determine the importance of God’s Word in affecting one’s actions? Is God’s Word important? If so, how important? How does it impact your day – your Sunday? Does it touch even the way you walk into church?

Today’s passage is all about a people who wanted to hear and learn of God’s Word. We’re in Nehemiah 8. Thank you, Clay, for reading this passage for us this morning. I would say there are three main sections to this chapter:

  1. Ezra, while being flanked by other leaders, reads the Law of God at the request of the people who’ve gathered in the city. These people give their full attention to its reading. Ezra has the help of certain Levites who give the sense of God’s law so that the people clearly understand this teaching.
  2. The people of God then demonstrate their understanding of the Law of God when they begin to weep at hearing the words of the Law. The leaders then command them to stop their weeping and to rejoice, for this is a day set apart for the Lord. Furthermore, the people of God “went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”
  3. This understanding is further demonstrated as they celebrate the Feast of Booths according to the commandment of Moses. Nehemiah even references those Scriptures.

I’ve outlined it into two main points:

  1. The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)
  2. The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)
    1. Obedience – their actions fall into line with what they’ve learned.
    2. Observance – practicing the holy day as it has been designed in Scripture.

 

Transition: let’s begin with the 1st main point in v1-8…

1.      The Request of the People of God Concerning the Law of God (1-8)

exp.: rd v 1; this, I find interesting. Let’s look at the actions of these people.

  1. All the people gathered as one man… that’s a picture of the church; synagogue means to gather together with. I love the intentionality of this action. I’ve never seen this in the American church. I think this would describe the churches I’ve experienced overseas. You could argue that these are missionaries I’m talking about. They’re working overseas. They’re holier than most of us – maybe so. But should we expect less of ourselves?
  2. They told Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses. The Leaders aren’t organizing this from what we can gather. So, Ezra agrees – this is a good thing. And he reads. Look at v 3;
  3. They are attentive. They’re giving their full attention to what God has to say. Rd v 4a
  4. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. This is important to them. Let’s set this up so we can all hear. Build a platform! Notice, this isn’t in the Temple. You might think that the Temple would be a better place. Not if you understood how the Temple works. The men and the women and the children can’t stand together. It’s just different. They do not want to sacrifice animals here. That happens at the Temple. They just want to hear God’s Word – so, they construct a platform for this occasion. The rest of v. 4 tells us who was on his right and who was on his left. Look at what the people do next. Rd v 5;
  5. All the people stood as the book is opened. I love that. You’ve experienced it before I’m sure. Ezra steps up onto the platform. The people are murmuring, but it dies down. He opens the book, a scroll, I’m sure. The people are standing. Wow… rd v 6;
  6. All the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. What an incredible moment for these people!

ill.: I’m sure they’ve dreamed of this day for their entire lives. And, as God has answered their prayers and kept His promises, they are eyewitness to this moment. It’s humbling and awe-inspiring all at the same moment.

app.: the people are active in this whole process.

t.s.: And it doesn’t change once they hear what God has instructed them to do… which brings us to the 2nd part of this passage;

2.     The Response of the People of God to the Law of God (9-18)

exp.: rd v 8-9; here we see a 7th action from the people;

  1. All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law; I’m sure the weeping is varied. Thousands of people are there and each one encountering the Words of God for the 1st There is shame; there is conviction; there is awe; this is an incredible moment – a moment which has culminated over decades of separation. A torn down, burnt up city and Temple – now restored. A wall, and gates and doors in place. But the leadership is telling them not to weep and mourn. This isn’t that time! No, this is a holy day to the Lord. Eat, drink and be merry! Rd v 12
  2. And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. They’re being obedient to what they’ve heard.
  • They Obey the Word of the Lord: there are some famous verses in this chapter; v 8; v 10; but v 12 moves me; They hear; They understand; They obey.

Now, that must have been a joyous day and even into the evening. I picture God’s pleasure at his people in celebration. That’s what our time of worship should be. That is what our times of fellowship should be – something that brings our Father pleasure. But the day ends and the heads of the households want to know more; so they come together to learn from God’s Word in v 13-14, and they find that this timing is perfect for a time set apart for celebration: The Festival of Booths. The passage is referenced in v 15; rd v 15b; “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.” They get this from Leviticus 23 & Deuteronomy 16.

