Love people and love God like Nehemiah.

 

If You Build It…

Nehemiah 2:17

 

Today marks the end of our walk thru the Old Testament – As we have studied God’s word we have seen how His Story, His Will, has been weaved throughout history.  From creation to slavery; from the Promise Land to captivity; from the rebuilding of the Temple to God remaining silent for 400 years.

We see the circumstances of our life from our perspective but we need to view life from God’s perspective.  Israel was in slavery but God was building a nation.  Israel was in exile but God was teaching them to obey.  From Genesis to Malachi God is preparing the people for Messiah to come.

Today we see the last recorded actions of God until Jesus is born.

 

After the King of Babylon took over Israel and started deporting people (final deportation of Jerusalem in 586 BC) the Israelites were in exile for 70 years. During that time the Persians took over Babylon.  As God promised He used King Cyrus to restore His people.  Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem with 50,000 Jews in 538 BC and began to rebuild the Temple which was completed in 516 BC.  In 486 BC the King of Persia was Xerxes, Esther’s husband.  In 465 BC Xerxes’ son, Artaxerxes, was King of Persia his cup bearer was a Jew named Nehemiah, during his reign Malachi also prophesied.

Nehemiah would have been a young boy when Esther was Queen of Persia.

Nehemiah is now grown and serving the King.  He is in an honored and trusted position – He is the cup bearer – he tasted the wine to make sure it was not poisoned.

 

Nehemiah not only built the wall around Jerusalem but he was building the people to be faithful to God.

We see that Nehemiah had a heart for His people and he had a heart for His God.

 

Nehemiah 1:1  …I was in the citadel of Susa, 2  one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3  They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” 4  When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

 

Nehemiah asked about the people and was concerned to hear that they were living in disgrace.  The Temple had been rebuilt but the walls around the city were still in ruin.  Nehemiah loved his people and He loved God, which is why he prayed.

 

Nehemiah was depressed and could not keep that fact from the King when he went into his presence (Nehemiah 2:2,3).  He was also scared to ask what he was about to ask (2:5).  King will you send me to rebuild Jerusalem?

He could have asked the King to send money to have the Jerusalem walls rebuilt but he asked to go.

Why?  Nehemiah had a good job, a prestigious job, he was living comfortable in the King’s palace, serving the most powerful man in the world.

 

Would you leave your comfy job and comfy house to go and serve those who were living in disgrace?  Would you volunteer to take on a task that had not been completed in 140 years?  Nehemiah loved his people and he loved his God – that is why.  He was in a positon to ask the King for a favor and he was willing to put in the hard work to accomplish the task.

 

Do you love people enough to sacrifice your comforts to make a difference?  Are you willing to change your lifestyle to make a difference in the lives of others?  The easiest gift would be a gift of money to help others.  The harder gift is the gift of time to be present in people’s lives to make a difference.

 

“I don’t know that I love people enough or love God enough to make that big of sacrifice.”  If that is our thought then we need to reevaluate our commitment to God.

 

Paul was willing to give up not only his life but his salvation for his people.

Romans 9:2  I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4  the people of Israel.

 

What are you willing to give up to just share the love of Jesus with your friends and family?

Nehemiah was willing give up so much – for 12 years he didn’t even take the allotted food that was to be given to him as governor (5:14).

 

Nehemiah’s leadership inspired others.

 

Nehemiah 2:17  Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18  I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

 

Why did they need inspired?  The people in Jerusalem had become complacent.

They were living in ruins and they accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation.

Do you do that in the messiness of your house?  Do you do that in the messiness of your life?

Is your life in ruins but you’re not willing to make the effort to rebuild?  You have become complacent – satisfied with the ruins of your life.  If someone tried to inspire you would you get mad at them?

Nothing is going to change in the church or in your life or in society until you become concerned enough to take action.  What concerns you?  Are you taking action?

Let Nehemiah’s faithfulness and sacrifice inspire you to action.

