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Nehemiah's wall

Week 77:  Nehemiah 1-6

Monday:  A Man of sorrows

Read Nehemiah 1

The book of Ezra shows us the people returning to Israel and the temple’s rebuilding.  Nehemiah shows us that there is still work to be done.  The walls of Jerusalem remain broken down. 


Nehemiah is a lowly cupbearer to the king. He will become chief reformer and an instrument of revival to his people.  Under his leadership, the wall will be rebuilt in fifty-two days.  But he will spend a lifetime bringing the spiritual lives of God’s people back to the place from which they had fallen.  


There is nothing of lasting worth, in the kingdom of God, that is not born from agony of heart.  Nehemiah hears of the broken-down wall and its burned places.  So, his heart is broken too. He takes his broken heart and the broken wall before the God who repairs.  


Nehemiah was a man consumed.  He wasn’t about giving little slices of time to good causes.  The things of God were all he could think about, when he got up, when he was working, and when he went to bed.  Sometimes his devotion was like a burden. Burdens are heavy things.  They will make you weep, they will make you miss meals, they will bring you low, and they will drive you to anguished prayer.


“There is nothing of worth to God that isn’t born in agony.” David Wilkerson


Such a man is a usable man.  God has captured this man and put something on his heart to do.  And after a season of preparation and at the right time, God showed up in his life in a new way and gave him a mission to do. 


“A zealous man is like a lamp, is meant to burn. If he is consumed in his burning, he has but done his work Such a man will always find a sphere for his work. If he cannot work, give money or preach, he can sigh, cry and pray.” J.C. Ryle


See Christ here:

Jesus wasn’t a mere do-gooder. He didn’t organize charitable events or "promote worthy causes". He was on a singular mission from His heavenly Father, “to seek and save the lost!”  

He was a man of sorrows.  

He couldn’t turn it off.  He wept when his friend Lazarus lay in a tomb. He would raise him up again.  He wept over Jerusalem.  He would die for the people who were, in the end, against him.   Nehemiah was portrait of Christ.  This man had a true appreciation both of how things out to be and how they actually were. He was instrumental in God’s purpose because those two things were clear in his mind and heart. And in the right season, the burdened servant came into a place to do something about it. 


He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:3, NKJV) 


The Secret life of Nehemiah

Read Nehemiah 2

We see the secret life of Nehemiah.  His private journal has become public to the glory of God. In it the curtains are slightly parted, and we see his burdened heart for the things of God.  The king also sees his heart.  It is reflected in the sadness Nehemiah’s face. He is given favor and leave to investigate the condition of Jerusalem.  He does not make a spectacle. He has no newsletter to keep his supporters apprised.  It is a personal work happening in his heart before it will ever become a public work in Jerusalem.


Then 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.” (Nehemiah 2:12) 


Much can be said about how this relates to a calling upon one’s life.   There must always be secret history with God.  There must be a preparation that the Lord takes the man through.  Elijah and Elisha seemed to come out of nowhere when it was their time.  The scriptures show us the remarkable circumstances surrounding birth of John the Baptist.  After that, there is a thirty year silence until we see him again. He burns for six months preparing for Jesus’ ministry.  And when he does appear, it is in the privation of the wilderness and not the public square.  Speaking of a secret history with God: Moses, it has been said, spent forty years thinking he was a somebody. He spent the next forty years, in the wilderness, finding out he was a nobody.  The next forty years of ministry, to his amazement, was seeing how God can use a nobody.  


“It takes many years to empty a man. And then in one moment, God can fill him and use him.” 

E. M. Bounds


See Christ here:

After the well documented story of Christ’s birth and flight to Egypt. We do not see him again. We have a brief peak of him at age twelve and see that he had an understanding that he would have a life that would be about His Father’s business. After that, we see nothing until age thirty where he comes onto the public scene in Spirit baptized power.  Nehemiah had a secret life and preparation with the Lord before his ministry.  Jesus had a secret life with His Father before his inauguration and baptism. Jesus maintains a secret life with the Lord and that is the secret to his power. 


So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:16, NKJV) 

Wednesday:  a team effort

Read: Nehemiah 3

Nehemiah two closes with his call upon others to arise and build. He had seen the broken scene.  He saw what needed to be done.  It is important for us to say that anyone with a half of a mind and one carnal eye can point out what is wrong. Nehemiah wasn’t that kind of man. He wasn’t negative. He was positive.  He answers his people full of faith:


“The God of heaven will prosper us; therefore, we His servants will arise and build.” (Nehemiah 2:20)


In chapter three, the reading isn’t interesting, but it is important. We don’t see much of Nehemiah, but we do see a lot of common people.  God uses everybody who will give themselves to the work. The coordination of the project stands out in the phrases: “next to him,” “next to them,” “next to that,” “the next section,” “beside him,” and “beyond them,” which occur 28 times in this chapter. 


It shows us that it was a team effort. 


This is a beautiful thing. Paul closes out Romans chapter sixteen by mentioning twenty-six individuals, to families and three house churches. People are important to Paul because people are important to God. All of these that are mentioned have different gifts.  Listen friends to this good verse:


"Who is the man that fears the LORD?  Him shall He teach in the WAY HE CHOOSES for him."  Ps 25:12


Your purpose, technique, personality and gifting doesn't look like someone else’s.  Let nature teach us a lesson: God, in his infinite creative ability, created countless and different types seeds with matching vessels each to its own.  These seeds carry life, in different ways, by different means and through different methods--but they all carry life, as God gives it. 