This is how I picture this happening. You see Neh 8.2: on the first day of the seventh month. It is now day two and they’re learning about what God requires of them to be and do. In their studies they read about the three yearly requirements and come across Lev. 23.39ff: 39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Someone notes that this is the 2nd day of the 7th month (v13) and says: Hey, that’s only two weeks away. Can we pull this off? Ah, yeah! Let’s do this! They see the requirement. They note the day and realize that they can do this.

V 16-18 tells us they did just that…

  • They Observe the Festival of Booths as prescribed in the Law.

Conclusion: So, what can we learn from this?

Q.: Is this passage a prescription for us or a description for us? Should we require all people to stand when the Word of God is read? In short, no. It would be nice. We could begin the practice. But not because it is prescribe in Scripture this way. This isn’t a commandment for us. But it would be nice. I do believe that there is a principle here: The author wants his readers to identify the Word of God as the authority by which we must live our lives.

In light of this truth and in light of our comprehension of this truth (God’s Word is the authority for our lives) then what must we do about this?

Application:

  1. If God’s word is to accomplish its primary purpose in our lives,
    1. A sense of expectancy should mark our approach to reading and studying it, and
    2. A positive response to apply it to our daily lives must be required.

Let’s expound on these two truths. If these two statements are indeed true, then how should it affect the way you walk into these facilities on Sunday morning?

  1. How to enter the church facilities on Sunday morning: Re-phrase: how do YOU enter?
    1. Pray about where to sit. That’s right. Some of you might think there is assigned seating. That’s a joke. May I press you on this?
      1. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to Him, then you must believe He has a message for you. Where is the absolute best place for you to sit and be free from distractions and be able to hear? Is sitting next to your friends really the best place or the most comfortable? What about taking notes?
      2. If God is Sovereign, and you’re totally surrendered to him, then you must believe that he has brought others here for that same reason. If that is true, might God want you to sit near someone who needs encouragement? A guest who needs to be shown the ropes (where are the restrooms, where is the nursery, to share your Bible if they don’t have one, maybe you bring two Bibles – your big one and a tiny one in your purse or pocket); A mother who needs help with her child(ren); She’s here to hear and do God’s Word – so are her children. What is God doing there in her little family?
      3. If God is the one and only true God, then you must believe there is nothing more important in this week than gathering together with others who believe the same thing – who’ve come to hear a Word from Him. You’re an encouragement to them when you’re here – in the way you worship, when you sing robustly (I’m not saying sing so loud you disrupt others – this isn’t the place to show off your singing lessons – or your lack of them!) but when you pour yourself – body, mind and spirit – into worship, you encourage others. Your note taking encourages others. Using your Bible encourages other people.

2.   Pray for those who are sitting by you.

  1. This Body has been assembled by God. He has called us out of the world to gather together. It is important to him. Tony Payne, in his book How to Walk into Church writes: “We’re walking into a gathering that God himself has called together, as part of his majestic plan to save and gather his people around the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. The picture we see in this text is Men, Women, and others who are old enough to understand gathered to a place to hear God’s Word. We see leaders, gathered around the reading of God’s Word. We see teachers expounding on what has been read so that those gathered can get the sense of the reading. This is the Body at work.

 

16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. 18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

 

 

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Nehemiah 6-7

Title: The Call to Perseverance

Text: Nehemiah 6.1-7.73

CIT: The author wants the people to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.

CIS: We are called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because there is something grander beyond this moment.

Introduction: Fear doesn’t always cause Fight or Flight responses. Sometimes it just causes a breakdown. It can be crippling. Paralyzing, even. Fear isolates people and causes them to go into hiding. It can arrest a community, a people – stop them dead in their tracks. And, it can come from anywhere…at anytime…from anyone – even from those you would not expect.

Today we’re going to study a man who was attacked again and again. The tactic was to strike fear in this man and halt his work. The goal was to intimidate him to the point that he would stop the work of God and give in to their demands. The enemies of God and His people wanted to bring an end to this rebuilding of their wall and the strengthening of their community.

But, Nehemiah was prepared. He had set it in his heart to accomplish this work because God had called him to this work. Besides, he had faith that the One who had called him to this work, would see it through to completion. He would bring it to completion because Nehemiah knew the bigger picture. Nehemiah was called to persevere through the attacks of the enemy because he was certain that there was something much grander beyond this moment in which he was serving and living.

Let me ask you this morning to think about fear. What do you fear? Of what are you afraid? Do you ever get scared? What scares you? I ain’t scairt!

I’ve outlined the passage like this:

The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

  1. Privately
  2. Publicly
  3. Persistently
  4. Because God is at work – there is a bigger picture.

Transition: let’s begin in the 1st section of chapter 6, The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

I.     Privately (6.1-4)

exp.: for Nehemiah, it was with letters of invitation: come, let us meet together. Where? Hakkephirim; we don’t honestly know where this is, but he gives us a little more detail: in the plain of Ono.” I don’t know about you but I don’t think that sounds too encouraging: Oh, No! In Neh.11.35, it is called the valley of craftsmen – but that doesn’t help us much either. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where this place was. What matters for us is what Nehemiah knew. He knew where it was and he knew it was only a ploy to make him stop working. Here’s a great place to make our first application of the morning.

app.: Don’t go there! Too often we’re invited into danger or trouble that will stop the work of God. Don’t go there. Lisa says: Don’t borrow trouble! Leave it where it is. You keep working on the task at hand. Do you need some help with this? Look at how Nehemiah handles it (Nehemiah’s response): Rd v 3: And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

t.s.: the enemy attacks privately, but when that doesn’t work – he’ll up the ante and attack you

II.    Publicly (6.5-9)

exp.: in our passage, they do it with accusations of embarrassment; rd v 6-7 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” “Look, we’re just trying to save you from yourselves.” The request to fix this looks simple enough. It is for all intents and purposes the same request as before. You see it there in v 7: let us take counsel together. There is a pattern here is found in v4:

  • The Request from the enemies
  • The Response from Nehemiah, and it is after this 2nd rotation, that Nehemiah tells us of his insight into this matter. You see the request in v 7; the response in v 8; and the purpose of the enemy revealed in v 9;
  • The Reason: They wanted to frighten us into quitting! The purpose is to instill fear.

ill.: why fear? Listen to this – Why do the enemies of God want you to be afraid? Why scare tactics? You ready for this? Because it is really all they’ve got. In our story: Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the people who follow them have no physical power to stop the work. They’ve taunted them, laughed at them, said that if a fox climbed up on the wall it would simply topple over. They’ve made fun of them and threatened them. But when it all came down to it – they were just a bunch of noise.

app.: Consider your work now – your calling to complete the work God has called you to do. Is God limited in accomplishing his work through you? He is where you focus should be. Scare tactics are used to divert your attention away from your Master and His Work. Scare tactics are meant to get you to look away from God and see the enemy.

t.s.: We will see this pattern again in the next set of verses, 15-19 as the enemy ups the ante and doesn’t relent of its attacks – they are private, they are public and they are, 3rd, persistent.

III.   Persistently (6.10-19)

exp.: The enemy has been straight forward and that didn’t work. So, they change things up a little: they then attack through his passion for the things of God – the temple, and prophets. In v 10 it tells us he is invited to the house of Shemaiah. Let us meet together in the house of God. Sounds harmless. Rd v 10;

ill.: There are two possibilities here on what this means:

First, This ‘man of God’ is warning Nehemiah of a death threat and that he can run into the rebuilt Temple and find sanctuary. There, he’ll be safe. He can run to the altar and hold on to the horn of the altar and be safe.

2ndly, he could be telling him to go into the deepest part of the Temple, the holy of holies or the holiest place. The enemies of God can’t follow him in there.

Answer: Nehemiah’s response is appropriate in either case. He says: “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?

Either one, Nehemiah knows that if he runs into the holy of holies he’ll die.

Or two, he is saying: I’m not that kind of man – I’m not the kind of man who would abandon his people. Sure, for anyone who is threatened with death, he can flee those seeking his life and find asylum in the Temple. But, that also means the work on the wall will stop. And, his people will be left out there without their leader.

app.: Nehemiah knows the full counsel of God. He knows this person is perverting the Word of God. Either way, Nehemiah is fully aware of the result that either of these two options would bring – the work on the wall would stop. And that – as far as he is concerned – is no option. He knows what they’re really trying to do is scare him.

So the enemies are persistent by attacking him in using the things of God. Next, the enemies will use the people of God.

  1. The Things of God.
  2. The People of God.

Look at v 14; We expect this from Sanballet and Tobiah. But from the prophets of God? Skip down to v 17: rd 17-19; Man, These guys are relentless. You’d think that Nehemiah would become paranoid! Now, he’ll use his own people against him;

App.: Well, in spite of all this we read in v 15; the wall is done – it is finished; in just over 7 weeks. Their goal was to intimidate and strike fear into the hearts of God’s people – so that they would abandon their work. But look at what really happens. Rd v 16; Look what God has done! Do you see the irony in this – they’ve been hoping to strike fear in Nehemiah and Israel; But it backfires!

t.s.: Why does Nehemiah keep up the fight? Why does he keep going? I propose to you that his persistence is born out of a knowledge of greater things. That is: he sees the bigger picture. And that’s our last section this morning: The Call is to Perseverance when the enemy attacks:

IV.    Because God is at work. There is a bigger picture. (7.1-73)

exp.: rd 1-4; he posts an even larger guard within the city. Rd v 5; God puts it in his heart to put the people of God in the City of God. This is genius at work. The goal was never just the wall. The goal was never just the Temple. There is a bigger picture that Nehemiah understood. He assembles the people of God through their genealogy. Rd v 66-67; rd v 73-8.1.

app.: At this point in Salvation History – God has been true to his people. He had promised to return a remnant – and here they are. The story of God has come full circle. But, you know there is more to come: there is a Messiah who has been promised – and all of this is just one small part of the Bigger picture.

t.s.: So, how does this apply to you?

Application:

  1. The author wants the people of God to be encouraged in the promises of God, in spite of the strong opposition our enemy brings, and to remember that God is the one true promise keeper.
  2. You can read this and see how attacks come and know how to recognize them. Basically, attacks come in the form of fear tactics and the purpose is to get you to stop the work of the ministry.
  3. The promises of God are still with us this morning.
    1. Lo, I am with you always – even to the end of the age.
    2. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
    3. I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
    4. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
    5. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
    6. Three times in Revelation 22 Jesus says: I am coming soon. That’s a promise.
  4. In v 17 of Revelation 22 it says: 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Why? Because the price has already been paid.

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Nehemiah 5.1-19

Title: Leaders Who Care

Text: Nehemiah 5.1-19

Introduction: I want to talk to you today about Leaders Who Care. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey isn’t able to go to war on account of his ear – he’s deaf in his left ear. He had fallen into an icy pond saving his brother and never heard from that ear again (except for a short period of time where he gets to experience what life would have been like if he’d never been born. During the war, there are some scenes of George working in the community. He prays during D-Day and VJ-Day; He wept and prayed. He participates in the rubber drive. At one point he hollers out at the people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on.

The point was that there were can drives, rubber drives, rations, keeping the lights off at night. People in times past were expected to live at a certain level during the war. We’ve not experienced that in our lifetimes – those of us 50 and under. But our seniors, when they were little – did without during the war.

App.: Ladies & Gentlemen, Don’t you know there’s a war going on? It’s a spiritual war and we can’t be living like we’re at peace with the devil.

This morning we’re in Nehemiah ch. 5; As we began Nehemiah, we looked at his calling and his leadership. Today, we’ll look at how he cares for his people. Ch. 5 is a chapter that feels like it doesn’t fit. Here these folks are working away on the wall, facing opposition and then this…interruption. Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, the following takes place.

  1. The Setting: (1-6) The Outcry of the People – against interest/taxes/famine
  2. The Conflict: (7-10) Nehemiah confronts his brothers (and himself)
  3. The Climax: (11) Return these to your brothers
  4. The Resolution: (12-13) commitment & Oath; imagery;
  5. Post-Script: (14-19) as Governor, Nehemiah chose not to be a burden to his brothers, but rather took care of his own needs and the needs of his people at his own expense.

This is how I’ve outlined it:

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)
  2. Nehemiah Confronts his Brothers (7-13)
  3. Nehemiah Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

Transition: So, let’s begin ch. 5 w/

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)

exp.: rd v 1; Now, over the next 3 verses we see the groups and their struggles: rd v 2;

  1. We’ve not enough grain. Maybe they worked on the wall and left their fields untended. We don’t know, we’ll read about a famine in a moment – maybe the drought has hit their crops, too. Rd v 3;
  2. We’ve mortgaged our fields, vineyards and homes to buy grain. Another group has entered into debt to cover the costs brought about by the famine. They need food to eat. Rd v 4
  3. We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes. And what’s more – these actions, these predicaments have hurt us; rd v 5-6

The Result: (v 5-6): This debt has forced their children into slavery; it seems a particularly desperate situation for their girls. The power these Jewish brothers have over their own kin is destructive and putting them in a powerless, helpless position. It is an endless vicious cycle.

