Nehemiah Series.doc - Abiding in Him by zhouwenjuan

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									                       Rebuilding Our Faith Series #1
                             Hebrews 11:13-16

                          REBUILDING OUR FAITH

     All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having
     seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having
     confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For
     those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a
     country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that
     country from which they went out, they would have had
     opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country,
     that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called
     their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-
     16).

The book of Nehemiah is like a gift dropped from heaven so that we could
gain a glimpse of how God can work miracles in desperate situations. This
situation in the post exilic era was desperate. The former nation of Israel
was now in shambles ready to join a host of other nations in the archives of
ancient history. Already in the time of Nehemiah, decades had passed since
their capital was captured, burnt down and the people deported. The book of
Nehemiah speaks about one solitary spark which relit a small flame of hope
for the nation which otherwise would have been snuffed out. One has to
understand when we talk about rebuilding a wall, that it is not the wall that is
so important. The wall's importance is only as important as what stood behind
the wall. The more special the watch case, the more expensive the watch. The
more guards about a home, the more valuable the goods and people within are
esteemed.

     Archaeologists tunneling along the Western Wall in Jerusalem
     have discovered 5 enormous building stones that helped form the
     foundation of the temple that stood during Jesus' time. The
     largest is 55 feet long, 11 feet high and 14 feet wide. Weighs 570
     tons. Large stones were used to prevent earthquake damage to the
     Temple Mount. (CT)
What made the walls of Jerusalem so valuable is not the walls themselves, but
what the walls would protect: the heart of the nation of Israel. Or later as
we find, it is the heart of God's people the Jews.

So you can imagine what desperate despair sacked the people after their
capital city was torn down and the people literally dragged far away as
modern day Iran and Iraq. Hope was dismissed as fancy; faith was tossed
about as an old man's dream. It is not the history of Israel that made Israel
a nation, but what God did in time and place in the lives of these men. "His
Story" literally became history. If one has doubts about the historicity of
crossing of the Red Sea, then all one needs to do is to turn to these post-
exilic books written 1000 years later for testimony about the glory of the
God who restores the same stubborn people. For what happens in the book of
Nehemiah is a parallel of the book of Exodus. Each is a bare flame pointing to
the coming torch of Christ in which God would "love the world." Let us
compare God's people in Moses' time with the time they were in Persia in
Nehemiah's time.

     In Egypt the people of God were merely a displaced people, but the
      Israelites in far away Susa, Persia were cast under the wrath of
      God for their idolatry.

     The Israelites in Egypt were a small homogenous group living in the
      land of Goshen of the world empire of Egypt, but in Nehemiah's
      time they were scattered about in far away foreign empires.

     The Jews in Egypt focused around a hope, a promise to their
      forefather Abraham, but the memories of the Israelites in the
      post-exilic times were stained by the massacres of their people, the
      destruction of the temple and the glorious kingdom of David and
      Solomon smashed.

The question for us to ponder is whether it is easier to start from scratch or
to rebuild. If we were talking about mere buildings, perhaps we could think it
would be a close runoff as to which would be easier. But when it comes to
what the walls would protect, the heart of the nation, only a pure miracle
could rebuild the Israelite nation. The remaining Jews were spread apart in a
huge area under the rule of pagan families. These Jews did not have much
faith. Some aged fathers might cry out from past memories, but their young
just cared about getting on in society. Their faith had to be rebuilt just like
the faith of our lives today.

Today I would like to introduce the book of Nehemiah to you. Although the
physical rebuilding of the walls is the theme through the first half of the
book, we will discover and more clearly be aided by focusing on another
thread which is interweaved throughout the book. This theme centers around
7 "Remember" prayers. At first, these prayers stand distant from each other
without any obvious significance, but later on they come standing on the
shoulders of the prior one. The difference can be seen in calm days where
waves casually arrive at the shore with stormy days where the winds send
their pounding waves one after another with their strong force. God has His
purpose from the beginning of the book, but it can be easily missed. The
building process can absorb one's attention away from the purpose of the
construction. This arrangement of prayers helps point us to the spiritual
rebuilding of their faith rather than a mere reestablishment of an
organization such as many sociologists consider Christianity today. They
consider the organization to be the key to the religious movements. They
believe that as a man has no soul that a city or a nation has no soul, nor does
Christianity. In fact, they could not be more mistaken.

Indeed there was a wall that needed to be rebuilt. We should not be ignorant
of physical needs. Our families need homes; our church needs things to
function well. The city needed a wall. But I would like to now tell the whole
story of Nehemiah less we get distracted with its physical and material
presentation in the first chapters. As we go along I will point out the seven
"Remember ______" prayers. Please fill in the word or words that follow the
word "Remember." They are neatly organized in the provided outline. (See
detailed chart of "Remember.")

We can see the beginning of the restoration of Jerusalem's walls found in the
way Nehemiah responded to the news about the "broken down walls of
Jerusalem and its gates burned with fire" (1:3). This led to a desperate
prayer and our first "Remember" statement in 1:8 which was a clear
remembrance of the word which God had promised to Moses. Nehemiah called
upon God to remember His own promises. From the impossible situation in
chapter one, came a clear breakthrough in chapter two where Nehemiah
asked and got permission to rebuild the wall. We doubt that Nehemiah
planned on asking the emperor; God planned it in response to his sincere
prayer. So in chapter 2 we find the miraculous jump to inspection of the walls
of Jerusalem and the rallying of the people to build her walls. Starting in
chapter 3 we find the actual building of the wall right to the end of chapter
6.

A good story always has a good plot as does Nehemiah. As they are building
the walls, they face opposition. Chapter 4 had one opposition plan foiled as
the people rallied together. Chapter 5 started off with a number of other
problems including usury and famine. But Nehemiah risks his life facing the
leaders in a big congregational meeting and the chapter closes with the
second "Remember" statement in 5:19. This is one of the "Remember me, O
my God for good"" statements that will be repeated. He was living by
principle for the sake of God's work. He called on God to recognize his
sincere efforts. Chapter 6 again sees another plot develop, this time from
outside enemies. This leads to the third "Remember" statement in 6:14,
"Remember, O my God, these works of theirs." It is here that Nehemiah
brought the works of the wicked to the memory of God. And early on in the
book in 6:15 we see the actual wall fully built only 52 days later.

Chapter 7 first mentions the gates being hung and then begins to list the
first wave of returning exiles. The soul of the city needed to be established.
In chapter 8 Ezra the scribe reads the book of the law to the people.
Chapter 9 was the congregation's repentant response for their past sins
followed by chapter 10 where the leaders signed their signatures on the
covenant to keep the law as well as special rules they made. Chapter 11
follows the spiritual renewal of Jerusalem with the actual restocking of the
city with their people. Chapter 12 mentions the leaders who are responsible
for different aspects for the city. Chapter 13 is the last chapter of the
book and stands as the great pinnacle point of the book with four of the
seven "Remember" statements.

The first "Remember" statement for purifying the leaders is in 13:14 where
he asks God to "Remember me" for his good deeds. Nehemiah again stood
firm on the sabbath issue. Then in Nehemiah 13:22 he says "for this also
remember me." Clearly these tasks were not easy to do in a newly rebuilt and
fragile community. The 6th "Remember" statement is in 13:29 where
Nehemiah is still doing his acts of purification as the governor of Jerusalem.
He says, "remember them" that is, remember the defiled priests for their
wicked ways. And then lastly, in the very last words of the book are
"Remember me, O my God, for good." Here Nehemiah in setting all His work
before the Lord sets himself before the Lord as fulfilling his duty. In a sense
he is like Moses and Joshua and even as a type of Jesus who restored the
worship of the one true God back to normal.

What we see here is not only the rebuilding of a wall but a rebuilding of the
community of God's people. Isn't there a computer game where you can
construct a city. It is far over-simplistic in that it concentrates on buildings
rather than the interplay of leaders. The cleaning of streets is more
important than the cleansing of the people's heart and their common devotion
to its one cause.

The book of Nehemiah is also similar to the book of Revelation where the
people of God are getting ready for their heavenly worship. God's people are
being called from every nation to gather before Him. They are to put off
their old ways and their old patterns of living. God's ways will now dictate how
they are to live. For God's people to be pure, they need to be called to
regularly live according to this heavenly pattern now while they are on earth.
Whenever we treat Christianity as a religion or man made organization with
its man-made charter, then it defies its purpose. Whenever we as Christians,
stand back and live out our lives just adapting Christianity to our own lives, we
have totally denied what Christianity means and stands for. Jesus brought
about a cause great enough to demand a radical change of life.


A Christian cannot live a comfortable life on earth because of his
heavenly call.

A Christian cannot live an independent life on earth because he is
called to function in the community of believers.

A Christian cannot live an undiscerning life because he is repeatedly
going to be attacked by his enemies.

A Christian cannot live what he feels because there are principles
that he is committed to live by.


Nehemiah stands like an apostle, a man who was commissioned to establish
God's kingdom. He was a man who lived by God's Word. A man who prayed
without ceasing. Although in such a high and honored position as the Persian
king's wine cupbearer, he never seemed to flinch before man. But before God,
he regularly poured out his desperate needs before his Sovereign God. As a
model of faithfulness, he bravely lived according to God's Word, but ever
dependent on God's great mercy. He summarized his life with the word
"remember." For he was as an intercessor calling to God's mind what He
should do here on earth. He reminded God of His promises, as well as his own
expectancies of what should be done.

The challenges we will face as we go through this book are numerous. We are
not able to skim over this powerful life of Nehemiah. The walls might be a
significant physical development of this book, but we would be blind to see
the rebuilding of our faith as merely analogous to that of building a wall. As
we go through this book, we must remember that unless we are going to open
our lives up before God to be rebuilt then we are just playing games. In a
sense, we will only proceed to chapter 6 and never pass the finish line. For
God is not very concerned with the structure on the outside if the heart of
the matter has been removed. We have seen people grow up and get old and
then die. In the end of their lives, people say they did this and that. But if
they have never been part of the eternal kingdom of God, then they are only
an empty structure that never found its purpose of life. Their bodies, their
walls were torn down because they had nothing inside. It is hard for the
young to think that life is anything more than their bodies. They are so
fascinated by the building up their towers that they think life is centered
about them. How foolish! For it is these very walls that will be torn down. Sin
culminates in death, the final tearing down of these walls.

God is calling us to live as pilgrims and strangers on earth, not as residents.
Because we belong to a different kingdom, we live by its rules even when they
put stress on our walls. Our destiny is not here. Because we have life from
above, we are quite willing to let this body go, for we have stored up
treasures in heaven just like Nehemiah - Remember me - remember what I
have done. Even though Nehemiah built this city up from its crumbling stones,
we see a man stilled before the presence of God. His life was not what he had
but what God was preparing for them.

Today, as we start this book, I would like us to think through some serious
questions on who we are, what are we living for, and what are the most
important things we value in life. I want us to evaluate our dedication to these
matters that God through Nehemiah has brought to our attention. Would you,
for example, have been one of the exiles that came back to Jerusalem to
work hard and labor? Risking all for your faith? Some of us have grown up in
Christian homes and are just like these exiles. God is putting before you a
choice to join or not join the community of God's people. Many of you are
more interested in going to movies then prayer meetings. You are more
concerned with doing what your friends do than what God's Word says. If you
live this way, one day God will show you the bankruptcy of your heart and tear
down the walls so that you cannot fool anyone. Listen to this earthquake
report.

     TOKYO (Reuter) Earthquake rattles Kyoto Buddhas 1/16/95- The
     earthquake that shook central Japan Tuesday damaged religious
     artifacts in the ancient capital of Kyoto, the Kyodo news agency
     said. In Sanjusangendo, a temple famed for the beauty of its wood
     carving, six of the 1,001 thousand-handed statues of Kannon were
     left lop-sided by the quake. Kannon is a Buddhist goddess of mercy
     who is supposed to appear to people in need. In Koryuji, one of
     Japan's oldest temples, three statues of the Buddha fell over and
     two others were damaged. In Seiryoji, part of the halo of the
     Amida Nyorai, the Buddha of the western paradise, fell off and
     five other Buddha statues were also damaged. A crack appeared in
     the wall of a five-story pagoda in Daigoji, and the buildings of
     Tofukuji, Rokuharamitsuji, Kodaiji and Ninnaji were also damaged.
     The quake also damaged some Buddha statues in Horyuji in nearby
     Nara, a temple that is the world's oldest wooden structure.
I am telling you that if you are going to be a Christian, let it not be done
because you want to do what everyone else will do. No. You will not cut it as a
Christian. You will never dedicate yourselves like these people did to rebuild
the walls. You will never be able to weep for the city's sins let alone your own
sins. The enemy will sweep you off your feet, tossed as a wave by the lusts of
the world. You must remember it was God who brought the enemy to tear
down the walls of Jerusalem. Don't stake your life on these things. They will
fade away; you will perish. But instead put your hopes on the eternal kingdom
of God. Store up things for this eternal kingdom now. The walls of this
corruptible state will be torn down. God will give us a new body one day to
gloriously portray His inner glory.

Many of you say you believe in Jesus Christ, but honestly are not following
Him. You would choose to live as a normal person rather than give up your
home, life, friends for Christ. But God is calling you to come out of the world
and belong to Him.
Will you make Him your truest treasure?
Will you prize what He prizes?
Does your faith need rebuilding?

I think so. Make sure you rebuild it firmly and squarely on the teachings of
God's precious Word. For the just will live by faith, not by sight.

                       OUR COMMON CONFESSION

A. Acknowledging Their Existence (Neh 1:1-3)
B. Entering In (Neh 1:4)
C. Breaking Down the Walls (Neh 1:5-7)
D. Bringing Down God's Blessings (Neh 1:8-11)

Intro We find from I Timothy 2:1 that we are to bring all sorts of prayers
and entreaties to God on behalf of men. We are not just to pray for the good
people but for the fallen, lost and wicked. To the degree we pray and
intercede on the behalf of others, we will be able to be a bridge of God's
grace to their lives. Some of you have unsaved relatives, friends and
roommates. Real concern goes beyond just giving what we have such as time,
food, friendship, and money. These are great and are very important. But we
need to realize the importance of prayer. Prayer admits at least two things:
1) We lack something; we need something and
2) God is able and willing to bring those things we most desperately need.
A life without prayer, is a life without dependence upon God. If we don't
depend upon God, then we don't in fact need a Savior. Some think that being
saved is all there is to a Christian life. This is a most superficial and artificial
view of a Christian life. Salvation is the beginning of the Christian life, not
the end (as we see it in time).

But there is a prayer we may make on the behalf of others that not many of
us think about. Say we do care about others, and we know of their needs. We
pray that they might get what they need so their hearts can be open to the
goodness of God. As Is 30:18 says, God longs to show His goodness.

              "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you,
          And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you."

There is one trouble with this. We need to weaken the walls of sin. Sins of
long time have produced a structure around these people's lives which bring
about God's wrath. What we need is to learn how to confess sins on the
behalf of other people. This might sound very strange, but we have biblical
teaching in support of it. Jesus' suffering serves as our primes example.
There are two aspects of Christ's suffering for us. He not only suffered for
us, which linked Him to our lives, but He suffered the punishment of our sins.
This latter point is unique. The sinless dying for the sinful. But the former
identification with is something we see in His high priestly prayer. "Surely our
griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows he carried" (Is 53:4).

Once Christ identified with us, He could do things on our behalf as if one of
us. He entered humankind's house of sin and confessed the sin of our wicked
lives. He did something that we could never do and that was to die for other
people's sins as a atoning sacrifice. But what we can do is to offer up those
confessional and repentant prayers on the behalf of another. In this way, we
as an element within that house, begins to seek God's face. The promise is
repeated again and again in the scriptures, that if a people pray, and humble
themselves, God will turn His face and shine His blessings upon those people.

You might wonder how does this differ from the Roman Catholic's teaching of
confession. There are at least three problems with the Roman Catholics
confession regarding our discussion.
Firstly, only the professionals, the clergy, are able to intercede for the sins
of the people. Scripture says all of God's people are priests. Rev. 1 says we
are a kingdom of priests.

Secondly, we find that the Roman Catholic priests pray only for the sins of
the church people, wherein, I am saying we are to pray for those who are lost,
who do not have access to God. Romans 5:1 says clearly that every Christian
has access to God through Jesus Christ.

Thirdly, we are not those who gain forgiveness for individual sins. Instead we
stand before God and ask that He treat us not as sinners and pour His
abundant grace upon our hearts as a group. We do not ask forgiveness for
this person or that sin of his, but our general sin.

If we only pray for blessings, it doesn't turn away God's wrath. God might
hear your prayers, but this does not stand for a big change in God's heart
toward those people. But if you can identify yourself as one of that group by
because of living, working or going through a certain place, then you can begin
to pray a confessional prayer for others. Remember, we cannot forgive
others. We can only be humbled because we as a group have greatly sinned
against God. When we begin to pray, God begins to change His disposition
toward this people and then the blessings begin to fall. Notice how Nehemiah
said in Neh 1:9 that "if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do
them, ..." God will bless them.

Nehemiah proves to be a great example of how God through one person
humbly praying can change God's disposition to a group of people and the rays
of His grace begin to pierce through the clouds. God did not require a
prominent man to pray for his people, but he did use one. We will find it
wasn't because he was rich but because God saw his broken heart for the sins
of his people. Let's look at 4 things Nehemiah did that brought a refreshing
blessing upon the land and so be challenged how God can use our prayers to
begin to bring God's grace on people we are part of.

A. Acknowledging Their Existence (Neh 1:1-3) Understanding Our
Predicament
The very first thing that happens is that Nehemiah hears about the present
situation of his people. It's amazing the things we know but we don't know. I
can't imagine that Nehemiah never knew about the circumstances of his
people before this, but somehow hearing an updated version stimulated his
thinking and touched his heart.

This is so typical. We might know of some desperate situation in the place you
grew up or the place you now live. But you get used to it. You accept it. And
besides this, when you look at the neighborhood, read the newspaper, or hear
the news, you think of it as someone out there. You think of moving away. You
argue with yourself that you only live there, or go to school there or work
there. The real problem is that you do not think of yourself as part of that
group.

If you think about your situation in this way, then you would not really yet
understand the place you live in. You would not really acknowledge that
community's real predicament. You would not feel God's wrath upon that
place. You would not care about the people there. They are not people as far
as you are concerned. You just want to get your degree and get out. But
something woke Nehemiah up. Somehow this personal report opened his eyes
to the great distress in the heart of the people there. Before he knew about
it, but now he felt it. The situation went from being their problem to "our"
problem. He could feel their pain as if it was his. He could see the tears come
down the old woman's face as if it was his mother's own tears. He was living
in the palace, but his heart was there in Jerusalem with its broken gates and
heavily burdened people.

It is time we opened our eyes to the real reports of the pains of the society
where we begin to stop seeing crime, immorality, gambling, and separation as
normal and neutral. We need to see the monstrous dark chains the evil one
has on the lost. Instead of condemning them, let us care for them. For by
themselves, they cannot escape their troubles.

Application Have we begun to feel the pains of those around us? Or have we
isolated ourselves from the distressed community? Christian compassion is
not donating a bit of money to salve your conscience but to begin to feel their
pains and sufferings.
B. Entering In (Neh 1:4) Grieving Over Our Situation
Something was different this time. When he heard this news of Jerusalem, it
was as if it was his only family. It was as if he just heard the announcement
from the doctor that a loved one just died. He was gripped so much that it
interrupted his regular routine. In chapter 2 we learn that when he regularly
came and served the king, he always wore a happy face. This was part of his
job. He risked his life, if he appeared sad before the king. But Nehemiah was
so weighed down by this burden for his people, that even when his life
depended upon it, he could no longer force a smile. Notice the progression in
this verse. His response was genuine as it was deep and deep as it was
genuine. This is not a simple raise your hand, write a check, visit the soup
kitchens, etc. ...

He sat down. When things get so bad, you get a little confused, flushed and
dizzy. One must sit down. The report is simply overwhelming.
He wept. This helps interpret the real meaning of sitting down. He wasn't
just settling down snuggled in a cozy watching the midnight movie. He was
moved by the story to such a degree it gripped his emotions. Some people will
reject emotions as unreliable. True, they are not to be followed, but emotions
and feelings are part of our being. If there is something grievous, then our
hearts should feel that pain.
He mourned for days. This is exactly what we see the servant doing in
Isaiah 53. He was dying with the people. He took their sins upon Him, and felt
their pain. Nehemiah grieved as if it was his own. He was a wreck. He no doubt
cried until there was no more tears. He mourned till he slept in his sorrow.
He fasted and prayed before God. Up to now we were looking at a response
to this news. It gripped his heart and life. But now, something else seems to
come about. It is true that fasting is sometimes a response to a situation. I
admit it could be here. He didn't feel like eating. The way it is phrased seems
to indicate that this is more a deliberate response rather than an involuntary
one. He chose to fast. Just like he chose to pray. We can see that he began
to see this as a way of dealing with the problem over a period of time, and not
just being smashed down by its weight.

Nehemiah entered their lives. He accepted that he was at fault with his
people. He saw that his predicament and their predicament was the same! Do
you remember E.T. and the boy lying next to him; ones pain was another; one's
thoughts was the other. When Nehemiah was completely broken and
effectively linked to them, he at that point could begin to intercede on their
behalf.

Application When was the last time you responded to a miscarriage, a divorce,
a murder, a rape, a fellow student's alcoholism by seeing him as one of you?
He is a fellow colleague, a fellow student, a fellow Oaklander. He is your
neighbor. He is Chinese. How many of you are weeping because of the forced
abortion murders in China? How many grieve because of this situation? How
many grieve because of oppression? It is probably true that our government
is killing people by its mal-motivated and malfunctioning welfare system, but
are we weeping with our inner city people who are being crushed under the
system? Have we entered in? Have we entered the compassion of Christ?

You say, but your life will be like a ping pong ball. You will have no stability in
your life. Your crying will go on forever. I don't know enough to truly answer
you on this. Maybe it is true, maybe not. My guess from Nehemiah's life is
that grieving is a process. It takes time to identify with and be one with
those you mourn. This is not a slot machine. And because of our hardness, it
might take 1 month or 20 years, but we need to feel the wrath of God upon
those around us. But this I know. We have far too little compassion on the
lost. We are saved and have let them fall behind us as we move ahead and out.
But perhaps, if we responded as Nehemiah, we would begin to take hope in the
one who can give hope, the Living God.

One might ask, can we have compassion on people that we don't live with?
Well, Nehemiah did. It is possible, but the truth still remains that we will
about those around us a lot more if our family and futures are the same as
our neighbor.

C. Breaking Down the Walls (Neh 1:5-7) Confessing Our Sin
The grieving and identifying process leads into group confession. As I said in
my introduction, confession on behalf of the people is the means God's
blessings begin to fall on the people. Without this general entreaty for the
people, our prayers will be negligent. God's wrath is upon the sins of the
people. We don't want individual blessings; we want to see a general change on
the whole situation. We don't want just one law on the books to keep crime
out of our neighborhoods, we want to see the heart of crime disappear by a
desire to serve one another.

Nehemiah looked at the scripture and deliberately confessed the sin he saw
around them. The confession is one of generality as well as specific acts. But
Nehemiah confessed in faith. He believed God heard his confession in place of
the Israelites. We see the principle that humble confession leads to a
beneficent change in the way God deals His people. From I Tim 2 we see this
principle can be equally applied to the Gentiles, to us as well.

Remember, it is not simply confession. It is identification confession. In our
intercessory prayer, for example, we could pray for the Iraqis because we are
like them a member of the fallen human race. We as a people have gone
astray. We confess the sins of our rebellious world because we are one of its
fallen inhabitants.

The clear qualification to do this is a true hate for sin and a belief that God
can forgive sin. We must identify as much as we can with those we confess
for.

I believe this is the attitude Christ had in Himself when he became a man. He
left His royal glory and took upon a man's robe (Ph 2:6-8). This is I believe a
part of what Paul alludes to in Colossians 1:24. Somehow Christ's afflictions,
His sorrow and pain were not full, His body the church would make up the
rest. The point is not that God is a masochist who enjoys inflicting pain. But
by identifying with others, we are able to help and therefore reap in heavenly
blessings.

D. Bringing Down God's Blessings (Neh 1:8-11) Laying Hold of God's
Promises
The last stage is asking for the blessings of heaven to fall upon that
community, race or nation. The promise is that humility and confession lead to
a change in the way God treats a people
(II Chr 7:13-15). We must believe God hears our prayers and desires a
change. You might think of this promise only for God's people, but you need to
realize God's wrath piles up on groups and nations, even communities. Think of
Nineveh. We must not think Nehemiah's prayer would only change God's
disposition to the nation of Israel. What does God say in Jonah? He speaks
clearly that God's compassion is great for the wicked city of Nineveh. It
would be easy to agree with Jonah and not preach God's judgement. But
Jonah knew that it is possible that God in His compassion would bring use this
word and bring repentance upon the city. It is time we stopped wishing the
end of this world and its judgment. It will come. While there is time, we must
use every means to bring upon God's blessing upon our communities.

And if it means we must stop isolating ourselves from them, priding ourselves
that we live a life different from them, then let's humble ourselves and see
that God's grace is great. If it is great enough for us, then it is for them too.
God is longing to show His compassion upon those around us. God has
appointed us to be the kingdom of priests to intercede for them. Will we
harden our hearts and say it is their problem, or will we, humbled because of
God's grace expressed to us, begin to see the burden of God's judgment on
those around us and together with them confess our sins and seek God's
blessing on our lives?

Conclusion
"And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there
are more than 120,000 persons?" Jonah 4:11. And should I not have
compassion on Pittsburgh, the great city, in which there are more than
100,000? And should I not have compassion on Shanghai, the great city, in
which there are more than 10,000,000?

God's compassion is sufficient. He is waiting for us to fill the gap, to become
the bridge of His blessing to the nations.

Nehemiah 1:1-2:5

                      Lord, I Open My Heart to You
Step #1 I Heard Because I Inquired {Neh 1:1-3}
Step #2 I Prayed Because I Heard {Neh 1:4-11c}
Step #3 I Acted Because I Prayed {Neh 1:11d-2:5}

Intro We need a love for God's people and His great work. Our neglect of
prayer and the way we easily forget His purpose reveal a rather unwilling and
stubborn heart. We say we want great things of God. We say we love God. We
say we love His people. But look at our lives. Look at the way we criticize
others and blame them for our troubles. Notice our personal and public
prayer lives. Today I'd like to speak about one person living in a very pagan
environment who through his prayer and dedicated life God used to advance
His people in completing an essential part of His plan. This is Nehemiah. This
book is one of three historical books written after the captivity in Babylon or
Persia.

Recently in our midst, we have seen God do marvelous things. 80 people
dedicated themselves to God's purposes at ACR. Already several have made
decisions in furthering themselves in better understanding what God wants.
Judy Khuu, our mission deaconess, hopes to attend seminary as early as this
fall. But you know how easy it is for God to move His people and then His
people in turn forget what they said to God. God has revealed to us His
general plans for us. We know about meeting together weekly; we know about
our general participation in the Great Commission. But we can look around and
see what God is doing and know that He is moving in other special ways. We
can see that we must accomplish His work. We can see worship schedules,
many regular fellowship meetings. But God has been working extra special in
our lives. We have see 54 from our church dedicate themselves to do
whatever God wants. This is like one quarter of our church! Are we going to
be faithful or are we going to forget what God has done among us? I again
challenge you what our response should be. It doesn't matter whether you
are one who signed your name or not for if we are not on the front lines, then
we should be actively supporting the ones who are.

One can look at these things in two ways: as work done, which enables us to
sit back and think we are doing quite fine or as work yet undone which calls us
to heightened attention to accomplish those things not yet accomplished. I'd
like us to look at Nehemiah and challenge you with three proper responses
required to fulfill God's yet unfulfilled holy work.

Step #1 I heard because I inquired {Neh 1:1-3}
Many of you don't really care how others are doing. Some hear how things are
going, and yet it is the wrong time of hearing. You hear of certain things from
your teacher, Christian friend, and preacher, but you are not hearing the way
God would have you hear. In order to hear correctly, you must have a heart of
inquiry. You want to know because you care about them. It is not gossip but it
is information that brings genuine concern in your heart. This is the reason
that care and concern should proceed plans; love must come before action,
otherwise we see plans being more important than people. Nehemiah had
things right. We see his properly hearing certain things was because he cared
about people, especially his brethren.

Some people believe in luck or coincidences. I don't. I believe in the
sovereignty of God. When Paul couldn't go further inland on one missionary
trip, Luke "happened" to show up and expanded Paul's vision to cross the
Aegean Sea and preach the gospel there. This is no accident nor is God's work
in our midst an accident. We don't just happen to meet people. {eg. Pat
Thompson invited Gordon after 20 years}.

A heart desiring to know of God's plans will bring us into contact with real
needs. Nehemiah heard shocking stories. I am sure he heard more than the
demise of the wall of Jerusalem. He no doubt heard some good stories, but
one thing filtered through the others. There was a great need among God's
people. Though they had rebuilt the temple somewhat, the gates were burned
and so they had no protection against their enemies. The people were
fearsome and demoralized. They seem that they could not get over that
problem. They were stuck.

Others listening might have focused on some of the good stories. They would
repeat it like a common joke. Or it might be like hearing a documentary on
one's old homeland. One hears a lot of interesting facts. Or more particularly,
he might ask, "How is so and so doing?" Or "Is that good restaurant still
there?" And maybe Nehemiah, being a person, would ask such things. But this
is clear, his inquiry was born out of a genuine love. He was one that searched
out God's heart for those people.

Application When you heard the report on China, on Asia or on other needs,
are you interested merely on what is interesting, or are you paying attention
to the spiritual need in that place? Are you looking at this world just for your
benefit to see where to invest or to see what God is doing around the world?
Perhaps there are some of you who are so caught up in their plans, their
world, their girlfriend, their work or their personal relationship problems,
that you can't even begin to listen to God's world. God told us to have no
other God before us. Let us sit at his feet and listen to what he wants. I
remember my godly grandfather who went blind around 75 because of
glaucoma. He would sit in his room upstairs and listen to the radio. But he
wouldn't just listen. Hour after hour, he would listen and pray. I remember as
a boy how I thought that to be such a waste of time. But there was a
difference between him and I. He was concerned and praying; I was selfish
and only concerned for my own little life. Oh, that I won't just look at this
world with concern in me. Oh, that God might move us so that when we are
moved such at ACR or other places, that we are so genuinely moved that we
do not forget, but instead down deep we are changed because we care.

Step #2 I prayed because I heard {Neh 1:4-11c}
Nehemiah cared so much for those people. He cared about God's work. He
cared so much that it interfered with his regular schedule. I'd like to briefly
share how Nehemiah responded upon hearing such discouraging news of
Jerusalem. He responded right away. Nor was he forgetful. He avoided
forgetting what he could discern as being so important to him at one point in
life by properly responding. Let's observe his response.

He humbled his heart {1:4}. He sat and wept and mourned for days. He was
fasting and praying before the God of heaven. He didn't have any solutions.
He cared. Yes, he thought, as we will later see. But God gripped him with news
of a real need. His heart was so overtaken that he sat down and cried. How
little we honestly mourn! Our repentant prayers and humbled words are more
"lip words" than "heart words." But the Lord wants to see our hearts
responding not just our lips. His love was shaping his response. Nehemiah
indeed had a comfortable lifestyle. He was all set. He had an prestigious
position. It is not like a cabinet position here where it will change along with
the President but because of the king's life long position, it was a rather
stable position.

It is so easy for us to say that we care, but are we shaken from our
comfortable lives enough to respond? I know we can't respond to all the news
we hear, but when we rightly listen, then on certain items, we will be moved.
We need to hear the world with Jesus' ears and see the world with his eyes.
Have you ever fasted for a special need of others or has it always been for
yourself? Have you mourned for others more than for yourself? Do you
regularly and sincerely pray more for others than for your self? God wants a
heart response. God wants us to pray because there are needs. {Concert of
Prayer}

He respected God's purposes {1:5}. Nehemiah didn't say God was unfair or
that those people are victims. Instead he properly begins his prayer with full
recognition of who God is. He didn't try to bring God under the situation but
the situation under God's greatness. True service begins with sincere
worship. He states God's greatness. He also focuses on His covenant. Far too
often we have the audacity to plan God's plans for Him! This is because we
have an inaccurate view of God. We really can't control Him, but thankfully
we can serve Him.

Common Confession {1:6-7}. When we respond with our hearts rather than
just emotion, our pride is set aside. Instead of seeing how great we are, we
see the sin involved. We see that even though we might have a great mission
program, it would collapse if we had not learned of true confession. True
confession enables us to look at ourselves the way God looks at us. We then
find only one response. We tell Him of the wrong in a manner which shows we
are sorry for such things. Nehemiah could participate in this, though perhaps,
he seemed not to be included. He was a righteous man and didn't live during
the captivity. But he found something in common. He was one of them. He
joined in confessing the sins of these people. It is much easier to accept
praise for something you haven't done than to take blame for something you
haven't done! I find it important that in praying for a certain people, that we
join together with them confessing their sins just because we are part of
mankind with them. Though Jesus had no sin, we see he identified with the
Israelites by being baptized in water and even in a most horrible way
identified with man by taking their sin upon Himself and by dying on the
cross.

Remembered the covenant truths {1:8-10}. Nehemiah like Jeremiah before
him and Moses before him goes back to the agreement God had made with His
people. There are promises therein by which they can draw hope. For
Nehemiah and the Israelites, it meant an explanation as to why they were
scattered about and a mention of God's promise to bring them back to the
land. For us, we go to the New Covenant and find an explanation of our
present problems as well as hope in His promises and plans. We might think of
a oppressed nation like North Korea. Have you prayed for N. Korea. Have you
only thought about the possibility of a war disturbing your life or have you
thought of the people who have been imprisoned away from the gospel for
many years? With Kim dead, it is a most strategic time. We might not think
there is any hope, but those who know of the covenant of God, the gospel
brings hope to any people who trust in Him.

Intercede on the behalf of Others {1:11}. It is no good to study about
prayer and not pray. Nor is it good to pray without a heart for a people
because you really need to identify with them. We plead with God on behalf
of these people. We stand ready to do whatever He wants us to do. This is
why it is hard to pray for a people without caring for them for if God would
want to use you to be part of this answer, then you must be ready. There is
no substitute for prayer.

One of the main reasons I am preaching about this today is that we need to
respond to God's work. If He is raising up front line warriors from our
congregation, then we must stand with them in prayer. Are we going to send
our young, our brightest, our best and not stand with them in the battle? You
might find one person on that list and pray for them. Pray they go forward.
Pray they will succeed far more than they ever thought. I fear we as a
congregation will not stand with them. God is already planning to send some of
our leaders such as Youth and Junior Youth fellowship leaders away for
service. Who will take their places? Who will diligently pray for them.

Step #3 I acted because I prayed {Neh 1:11d-2:5}
God doesn't call everyone who prays with a caring heart, but it is very likely
that those He does call will be from those that do pray and care about a
certain people. So we should not be surprised to see that God was burdening
Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the great King Artaxerxes, to step out in faith
to accomplish what was on the heart of God. Even on the lips of his prayer,
Nehemiah was making himself available to God.

Now don't think that this was easy to do. He was under intense pressure by
his position. He was never to look sad before the king. This was plain court
law, but he allowed this problem to sadden his face. Whoops! The king
noticed, but instead of sentencing him with death, he gave Nehemiah an
opportunity to share what was on his heart. Nehemiah knew he could have lost
his position, or his life, but when God burdens a heart, he rightly learned to
follow through and trust God for the consequences.

Yes, we might never get our old jobs back. Or we might lose some benefits. It
might cost us trouble, but these things because of love interfere with the
normal calculating power. You remember how God called Caleb and Esther. He
had a comfortable job and house, but they cared about people. They
ministered to them. And from that, they saw, they were willing to leave a
good job, the degrees and serve God's people as a pastor.

Some might think it is dangerous to pray. Yes, it is. Maybe God will choose you
out of the other concerned people. But, think again the reason God made you.
Would it not be more ideal, more wonderful, more beautiful to find yourself
to be a solution to someone with a need. For if we call ourselves Christians,
but can't find ourselves to step beyond the concern for our own lives, then
John rightly questions whether we are true Christians.

Any true prayer for some people has to include a statement, a willingness, to
go to that place and be part of the solution. The question is are we so shaped
in our heart that we are living for Jesus and others? Someone's life is more
important than ours. God's plans for other lives are more important than ours.

Conclusion Do you have the heart of prayer?
Have you responded with real sincere Christian activities?
Are you willing to go? Are you going?


Prayer is the means by which the Lord of all brings His determined purposes
to pass.

                              Nehemiah 1:5-11

                 "PRAYING BEFORE THE GOD OF HEAVEN"
A. Adoration (5)
B. Brokenness (6a)
C. Confession (6b-7)
D. Dependence (8-10)
E. Entreaty (11)
Life
Life isn't about keeping score.
It's not about how many friends you have
Or how accepted you are.
Not about if you have plans this weekend or if you're alone.
It isn't about who you're dating, who you used to date, how many people
you've dated, or if you haven't been with anyone at all.
It isn't about who you have kissed,
It's not about sex.
It isn't about who your family is or how much money they have.
Or what kind of car you drive.
Or where you are sent to school.
It's not about how beautiful or ugly you are.
Or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on, or what kind of music you
listen to.
It's not about if your hair is blonde, red, black, or brown
Or if your skin is too light or too dark.
Not about what grades you get, how smart you are, how smart everybody
else thinks you are, or how smart standardized tests say you are.
It's not about what clubs you're in or how good you are at "your" sport.
It's not about representing your whole being on a piece of paper and seeing
who will "accept the written you."
LIFE JUST ISN'T.

But, life is about who you love and who you hurt.
It's about who you make happy or unhappy purposefully.
It's about keeping or betraying trust.
It's about friendship, used as a sanctity or a weapon.
It's about what you say and mean, maybe hurtful, maybe heartening.
About starting rumors and contributing to petty gossip.
It's about what judgments you pass and why. And who your judgments are
spread to.
It's about who you've ignored with full control and intention.
It's about jealousy, fear, ignorance, and revenge.
It's about carrying inner hate and love, letting it grow, and spreading it.
But most of all, it's about using your life to touch or poison
other people's hearts in such a way that could have never occurred alone.
Only you choose the way those hearts are affected, and those choices are
what life's all about.

These words were passed on from a non-Christian; I don't know of their
origin. Anyone holding onto worlds like these can only move forward in this
volley of life. They sense the sting and pain of life. In a sense it summarizes
Nehemiah's great resistance to only view the world from his easy chair and to
step into the sweaty work of redemption. Satan's game is to see how long he
can keep us playing the world even though through our confession of Jesus we
have vowed to leave our participation in the world. His specialty is creating
toys which distract us from our main calling.

But what happens when words like these get at the heart of God's people?
What happens when we let a mission report like the one which Nehemiah
heard speak its truthful and poignant words? We are great experts of
deflection, lifting up our arms and deflecting the spears of truth off to
either side like some Kungfu expert. But when they are no longer shielded,
they come with such a thrust, we wonder if we will be able to endure them.
But let the messages of pain and suffering hit our hearts. Let them come! If
we have kept them off our hearts for 5, 10, or perhaps 20 years, then we
need to remedy our warped perception of the world to be formed the way the
Lord would have it. Listen again to Nehemiah's response in Nehemiah 1:4,

"Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and
mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven."

In his fasting and praying, in his mourning and weeping, we know his prayer
was real. These kinds of prayers about the pain of others, the lostness of
others are what God is straining to hear. If God has designed for His plan of
work to be accomplished through our prayers, then let our prayers be
multiplied. Yes, we can pray and the world be changed, but our own secure
views of success have to first be broken. We need to learn to die to
ourselves, to carry the cross of Christ. Is this not what our Master did when
He went down to be baptized in the river of Jordan? There He took up the
cross of the world and later hung on it so that the world might be saved. He
was willing to put His personal preferences aside so to let God's concern fill
His soul and consume His life on earth. May it ever be so with us that we will
turn from underestimating and underesteeming the special work that God
greatly desires to do through each one of us.

     This is the first of many prayers in the book of Nehemiah. One might
     wonder why there are so many prayers written in a book, but they do
     have their purpose. They let us sense the agony of a manand the burden
     of his heart. They also provide the evidence that there is a God who
     does hear prayer. Because this is one of the longest prayers in the book,
     we will look at it more in detail. Remember his anguish over the report
     stirred his heart to pray. He was already living a righteous life. He
     already knew well the Word of God. Undoubtedly he would grow, but we
     find that the time he spent with other godly companions made him well
     prepared for one of the great works in history because God was behind
     the great work of rebuilding a city. Remember this is a specialized
     prayer for a certain situation at a certain time. But still we can sense
     the principles used in this prayer are very helpful. Let me mention a few
     of this emphases in prayer. We should pay close attention as to how he
     prayed. Sometimes we have not prayed correctly. However, we do know
     that God did mightily answer Nehemiah's prayer. Let's focus on five
     important emphases that should often be part of our prayers.

     A. Adoration (5) Right focus on God's awesome glory -
     Real prayer cannot begin but by coming before God Himself. If God is
     not really there, then it doesn't matter what you said or that you
     prayed at all. But if there really is an almighty majestic creator God,
     then it makes every bit of sense to come properly before Him. You
     would not wear a swimsuit for a job interview nor should we come
     sloppily before His majestic presence. God cares far less about our
     clothes and fame in the world than about our understanding of Him. If
     we want to get anywhere with God we need faith. We need a clear and
     affirmative understanding of who He is.

     The danger I find in a backslidden state is that some people can mumble
     a lot of attributes of God, but the words are only knowledge not yet
     applied to their lives. They leave no real impact upon their lives. God is
     all-knowing, but they still worry about tomorrow. God is holy but they
still lightly deal with the sins of their mouths. What we say about God is
very important, but our heart and faith behind those words must back
them up. Praise words without heart adoration is empty. But when you
combine your thrill and fear of God with these truths of who He is, then
all of a sudden the meaning of worship strikes you. You are taken aback.

What did Nehemiah say in this moment of worship? In Nehemiah 1:5 he
says,

"And I said, "I beseech Thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and
awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those
who love Him and keep His commandments."

He clearly recognized His authority over all things. Nothing is too great
for God. He saw the world through his eyes and yet he knew of a
greater God ruling over everything he saw. We today do not use the
word 'sovereign' to describe God's power. Perhaps it is because we are
flooded with democracies where authority and rulership is shared with
the people. Nehemiah could see the emperor, King Artaxerxes, with all
of the power of his word. Basically, what he wanted he got. But he knew
and down deep believed, there was one far greater than King
Artaxerxes.

Application When this truth begins to take hold of your heart, you begin
to stop fearing man and start fearing God. You stop fearing what man
might say or do. Just like our move to Oakland. We can look at all of
the impossibilities, but in the end we must recognize God's sovereignty
even over man. We also would start to fear God. I can easily imagine
that Nehemiah was not naturally comfortable coming before the
emperor. But when God puts something on your heart, you know you have
to do something. You fear the consequences of not doing what He says.

The other main truth expressed in this prayer is regarding God's
preserving the covenant. Nehemiah could take steps ahead in faith
because of 1) God's faithfulness to His covenant and 2) Nehemiah's own
consistent life. Without God's word of the covenant, Nehemiah could
have lived the perfect life but to no avail. In the end it is God's great
covenant work that makes the significant difference. The New
Testament was founded on the work of Christ on the cross.

The power of a godly life was fully shown when God said He would
recognize his devoted life and change nations on account of it. You will
not grow in faith without getting your life together. I have heard many
criticisms of Promise Keepers. But frankly, because the program
challenges our lifestyle along with our faith, I can see why it is so
effective and why God would be willing to use such a program outside
the church. The church has in many ways missed this connection.
Nehemiah made the most of it.

Application What about you? Can you demand something from God
because of your righteous behavior?! More than often we are a bunch of
spiritual sissies.

Nehemiah's conception of God greatly shaped the choices he made in
life. We must not think that God would have us do what Nehemiah was
called to. Nehemiah was Nehemiah. On the other hand, wouldn't it be a
shame, a mockery of our lives, if we theologically professed all the right
doctrines about God, but never lived our lives as if we really believed
them. We need to fear this awesome God. We can sense the reason God
is so angry with our Bible-saturated, commentary-dictated church.

B. Brokenness (6a) Right heart: he had a need for God to help -
presumption is pride
The second emphasis in prayer was his great need for help. Nehemiah
was broken. He did not have a way to accomplish what he sensed needed
to be done. He was a desperate man. Some people think they have
prayed a lot. They think God hasn't heard their prayers. But their
greatest problem is that they simply are not broken in their hearts. Oh,
they might be sorrowful over the condition of things, but they are not
broken over the right thing. A simple example is the anger people show
when they are impatient in traffic. I could give you a host of words
angry people have said and offensive driving patterns because of their
anger. But are you upset because they get away with cutting in line and
you didn't or are you sorrowful over the impoliteness in that person and
the danger they are in before God?
More than often we are upset with how we are bothered rather than
how the wrath of God is upon the wicked. It is so easy to operate out of
a sense of pride as if we did everything right, and God perhaps it seems
is doing everything wrong. Yes, you can pray this way complaining to God.
But you do not really care about the root of the problem. You just want
a more convenient life. You don't want other sinners bothering this
sinner. But this does not display a broken heart but a rebellious heart.

By broken I do not mean unable but meek and humble. It is not as if one
has to be completely impoverished before one can come before God, but
one has to believe that without God, he is nothing. He has to understand
that his hope is in what God does for you and others. Our independent
spirit has to be broken before we can sincerely plead for God to hear
our prayer as Nehemiah did in 1:6a,

"Let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open to hear the prayer
of Thy servant which I am praying before Thee now, day and night, on
behalf of the sons of Israel Thy servants..."

Nehemiah is not presuming God to answer his prayer because he is so
great or because his requests are so noble. Now this might seem
contradictory with what I just said about confidence in our prayers
because we are living rightous lives and asking what God desires. But
notice even though in one line Nehemiah can speak so strongly, the next
he is so humble. The issue is that he is not protecting his own life and
purpose. He is not defending himself and his rights.

He understands that God's anger is upon them and if God wanted to,
they would have no hope. God has been patient. He pleads for help. We
see this in when Jesus teaches us to pray for God's will rather than
'our' will. We are must like Christ ask for grace and mercy rather than
entering shooting match with God. A broken heart is a non-demanding
heart. We are not focusing on what we want but what God wants. God is
king; not ourselves.
Application Have you been demanding things from God? Have you been
prideful in your heart because you think you know better? We better
confess our pride.
C. Confession (6b-7) Right confession to break through - sin needs
confession
The third emphasis of confession we find in the last part of verse 6
and 7. This is his ability to confess sins. There is no doubt that, as I
mentioned above, that we need a lot more confession for our sins. But
we also need the confession of sins for others. This might sound "Roman
Catholic," but that is different than what we see with Nehemiah.
Amazingly we find Nehemiah so humble and oblivious of self, that he
speaks as a representative of others in his confession of sin. If the
confession is of our own sin, we must be able to sense the remorseness
of that sin. But Nehemiah was humble enough to confess the sins of
others.

This corporate sense of sin would be judged as improper in our age of
freedom. We think wrongly when we think we can do anything we want
and that whatever anyone else does, does not affect us. Can part of our
body be hurt without the other part feeling the pain? Have we become
so isolated and independent in our selfishness that we cannot identify
ourselves with the problems of some group in this hurting society?

Nehemiah had to go through the whole procedure of forgiveness in his
own life before he could go on asking forgiveness from another.
Nehemiah had to be able to grieve with that sense of corporate guilt.
For indeed God judged the nation of Israel even though there were
righteous men like Jeremiah in it. It only makes sense when we can
humbly pray on the behalf of others we identify with, can we break
down some of the strongholds the evil one makes much use of.

On October 4th there is a Solemn Assembly in Washington D.C. We as
Americans are going to repent for a multitude of sins. This could be just
another meeting with lots of speeches. On the other hand, it might be
the thing that will save this nation. God's anger is great against this
country. You can sense how great it s when you and I don't really care.
We just care about our own lives. Nehemiah was broken with the pains
of the people and like Jesus was baptized in the sins and pain of the
people. He therefore could pray for the nation and thankfully did.
Application Can you go beyond the needs of your own life and confess
the sins of others as if they are your own?

D. Dependence (8-10) Right dependence on God's Word - no
change; Thy will be done
The fouth emphasis of prayer is to depend upon God's promises. Most
often our prayers are to give us this or take away that. Rarely do we
intermix our prayers with the Word of God. Rarely do we have our
prayers come from God's Word. This is the first of the seven
Remember prayers. It is the only one that says "Remember the word...."
The word is God's word. The word is that presuppositional statement
which does not change because it comes from the mouth of God.

Some people pray over their feelings. "Oh, I don't feel like going to
work today. I was up late last night. This morning I was woken up by a
baby crying, a false alarm and I had to go to the bathroom. Maybe God
doesn't want me to go to work. Maybe He wants to show me His
goodness by rewardng me a day off." If you let your feelings steer your
prayers, then you will go down and down until you stop. Your feelings at
this point become a place where you are susceptible to Satan's
whispers. Do you know the Vile one can even give you suggestions in your
mind? He can.

But our focus is on the will of God as declared through His Word. We
see several truth statements in verses 8-10. Let's look briefly at
them:
€ "If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples...." God
already did this. He was faithful.
"But if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them,
though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote
part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them
to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell."

This is the promise of what God would do. It is what Nehemiah is
focusing upon. There are three essential components to fulfill the
requirements.
1) God's people are to return to Him. Nehemiah and at least a small
group had returned to God. They were seeking God's will.
2) Keep His commandments. God's commandments were to shape their
lives. If God means anything to these people, then God's Word must
shape their decisions.
Lastly, 3) They are to "do His commandments." We do not find much
distinction between this and the former. Let us say that it is not enough
just to think about the commandments as tradition but are necessary to
actually do. The people were to do them without the usual score of
excuses. God was nto looking for anything extra good but just the good.
God is not asking for them to make up for the past, but just get back to
the foundation.

Application The only way we as a church is going to be restored is if we
get back to the word of God. We need to meditate on His Word and love
it. Only until we do this will we be able to do His will. Otherwise we will
think we are doing it when we are not doing it. Ignorance plagues the
church with reproach.

This is the reason our church is making serious effort to move. We
sense God wanting us to be faithful in reaching out to all the Chinese in
Pittsburgh as well as others. We sense that we can not do it where we
are now. Obedience requires a move, and we have said that we will do it.
This is a powerful statement before God. A pastor friend of mine says
he is really touched by our willingness to move for the sake of the lost.
We are giving up what will perish in order to gain what is eternal.

E. Entreaty (11) Right request to accomplish God's will - how can
God answer wrong request?!
We need to make specific requests. Let God know what you need. Some
people ask why do we need to ask what God already knows? The issue is
that :
1) He has said you must pray it for it to be done, and
2) You must come to that point to realization that only God can help and
so you trust Him for it.

What happens as a result? God gets the glory. If you didn't ask God,
youmight consider yourself lucky, but when you pray, you dare not say it
was just luck.
     I have been trying to say to people who think we accidently have a nice
     church that this is because you are in a nice church. They do not
     understand how much God has blessed this place. In a sense it is a place
     where one can easily get the fear of God because things are so right. I
     say it is because God's people are praying. God's people have been
     obeying. Therefore we give praise to God for letting us be here.


     Summary
     Nehemiah's prayer was so powerful because the love of God got into the
     life and schedule of Nehemiah. His life turned about when he heard the
     report. I hope we so train our sons and daughters to be able to hear
     God's reports and so if God calls them into any special work, they are
     not lacking in knowledge or experience. But we must also come back to
     our own lifes. Will we really stop playing the world's game and begin to
     pray like we are suppose to?

Nehemiah 2:9-20 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #5

               IN ANTICIPATION TO GOD'S GREAT WORK
A. The Needed Preparations (ch. 1-2)
B. The Careful Planning (2:9-2:20)

Intro
God's greatest works are seen in the way He uses the poor, uneducated, the
broken-hearted and depressed to take part in His glorious and holy
redemptive process. In Acts 3 and 4 we find the apostles taken prisoner for
preaching Jesus Christ. What did their enemies state? In Acts 4:13-14, we
read,
      "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and
      understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were
      marveling, and [began] to recognize them as having been with Jesus. And
      seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had
      nothing to say in reply."

God takes the regular and normal and makes godly evangelists and pastors
giving their lives to serve others. The difference is found in their coming to
know the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not dead but risen. Have you met Him
yourself? Peter and John boldly proclaimed in Acts 4:12, "And there is
salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has
been given among men, by which we must be saved."

God takes the raw material of sinful men and does a great work in and
through them. If you travel by the Pittsburgh rivers, you will often find coal,
iron ore and other materials in huge barges being shipped up the river. This
rock is commonly found in these parts. The rock useless in its own form, is
made very useful in a very hot fire treatment from which steel and iron come.
At one time Pittsburgh ore could be found in great warships.

God is able to change people and use them. In using them, they see the
glorious person of God. In serving God, they are personally enriched. I am not
just thinking of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah who were outstanding men during
the exile times. Yes, each of them were haggled and desperate prisoners
from a far away land. But in meeting with God, they were transformed to such
a degree they were mightily used of God. But this is the way of God with
everyone He meets for redemptive purposes. In Ephesians 4:11-13 the
Apostle Paul says,

     "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as
     evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the
     saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
     until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
     Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which
     belongs to the fullness of Christ."
God is intent on transforming all of us together into the perfect body of
Christ. We indeed are not the same but as different parts of the body, God is
forming a beautiful bride for Christ.

We might think that everything depended upon Nehemiah, but through his
many prayers we should realize it was God working through him. The people
were demoralized, broken and oppressed. Nehemiah was a key man that God
used in rebuilding these people. If we think the wall was the main task, you
will quickly learn differently. The whole society needed rebuilding and
therefore the people needed to be changed. How often we make laws without
fitting the people for these laws! We will first examine how Nehemiah go
started in this work through a bit of review and then secondly by paying
special detail to the things he did once Nehemiah got to Jerusalem. Have you
given up on yourself? You don't quite know where you fit in? Just hang in
there for God has His plans for you.

A. The Needed Preparations (ch. 1-2)
We have a hard time understanding the wonderful things that quickly
followed the time when Nehemiah went before the king of the Persian empire
and got commissioned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. All the anguish and
burden for his people in Jerusalem, all of his tears, fasting and prayers were
released at one point in time. This is much like an interview where people get
so pumped up. They buy new clothes, study about the business, learn about
the people and organization as much as possible. They might even get a
haircut! Then the big day comes. The interview. You pretend self-confidence
as much as possible. You look more organized than you ever have been before,
and maybe you are. The interview progresses and is finally over. Hopefully you
will be given an offer, but maybe not. Well, you will try out other places for a
job too.

However when Nehemiah came before the king, you must remember the
stakes involved in his quasi interview were much more serious. It wasn't for
himself he has been weeping, fasting and prayer. If this did not turn out, then
the people would suffer. Some Jews had already been back in Jerusalem
about 90 years. There were at least three main return of exiles to Jerusalem.
Zerubbabel led the first one in 536 B.C.. Ezra the scribe led the second in
455 B.C.. Now Nehemiah leads the third in 445 B.C.. We can sense that the
morale of the people that had gone back in the first two returns was very low.
From verse 1:3 we see they are in "great distress and reproach." If this
interview failed, the people would continue to suffer. Things would get worse
if things turned out poorly before the king. More than this concern for their
needs was the personal cost for breaking protocol before the king and forcing
an interview. If nothing positive came out of this interview with the king, he
would probably be killed for showing sadness before the emperor. Just as this
interview began, it says in 2:4 that he prayed. Everything was in the Lord's
hand now. He just had to await the outcome.
You can imagine what great elation he had when he went home knowing the
Lord had been with him. He not only was able to get letters to the governors
in the lands he would need to cross traveling over to Jerusalem but would also
receive all the wood he needed from Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest
to build the walls. One other thing that Nehemiah got that he did not ask for.
The king would send army officers with horsemen to accompany Nehemiah.
Nehemiah evidently was appointed something of a governor, though it is never
mentioned. In his position, it would be most appropriate to have some
protection.

After this wonderfully successful interview with the world's greatest king,
Nehemiah was now set up to have the greatest fall. There are numerous
references in the scriptures to those doing well to be careful less they fall.
The higher you go up, the greater the fall. This initial rise to position and
appointment could have been used as a vacation or extensive trip. However, he
did not get caught in the success of this affair. Success is one of the
greatest tests of character. Nehemiah could have rested in the way God used
him, but we find that he never allowed pride to slow him down one step.

Application
€ We must keep our eyes off our one or two successes. Our head gets too big.
We wrongly focus on our lives rather than God's enabling and the mission to
be accomplished.
We must remember that encouraging plans and preparations are not the same
as a fulfilled mission. Nehemiah did have everything going for him. It looked
like an easy success with such a start, but plans are not the same as the
accomplishment of the plans. By remembering this, the disappointment during
future implementation will not be so great.

Our solution is to keep our eyes off ourselves and on our Lord and His
desires. Nehemiah did this well as a cupbearer. He had great self-control.
Every day he could focus on the needs of the king. At this point we see he is
like the cupbearer before God Himself. He lives as if he has not a will of his
own. His mission is the Lord's. His time is the Lord's. His resources are the
Lord's.

B. The Careful Planning (2:9-2:20)
So what did Nehemiah do at first? We find three parts to this first stage of
planning: A Quiet Arrival, A Secretive Investigation and A Public Challenge
(2:17-20).

1. A Quiet Arrival (2:9-11)
The most significant fact was Nehemiah's nonchalant way of coming into the
city. It is true that Ezra after coming to the city, didn't seem to do or touch
anything for three days either (cf. Ez 8:32). Let me make a few assessments.
Some might say that coming on such a long trip and resting for three days
before anything is done is normal procedure. Indeed the rest does refresh
people. Perspective is somewhat restored as one recovering from jet lag. The
travelers probably suffered from 'dust fever.' When we were on our vacation
we saw an old-fashioned stagecoach. One could easily imagine the discomfort
going over dirt roads with all of their holes and dust.
But different from Ezra, Nehemiah came with army captains and horsemen;
no one had to say anything. Their presence clearly announced that something
is going on, either here or elsewhere. Either they are just passing through, or
they are on some kind of mission. Someone important was there. Security
guards have their advantages and disadvantages. Nehemiah all of a sudden
becomes a threat.
The three days dismisses any sudden and unexpected fears. He did not come
in and all of a sudden take over someone's job and kick out all the leaders. He
was being civil. But suspicion still arose.
On the other hand, being quiet for three days, allowed rumors to rise up. The
enemy might take special precautions to prepare herself.

2. A Secretive Investigation (2:12-16)
But this leads us to the question of why such quietness? Why was he
withholding information from everyone? No doubt he did not know who could
be trusted. He was deliberately secretive. After all, if the enemy discovered
what he was up to, they could put him out of action before he started. But in
this case, they did not know what he was up to. They did not know what to do
or say. Maybe he was just passing through.

With his given authority, he did begin to make secret plans. They were secret
so they would not be foiled before they began. But how was he going to make
any plans without seeing what the conditions were of the walls which he was
to rebuild? All of his movements and the movements of his men were being
traced carefully. For the purpose of effective service, he did some midnight
searching. In verses 13-15 we see what he did. It was nothing spectacular
and could have been done much more easily and safely in the morning than the
afternoon, but the secrecy demanded special action. He was not a lazy
politician but a wise one. Going out of the Valley Gate, he went to the Refuse
Gate (Dung Gate) and then inspected the King's Pool. At that point he had to
go by foot and check the place near the ravine on the southeast section of
Jerusalem.

We might think that with his former success with the king of Persia, that he
would have thought this operation was nothing. But he obviously did not think
this way. He did not think, "God is with me no matter what I do." God was
with him but not to do unwise things. He would risk his life before the king
but in this case he was crafty. Nehemiah was not a timid man. But still the
same he could say in verse 12 the plan that "God was putting into my mind to
do for Jerusalem." He was confident of the plan and the operation but saw no
inconsistency that God would use secrecy more than openness in the beginning
of this operation of the Lord Almighty. His reminds me of Matthew 10:16
where Jesus says, "Be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves."

So the polite officials -polite because they were trying to find out what he
was up to-, the Jews, the priests, the nobles , the officials or the workers all
didn't know what Nehemiah was up to. God used this secrecy to have an
impressive and effective start. It allowed him to:
Present the plan to everyone.
Make sure he had everyone's attention because he had their curiosity.
Make sure those wanting to foil the plan would not cast their influence over
the crowds.
Avoid any political infighting - as if he was getting power and others loose it.
His job would not threaten them openly.
He was trusting God to work freely among the people.

We must not say that Nehemiah did not plan but that at times he would do it
in different ways. This time was a secretive plan. He had the authority and
wanted as little amount of trouble as possible.
3. A Public Challenge (2:17-20)
Nehemiah challenged the people by presenting it to them all at once. Let's
note how he did this:
1) He told them the need. Jerusalem is in a desperate way. It is desolate and
abandoned. The gates are burnt by fire. Hey could all see this need.
2) Nehemiah gave them a plan. "Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem
that we may no longer be a reproach." It was simple and straightforward.
They together were being asked to join him in rebuilding the wall of
Jerusalem. He touched upon the people's national pride by saying that they
could put away the reproach of their name by doing this.
3) Nehemiah then shared how God had been so favorable giving him
opportunity before the King.
4) The people responded to the invitation. All of a sudden there was a leader
with a plan to get them out of a troublesome time. They were for it.

We do read on of three people who threatened the work of God. They
evidently were in high positions from outside the country but had some
controlling influence in Jerusalem. They were trying to voice their opinions
loudly so to discourage the people or scare them into immobility. We will look
into these characters later. We do see that Nehemiah did not miss them in
his planning. They missed their opportunity for causing mistrust early on. But
now the people had hope. Now the people were changed. They actually could
see that the wall could be rebuilt. Only those who didn't care were trying to
scare them as they always have been.

Nehemiah answered with a triumph call. In verse 20 Nehemiah said,
"So I answered them and said to them, "The God of heaven will give us
success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no
portion, right, or memorial in Jerusalem." Nehemiah was very clever in subtly
distinguishing those who would participate and those who would not. He made
obvious sides so the enemy couldn't creep in too easily. Furthermore,
Nehemiah cast their hope in the right direction. He affirmed that God would
get this project done because it was His project.

We knew the group was not large. Not that many people lived in that haunted
grave of a city. But those there were willing to go ahead. They were
demoralized and without hope, but God's messenger brought hoe to their
lives. God is the one who brings hope to our lives, points to the cross, and
stands us up in a new set of clothes. God does not despise us but has mercy on
us. He shows us that we count and are important by giving us a part in His
work. The modern welfare state has failed mainly because of this.

One of the biggest lies that goes on and on is that God doesn't care about us.
God doesn't want Christians to have fun. God doesn't want the best for His
people. You will hear enemies come around and mock your newly found trust in
God. "What! You think God is going to help you. You are going to get in trouble
just like those others did. You better give up now before you get into
trouble." We are not rebelling but submitting to the promise of God. But I
tell you service in God's kingdom any day beats out royalty in Satan's court.
God treats His children royally.

It is time that we arise and build ourselves. We have given up hope on
personal character building because we have failed. We have become
haphazard attenders because we can't manage our families. Many of us have
dismissed our participation in God's great rebuilding work because of lies. Can
you think of any right now. I want you to identify where you have given up
hope just like these people have. They were willing at one point to live under
reproach. They saw no other way out. They were hopeless. But praise God: His
job is a rebuilding one. There is nothing that He cannot touch with His Spirit.
When God first worked in my life and gave me a heart to be a proclaimer of
God's truth I had to face up to my stammering. I couldn't speak in public. I
haven't heard anyone speak as bad as I did back in my first year of
university. But I made my decision on what God wanted to do rather than
what I felt I could do. Praise God. At least you can understand me now. I can
even speak His Word in Chinese. This is to His glory.

So what is it in your life that needs renewing and hope.?


"Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and
hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival." By Winston
Churchill in Hand me Another Brick, p. 65.

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
By Winston Churchill in Hand me Another Brick, p. 65.
Nehemiah 3:1-32 Rebuilding Our Faith

                                HOPE IGNITED


Intro
We will always be uncertain what happens when hope comes to a man because
it is so dynamic. Hope releases new energy and strength, new vision and
confidence. There is a hanging plant by our front porch that at times goes
extended times without watering. At times we have given up hope on rescuing
the plant. It has totally lost shape and looks dead. But we still water it, just in
case. And would you believe it that after a little water, it comes back as
before. It is hard to understand what can happen with a little water. Hope is
to people as water is to plants.

In the case of Nehemiah, we know God wanted to rebuild the walls of
Jerusalem. This was not an easy task nor was it without serious obstacles
facing them each step of the way. We will discuss these obstacles at a time in
the future as the repeated attacks are unavoidable. Nearly half the book is
taken up with these forms of opposition to the building of the wall. But
before we do this, we must enjoy the beauty of hope and what it can do. Here
was a group of people outwardly not unlike post-modern man living in despair
and without purpose or hope in life. Then all of a sudden we see the light
flicker in their heart, and one sees them working like dedicated heroes.

From the last message we found that Nehemiah was very secretive about his
mission. Once Nehemiah discovered there were some very influential people
who did not like what he was up to, they would seek a way to counter his work.
Nehemiah knew he could not begin right away. Something had to happen
before they could start their work. What was that? The people needed hope.
They needed to know of God's great purpose. They needed to come to the
point where they believed there could be some positive change in their lives.
Some people want to start programs among the demoralized. We can say with
certainty that unless a program has fixed its starting place in creating hope
among the people, then it will fail. Demoralized people are those with no
confidence. Because there is no confidence, there is no change of behavior.
They remain the same in their desperate situation. This is why the scriptures
say "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJB; Pr 29:18). They are
unrestrained as the NASB says; they are like a blob. Their environment
shapes them not what God wants them to do. Nehemiah's chief goal was to
bring hope to the people; not authoritative commands telling the people to do
this and that. This can sometimes get the job done such as the wall, but it is
only temporary and empty; it was not the job Nehemiah was content to do. He
was there to rebuild the soul of the city. It was Nehemiah's job to get the
job done but this does not mean that he had to ignore the workers.

Burnout are times when you are convinced more is being asked of you then you
feel that you can give. Burnout is when you finally give up hope on yourself.
Let me note two kinds of burnout.
€ Sometimes burnout comes from a great amount of inspiring work being
done. But somehow, someway, your hope has been taken away. Maybe it is
because you just haven't spent time before the Lord and have forgotten His
promises. But the work goes on. You got to keep going. The work has to go on.
So you continue that work on in the flesh and through your own strength. One
day it all comes crashing down because the works of the flesh cannot for long
duplicate what God does by His Spirit in your life.
€ Another type of burnout comes about when people are doing things only
because you have the authority to make them do it. You can do what they are
telling you to do, but you do not want to do it. You rebel with tiredness,
laziness, criticism, etc. It will not be long before you just figure a way of
pulling the project to a virtual halt. This kind of burnout is not so radical of
giving up on the task, but the same general withdrawal of the situation occurs.
Nehemiah was trying to avoid this.

Application Let me just apply this thought before I go on. I find that
sometimes the jobs we have to do are not the most pleasant or inspiring. This
is one reason people are willing to move so much just to change job scenes.
They expect the job to give meaning to life when no job can do this. We are
to find meaning in life and then express that in living out our lives in service
such as a job or at home. In the self-defeated modern world, people just do
not have this hope. They openly see that they are motivated by money so they
become convinced that this is the only means of being motivated. Many of you
are moving into the work field. Many others have been there for awhile. I am
not saying that we should not look for a stimulating and challenging job but
more than often you will not find exactly what you are looking for. Many jobs
are dull; others have managers that make them dull and even others have
crises that make it very difficult to work easily such as financial difficulties,
political infighting or even the threat of being bought out or your work being
found obsolete.

Meaning in life should not come mainly from your work. If your work brings
encouragement, thank the Lord. But no matter what, always go back to the
principle that:
1) you are working because the Lord wants you to work hard so that you do
not steal but have money to give to those in need, and
2) you work unto the Lord. Col 3:23-24. "Whatever you do, do your work
heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you
will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you
serve." Yes, you have a boss who watches over your work, but really you do
quality work with a cheerful heart not because of your boss checking up on
you, or that your project will be used in the future, but because you have
done your best for the Lord. He knows and will take full account of your work.
Besides, doing it for Him enables you to grow in your special trusting
relationship with Him.

Once hope comes into our lives, we see many dynamic changes. If this hope is
based on the truth, then we will be able to see an ongoing work of God. We
will see His life bring about miraculous changes. Some people try to convince
me that I am only a positive or idealistic thinker but this is far different than
the man who has hope in God. We are not in the end hoping in our abilities,
opportunities or our mind sets except that all of what we have is from the
Lord and that we are depending upon the Lord. We either trust Him or die.
Psalm 118:9 says, "It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in
princes." Today, we will be looking at the commencement of the rebuilding of
the wall. It is impressive. After making observations of their different work,
I would like to draw several conclusions leading to different truths God is
trying to help us understand.

As we look through the reconstruction we will focus on the gates. They are of
course very vulnerable places because generally speaking there is less rubble
there to keep people going in and out. Without them even having a great wall
is not of much use. Secondly, they discuss the work on the gates because it is
convenient. The people all knew where the gates were. The most convenient
and generally accurate way of describing what was being done would be by
reference mentioning the work around those gates. Let's briefly look at the
work being done about the ten mentioned gates. We will note that because
this work was inspired by hope that there are many interesting observations
worthwhile our examination.

1) The Sheep Gate (3:1) by Eliashib the high priest and his brother priests.
€ It is important to see that nothing is too holy for the priests. As they
worked hard, the people took courage. If the priests were dirtying their
hands in this project, and especially the high priests, then no one can think
that they are too holy or privileged to do this work. Towers and walls are
difficult to build but when the priests finished it, the work remains a
permanent symbol that leaders are best when they are servant leaders. A
pastor has certain specialized functions in the church as overseeing the flock,
but sometimes they are needed to do the evangelism, the cleaning, the
administration. Through their example the people see that every act is holy
because it is done unto the Lord. However, if any pastor or high priest should
let their schedule be perpetually be run by other needs, they will not be able
to get their work done. Acts 6 is a clear reminder of times we need to
specialize in certain roles. Acts 6:2 says, "And the twelve summoned the
congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect
the word of God in order to serve tables." For a while the apostles were doing
this work but it was not good in the long run.

After this we see two other building teams going westward around Jerusalem
starting from the Sheep Gate in the very north. The men of Jericho built
next to the priests and next to them were Zaccur the son of Imri. At this
point we run into another entrance to the city of Jerusalem.

2) The Fish Gate (3:3) built by the sons of Hasenaah.
As we continue on, we will find Meremoth, Meshullam and next to him was
Zadok. After them were the Tekoites.
€ But what does it mean or imply that "Moreover, next to him the Tekoites
made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters."
(Nehemiah 3:5). Did this mean that certain rich and influential men did not
financially support the work or were just unwilling to personally help out.

Yet, even without the support of the noble, the truly faithful still did
continue on helping a certain section of the wall to be repaired. This reminds
us that we do not have to wait for everyone to help before we do a certain
thing that God has put on our heart and especially those with wealth.

3) The Old Gate (3:6) was built by Joiada and Meshullam.
Next to them was Melatiah and Jadon working. They even worked on the
governor's official seat. After this was Uzziel the goldsmith and Hananiah
the perfumers restoring the wall all the way as far as the Broad Wall. As the
priests went beyond their regular routine and gifts, so we see the goldsmiths
and perfumers. Even Rephaiah, the official of half the district of Jerusalem,
made repairs.

€ Part of the excitement of the whole project was to see everyone pitching
in. No doubt there were those who did not participate but wasn't it exciting
to see those from every part of life working together in a common cause. Our
unity does not dispel our individual uniqueness or contribution but beautifies
it. The goldsmith was trained as a goldsmith. His family probably did this for
years. He was trained in the family guild without costs. But this didn't stop
him from carrying heavy rocks, getting burnt in the sun or working in ways
that caused a lot of backaches and sores. I can go through the list of our
elders, deacons and coworkers. They are skilled in different areas of life:
some in science research, some in software, some in business, but together
they stand out as those who work for a common cause of building up the
kingdom of God. In order to do this, they will need to do things they never did
before of if they did, on a different scale. But the important fact is found in
Philippians 1:27,

     "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so
     that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you
     that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together
     for the faith of the gospel." We have a common cause; a joint spirit. We
     must not be moved from this needed emergency situation until Christ
     returns.
After this Jedaiah built and then Hattush. Malchijah and Hasshub
worked together on the next section and the Tower of Furnaces.
Following him, Shallum, the official for the other half of Jerusalem was
working, he and his daughters (3:12).

€ Our work is demanding. It will affect our families. If it doesn't, then
it does not stand as a sufficient influence in your life. I remember
meeting many mk's and pk's (missionary and pastor kids). Some of them
are critical of their parent's lives; others can't wait to go and join their
parents in their work. What is the difference? Is it simply a matter of
the child's preferences? I don't think so. Let me share a few thoughts
of successful ministry in the home:

1) Children are not in the way of ministry. If anyone feels left out or in
the way of their parents' plans, then they will easily resent their
parents. We must simply spend time with our children.
2) Children are the means of ministering. We must see our family for
what it is meant to be: an extension of our own lives. They should be
extending our ministry in prayer and evangelism; in training and in
worship.
3) Children are the focus of our ministry. Why is it that we would train
others but not our own children? Why is it that we would have our
children take special classes to get along in the world but not put any
pressure on their knowing and living out of God's Word? Our children
our disciples. This is why the scriptures teach if we fail to disciple our
children, then we cannot be a leader in the church.

I remember one particular friend that I met in Chicago. He was so eager
to go back with his dad on the mission field in Brazil. He wasn't
particularly homesick, but even when at school in Chicago, his heart was
with his dad and the work his dad was doing. It will not be able to work
out in every instance, but the identification with his father's work was
very special. He said to me that his dad and he used to do everything
together. He was not just near his dad but was working alongside his
dad.
4) The Valley Gate (3:13) built by the Hanun and those who lived in
Zanoah.
They also built 500 yards (1000 cubits) of the wall to the Refuse Gate.
€ Extreme dedication is encouraging to everyone. Not everyone can
equal these strong and diligent workers, but because of what they do
everyone else works a bit harder and a bit more faithful. I can
immediately think of several people in the church who work much more
than I could ever expect. They stay up later; stay behind more often;
come earlier, leave later. Some of their works are easily seen but others
do not know to what degree their faithfulness has made this church
what it is today.

5) The Refuse Gate (3:14) built by Malchijah, the official of the
district of Beth-haccherem.
€ Should I make any comment here? The text is short but I
congratulate those who are willing to do what in man's eyes are the
more gruesome and less honoring tasks. It might not have been as bad
as it sounds. But he took part wherever the work called him. Would you
be willing to work on the Dung Gate as much as Glory Gate? This
reminds me of those faithful servants of God who are going to Egypt or
Philippines or elsewhere to plant churches on top of rubbish heaps. The
people live in the refuse and make their living off the refuse. God's love
sent Christ to this sinful world; send me Lord wherever. No situation is
so dishonorable that your love should be held back from making it known
everywhere.

6 The Fountain Gate (3:15) built by the official of Mizpah.
We remember that this section of the wall was in complete disarray
from Nehemiah's search. It was here that Nehemiah had to dismount
from his horse and climb around it. Nehemiah, another official, made
repairs up to the tombs of David and the artificial pool. Next to him was
the Levites and after them Hashabiah. Other brothers carried on work
beside this and Ezere after this. Baruch zealously repaired the following
section. Meremoth repaired near Eliashib's house (3:20).

€ I want you to note that Eliashib could have worked right on or near his
own house. There were two possible reasons he didn't:
1) Perhaps he didn't work near his house because others started the
work there first. They respected his needs and helped him out. He then
had no other choice, if he was going to build, but to go elsewhere and
work.
2) It is also possible that he just started working elsewhere even
though his home formed a big gap in the wall.
Either way, this priest showed remarkable dedication. It reminds me of
the opposite to a rebuke the people received once. The people should be
ashamed that they were paneling their own homes when the temple lie in
disarray. Haggai 1:2-4 says, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This
people says, "The time has not come, even the time for the house of the
LORD to be rebuilt." Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the
prophet saying, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled
houses while this house lies desolate?" Eliashib the high priest led the
troops with his outstanding behavior.

After this were other priests and then in turn Benjamin, Hashub,
Azariah, Binnui, Palal, Pediah and the temple servants right up to the
Water Gate.

7) The Water Gate (3:26) was partially repaired by Ophel and the
Tekoites.

8) The Horse Gate (3:28) built by priests in front of their own homes.
Zadok carried out repairs after this, then Shemiah.

9) The East Gate (3:29) maybe repaired by Shemaiah.
€Obviously there was a keeper of the East Gate but we do not know why
a it was not mentioned to be repaired. Maybe it did not need repairs.

10) The Inspection Gate (3:31) probably did not need much repair.
Malchijah carried on as far as the Inspection Gate as well as the Sheep
Gate.

Summary
So around the wall we went. We found that what was impossible for
decades all of a sudden could be done by a group of dedicated men. We
will in the studies ahead discover much more of what was required of
them to finish the work. We will see that the more important works of
God need godly men leading the way. But what are some general
conclusions of this marvelous work that Nehemiah inspired under God's
leadership?

€ Firstly, we must remember that hope more than anything got the
people involved. How do people get hope? What would you like to see
done in your home or church? You need hope that it can be done. Hope
comes through the promises of God. Man can bring some help but we will
be derailed if we do not live daily by the Word of God. God is sovereign;
man is fallible. Hope can bring changes in the most desperate of cases.

€ We must see that no part of the wall was unimportant. We would not
understand life if we did not understand that a defense is only as strong
as its weakest link. It would be not of much value if only part of the wall
was restored. To be properly done, the whole wall had to be worked on.
It was a big task to set their hearts to, but it was needed and
appropriate. More important, it was worked on. Can I just encourage you
to plead with God to work on your weakest point. Ask Him to build upon
that. If the enemy is looking for a place to cause problems, he will
target the weakest points. Do not think you are unimportant to God's
work. If you slack in your time and trust in the Lord, know for sure you
are weak point. What amuses me is that sometimes we think the
children are the weakest points when I know that their parents are even
weaker yet.

€ Mutual encouragement is a key to success. We might not have a whole
consensus but how encouraging it is to see the brothers and sisters at
work. I think of those who over the past several years who have not only
gone in the morning but served in the afternoon service. They did it
voluntarily. They had jobs and work at school. But they dedicated
themselves to God's work. Often I am deeply moved by the dedication
of my brothers and sisters. Winston Churchill said, "I have nothing to
offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." What are you offering in the
building of God's kingdom?

€ On the other hand, we should make a few remarks of those spectators
who wrongly refuse to participate. There were a few noblemen, that is
     rich men, who were not supportive. Some people think the church lives
     on by the offering of the rich. But actually it does not matter if you are
     rich or poor. The rich sometimes pridefully think they give a lot but
     they would be embarrassed in contrast to what some poorer people give.
     Some of you are gifted with a lot of free time. You are rich. But you
     either want to play with the wealth and luxury or you cannot but
     concentrate on getting more rich and more secure. Satan is toying with
     you through the temptations of the world. The work of the kingdom is
     demanding your devotion, but you will not put your hand to your
     Master's plow. You think coming to worship is service, but that is only
     the place where you get your marching orders. What is the sense
     hearing the orders if you do not obey your Master in Heaven.

     There are many other applications regarding leaders and the way we
     must face obstacles, but we will stop here and let the dust of God's
     Word settle in our hearts. We often cannot speculate what hope can do
     for people. The hope from God released these people to do things they
     hadn't done in decades of time.
     Your bank accounts will haunt you when you look at those who gave more
     with nothing in their accounts.
     Your neat time priorities will burn up at the stares of the lost.

     We had better get serious with God's mission while there still is time.
     God is doing His work even now. "Now is the day but soon the night
     cometh when no man can work." The question is "Have you really joined
     in?"


Nehemiah 4:1-23 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #7

                 DEALING WITH THE ANGER OF OTHERS

Wave #1 Anger Leading to Discouragement (4:1-6; part I)
Wave #2 Anger leading to Discontinuation (4:7-23; part II)

Intro
Anger. We have all faced it. Anger comes at us in the most unusual ways and
extreme forms that often are so destabilizing that we turn from doing what
seemed good, normal and God's will not long before. Chapter 4 of Nehemiah
focuses us on facing the anger of others, especially in light of how their anger
is used by the evil one to turn you from God's best way.

Nehemiah was a godly man. He surrounded himself with godly men. He
consistently prayed; he fervently prayed. Nehemiah was a man of God's
Word. He was gifted, talented and chosen by the emperor to go rebuild the
wall of Jerusalem. The mission started with compassion and was accompanied
by prayer. This work was clearly a work of God. From the timing, the
financing, the extreme blessing, we see God leading the rebuilding of
Jerusalem. Most people would assume if God started this work off in such a
way, then He would continue to protect their work from having difficulties.
But we just don't find this happening in Nehemiah or in real life. It is a phony
assumption that often leads us into despair. Even from chapter two, we
discover the presence of troubles. The hassles persist to the end of the
book. During these messages we want to answer some of the tough questions
that throw us off balance. Questions like:
Why did the work start so easy but then turn so rough?
How can Nehemiah be so sure that he was still doing God's will?
What kind of trouble did Nehemiah face?
How did he handle these troubles?

We will be handling these kind of troubles for a good part of the series of
Nehemiah. God has made it so that we could learn from this example. From
the outset I trust that we can personally take courage facing troubles in
doing what is good and honorable, even when facing difficulties stemming
from the anger of other people. People were deliberately malicious and
purposefully destructive. If we can see that God could keep Nehemiah in
these situations, then we ought to take courage that we also can endure these
attacks through God's grace, whether the anger is focused on us or just
coming generally toward us.

There are two waves of attack against Nehemiah, the Jews and the rebuilding
of the wall mentioned in chapter 4. They are easily identifiable. We see that
in the first verse of each section, verses 1 and 7, use the word angry. The
"very angry" describes the hearts in which these influential men, first
mentioned in chapter 2, purposed to foil the Jews. Today let us take a look at
the first wave of anger and how Nehemiah and the Jews rightly responded to
it.

Wave #1 Anger Leading to Discouragement (4:1-6)
The first wave is described in verses 1-6. In verse 1 we see that Sanballat
heard about the rebuilding of the wall and was "furious and very angry."
There is no shyness in discussing the great anger within his heart. Why was it
so fierce? Was he jealous? Did he formerly agree to help build it but failed
to build it? Did he think his authority was by-passed? Was he not making any
money out of it? Did it have to do with the tension between the Samaritans
(half-bred Jews) and the Jews (pure bred). We don't know. We do know,
however, that he was extremely angry, and it had to do directly with the
rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem initiated by Nehemiah. Perhaps we could
summarize this by the phrase, "Reform comes at a cost."

There are two words used for anger in verse 1; the more intensive one is
repeated in verse 7. The first one used is hrx charah. "This word is related
to a rare Aramaic root meaning "to cause fire to burn," with the Arabic root
meaning "burning sensation, in the throat, etc." (TWOT - 736). Some
synonyms are kindled, wroth, hot, angry, displeased, fret, incensed, burn,
earnestly, grieved.

The other word, oek ka`ac, is more moderate. "The root meaning of oek is to
vex, agitate, stir up, or provoke the heart to a heated conditions which in turn
leads to specific actions" (TWOT Vol. I p. 451;1016). It is like heating up the
water to boil. As the heat increases, so does the vigor and froth of the
water. Synonyms for this word are: anger, provoked, angry, grieved,
indignation, sorrow, vex, wrath, wroth. I think you get the idea of the trouble
that was brewing.

The first attack came against the hope that rallied the Jews to build. When
hope was instilled into the lives of these demoralized people living in and near
the broken down city of Jerusalem, things began to happen that did not exist
for decades. Shortly after Zerubbabel led the first exiles back to the
deserted Jerusalem in 536 B.C., we find that they started rebuilding the
temple. It took almost 20 years to rebuild and finish it. The temple in
Jerusalem was dedicated on Feb. 18, 516 B.C. One would have thought that
they would proceed to rebuild the wall, but somehow they didn't. Even with
the return of exiles with Ezra in 455 B.C., 61 years later, there still was no
work on the wall mentioned. Only after another 10 years when Nehemiah
came, did that work on the wall finally take shape. We should remember that
the work followed the restoration of their hope, that through God's strength
and will the wall could be rebuilt.

Hope forms a critical part in doing the work of God. Yes, I know that
Nehemiah also had some soldiers with him and access to the king's
lumberyards, but it was not these things that stimulated the people, but the
hope. We should not then be surprised that if hope is so important in building
up a peoples' faith, that Satan will begin to challenge the work by directly
undermining that hope as soon as he can.
Application: Can you not think of a time when you were encouraged by some
great think God might do in your life. You had all your hopes up. And then
'bang.' Everything seemed to go wrong. You became discouraged. You lost the
vision that the hope gave you. The lost of the hope broke apart the
determination to change. You gave up.

The first target of your new found determination to break free and do God's
will then will be your hope. If the evil one can discourage you, then you will not
continue the good work God had appointed you to do. Lately, I have been
challenging the congregation to stand up for the things God wants to do in and
through their lives. I have been trying to instill a hope compatible with the
promises of God into your lives. Some of you for years, maybe decades, have
just been coming to church. Christianity is a sideline of your lives. You have
not discipled anyone. You have thought you can not do this or that. You are
dead like; without any fruit. Now all during this time you could have been alive
and making disciples. You could have been living for God rather than your own
concerns.

So what happens when you get a new hope for your marriage, your relationship
with your parents or children, or even a hope that God will take care of your
needs at work? Satan goes to work to discourage you. Let's note how the evil
one brought Sanballat along in Nehemiah 4:2-3.

     "And he spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of
     Samaria and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going
to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish
in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the
burned ones?" Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said,
"Even what they are building--if a fox should jump on it, he would break
their stone wall down!"
Sanballat and Tobiah came by and mocked them. They were bullies. I
believe that these leaders asserted their false authority with these
Jews by humiliating them. They controlled them with discouraging
remarks. They questioned their abilities; they inferred their inability by
calling them feeble. They mocked their plans for building quickly. They
emphasized the hard labor required insinuating that they couldn't cope.
Tobiah questioned the quality of the work in verse 3. "Even a fox
jumping on it will cause it to collapse." And no doubt when they were
working on the wall, all one has to do is point to one of the weaker points
to foster discouragement.

How did Nehemiah respond? In verse 5 he actually admits that the
people have demoralized the builders. Literally, the text says that they
have caused grief or anger to come to the builders. Let's trace this.
Sanballat and Tobiah were angry. Inside them anger boiled up and flared
out of their mouths in mocking words. The Jews heard it and the anger
and grief entered their own hearts. Please note carefully the process in
which the evil one often uses anger in causing the destruction to the
hopes of doing God's will.
1) Anger boils up in the heart.
2) Anger flares up and produces destructive words.
3) The destructive words are heard by the targeted person.
4) The destructive words are received in the heart of the person.

What would happen if the Jews did not hear these words? Would it have
affected their work? No. It is not enough for there to be belittling
language; one has to hear and then accept it. What if the Jews heard it
but rejected it as false? Would it affect them? No. They would have
dismissed the missiles of the enemy. It is when the Jews agreed with
the thoughts and received them into their soul as their own thoughts
that the lies began to affect their hearts. So many Christians have
begun to start off so well but after they accept the lies of the evil one,
they give up on themselves. They use a non-hope lie to substitute their
former hope such as, "I guess I just can't do it." Or, "I am just no
good." They end up like when they started out, without hope. Ephesians
2:12 well summarizes what our lives are without Christ,

"Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded
from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of
promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

The evil one works hard at knocking out our faith. It is for this reason
that the promises of God are so important. For you will not hear whole
truths from the evil one. He will make you think it is the truth so he can
persuade you to leave the truths of the scriptures. This is why in
describing the armor of God we are called to stand firm. In Ephesians
6:16 we are admonished, "In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith
with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the
evil one." These missiles are not imaginary. Only faith and hope will
enable you to extinguish the discouraging remarks of the evil one. He
continues in 6:17-18,
"And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times
in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance
and petition for all the saints."
We see this is exactly what Nehemiah did. We find that he stood firm
and countered with praying. Listen to Nehemiah's prayer,
"Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their
own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not
forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before Thee,
for they have demoralized the builders."
Nehemiah stood firm. He believed that the people could build the wall.
He knew it. Those things they were hearing were well-framed lies. He
took these missiles and sent them back with a boomerang prayer.
"Return their reproach." In other words, he was asking that these false
words would not only settle in the hearts of the Jews, but that these
missiles would backfire and hit the attackers. He does not ask for God
to prosper his enemy but to eradicate them. For they stood as tools in
the evil one's hands.
Many of us have never prayed this way. I am not speaking of the
rebuking in the prayer as much as the well intentioned and focused
prayer to stand against the enemy no matter what it takes. We often do
not take our spiritual lives so serious. In this case it is easy to examine.
All the accusations are written down before us. We can look later and
find that they really were able to rebuild the wall to its full height. But
usually it is not so easy to examine the word missiles coming into our
mind and to return them.

This is where we have not taken the armor of God for what it is. We
have not believed the importance of the promises from the Word of
God. If we receive the lies into our hearts, then we will be discouraged,
and we will return to our self-defeated behavior. "I can't help it!" the
demon will whisper in your mind. If you ignore the thought, then it will
settle. For a while you will work your way out of the vague defeated
feeling, but in the end the doubt will corrupt your hope just like a small
bug in a software program.

We must deal with several important things.
If hope is important in true restoration, then we need to guard that
hope. We have found that the evil one will attack us here because it is a
vulnerable area. Your hope can be taken away. You are crippled without
it. Why? Hope guides us into the path God wants us to walk. Only hope
will take us the right path of God. Otherwise our eyes will be upon
ourselves and the circumstances around us.

€ I hope that we are not overly irritated by the anger of others. Realize
that they are a pawn of the evil one. The evil one is using them to get at
us. This takes a lot of the strain out of the relationship with these
people and sets our hearts on prayer. Frankly, we must see that this "Do
not forgive them" kind of prayer should only be rarely used. Do not use
it to protect oneself's interest. But if you find an attack against God's
people that are destroying them, then if moved by the Spirit, we can
pray this. Nehemiah was not fighting for "his" project but cared about
the people.

€ We should not be afraid of criticism if objectively examined. The
problem is when we just swallow the half-lie. The slight truth is but a
sweet bright coating of a pill to have you swallow the lie. Analyze the
criticisms. Sometimes there is truth which you can work on. We cannot
allow one thought to come in without analysis and prayer. For it is these
statements that can do a lot of harm. Let me give you an example of
God's Word. What if you hear someone say that the Bible is true only in
spiritual matters? What are the implications? If you do not deal
straightforward with this challenge, then you will never trust God's
Word. You will never use it as an absolute standard in your life but only
as a relative one.

Pastor Chang spoke on the blessing of tithing a few months back. Some
of you might have had hope that God would help you give ten percent of
what God gives to you. You had hope and faith that God could help you
through the struggle. But then as soon as you get home, you see an
unexpected bill. You give up hope of ever being able to tithe. You
dismissed the promises of God as being inadequate to care for you.

As I think about my life, I have been decimated numerous times by
hopelessness. They say low self esteem is part of the results of a
broken family. I can't deny it. Self-esteem is wrongly understood as a
part of our nature, but really it is a perspective of our lives. Self-
esteem is the conditioning lens of how we interpret our part in the
world. Through a broken family and different troubles in our lives, the
evil one can come along and implant lies that seem to be truths. They will
shape you. Our job is not as the psychologists say to have a good self-
esteem. They give you lies to substitute your past lies. The scriptures
say to think rightly about your self. Don't over or under estimate what
God has given you and what He wants to do in your lives.

Application God is building a work in your lives as His people. He has a
design and He regularly uses His Word, prayer and brothers and sisters
to inspire us to get there and to keep going there. Can you hear any
false statements about yourselves going around in your mind right now
like "I'm no good. I'll never be able to be able to do it. I'll always be a
failure." don't think that the Lord says these things. Remember God is
building you up; satan does the tearing down. We need to start guarding
our hope and faith. We need to remember that it is not God saying that
     we are failing and that we are no good. These are the words of the
     demons sent to whisper these thoughts in your minds. We need to stand
     up for God's purpose in us. We need to affirm God's truths. He can
     guard and keep our minds in Christ Jesus.

     Summary
     People will at times come with great anger boiling up inside them.
     Remember that they are in the hands of the evil one. The evil one wants
     to break your walls of hope and implant a few doubts and lies. Do not be
     distracted with the person. Focus on what is happening to your minds
     when you hear those rocketing words trying to break through your
     defenses. You must stand firm. You must intercept them with the
     promises and truths of God's Word. You must see them as the enemy's
     doing and not God. The evil one often uses anger because it disguises
     what he is really up to. Don't be tricked again. Stand firm in your hope
     of living a godly life. Don't despair. God has a way to bring you back int
     he main line of operations. This was just wave#1. Do not think that this
     is the only means of attack, but do anticipate it. "Restoration comes at a
     cost." We should expect that any time we take something that we have
     given to the evil one for so long that he will come back with a fierce
     smile to get you back under his control. Praise God that Jesus is our
     Victory. Jesus is our Hope.

Nehemiah 4:7-23 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #8



                 DEALING WITH THE ANGER OF OTHERS

Wave #1 Anger Leading to Discouragement (4:1-6; part I)
Wave #2 Anger leading to Fear (4:7-13; part II)
A. Understanding Threats & Fears
B. Reasons Threats Work
C. Overcoming The Threats (4:7-23; part III)

Intro
It might seem as if another person's anger is something totally haphazard,
but we have discovered that anger can at times be used by the evil one in
deliberately creating an emotional unbalance so that we would swallow more of
his lies. If he can get us to swallow a few of his lies, then we will in time begin
to accept these lies as truths which will in the end impair our vision, destroy
our hope and break down any pursuit of godly activity. Nehemiah did what we
all need to do in order to stand firm against the evil one. He enumerated the
lies, looked at the truth of the situation and asked God to break down the
work that was destroying confidence in the hearts of His people. Under
Nehemiah's leadership and the grace of God, the demoralizing of the people
was halted, and they were able to finish building the wall to half its height.

They had as verse 6 says, "A mind to work." We don't realize that much of
self control and discipline derives from the convictions of our hearts. Note
the difference between the art work of those who are convinced of the truth
and those who live in supposed freedom of a relative society! The more
lawlessness prevails, the more litter is strewn along the streets. Without laws
and constraints, we end up with messes. Once the Jews saw in a fresh way
God's design to build the wall through their lives, they were encouraged and
with a renewed vigor went back to their building. The wall was joined together
to half its height.

Understanding Angry People
But because using another person's anger is so effective in destroying a
person's pursuit of God's will, Satan comes at Nehemiah and the Jews with
another wave of attack. Angry people are very easily manipulated to do the
devil's work. They are like pawns in his hands. They lose their self control and
discernment. It is almost like they are being influenced by alcohol.
Oftentimes, the person who is angry regrets later being angry at all. This is
because he or she did the work of the evil one rather than the work of God.
Oh, sometimes they think they are doing the work of God, but they are at the
moment very deceived. If they can admit it to themselves, they later on will
be able to see the destructive things they have done or said. Let me ask you,
"Did you have a conflict with another brother or sister and get angry?"
Maybe you even called the other person "stupid." But how is it that you forgot
the important teaching of love?! Anger distorts people's normal reasoning
processes so that they can be used of the evil one.

Sanballat and the others were incensed. Remember that the two waves of
attack were triggered by anger. In verse 1 we see the stronger word for
anger and the moderate word for anger with an intensifier 'very.' Now in
verse 7 we find the more intense word for anger ( hrx charah. "to cause fire
to burn") combined with the intensifier 'very.' When they saw their mocking
to be unsuccessful and the gaps in the walls being filled in, they became
ferociously angry. They became spitting angry. This is not just like water
boiling, it is acid boiling with its awful vapors seething into the air poisoning
those around.

The first wave of attack used verbal assaults on their abilities such as
scoffing and criticism. There is such a thing as positive criticism but this kind
of criticism is to get the people to do something they want them to do. But
this second wave of anger triggered through failure decidedly turned to
making threats. We have to understand the heart of angry people. They are
very upset that things are not going their way. They are interested in
manipulating and controlling people. If they do not succeed in getting what
they want, they get madder. They increase the attack. In the end they want
capitulation. They want the people to give in. Perhaps it is a matter of pride.
They always have been able to get their way. They have learned many ways to
get people to do what they want, often through anger and intimidation.

Application Do you use anger to manipulate people and get your way? This
anger has destroyed many a marriage and church. Though this sermon is
focusing on responding to others in anger, let me shortly mention two
applications as far as we are concerned.

€ What if we are this kind of person? Is there hope? Of course there is. You
just need to realize that at the core of your problems is the felt need for you
to get your way. Your basic problem is with God and submitting to Him and His
will. You have chosen to get things your way rather than waiting on Him. Just
manipulating your environment or taking medication is not going to solve your
root problem of controlling people. You need to repent and humble yourself
before God. God will help train you. You need to retrain your process of
thinking and response by the scriptures.

€ But are you training someone to be this way? We hardly ever think of
training our children to be these kind of people but this is most often where
it is learned - right at home. The key element is the way you let your child get
his or her way. A parent often thinks his standards are very high, but we
should understand our standard is only as high as we regularly enforce it to
be done. The key question is can the child through anger and temper tantrums
change your opinion and behavior? If so, then you are training them how to
control people through anger. All children have this potential, but it is up to
the parents to chase this foolish response from the child. I know you might
be frustrated with dealing with their temper tantrums, but generally speaking
the parents simply need to isolate the child and show them they cannot get
their way.

But now we must turn our thoughts to dealing with anger through threats.
These bullies "conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to
cause a disturbance in it." They wanted to destroy the work so they could
continue their unjust control over the people. Today let's look at this fight in
two ways: the threats, and the reason for the threats. We will need to
focus on the means to overcome these threats in a latter message.

A. Understanding Threats & Fears
Firstly we must remember what threats are. There are perhaps two major
kinds of threats: 1) Empty threats, and 2) Serious threats. Empty threats in
themselves are not dangerous. Empty threats are people who regularly use
threats to manipulate people by their words but rarely follow through with
their words. People quickly learn and adjust to those people who have only
empty threats. A child knows it is only after the fifth time the mother yells
at the child using his middle name that he better do what his mom wants. Or
maybe it is when the father slams his foot on the floor. Empty threats are
made from deceit and are filled with lies. "If you don't do this, I won't take
you with me." But really you have to take them with you, and the child knows
it! We should not use empty threats. However, I don't think this was an
empty threat that came against Nehemiah and the Jews.

This was a serious threat. A serious threat means they are serious about
taking action to enforce their wishes like they have indicated in their actual
threat. Maybe the action will be somewhat different, but they will do what
they can to cause trouble.

The actual threat is found in verse 11, "And our enemies said, "They will not
know or see until we come among them, kill them, and put a stop to the work."
Their threat included a secret plot to come at night or when they least
expected it and kill a group of workers. They were probably thinking of killing
a few of the people, then they would all become fearful and would stop the
work on the wall. In this case we can think of the terrorists in the Middle
East. Israel faces the bombings every day if they continue on with their
normal expansion. They fight back by returning anything that happens to
them with a little bit more damage. With time on our side, we of course can
look back on the scene and see whether they were empty threats or serious
threats. We find in this case that they actually mobilized some forces to
carry out their action. This was a serious threat.

The danger is that we are not so often familiar with people or groups so that
we can know their threat is an empty threat or serious one. In any case then,
if we do not know the people making the threats, we always need to be
careful. I will deal with handling these cases more later on. Right now, I want
to better understand the emotional side of threats for whether the threat is
empty or real it can cause real fear in our lives which then lead us to make
distorted decisions and form unhealthy relationships.

During the times people are making threats, we need to pay special attention
to our fears. They can easily get out of control. Once the fears are out of
control it becomes very difficult to be objectively monitoring them. What are
fears? Fears are emotional responses to what might happen. The real
situation provoking the fear might be only two feet away as the drunk swings
at you, or it might be a threat which might or might not happen. Whatever, we
will find that fears though they are of the future and not presently real
situations can greatly affect our motivation just as the lost of hope.

Let me focus more on the fears from threats. They provoke fears which can
become so real that we respond to them as if they are truly existant. Perhaps
you have responded to fears which were pure imagination - what might be-
more than to what was. This is why fear is so dangerous. Fears can rotate in
our minds with such velocity that we begin living in a false world. We think we
are being rational in our decisions, but it ends up that we are being very
irrational. This is the reason the evil one often uses threats to cause God's
people to compromise in their God-given principles.
Fear sometimes derive from real horrible situations. We often underestimate
the fear of a child that their parents will leave them. If they hear their
parents arguing, then they might assume the worse - divorce. They don't want
to loose their parents so they very often develop odd behavior that brings
attention to themselves so to keep the parents together. Fear is forming
bizarre behavior so to keep the parents nearby. Lately, you probably have
heard of all the fear that is hidden in the hearts of children when they hear
their parents do not want them or have even abused them. These fears are
stored in the hearts of the little children. These fears can be used later on
by the evil one to cause irrational behavior then when they become adults.

Whether fear has genuine sources, or it is merely a nightmare, fear can seem
more real than real. Fear greatly affects people. In this case, the fear
touched the heart of the workers. Verse 10 says, "Thus in Judah it was said,
"The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish;
And we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall."

Just the question of their abilities mentioned in verse 2 destroyed their
hope and therefore the work on the wall, so we find fear, from the angry
threats mentioned here, were able to destroy their confidence and stopped
their work. At this point you must realize no real violence was done. There
were only threats. If they had not heard these threats, would they have
changed their behavior? No. Of course not. This is the reason people can use
threats to manipulate and motivate people. Fears do not build relationships
but condition the behavior of others. If we submit to the fear, then it
becomes an idol that we serve. This is why the Israelites were told only to
fear God lest those things that you fear begin to control and destroy you.

Let me finalize this analysis of fear by noting the possible responses to the
threats. Of course, we should be open to the possibility that they might be
right. If we are wrong, then we should apologize and correct our behavior.
How do we detect whether we are in the wrong. We should ask whether our
behavior was right or wrong. We need to know God's Word back and forth.
We also need to be humble to be able to rightly discern these things.

However, if they are motivated by anger, they are probably at least
overestimating the situation. Man's anger rarely accomplishes the will of God.
We should keep an open eye and discerning ear at all times lest we let one
statement enter that is not true. Because of the violence of their words,
people tend to give in to the threats and make a compromise. Perhaps they
change their behavior so that the angry person is pacified and therefore re-
secure their security. Maybe they stop sharing the gospel or pay a bribe or
just quiet down. The increase of lawsuits is not only greed activated but often
the means a manipulater legally carries out his will upon another. In
conclusion, we must never be intimidated to neglect doing God's will because
of threats and fears of others. Today's lesson clearly teaches that Satan
often uses anger and threats to hinder us from doing God's clear will.
Nehemiah resisted the charges and prepared to take all the risks to live
faithfully before God.

Let me summarize the way of fear. Anger for whatever reason explodes in a
person. The anger destabilizes the emotions of the person who is the target
of the anger. They hear the threats. They often respond to the threats
rather than to the right and wrong of the situations.

Application If fears shape your thoughts then they will form your decisions.
You think by compromise that the fear will go away. It doesn't. It gets
stronger and you are bound up under it. Fear will keep you from doing the
work of God. God is calling each and everyone of us to stand up against the
fears that rule our lives. If we allow fears to keep us from doing what God
wants, they represent a sick place in our souls. These places of weakness
represent a greater love for something beyond God's Word such as our
security, peace, life, welfare of our children, protection of our possessions,
protection of our reputations, etc. Each of these are idols. These are things
that divide your loyalty to the Lord. When tested, will you obey the Lord or
live in fear of losing these things? We should not laugh at the fears of others
for it is more than likely unless we are humbled by the danger of these
things, then we are also plagued by them. Ask God now to break you from
these fears by the powerful truth of God.


Summary
Facing the anger of others is a real struggle. Our emotions stand on high
alert, super sensitive to each word and gesture. The evil one wants to insert
doubts about our ability to do the job right and on time, or through threats
causes our hearts to fear. The evil one's purpose though is the same. He is
trying to keep us from the work that God has put before us. We must master
the practice of discerning the messages coming to us from angry people, even
the angry threats that occasionally come. We should not simply pack up and
panic. After prayer and evaluation, we walk the road that God asks us to
follow. We take the precautions that we can do and then entrust ourselves in
God's hands. This is the way of faith. It is here we will see God sending the
enemy into frustration. For somehow God blesses our feeble efforts along
with His mighty power to break down the threats of the enemy.

Anger in and of itself can't hurt us. Threats can't hurt us. But violence and
evil plans devised in that anger can. We have to be careful, but we should not
turn aside from the work of God. If all authority on heaven and earth is
Christ's and the work to make disciples is ever before us, then we should not
stop facing the enemy with confidence that somehow and some way God will
use us in expanding His kingdom and growing as His people. No one likes facing
angry people, but we can stand up to the enemy and not be caught unaware.

Nehemiah 4:7-23 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #10

                DEALING WITH THE ANGER OF OTHERS
Wave #1 Anger Leading to Discouragement (4:1-6; part I)
Wave #2 Anger leading to Fear (4:7-13; part II)
A. Understanding Threats & Fears
B. Reasons Threats Work (4:7-23; part III)
>C. Overcoming The Threats (4:7-23; part IV)

C. Overcoming The Threats
Intro We have a choice. Either we are going to give in to our enemies or to
overcome them. Either we will allow their bullying continue and suffer
depression or we will stand up against our enemies and overpower them
through Jesus Christ. O how I as a pastor desire that each of you stand firm
against the enemy. God wants to lead us out from the hands of our enemies.
He wants us to glory in His strength. Listen to David in Psalm 18:28-29,

      "For Thou dost light my lamp; The LORD my God illumines my darkness.
       For by Thee I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a
                                      wall."
I have spent a few messages on discussing our despair and fears. They
have held us back in our Christian lives. We need to clearly identify the
enemy before we even know what he has stolen from our lives. Until we
think we are imprisoned, we will not seek escape. The Israelites for
years tolerated and lived 'normal' lives under their enemies. Only when
God through Nehemiah reminded them of what was normal were they
willing and able to challenge the enemy.

There are all sorts of ways we God's people have been intimidated and
captured by fears. Listen to Psalms 106:34-47. Let it refresh our
minds of some important truths we have covered before.

"They did not destroy the peoples, As the LORD commanded them, But
they mingled with the nations, And learned their practices, And served
their idols, Which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their
sons and their daughters to the demons, And shed innocent blood, The
blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the
idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood. Thus they
became unclean in their practices, And played the harlot in their deeds.
Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against His people, And
He abhorred His inheritance. Then He gave them into the hand of the
nations; And those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also
oppressed them, And they were subdued under their power. Many times
He would deliver them; They, however, were rebellious in their counsel,
And so sank down in their iniquity. Nevertheless He looked upon their
distress, When He heard their cry; And He remembered His covenant
for their sake, And relented according to the greatness of His
lovingkindness. He also made them objects of compassion In the
presence of all their captors. Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us
from among the nations, To give thanks to Thy holy name, And glory in
Thy praise."
I want you to know that in order to become a godly man or woman that
we must get back all the territory that God has given us. Fear of losing
something shows that we highly prize something. Most often it shows
that we need to protect that favored thing and we compromise. This is
why in Psalm 106 speaks about the Israelites though being in their own
land were serving other task masters. You yourself need to give up
these things and become wholly loyal to God.

Let me develop this a bit further by a recent scripture passage I read.
Let's look at Psalm 17:13 15.
"Arise, O LORD, confront him, bring him low; Deliver my soul from the
wicked ... , From men of the world, whose portion is in this life; And
whose belly Thou dost fill with Thy treasure; They are satisfied with
children, and leave their abundance to their babes. As for me, I shall
behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness
when I awake."
In this Psalm we see the wicked obtaining all sorts of treasures to such
a degree that they can give their children a big inheritance. God will give
all these things like riches, wealth, bonds, stocks, lands, estates, etc. to
the wicked. One doesn't have to be great or good to get these things.
We have to realize that if He would give these things to them, then we
know they are not of great value. These people live for their belly, that
is, their desires.

These verses no doubt form the place where Paul in Philippians 3:18-20
discussed the love of the ones who left God because they desired their
bellies to be filled. They don't love God. The wicked are known for the
love of this world. But our citizenship is from heaven. Our treasures are
beyond the reach of the world. Philippians 3:18-20 says,

" 18* For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even
weeping, [that they are] enemies of the cross of Christ, 19* whose end
is destruction, whose god is [their] appetite, and [whose] glory is in
their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20* For our
citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior,
the Lord Jesus Christ."

Now after a rally of building, one would think that they would have been
set free. But they weren't. The enemy used threats to play on the old
fears. They feared losing what was theirs and so they stopped the work
of God. They gave up their hopes so they could protect their most
prized things. My brother and sister, let me remind you that I can show
you how to overcome the chains of these fears, but unless you give up
these prized things, the fears will come back even worse. As long as
there is a hole, the rain will fill it. You must fill that hole with grace and
love for God. Never leave a empty hole for another to fill.

The only way a real godly man and woman will be developed is when they
can say "no" to these fears. This is understood though not clearly
spoken in nehemiah. Their families and lives were at stake. If they held
to these fears, if they considered protecting their own self interests to
be greater than getting God's work done, then they would have given in
to these fears and not have come out of them. They were encouraged to
place God's work as more important and they did so.

Nehemiah 4:10 reads, "Thus in Judah it was said, 'The strength of the
burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish; And we ourselves
are unable To rebuild the wall.'" God is so gracious. He knows of their
fears. He knows about their distress. Don't ever think that God doesn't
care or is not able to help. Nehemiah's presence and faith is a gift of
grace to bring the people out of their fears to serve Him alone. And God
did use Nehemiah's strong and humble leadership to lead the people out
of their despair and fears. Nehemiah intercepted with prayer and
penetrating truth statements which kept them working on the wall at
first to half its height and then to begin building on top of that to
complete it. Now let us turn and examine verses 7 to 23 and examine
five ways Nehemiah had led the people out of their fear.

1€Persistent prayer (Nehemiah 4:9).
When we get desperate we pray. Nehemiah continued to face crisis
after crisis and met each one with prayer. He refused to give into
bitterness, frustration and anger. God had sent him there. He trusted
God had a way out. This is the godly leader who perseveres in faith
rather than in doubt.

In verse 9, Nehemiah prayed. It says, "But we prayed to our God." He
and his companions prayed. We have discussed the praying aspect of
Nehemiah before. Prayer brought Nehemiah here to Jerusalem and here
he remains because of prayer. We have confidence that when we ask
God according to His will that He the everlasting One will intervene on
our behalf at the most appropriate time. It is not whether He will but
when and how He will.

Let me share with you a few verses that expand on the importance of
prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 say,

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the
peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Fears cause worry. Our minds are preoccupied with these thoughts. You
know and I know that worrying never solves things. In fact, worries
further worsen the disorder of our hearts. Paul is not saying that he
never faced situations that would elicit worry but that worrying would
be the wrong response. Nehemiah was facing a horrible situation when
an ally of four enemies were threatening to sabotage the work on the
walls. They even threatened to kill some people. If your wife heard this,
what do you think she will think of? She will think of her husband,
children and home. She would say, "Stop working on the wall. It is not
worth it." She would say this unless she did not respond as the enemy
had anticipated. If she instead chose not to worry, but to do what
Philippians 6-7 says. "But in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
She would refuse to worry; she would choose to pray.

About two weeks ago, many things were pressing my mind and my heart.
I read this passage and did what it said. I went through about ten items
all in three parts just like the passage says: prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving.
€ Prayer. I would first tell the Lord why a situation is difficult and
what I sense he would want done. I perhaps would mention how I needed
His help to get it done. Then part 2: € supplication. I would specifically
ask Him to care for the problem. If a miracle was needed, I would ask a
miracle. Lastly, €3 with thanksgiving. I would give thanks that He is not
only able but willing to care for these things.

He designed prayer as a means by which He would work out the difficult
situations I would run into. After about thirty minutes, my heart felt
free from all these responsibilities. I couldn't solve them, but I didn't
need to. He would now be responsible to take care of them, and I would
see, one by one, how He in His time through His means would answer
those prayers.

People say they can't help but worry. But really worry is a choice, a poor
one. If you are a Christian then refuse to be anxious but pray. Why not
pray as commanded?! Prayer does not take much time. The real question
is whether you will trust God to care for these items.

€Wise precautions. (Nehemiah 4:9).
Do what one can. In verse 9, we also note that Nehemiah set up a
"guard against them day and night." This statement is very interesting.
Some people accuse him of not trusting God but man's means of
protection. They could accuse Nehemiah of being very unspiritual. I
don't think we are shown this to point out Nehemiah's weakness but as a
model of how we are to use both prayer and the means at hand.
Remember threats are of two kinds: empty and real. But we usually
cannot distinguish between the two when confronted with them. We
therefore must set up a guard. We must always do what we can to
affirm that we will not give in to the bully. We affirm it for ourselves.
We are not going to give in. We also let the bully know that we are not
going to give in. He has to fight for what he wants. We know it is wrong
to compromise God's clear commands and will. Our resilience will help
ward off the enemy.

This points us to some very direct questions. How does prayer combine
with other activities of man? When and how do we know that man is not
interfering with God's work? I don't think there should be this tension.
Nehemiah wasn't going back and forth worried about whether he should
do this or that. He asked God for deliverance and started heading that
way with doing what he could do.

1) We should really depend upon prayer. This is the first statement. By
depending upon prayer I mean really take these things to God and see
what He wants. We talk with God about the issues and listen. One of our
problems is that we only sprinkle a prayer over our affairs rather than
seriously talking to God about them because we do not believe God
makes much difference.

2) We secondly must make sure we stay within the framework of God's
truth and law. You might have resources that you could "arrange" by
pledging your soul or life. I think we must be very careful to use the
resources we can get an instant loan or credit card. Our family has
received 102 loan or credit offers this year so far -not counting the
email offers. Yes, my wife counts them! However, these loans are not
our resources. We must use only the things we really own. Loans put us
in servitude to others. We must not lie to get around issues. We also
must refuse to use what God has prohibited us from using even if it
costs us our lives or good grades. What will you do if your teacher wants
you to read a homosexual or pornographic novel? The threat is that you
will not get a good grade if you upset the teacher. If you don't get a
good grade, then you might not get a certain scholarship. If you don't
get a certain grade, you might not get into that program. But requires
you not to compromise your eyes and mind.

We read that horses and chariots were not to be used by the Israelites
even though they were being used by the enemy. Some weapons are not
permitted. God promised them victory but not through those means. It
would make every bit of sense to use these means but God said no. The
principle is clear that God wants us to not have confidence in our
weapons no matter what they are. But since some weapons can make us
feel superior, they become like idols. He wants us to trust in Him. I
think of the way we use loans, medicines, birth control, gimmicks, etc. If
these things make us confident that we are well without Him, then we
have created a problem rather than solving one.

Now you might come back and say that the things I mentioned are the
means God has given to us to combat the enemy. I don't think so. God
takes what we have and what are legitimate means to overcome the
enemy. You might have to study about the use of such things,m but
unless you are willing to open up your life to what He wants, you will not
be able to reasonably study these topics.
I sense God wants to set us free to trust Him with what we have. My
guess is that the guard Nehemiah had was hardly adequate. For a great
wall, this meant he could have maybe 25 soldiers on each wall, maybe 50.
We are talking about a threat of 4 armies that could probably easily
slide into a city that only had half built walls and ones that did not have
gates. We see that Nehemiah's soldiers were insufficient in number so
that he got non-military people to take places in providing security.
Verse 13 says, "then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space
behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in
families with their swords, spears, and bows." We can sense that their
defenses were very weak. But this is okay. If we can pray and entrust
ourselves to the Lord and do everything that we can honestly before the
Lord, then we can trust Him to work out the solution. The blessing
comes when we have participated but that we know the victory is from
the Lord.

Conclusion The enemy never attacked. They could have, but they didn't.
I think they would have if everybody was at ease and not paying
attention to the threat. We must take the threat seriously. We must
use our resources to deal with the enemy. It is like taking the 5 loaves
and 2 fish and feeding a multitude with a twist. There is more to the
eye than it sounds. Notice what is happening when all the people gather
up stones and swords and arm themselves around the wall. Sure the
enemy could penetrate but they knew it would be at a cost. They could
see the seriousness of the people defending their homes. The Spirit of
God used this courage on the part of the people of God to ward off an
attack. Listen to Nehemiah's hope in verse 14, "Remember the Lord
who is great and awesome." His real hope is in the Lord who is great and
awesome. We might think we are taking it into our own hands by doing
what we can, but usually whether it be a law case or whatever, we
realize that God is asking you to work with Him in the project. There
usually is enough weakness on our part, in this case their defenses, to
still awe the people with God's greatness. The people were not saying,
"We can do it." Nehemiah focused them on what God could do and
encouraged them to stay faithful doing what was good and legitimate.
€Intensive participation (Neh 4: 12-13).
Intensify their efforts . At first, it seems that only the professionals
were defending the weak places, but when the threats intensified, well
so must the defense. A good defense after the battle does no one any
good. In verses 12-13 we see Nehemiah reinforced the wall by
expanding the defense team. He was desperate. Looking at it
objectively, we see that everyone became participators this way. God
used the voices of the Jews to come up with a solution that would help
everyone overcome their own fears.

It is easy for us to trust the professionals, but often they are not what
is going to hold back the enemy. The reason is our trust is in man rather
than God. Another reason is that we are not operating as one but as
individuals. God has made us a body. We are one. If one place gets hurt,
then the others come in helping. Our family greatly appreciates the
extra love shown when our family recently went through a difficult time.
But I want you to realize that there are many people out there needing
help. The enemy in some cases has run right into the life of one of our
families.

He is mocking us. You can pray but it is not going to do any good. "Ha,
ha!" My brothers and sisters, what is it going to take to get us out from
our television sets and get you visiting the others in our congregation
not to mention the lost? When will you start putting your family on the
wall with sword in hand so that you not only keep an eye on your family
but also reach out to protect others.

Lately, we have been learning a lot of the immune system. Many of us
have a dead Christian love. We hear of brothers and sisters in need but
don't really pray and do what the Spirit prompts you. As a result,
trouble worsens. Now if we allowed infections to grow in our body, say in
one part of our body. What is the normal thing to happen? The whole
body focuses on that weakness by sending special cell units to fight off
the enemy.
Application If our lives are so isolated that we do not know the needs of
others in the Lord's body, then we are too isolated. We need to take
part. The Concert of Prayer is a great time to find out the needs of our
needs here as well as far away. Secondly, we must get out there and
make other people's needs part of our busy lives. This is the love of
God. Without action, talk about love is cheap.

€ Encouraging words (Neh 4: 14).
Nehemiah was great at these speeches. He must of had the gift of
encouragement. In verse 14 he first told them to not be afraid. Many
of us have heard these words, "Don't be afraid." It seems to help little
when you are afraid. But Nehemiah backed it up with the truth and a
challenge. The truth was that God was great and awesome. God is able
even when man isn't. We should expect more of these faith battles as
our lives grows. I was recently talking to one person who thought their
trial was once in a life time thing. I told them, "No, no. Our lives are a
series of opportunities to further trust God in these crises."

Furthermore, there was a challenge. He presented to them the stakes
involved. They were there to protect their families and lands. We need
to keep focused on what our lives are for. What is God's mission? I hope
each of you make it a priority to attend the mission conference where
we learn what is on God's heart. But returning to our focus on
overcoming the enemy, don't forget to apply this to facing the enemy
and saying that you are going to get back what God has promised you.

€ Focused on God's will (Neh 4:15-23). Keep focused.
The other thing that was done after the enemy demobilized their
fighting forces, was to redistribute the forces and maintain a proper
guard. In other words, they were willing to let down their defenses for
the sake of the work of God. They had to keep building. Sometimes the
emergencies and troubles that occur around us can get us to misfocus. A
misfocus quickly becomes a snare if we are not careful. We would never
feel comfortable to keep building. But they came up with a plan that
enabled them to protect them with a thinner layer of protection so that
more of the reserves could get to the actual building. If there is
trouble on one place, then they will blow a trumpet and everyone will
hear. The reserves will run on over to help. This required more faith.
However Nehemiah again focused them on God's work through their
feeble resources in by saying in verse 20, "Our God will fight for us."
They were truly not to live by the fear of their enemies.

This work was not easy. It wasn't for the fainthearted. But praise God,
the Lord gave them the plan they could work with.

Application Project Love is before us. It is far beyond our resources.
But we are using prayer and our resources for looking. Our search shows
our confidence in God. If we stopped looking and praying, then we would
see that our vision has been waylaid. But God is asking us to stay
focused on His work.

Application Beyond Project Love is the vision to reach the Chinese and
others for Christ in Pittsburgh. If we are so focused on our job or
children, then we will not rightly do God's will. It takes a careful
balance. I do not encourage you to forget your family or job for church
work. We have to become experts in taking what we have and begin to
expand our focus. I believe one of the best ways is through the home.
We invite people over. We get to talk and know people. But we also have
fellowship groups or cell groups. I hope you take part in being with God's
people. It is not just a meeting but a means of protection and advance.