Every person and family have a place to work and contribute to the kingdom work.   


See Christ here:

 He chose twelve very different people. Consider the brothers Peter and Andrew. Peter was more outspoken.  Andrew was more chill but passionate to bring others to Jesus.  James and John came from a more affluent family with a thriving fishing business.  Jesus called them Sons of Thunder because they had fervor. John was often at Jesus’ right hand. His brother James was rather quiet but often on the inside of some remarkable events. He saw the Transfiguration and Jairus’ daughter get raised. We know almost nothing about Phillip, but he was probably a pretty good student of the Old Testament (John 1:45). Nathaniel carried some local prejudices against the city of Nazareth but Jesus called him a true-hearted Jew.  Matthew had a business mind and a background in tax collecting.  Thomas was skeptic and a bit of a pessimist.  Another guy named James was called  “James the Less”, ironically, we know little about him…


I think we get the idea. Jesus chose ordinary men and used them extraordinarily. 


satan's discouragment

Read: Nehemiah 4

The work of God was a team effort.  It was favored by God but opposed by devils.  We first met Sanballat and Tobiah in chapter two at the beginning of the work.  They laughed and scorned the project.  Now as the project is approaching the half-way point to completion, they seek to discourage the workers. 


Now 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.”” (Nehemiah 4:3, NKJV) 


What is Nehemiah’s response? More prayer. “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach upon their own heads…” (Nehemiah 4:4)   Nehemiah knew how to call for a prayer meeting. That was the secret to their continued progress and success.  Then they went on building.   


We see how persistent and continuous the enemies of God are to discourage the work. “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.”” (Nehemiah 4:12, NKJV) 


“A Christian’s chief occupational hazards are depression and discouragement.” John Stott


The devil once advertised his tools for sale at public auction. When the prospective buyers assembled, there was one oddly shaped tool which was labeled “Not for sale.” Asked to explain why this was, the devil answered, “I can spare my other tools, but I cannot spare this one. It is the most useful implement that I have. It is called Discouragement, and with it I can work my way into hearts otherwise inaccessible. When I get this tool into a man’s heart, the way is open to plant anything there I may desire.”


We see how Nehemiah led his people to continue building on while fighting discouragement at the same time:  Those 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.” (Nehemiah 4:17, NKJV) 


The enemy, so to speak, made Nehemiah a better praying man.  And the enemy was the loser for it.  The work went on to completion. 


See Christ here:

Jesus met discouragement and opposition at every turn, but he often withdrew for prayer.  Empowered from above, he continued in his mission. 

Satan was whispering in his ear in the beginning, the midway point and at the end of his work.  But His Father’s shaping hand was there too!


We would do well to know that God can use discouragement to drive us to depend upon Him.  The mystery is great, but the unanimous testimony of church leaders through the ages is that God sometimes withdraws a sense of His presence to bring us to a larger experience in faith.  Indeed, Jesus himself was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness where the devil put forth his agenda. But Jesus emerged from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.


Spiritual discouragement may be God’s tool to make us more like Christ. Oswald Chambers spoke of it in these words: 

“If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a big personal enlargement ahead.”

 There certainly was great enlargement ahead for Nehemiah and the people who fought through. 

Friday: Overcoming fear

Read Nehemiah 6

We see the enemy at work in the beginning. We see the enemy at work at the midway point. And now we see him at the finish line.  Nehemiah has yet to hang the doors and Sanballat sends a shockwave of fear to halt God’s man.  It comes by way of an open letter that will presumably come before the King of Persia. It intimates that Nehemiah is leading a rebellion and that he will make himself a king of Jews. It is sheer intimidation.   Such a letter should bring Nehemiah to quaking stop.  It doesn’t.  It turns Nehemiah to prayer.  “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.”  Attacks from our ancient enemy seek to undo us. But for the godly, attacks from the enemy make him a better Christian.  


“The Devil has made me a better theologian.” Martin Luther


The weak say: “I fell because the way was hard.”  The strong say, “I am strong (in faith) because the way was hard.” God never promised to save us from tribulation, rather He promises to  save us in tribulation. 

Nehemiah makes a bold declaration, “I will not go in.”  He will not hide in his chambers while the out-of-door work calls him. He acts, faithfully, in an opposite spirit of fear.  He turns his face to God in prayer. 

A man who fears God will fear no man

He busied himself with meaningful work. He performs a task, that isn’t equal to his own power, but is equal to God’s.  The enemy billows fear. Nehemiah builds through fear. Under God, he is an unbeatable man. 


See Christ here: 

Christ had many discouragements to go forward to Jerusalem to his greatest work—the cross and redemption for fallen man. He recognized his opponent’s intimidation. He told his disciples he would be betrayed to the chief priests. He predicted he would be condemned to death, mocked, scourged and ultimately crucified. (Matthew 20:18-19) But he was not deterred.  Instead he set his face to go forward:


He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem and sent messengers before His face.” (Luke 9:51–52)  

The Message Bible translation says, “he steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”  Peter rebuked Jesus to turn him back and keep him from harm.  Jesus soundly corrected the well-intentioned disciple who was in complete error, 

“Get behind Me, Satan!  For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Mark 8:33   

Jesus saw past the hindrance of his ancient enemy and to the finished result. 


“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify but on the third day He will rise again.”” (Matthew 20:18–19, NKJV)