app.: I believe this is a principle that Christians often forget. Preying upon the poor is something God detests. We’ll see that more in a moment. For now, we apply this portion of Scripture to our lives by recognizing the error of preying upon the poor. And we can do that in so many ways – pushing the poor into deeper poverty and into greater dependence upon the government or the church.

t.s.: Nehemiah recognizes what has happened and becomes angry at the situation. And so he…

  1. Nehemiah Confronts His Brothers (7-13)

exp.: rd v 7a; note how Nehemiah levels 1st a charge against them and then 2nd, he offers a solution to the problem. He said: I took counsel w/ myself and I brought charges.

  • Nehemiah’s Charge: rd v 7b-8a
    1. In this great assembly he says:
      1. We’ve brought back our brothers from slavery, only to enslave them ourselves. Note 8b – silence; rd 9;
      2. He says: This isn’t Biblical and it’s a poor witness to the Nations! And he add to that in v 10; Where is he getting this from? Why does he think this is wrong?

Q.: How is it that we can ever say anything is wrong? Who sets the standard for right and wrong?

Ill.: I’ve been quizzing our girls at home: How do you know something is wrong and something is right? A.: God’s Word, the Bible. Well, that’s where Nehemiah gets this bit of information, that what they’re doing is wrong – namely,

  • Leviticus 25.35-38; 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

It’s here in the last part of v 10 that Nehemiah offers a solution; rd 10b-11:

  • Nehemiah’s Solution:
  1. Let’s abandon this practice. App.: When you’re doing something wrong – abandon the practice!
  2. Let’s return their stuff to them. i.e.: their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.

The Brother’s Respond in v 12; rd v 12; note their points of action:

  1. We will Restore these
  2. We will Require nothing (except to payback what is borrowed)
  3. We will do as you say
  4. A verbal commitment – he made them swear…raise your right hand. There is something interesting that takes place here – something like a covenant. Rd v 13;

ill.: Their Commitment Demonstrated: the shaking out of the garment. So may he be shaken out and emptied.

app.: And all the congregation said: Amen.

t.s.: Now, really, that is the end of that story, but Nehemiah gives us a sort of post script. Why? I’m not sure of his purpose. Some people might think it’s narcissistic. Woo-who! Look at me. Not me.

  1. Nehemiah’s Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

exp.: rd v 14; Governor for 12 years; I wonder if this is the amount of time he asked the King for back in chapter 2; During his 12 year tenure, he:

  • Did not burden the people; as was the practice of his predecessors.
  • He finished the work on the wall;
  • He provided for his servants and workers; out of his own pocket…
  • Remember me, O God – 6x’s; 5.19; 6.14; 13.14, 22, 29, 31;

app.: Nehemiah changes his lifestyle and begins to live like his country is at war. And he’s telling his wealthy brothers who’ve enslaved their own people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on? This implies sacrifice, it implies service, and it implies giving. Nehemiah demonstrated his understanding of this with his life.

Here’s what we’ve seen today:

  1. Leaders who care see the injustice being done to their people.
  2. Leaders who care confront the injustice of their people.
  3. Leaders who care set the example by living a godly life toward their brothers.

t.s.: so, how does this apply to us?

Observations & Implications:

  1. We should be cognizant of the way we treat the poor. Are we hurting them with our policies? Are we enslaving them to a life under the burden of debt? Are we cashing in on their desperate situations? Are we exploiting their despair for our betterment.

Nehemiah is the govt. He sees what they are doing to the poor. Ladies and Gentlemen, as the time comes for us to vote – vote for someone who is going to stop exploiting the poor.

  1. How do you use the money God has blessed you with? Are you faithful to tithe? Are you faithful to give to ministry needs as they arise? Do you live with a wartime mentality when it comes to your finances?
  2. If God is your God – and not money, if you’re a good steward of the resources He has blessed you with, if you’re looking out for the poor and those in need – then enjoy the blessings of God. There is no need to feel guilty for being rich. God has made you that way because you have shown yourself faithful. Continue in that blessing…
    1. Listen to James Hamilton: Tall people who trust in Christ should not feel guilty about being tall. People who trust in Christ and have great marriages should not feel guilty for having a believing, faithful spouse. Those who trust in Christ and whom God has made rich should not feel guilty because God did not make someone else rich also. God is God. We will give an account to him for the way that we stewarded what he gave us. Refusing to enjoy the way that he has blessed our bank accounts is along the lines of refusing to enjoy the blessing of a sunset or a spouse, a flower or a forest. If he has lavished largesse upon you, praise him.

Let’s pray

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Nehemiah 2.9-4.23

Title: Why do the Nations Rage?

Text: Nehemiah 2.11-4.23

Introduction: We began this portion of our sermon series in Nehemiah with a look at his call. He heart was broken by the news from his homeland. He fasted and prayed, as God put a plan into his heart. When the time was right, he took action. He petitioned the king with a well thought out plan. And God blessed.

With this thought in mind, that is, Nehemiah’s obedience to the call in his life. I’d like to continue looking at this man, called to a task, called to lead.

Today, we’ll cover a lot of information in a short period of time. My purpose in doing so is two-fold:

  1. I don’t want to be in Nehemiah through the summer and into the fall. And in order for that to happen, I’ve got to keep moving.
  2. I feel I can cover a lot of information without going into deeper detail. You can have your own time of study if you feel led to dig deeper. My purpose isn’t to conduct that here. I’ve got this message on my heart and to preach it, I’ve got to cover a lot of ground.

Today, we’ll cover 2½ chapters. So, let us begin. The outline is as follows:

  1. Before the work begins: Nehemiah gets organized. (2.9-20)
  2. The Work begins: Beams, Bolts & Bars (3.1-32)
  3. The Work progresses with Shovels & Spears (4.1-23)
    1. The Nations Rage (1-4)
    2. The Peoples Plot (5-14)
    3. The Lord Laughs (15-23)

Transition: so let’s begin quickly now, with point # 1…

I.     Before the Work Begins: Getting Organized (Tell this in my own words quickly)

  1. Assessment of the Ruins (2.9-16) possibly over two nights?
  2. Appeal to Rebuild (2.16-18) A call for unity; community;
  3. Antagonists Rise up to Oppose the Work of God (2.19-20)

 

II.    The Work Begins: Beams, Bolts and Bars (3.1-32) – a basic description of the work; not just a rebuilding, some areas are totally wiped out.

  1. The Sheep Gate (1)
  2. The Fish Gate (3)
  3. The Old City Gate (6)
  4. The Valley Gate (13)
  5. The Dung Gate (14)
  6. The Fountain Gate (15)
  7. The Water Gate (26)
  8. The Horse Gate (28)
  9. The East Gate (29)
  10. The Muster Gate (31)

Transition: as we move into chapter 4, we begin to see what happens when God’s people do God’s work – following His leading – being obedient to the call. Let’s pick up in chapter 4 where the work progresses.

III.   The Work Progresses

  1. The Nations Rage (1-5)

exp.: rd v 1; enraged; Why do the nations rage? A question asked by the Psalmist that was read earlier in the service. A common theme in Scripture: People, who are not God’s people, always stand against Him. They stand against Him as if it were possible – and I believe they think so – that they could persevere against Him. They say he isn’t real but their words don’t match their actions. Perhaps it is no more poignantly presented than in the words Christ heard while hanging on the Cross, Matt 27.42ff: 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Rd v 2-3; now for me, what’s surprising in this story is the way Nehemiah responds: rd v 4-5; wow! He’s praying a “King David, before he was king” kind of prayer (e.g., Pss 35, 58.6, 59, 69, 109, and 137)!

ill.: Can I pause and expound on this? I want to be careful to not be misunderstood. You ready for this? I’m ok with this kind of praying: (e.g., Pss 35.1-8)

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;

fight against those who fight against me!

        Take hold of shield and buckler

and rise for my help!

        Draw the spear and javelin

against my pursuers!

Say to my soul,

“I am your salvation!”

        Let them be put to shame and dishonor

who seek after my life!

Let them be turned back and disappointed

who devise evil against me!

        Let them be like chaff before the wind,

with the angel of the Lord driving them away!

        Let their way be dark and slippery,

with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!

        For without cause they hid their net for me;

without cause they dug a pit for my life.

        Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!

And let the net that he hid ensnare him;

let him fall into it—to his destruction!

58.6-9

        O God, break the teeth in their mouths;

tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!

        Let them vanish like water that runs away;

when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.

        Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,

like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.

        Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,

whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!

59.1-10

        Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;

protect me from those who rise up against me;

        deliver me from those who work evil,

and save me from bloodthirsty men.

        For behold, they lie in wait for my life;

fierce men stir up strife against me.

For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,

        for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.

Awake, come to meet me, and see!

        You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.

Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;

spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah

        Each evening they come back,

howling like dogs

and prowling about the city.

        There they are, bellowing with their mouths

with swords in their lips—

for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

        But you, O Lord, laugh at them;

you hold all the nations in derision.

        O my Strength, I will watch for you,

for you, O God, are my fortress.

10         My God in his steadfast love will meet me;

God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Cf.: 69, 109, and 137

app.: Here is where I think it is ok: when the attack is against the LORD and not you. Just because someone doesn’t like you or what you’re doing doesn’t give cause for such prayers. However, when it comes to the work of God, I believe such prayers are warranted.

  1. 1st, the prayers here are directed to God, not their enemies.
  2. 2nd, such prayers are the response to threats – not retaliation. It is not wrong prayer when your heart’s greatest passion is the glory of God. Such prayers for retaliation that are delivered from an insecure heart and a damaged ego should be condemned. But when your heart’s cry is God’s glory – well, you know you’re praying according to God’s will because that is His will. He has said in 48.11 11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Where prayers from insecurity draw condemnation, such prayers from a sincere and upright heart should be commended.

t.s.: The Nations Rage and

  1. The Peoples Plot in vain (6-14)

exp.: rd v 6; oh, they rage and they plot, but it is all in vain. Why? Because God will accomplish his heart’s desire. Rd v 7; he was very angry; in v 1 he was just angry; rd v 8; heh, the people plot; rd v 9; Note actions on the part of Nehemiah:

  • He Trusts God – and makes this evident in his prayers.
  • He Takes Action – he posts guards in strategic places.

Nehemiah does this in spite of the mocking coming from the peoples. Rd v 10-12; Here is the reality of this sort of persecution, this opposition: It brings discouragement to the ranks. The wall is half high, meaning they’re about half way through, maybe a little further (because the doors and gates are hung). Now, it’s one thing to be hit by those outside your own walls, but it is altogether a greater sense of defeat when the discouragement comes from within. We learn a great principle from Nehemiah at this lowest of lows for the people. Rd v 13; Nehemiah puts people as guards over their own people. And he tells them, rd v 14;

app.: And here is the principle: we protect and serve best – the people we love.

t.s.: the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain, but…

  1. He who sits in the heavens laughs; The Lord holds them in derision. (15-23)

exp.: rd v 15-23; Here we find another principle for the one who has been called to serve and to lead: Nehemiah leads by example. He was there in the midst of the people. He kept the trumpeter near, while he kept a watch over his people and on the enemy in the distance. And this charge was not his alone, but also the other leaders.

app.: this is a wonderful lesson for us here as a church: The Nations Rage and the People Plot in Vain. They have as far back as time goes. But God is not moved. As we read about Sanballet and Tobiah’s mocking, jeering it says back in v 1, we find that this is the same word used to describe the Lord’s actions in Psalm 2. And again in Ps 59.8: But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.

t.s.: Galatians 6 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Let me close with some questions for you to Ponder:

  1. Do you exist for a cause greater than yourself? Think about this: Purpose comes from meaning. There is then direction, action, and movement. No meaning or purpose leads to simple existence.
  2. Does your purpose lead you to lay down your life for others? I’m not talking about dying – I’m talking about taking your selfish ‘ness’ and laying it down – on the altar of life. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  3. Nehemiah is prepared to interrupt the building of the wall to address concerns. Some of the people trade a spade for a spear. Others trade a shovel for a sword. Others continue the work. To pursue the completion of the wall without addressing concerns would have meant certain failure. It is quite possible that people might have put down their spades and shovels and walked away. Which by the way, is what the enemy was hoping for! What would you do – how would you respond if your leadership approached you and asked you to change positions? What if they moved you to a different section of the wall? What if they took your tool away and gave you a trumpet? What would your response be?
    1. This is MY ministry! I started it!
    2. This is MY committee – MY team – I created it!
    3. This is MY… you fill in the blank.
  4. Nehemiah set a guard in place both day and night. In today’s context, what should God’s people be on guard against both day and night? How might you live in such a way that you work with one hand and hold your weapon with the other?
  5. In 4.12, God’s people were discouraging God’s people. How might your actions or your words be a discouragement to God’s people today?

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