 

Nehemiah 2:18 The people replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

 

The people knew God was with them to rebuild the walls.  They were inspired, “Let us start rebuilding!”

But with any service for the Lord – Satan is right there to oppose and discourage.  The people were mocked and ridiculed and accused of rebellion (2:19).  But Nehemiah said that God would give them success (2:20).

Those who mocked later were so angry that they continued their insults

 

Nehemiah 4:1  When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, …3  Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building–if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”

 

Nehemiah turned to God in the face of the insults

 

Nehemiah 4:4  Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5  Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.

 

First they mocked, then they got angry and ridiculed, then they threated war.

Nehemiah 4:7  But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8  They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9  But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

 

Nehemiah’s response every time – Prayer

More than 10% of the book of Nehemiah is prayer.

 

The oppressors even hired prophets to intimidate Nehemiah – trying to make him sin and discredit him (6:12-14).  He prayed that he would be strengthened.

 

When you are doing the Lord’s work Satan will oppose you and get evil men to attack you.  If all is going smoothly and there is no opposition to your work for the Lord, that may be the time to worry that you are not really doing what the Lord wills.  Nehemiah was constantly attacked from within and without and he was right in the middle of God’s will.

 

So we know that Nehemiah loved his people and he loved his God.  Nehemiah depended on God.  This love of people and his love of God lead him to righteous anger.

Nehemiah was angry because of the sin of the people.  In chapter 8 the people heard the Word of God and weep because of their sin.

 

Nehemiah 8:3  He [Ezra] read it aloud from daybreak till noon …7  The Levites … instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8  They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.

 

That is a long Bible Study – 5 or 6 hours – all morning hearing the Word of God and having it explained to them.  Most Christians won’t even come to Sunday School for 50 minutes of teaching or to Wednesday night Bible study for an hour of teaching.  How many would come for a 5 hour Bible Study?  Five hours of reading God’s word and having it explained.

 

Chapter 9 tells us of their confession

Nehemiah 9:1  …the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. 2  …They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. 3  They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God.

 

Bible reading and Bible study lead to repentance and confessing their sins, which lead to making promises to God.

Nehemiah 9:38  “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”

 

We see the promises in chapter 10:30-39 but that was short lived.  Nehemiah left Jerusalem for a time and comes back to all kinds of corruption and sinful behavior (Nehemiah 13).

 

Nehemiah’s righteous anger was stirred

Nehemiah 13:7 …Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8  I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9  I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.

 

Tobiah was one of the mockers and the priest let him live in the temple area.

 

That is why Malachi condemned the priests for all their sins.  Malachi prophesied during the last year when Nehemiah was governor in 432 BC.

 

Malachi condemned the priest for their sin but also condemned the people for their sins.  Less than 11 years from the time of repentance and making promises to God to totally turning their backs on God again.  What a fickle people.  I am glad we are not like that.  (I think we often are as fickle)

Even in the face of sin God says, I love you.

Malachi 1:2  “I have loved you,” says the LORD.

 

The book of Malachi has two Messianic prophecies – the last two promises of the coming Messiah, Jesus.

Malachi 3:1-4 – saying Jesus will come to His temple – there will be judgment and cleansing.  He will purify and we will bring Him offerings. (We discussed in detail during Bible Study of Wednesday)

 

The final promise of Jesus’ coming is in Malachi 4:2.

 

Malachi 4:2  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

 

Jesus will bring healing and freedom – we will be as excited as a calf being released from his stall.

Are you that excited about what Jesus has done for you?

We should be, we can be.

 

As you hear God’s word are you brought to tears of repentance like the people in Jerusalem?

Do you understand that God will bring judgement on sinners – those who refuse to repent and be cleansed?

God doesn’t want to judge you He wants to heal you and release you from the stalls of slavery.

 

It is your choice what you experience – Healing and freedom or Judgement.

 

Decide to follow Jesus so you can rejoice now and for eternity.

 

Will you come knowing God loves you?

Will you come repenting of your sins?

Will you come to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit?