“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 9
Text: Nehemiah 13:4-11, 13:15-31
Sub-title: “The Three Ds of Finishing Strong”
Introduction: Personal story leading into a brief overview/recap of the book of Nehemiah:
- Nehemiah was saddened and grieved by the condition of Jerusalem
- God stirred Nehemiah’s heart and he became part of the solution
- Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and led a massive wall-building project
- Opposition rises against the project from well-connected community leaders
- Wall is completed in a miraculous 52 day time-period
- Nehemiah addressed previous, on-going abuse of power by city leaders
- The people are gathered each day to hear Ezra publicly read God’s Word
- The people repent, confess their sin, and covenant to do different going forward
- Nehemiah visits Babylon and upon returning to Jerusalem finds:
A. Time is the real test of a commitment
- Talk is cheap
- Second-guessing can bring undermining questions like, “Did God really say?” and “Did I really hear Him?” (same method the enemy used in Genesis 3:1)
B. Passiveness leads to accommodation
- Accommodation of people’s agenda (not God’s)
- Accommodation of people’s values (not God’s)
A. Decide about giving (cognitive choice, not emotional whim)
B. Decide about boundaries (Sabbath issues for them, family norms for us)
C. Decide about legacy (language issue for them, heritage questions for us)
Revisit last verse of the book (v.31)
From the beginning, Nehemiah was most interested in honoring the Lord. A life dedicated to honoring Christ will have:
A. The mindset of “Your” (reading 1:10-11) (Nehemiah understood/acknowledged God’s ownership and authority)
B. The daily goal of “as to the Lord” (Col. 3:23) Just as Paul described, Nehemiah’s daily goal was to do everything in a manner that pleased the Lord (not men)
C. The courage to stand on the Word of God (to stand on principle)
Time and again throughout the story, the Word of God was center-stage:
- The Word being read
- The Word bringing conviction
- The Word giving guidance
- The Word calling them back to their heritage
THE PRECIOUS TREASURE OF TRUTH!
Do you want to finish strong?
- Will you commit to being diligent in your walk? (giving up passiveness)
- Will you commit to making the decisions you need to? (personal, family, work-life)
- Will you dedicate your life to honoring the Lord? (not just casually following, but honoring)
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 8
Text: (Background) Nehemiah 8:13-12:43
Today’s Subject: “Moving Forward after Sin”
Introduction: Alexander Whyte, a Scottish pastor of the late 19th century wrote this, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings.” And King David wrote in Psalm 37, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in His way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord will uphold him with His hand.” Today we’re looking at the subject of moving forward after sin, because sometimes we stumble. And often, the question afterwards is “How?”
First, let’s recall that last week we looked at “The Word” specifically regarding the reading of scripture by Ezra and what followed:
- Weeping from the hearing of it
- Repentant hearts bringing sorrow and mourning
- Ezra instructing the people to put away mourning and to be joyful
So afterwards, the first thing they did was reconnect with their spiritual heritage through:
- Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles
- 7 days of public scripture reading
And after 24 days of different activities that included scripture reading, discussion, reflection and time to consider the bigger picture, they had a new perspective and were ready to move forward which led to the “Confession of Chapter 9”
(Brief over view of the main points of their confession and reading aloud verses 36-37)
So, here are three “take-aways” from their experience moving forward after genuine repentance and confession:
I. We Must Navigate the Circumstances (9:36-37)
- Embrace Liberty – Although they were still subject to the King of Persia, they were now free of spiritual bondage despite on-going consequences of the past
- In Christ, we can be spiritually free regardless of the circumstances. Paul said, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.” – Gal. 5:1
- Resist intimidation from old feelings of guilt, doubt and worry of what some may say. Consider what Peter wrote (reading 1 Peter 1:13-16). There was a lot he could have been hung-up on or fearful from the past, but he wasn’t. Don’t focus on past failures!
II. We Must Accept His Forgiveness (12:27)
- Sometimes we simply need to say “Thank-you”
- We don’t merit His forgiveness for salvation or daily renewal
- A gift “unreceived” is a blessing “unrealized”
III. We Must Express our Praise to Him (12:27&43)
When things are going well, praise may come easy, but at other times, it may not. When we’re looking to move forward after a failure, praise may or may not come easy.
- Sacrifice of Praise – Perhaps because of shame or emotional struggle it’s difficult. Those are exactly the times we need to praise (even if it takes every ounce of our being)
- “A walk around” – Like the Hebrews did when marching around the wall, sometimes it’s very healthy to walk around and see what God has given and accomplished in/through your life. It can be a physical walk and/or a mental walk. Either way, you’ll quickly see how God has blessed.
- Look to the future and celebrate!
How are you doing navigating the circumstances?
How about regarding acceptance of His forgiveness?
Are you expressing praise to Him today?
Are you willing to start…right now?
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 7
Text: Nehemiah 8:1-12
Today’s Subject: “3 Parts of Liberty”
- Wall complete (including gates)
- New sense of security
- People getting back to routines
- But true liberty starts in the heart
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:31-32 NKJV
The Word has always been the source of freedom (from the instructions for Adam and Eve to now)
Let’s consider what that looked like for the folks in Jerusalem and for us now
Read text 8:1-8
I. Embracing the Word
A. The text – Start with the actual scripture (not a loose idea or paraphrase of it)
B. Seek to understand
- Yes, there is mystery at times, but God desires for us to know the truth
- No follower of God has the right to be spiritually lazy
C. Make the Word a priority – We ultimately do what’s most important to us
II. Surrendering to the Word
Read verse 9
A. We can submit in actions, but still rebel in spirit (story of little girl)
B. Repentance brings real change (not just temporary emotions)
C. We see God in fullness of glory (in the way of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John in The Revelation)
III. Rejoicing in the Word
Read verses 10-12
A. After repentance, be glad! Choose joy!
B. Celebrate/give thanks for new insights
C. Involve others, help someone else understand (as the Levites did)
Jesus said; “If you abide in My word…
- Being a disciple…
- Experiencing freedom…
- Who doesn’t want to be free?
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 6
Today: “The Ono Conspiracy”
A reality in the life of faith is that the enemy is relentless. For Nehemiah, the challenges didn’t stop after the wall was complete. There was no time relax after the success because they simply changed tactics in the attempts to derail the work.
Read Chapter 6:1-4
I. Attempt #1 – Manipulation (v.1-4)
A. The Context:
- The wall was complete (except the gates), but they didn’t stop
- “Meet us halfway” was their request (4 times), in other words, (show everyone that you’re willing to “get along” with others)
- They wanted to get things on their terms
B. His response:
“I’m doing a great work and I cannot come down.” (v.3)
- The work took priority (what God has put in my heart – v.2:12)
- I will not deviate (I will not come down v.6:3)
C. Application for us:
What “great work” are you (and I) doing?
- Is it priority?
- Have you deviated?
II. Attempt #2 – Intimidation (verses 5-9)
Read chapter 6:5-9
“Open Letter” means it:
- It was not sealed with wax like an official letter usually was
- It was meant to be very “public”
- It was the equivalent of social media today
B. And the hope was to:
- Discredit him and invalidate his work
- Get false accusations “trending”
- Sow seeds of fear
C. His response:
- A direct answer, going so far as mentioning Sanballat’s heart
- Prayed for God’s empowering (not just peace to get through it, but strength to keep working and to win!)
D. Application for us:
- Satan is a liar (always has been)
- Don’t be surprised by his coordinated attacks
- Don’t worry about gossipers (there will always be some around anyway)
- Pray for empowering to overcome and to win
“Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Eph. 6:10)
III. Attempt #3 Confusion (v.10-14)
Read Chapter 6:10-14
A. Context-The “Practical Advice”:
- There’s not really anything you can do to stop the assassins from coming
- It makes sense to hide out in the Temple and protect yourself (the Leader)
B. His Response:
- He perceived that it was not consistent with God’s leading (God hadn’t sent him v.12)
- Realization he had been paid (ulterior motive)
- The advice went against scripture (only priest could go into that part of the Temple)
- He even said to give into the fear would be sin (not just a bad choice)
C. Application for us in closing:
- What challenges are you facing?
- Is there a “great work” in your life? If not, pray for one.
- Are you praying for empowering to win, or just enough to get by?
Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better – Part 5
Text: Nehemiah 5:14-19, 1 John 2:15-17
A quick recap of the previous passages:
- Nehemiah had a burden to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem
- He dealt with initial challenges of construction
- He encountered some resistance/threats to the project
- He dealt with extortion in the city by people of position/power
Today, we’ll take a look at what the Bible reveals about his personal habits:
Nehemiah had some “House Rules”. As a matter-of-fact, if he had one of those stencil-things on the wall of his kitchen, it probably would have read, “…because of the fear of God.” (v.15) He had many choices and options to consider regarding “daily” things and this is how he approached them:
I. Three Things He Resisted
A. He refused to take the governor’s provisions
- An established/expected “norm”
- Living an elevated lifestyle
B. He didn’t take advantage of his position as governor
- By not enriching himself with wealth
- By not letting his subordinates take advantage either
C. He chose not to buy land
- Viewed his position as one of “steward”
- No attempt to increase “status”
II. Three Things He Embraced
A. He embraced working alongside his people (v.16)
- Led by example
- Took part in “getting his hands dirty”
B. He embraced generosity (17-18)
- Had an “open door” or “open house” policy
- Ate alongside the people every day
- Had a diverse mix of people in his house every day (v.17)
C. He embraced doing things “as to the Lord” (v.19)
- His primary concern was ‘What does God think?”
- That concern trumped all others
III. Three Reminders for Us
(Read 1 John 2:15-17)
A. Resist unhealthy appetites (lust of the flesh) and embrace a good work ethic
- Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good
- Actively pursue Godly productivity
B. Resist the accumulation of wealth (lust of the eyes) and embrace a generous attitude
- There’s really never enough “stuff”
- Invest in people
C. Resist self-promotion (pride of life) and embrace a heavenly perspective
- The more you trust the Lord, the more secure you are in your person
- Do things “as to the Lord”
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 4
Text: Nehemiah 5:1-13
As the wall project continued, Nehemiah had earned the respect of many of the people. As a result, they began sharing with him what was really going in the city (perception versus reality).
Read Verse 1-5
Two questions for today:
I. Where do get your values?
A. The Context of Jerusalem
- Political/Economic/Social realities
- King’s Authority meant taxes, etc.
- Famine in the land
- Need to earn a living was real regardless of other realities
- It was a compromised environment
- The influence of other people groups/belief systems
- Babylonian captivity “residual effect”
- Choices had to be made in light of difficult circumstances
- There was a famine
- There was the levy of the King’s taxes
- There were those taking advantage of the situation
B. Application for us (v.1-5)
- There will always be “circumstances”
- Political changes
- Economic challenges
- Cultural shifts
(We must look past the circumstances!)
- There will always be compromise around us
- Disappointments in people around us
- Disappointments with those in leadership
- There will always be decisions to make
- Where will my personal/family boundaries be?
- And can I answer the “Why?” questions
II. What difference does it make anyway?
A. Context of Jerusalem
- Nehemiah was most interested in “What’s right?”
- Not popularity
- Not even expediency
(But what was right in God’s eyes)
- Like earlier, He was willing to define “good”
(He stated in v.9 this is not good)
- Also like earlier, he was committed to a “high view of God”
(He said, “Should you not walk in the fear of our God?”)
B. Application for us (v.6-13)
- Our top value must be “What’s right?”
- Injustice angered him
- Gave serious consideration (not flippancy)
- We must be willing to articulate “what is good”
- Specific things (even things not necessarily spiritual)
- Willing to call out the wrongdoers
- Willing to identify what better is (which defaults means you’re willing to call something “lesser”)
- We should live as ones who fear God
- A sober respect and trust in Him
- Viewing vows as solemn oaths (v. 12-13)
- Remembering His sovereignty
- Even when it contradicts the social norms of the day
Two closing questions:
- Can you articulate where your “moral code” comes from?
- Are you willing to define “good”?
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 3
Text: Nehemiah Chapters 3 and 4
- Begin with quick review of part 1 & 2 major topics
- Today we’re moving into the actual building project – ch. 3 records some important details of the projects – 38 individuals named, 42 groups named, residents inside and outside of the city involved, and all were working toward a common goal (even a perfumer v.8)
The topic for today is: Nehemiah had a singular focus to honor God and this was the process:
I. The Work
“…the people had a mind to work.”
A. Historical Context
- The physical aspect
- They took personal ownership
- They got their hands dirty
- They gave 100% effort
- They took a risk
Read chapter 4:1-6
B. Application for us?
Colossians 3:23 principle of doing everything “heartily as to the Lord and not men”
- Taking ownership – personal life and church life
- Getting hands dirty – personal life and church life
- Giving 100% – personal life and church life
- Taking risks – personal life and church life
Are we willing to step out? There will always be the “Sanballats” and “Tobiahs” of the world with their condescension, insults and threats.
II. The Defense
Read verses 7-13
A. Historical Context
- There was conspiracy – real-life scheming and practical challenges for Nehemiah
- There were key family connections undermining things (more later on that)
- There was an attempt to intimidate with boastings and threats
- Nehemiah’s first reaction was to pray
- But there is also an “and” in verse 9, “and he set a watch” regardless of the possibility to being blamed as an “escalator of hostilities”
B. Application for us?
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is spiritual in nature and that the enemy is a schemer (we shouldn’t be surprised)
- Prayer should be our first response, not just an “add-on” or 9-1-1
- We should pray specifically about our circumstances
- We should make a decision to “set a watch”; the time has come to get busy building and defending
- Call attention to something Warren Wiersbe wrote concerning this chapter where he points out that no new stone was needed for the wall, but was already there in the rubble piles. Concerning application for the 21st century church, he wrote:
“It is not by inventing clever new things that we take away the Church’s reproach, but by going back to the old things that made the Church great in ages past. They lie like stones in the dust.”
Are we willing to build?
III. The Remembering
Read verses 14-23
A. Historical Context
- “Remember the Lord” (v.14); remember what? As Hebrews, they would have known the accounts of His faithfulness to Noah, Abraham, Moses, the people during the Exodus, The Judges, The Prophets, David, and many more…remember!
B. Application for us?
- When the work gets tiring, dull, or overwhelming (and it will)…remember!
- When the enemy is conspiring and scheming (and he will)…remember!
- When others are compromising (and they will)…remember!
Remember when God:
- Saved you
- Provided for you
- Gave you peace
- Answered your prayer
Are you willing to build?
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” Part-2
Text: Nehemiah 2:1-20
Subtitle: A Personal Faith
Opening: Just like in our day, Nehemiah had a “career” and also a “personal life” (who knows, maybe he was an avid canoe enthusiasts, etc. in his off-time). Either way, the atmosphere of his professional life as cupbearer was one common to eastern monarchs; upbeat, positive and affirming to the king regardless of reality. And it was in that environment that we start chapter 2.
3 challenges for us from Nehemiah’s life:
I. Prayer was Personal
A. It was very “natural” (so I prayed…v.4)
- He literally was “praying as he went”
- “Pray without ceasing” – 1 Thess. 5:17
B. The prayer in v.4 was also preceded by much intentional prayer (and fasting)
C. The reality of God actually being present too
(We don’t leave His side when we exit the “prayer closet”)
Challenge #1 – Is prayer personal enough in your life that it comes naturally? Even in public settings? Or regarding small matters?
II. The Plan was Personal
A. A plan was developing in his heart/mind from his time with God.
B. He was clear that it was from the Lord (v.12)
Challenge #2 – Is there something God has put in your heart from time with Him? Are you willing to pray that way and be open to it?
III. Honoring God was Personal
A. He was bold enough to state things as they really were (with God’s empowering)
- The city was dishonoring to God
- It wasn’t a time for excuses and rationalization
B. He pointed to something “better”
- Not just what was wrong, but what “could be” (this good work)
- They responded to the call (God was in it)
C. He was willing to define “good”
- Who were they to define what God’s people should do? (v.20, no right…)
- We must also be willing to define “good” in our time
- Who are they (non-Christian world) to tell us what it means to be Christian and what the Bible teaches? (v.20 no right…)
Challenge #3 – Is honoring God a personal matter to you? In your private life? In your family? In your vocational life?
“Nehemiah: A Burden for Something Better” – Part 1
Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11
Opening: Short intro on the background/context of recent events related to Jerusalem.
I. The stirring (v.1-3)
(The awakening in Nehemiah was of God. – 2:12)
A. Nehemiah’s heart was sensitive to the Lord
- Tuned-in like a radio clearly on the channel, not just close
- Receptive-not only listening, but actually “hearing”
- Pliable-willing to be led into “newness”
B. Nehemiah was concerned
- About their heritage and future (not short-sighted)
- About others (a selfless attitude)
- About what “could-be” (hopeful)
Those are important because he could have ignored everything and remained comfortable with his posh position and justified it with thoughts like, “The trouble in Jerusalem isn’t my fault, they chose to go back there knowing it would be tough.” or “God has placed me here in the palace, so that means I just need to stay here and do my job.” But he didn’t…
C. He was willing to pursue something better
(Concern led to prayer, which led to doing)
II. The Response (v.4-9)
A. Nehemiah mourned over the reality of what he saw clearly (and in perspective)
B. He prayed, fasted and was intentional about his prayers
C. He had a “high view” of God (O great and awesome God)
- Which led to confession (his own sin and others’)
- (there was a personal story here about God’s stirring up)
III. The Request (v.10-11)
A. The principle of “Your”, he saw the big picture
B. He asked for something specific
C. He was willing to wait for God’s timing (4 months between first prayer and “the ask”)
IV. The Question
How about you?
- Is there sensitivity to the Lord’s leading?
- Is there willingness to act when He speaks