Summary Fear from the enemy is designed purposely to keep you from
doing God's work. The ultimate test is to see whether you have been
waylaid. Have you actually done what God has called you to do? Yes, we
have bad health, disappointing friendships, difficult family
circumstances, but the key question in the end is that are you so
poised to do God's will that someone's threat will not be able to
keep you doing what God wants. You might need to move slower than
you thought. But you never gave up. You were determined to do what you
could to affirm His will in your life. Your faith was deepened to trust
God for things you never trusted Him to do before and so you find Him
to be so great and awesome.

The Israelites finally overcame their fears and the wall was built. As
they built this wall, the enemies had to give up some easy ways that they
were manipulating the people. But when we sense what God wants, then
     we can believe Him for the way. The resources will never look enough
     because they are pointing us to coworking with God. He could do it all
     Himself but wants us to join Him in the task so that we can join Him in
     the glory of it all. This year God is calling us to restoration. What is
     needed in your own heart? In your family? In your church? In your job?
     In your school work? Let us no longer give into our enemies who
     intimidates us with fears, but stand firmly in trust to God to lead us as
     His overcomers!

Nehemiah 5:1-5 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #11
                      STEPPING INTO POVERTY

Step #1 Loaning Ourselves into Poverty
Step #2 Mortgaging Ourselves into Poverty
Step #3 Burying Ourselves into Poverty

There are several ways to learn God's Word. Only one is acceptable. Many of
us learn God's Word as clothing. We just put it on. We cover ourselves with
it. But what God wants is for us to conform with Him in our heart. We want
God's Word in our blood touching every aspect of His body.

I remember learning an important lesson from those who work with leprosy
patients. The surgeon said that pain is good. Pain protects our body; it is the
nerves which allow us to detect pressure and danger. Without the nerves or
with deadened nerves, one finds a great host of dangers. What if you held
something hot but didn't know it? What would happen to your skin? What if a
bug was biting you but you didn't realize it. Or what would happen if you cut
yourself but didn't care for it or baby it?

I sense that we as a society have become numb to God in the area of finances.
We just don't understand how deadened our senses are toward God. And
great dangers have encompassed us without us even being aware. It is like
cooking a frog in increasingly hot water. He doesn't sense the danger until it
is too late. We think we are experts when we are in the process of slow
death. It is grace to the Israelites that they could finally understand the
great predicament they were in. You see, one does not become impoverished
overnight. The result is usually from a series of foolish decisions.
Let me ask you an important question, "Why did they cry out in distress now?"

   Were things getting worse or did they just see things from a clearer
perspective? This allowed more boldness of some to actually vent their
longstanding anger. The point is that through all these years the leaders had
compromised their responsibility. Instead of leading the people out of
trouble, they took advantage of it. And for many years God let it go on.
Clearly He did not approve of it , but He did permit it.

     Or did the local authorities take advantage of the enemies loss of
      power?

Perhaps we find that the local powers increased their usury tactics since they
no longer felt threatened by the other enemies. They simply took over the
corruption that the others had initiated. They more aggressively oppressed
them with the extra authority they now could exercise. And perhaps it is at
this stage the Jews realized that this was not just the evil enemy from far
away that was forcing them into poverty and despair. It was their own people!
The guilt was written all over the walls that their own leaders were hurting
the people for their own greed.

We are not sure to what intensity these two scenes influenced the people,
but surely it climaxed with a great and sudden solemnness to realize your only
enemies are not on the outside but your own leaders. This caused a great
uproar. Let's trace the distressful reports. We can hear it almost as a
hearing with three witnesses, each with a story that builds upon the previous.

The more I subject myself to the teachings of the scriptures, the more I
sense we are in great danger. We think we are free, but we are slaves. We
pride ourselves at making the best deals for ourselves, but instead we are
setting ourselves up for a big fall. We think we are getting ahead of the
system but in fact the whole system is about to fall over on top of us and
crush us. There might not be a lot of people that can hear what I am saying.
If you don't hear the Word of the Lord, surely you will perish. These
Israelites could finally see their devastating circumstances and made a great
outcry. They finally woke up. I am hoping that we ourselves will also awaken
and make some distress calls to the Lord to get out of our situation. For if
not, we then will die a slow death. You do not have to take another step into
poverty but you will if you do not let God speak to you through His Word. I
have incorporated several biblical principles into the lesson here and hope to
clarify them as I go along.

I honestly was not planning to speak on this topic at all as I prepared for
chapter 5 but when I got to these verses, the Spirit of God greatly humbled
me and showed me that we in America including the Christian Church has
made many bad assumptions all of which lead to poverty. Let me now clarify
these three steps into poverty, hoping of course that we will cry out in the
end for change and financial freedom. I do not mean to be a final voice on this
subject but neither will I quickly give up what the Word of God promises and
warns us in Proverbs 30:5-6,

     "Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in
     Him.
     Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar."
     Let's analyze the three different states of poverty. The first group
     inverse 2 are those that take personal loans. The second in verse 3 are
     mortgaging their large possessions. The third group has been so
     engrossed into borrowing that now they only have their children.

     Story #1 Stepping into debt and poverty.
     The first group of people were grieving over the way they had to step
     into debt. This is the way it should be about stepping into debt. Grief
     was proper. Maybe we could ask a similar question of ourselves, "Do we
     grieve when we take our first loan for the sake of having a better
     future?" This is the first danger scene. Loans in whatever form are
     easily taken as normal and good rather than dangerous and evil. We have
     lost our common 'cents.'

     Now I want you be aware that you might feel anger to me, shame or just
     an impatience. This will probably be to the degree that you have
     personal loans or credit card debt. It is suppose to be pervasive you
     know. The average credit a card debt is around $3,000. We received
     through the mail over a hundred credit card/personal loan offers this
     year alone. I expect that many of you might be unhappy with this
     subject. That is okay. But be careful if you take a lie and protect your
conscience. Learn about the truth. If all is well, then you have nothing to
fear. But if you have problems, it is better that you discover them and
save yourself rather than not ever finding them until they find you out.

You might wonder that their circumstances are very different from
ours. Yes,this is very true. I do not deny this. They had big families and
they were running out of grain. When they looked at their Quicken
financial program, they could see that the famine was taking away two
things. First of all, they knew that when grain was low, that their own
food supply was low. They would eat grain as a staple but also exchange
it for other things they might need. were considering it for the sake of
food for their sons and daughters. But we also know as farmers, if they
lose their grain, they loose their future means of income. A farmer
would always keep enough grain to sow the next year. No one would be so
foolish to eat all your seed. Nehemiah 5:2 says, "We, our sons and our
daughters, are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and
live."

For the Israelites, they greatly needed the grain to live. In verse 1 it
says that they grieved greatly over this. Today, we would wonder what is
the big problem. We might wonder whether they couldn't find someone
to loan them money. We would without second thought just take a loan
out. Yes, the interest rate might be a bit higher than you would like, but
you have a real legitimate need. Anyway, you would no doubt quickly
reason in your mind, that everything will be better next year and you
would pay off the debt - maybe even early. But even still, they could not
easily accept their situation nor should they. They were being forced
into compromising situations. They probably were very aware that the
Law forbid them to participate in such loans. But they had little faith.
Their children were hungry. They chose a lesser of evils.

Ex 22:25 "If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you
are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest."
Le 25:36-37 "Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your
God, that your countryman may live with you. You shall not give him your
silver at interest, nor your food for gain."
De 23:19 "You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on
      money, food, [or] anything that may be loaned at interest."
      De 23:20* "You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your
      countryman you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God
      may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about
      to enter to possess."

      You might be quick thinking. You are thinking it is not wrong to take a
      loan with interest but only forbidden to give loans with interest. But in
      fact if you comply with the loan, then you are in essence allowing
      another to break the law. Perhaps the main responsibility is his, but
      there is a secondary responsibility that we should not ignore. This is the
      law, the command. But why?

      The Lord forbid loans for His people for numerous reasons. This kind of
      thinking is foreign to our thinking; it is hard for us to catch on to God's
      purposes. But nevertheless, let me mention four reasons the Lord
      doesn't want us to take loans.

     He guides us through our special needs and His special supply of these
      needs.
     He helps protect us from covetousness & prideful plans.
     He uses tough situations to build up our faith and learn more of His
      character.
      Proverbs 22:19 says, "So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have
      taught you today, even you."
     He wants us to have financially free lives where we are not subject to
      others. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, And the
      borrower becomes the lender's slave." We become a slave to a lender.
      Satan can easily use these lenders to exert control over the lives of
      God's people. God doesn't want His people to owe anyone anything but
      love.

Pr 22:26-27 says, "Do not be among those who give pledges, Among those
who become sureties for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, Why
should he take your bed from under you?"
In Proverbs we read that debt binds you to serve another person. Debt means
you are in obligation to another. We should not think that 5 trillion is a trifle,
nor should we think $100. or $5. To be nothing. Debt is something we must
avoid as much as possible. Credit cards cause us to slowly step into debt and
consolidation loans hide the fact of our debt from our eyes.

     Don't step into debt for you then have lost your freedom. Perhaps you
     don't understand this because of a Christian principle that is implied.
     For a Christian, we cannot simply go bankrupt. Perhaps legally you can
     and should, but under God's law, you must pay back every cent to those
     you owe.

     I know you might think I am living in some imaginary world. I am not. And
     frankly, I am a beginner in taking God seriously about how His people
     ought to use money. The whole economy is built on credit and debit. My
     mom taught me always to have a loan so that you have access to credit.
     Someone recently boasted of the great increase of people that now
     have houses. But one commentator rightly asked, "How many really
     owned their own houses?" They actually belonged to some bank or to the
     government!

     Would it be better to have little and free or much and under the hold of
     another? I am not making light of people's needs here. The Israelites
     were starving; there were no food banks or food stamps. They
     understood God's ideal so that they felt outraged to be part of this
     enslaving system.

     But for most of us, the problem is not this. We do not take loans for
     food but because we want bigger and better. Our desires rather than
     our needs lead us into debt. Is this not covetousness? Your own loan and
     credit card statements are something you have brought upon your own
     heads. God let you go into debt slavery because of your desire for
     better quality. I know many of you might state some good reasons for
     this, but I simply will say that it is not good enough. Our parents would
     rent until they could afford a small home. After many years, if ever,
     they buy a cheaper home. Only later in life are many able to afford a
     bigger home. We want to start off where they ended. When you make
     bigger purchases presuming your job is stable and health is okay, then
     you are again doing what God says not to. You are living off of
     presumption. You live as if you know tomorrow.
New Growth possibilities
Let me paint two pictures. Which do you favor?
#1 Men are greedy. They want to get ahead and therefore at a price
loan out money at the highest interest rate possible. Others become
obligated to them and they make money from those that are struggling.
If they can't pay; tough luck on they!
#2 Men are loving. We work hard so that we can give to others in need.
In fact, we deny ourselves different things so that we can give more
away. We probably won't get any recognition or any profit on earth, but
we will in heaven. We give to help others not to put a burden on them.
We live modestly within what God has given us. Therefore we give
thanks to God and not to the banks.

I am still dreaming of the later. I might be naive, but I can and have
started where I am in this world. Right in my own home and life and
neighborhood. None of us should be stepping into compromising
situations of debt but aggressively take steps on stepping out of debt.

The Lord doesn't want His people under obligation to others but only to
Him. Personal loans not only compromise the command "owe man nothing"
but keeps us from the freedom to love one another.

Story #2 Mortgaging Ourselves into Poverty
The second distress call is worse than the first. At least the family
started off okay. They started with their property intact. It belonged
to them. This is more than most of us can say, including myself. If I
knew what I know five years ago, I doubt that I would have even bought
the expensive house I bought. It might not be relatively expensive, but
it is more expensive than I could afford. Don't think that I don't go
through the same struggles of the economic benefits for those who
have a mortgage, tax-wise and otherwise. But we just fool ourselves. We
are deceived. We cheat ourselves. We don't let the Lord get the glory
for providing for us. Nor do we learn the discipline of appreciating the
things we gain because we have had worse and worked for the better.

The big question is why do we have mortgages? The people here were in
such distress that they were mortgaging their lands and houses just to
get grain. The grain served two purposes. It provided them with food
and secondly with seed for next year. They would either have to sell or
to mortgage. Mortgaging actually became a means of selling and leasing.
The privilege was that they would be able to retain full use of the
property. But what would happen if they forfeited the payment? Well
they spent the money elsewhere that they got for mortgaging their
property. This means they were very dependent on getting money from
elsewhere to make those payments. And if things did not go as they
hoped, and they couldn't manage to put themselves into further loans
and debt, then finally, they would have to give up the mortgage. They
would lose the right to use the property altogether or to secure it in
the future at the set price.

They were mortgaging down and out. We are usually mortgaging into a
purchase settlement. The problem is our assumption of income and the
discontent of what we have. Many from overseas can identify with this
tension. They ask why are Americans so credit oriented. They just can't
understand. But they catch on real quickly. This is the way we live. We
have hardly ever given any thought whether it is right or wrong. We
probably have never even considered whether this is the way God wants
us to live. What if it isn't? What if it is just a way that we have
satisfied our covetous and doubting hearts? In this case our expensive
items have become like idols on the high places. God's anger is upon us
because of our many ways of never seeking Him. He let us step into
binding situations without His blessing. He never promised that He
would give us those mortgage payments.

We are proud of our mortgages. We think we got a good deal. After all,
it is worth much more - hopefully, maybe, than before. If the house was
worth less, then I would end up buying a house much more for what it
was worth. Is not the interest we pay an amazing amount of money? Are
we not purchasing the house 2-3 times the original cost? Does anyone
ever tell you the real price tag of the house including the interest? No.
Have not some of us been buying dream houses our of desires rather
than humbly and gratefully thanking God for what He has given to us.
We have missed out on God's miracles. We have never been able to see
clearly how God has provided for us. For we have lived this part of our
lives without Him. We have secularized ourselves.
Application Where do we go from here? We must aggressively get out
of our mortgages. It is important. Many of our anxieties are because we
fear we would lose the place we live. Some have bought homes because
of educational reasons. Maybe you were not trusting God for these
things too.

You might be wondering about what I am doing. I want you to know I am
doing what I am preaching. I am aggressively getting out of my
mortgage. I have been praying about this matter for the last months
because when I bought it, I bought it first with a 15 year mortgage and
then have been making extra payments on the principal probably like
many of you are doing. This is good in a less than acceptable situation.
But I have been praying about paying it off completely. Yes, I might lose
a few tax deductions. But then I am not bound to man but to God. In
this case I look to God to supply. You might be thinking how you ask God
to provide your mortgage payments. Of course, this is much better than
not looking to Him at all. But we might deceive ourselves that God is
happy with that. He has a better way.

Dream. What would happen if everyone would live a bit more modestly?
We could use the $3-10,000 dollars on interest that we have been
paying to help other brothers and sisters who are likewise dedicated to
live by these principals. We live modestly. We give liberally as God leads.
If you have 10 families saving $5,000 a year to give away to a needy
family, we could begin to build a strong community of Christians who are
living free of debt. I know many people come and go. Many don't
understand anything of what I am dreaming about. But maybe God will
help us make it happen.


Story #3 Burying Ourselves into Poverty
We don't often want to face up to the steps toward poverty. Stepping
into debt is not a small matter. Something is wrong. A crisis is at hand.
Unfortunately, we do it for things we have coveted, whether house or
car or education. We pledge our souls to the bank and governments.
Secondly, we are in the process of mortgaging what we do have. We owe
something here, so we borrow a little there. It sounds innocent enough,
but in fact it is quite horrible. We are absolutely blind to the danger of
the whole affair because we think if we go bankrupt, we are not
responsible for what we owe. This is not true. Before God we are
responsible. We owe that money still. If we buy unwisely for things that
are for fun, travel, entertainment, etc., remember that we have to pay
all that money back.

But we never face up to the fact what would happen if we couldn't? The
last step into poverty is what we hear from the people saying in verses
4-5. They have already mortgaged their property and taken loans out on
what they did have or might be able to do, but now they feel forced to
make immoral compromises to pay them back. They actually sell off
their children. Verses 5:4-5 says,

"Also there were those who said, "We have borrowed money for the
king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. "And now our flesh is like the
flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we
are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our
daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless because
our fields and vineyards belong to others."

Please don't think this thing does not happen. I have heard true stories
of individuals being sold to make a little money. Girls are sold to
prostitute houses in the city. I know of missionaries that work with
them. Yes, they gambled too much. They drank too much. They shouldn't
have said such boisterous claims. But they did. We might take a personal
loan on the sure report of an upsurging market, but then lost it all. But
it will take a lifetime to pay back. One might not be just selling off
children but selling drugs or stealing. What else could they do?

The problem is that we often do not see the bondage of debt until it is
all revealed in such an ugly scenario. These Israelites finally got up
enough nerve to face the facts when all three steps were so obvious to
them. Step #1, 2, 3. One by one they were all going down the drain
because someone wanted to make money off of them. We will not admit
to bondage until it is too late and the disaster is already done. I am
warning you today to turn from your covetous lives. We might not live in
desire of food like these Israelites. But we live bound by our desire for
other things. God wants us to break this sinful habit. He desires that we
turn from this whole thing before we are forced into unholy financial
payoffs.

Let me give you a few scenarios. If your boss wanted a sexual favor,
would you do it? Not if you were financially secure. But what if your life,
your job or house depended upon it? Would you then do it? Do you see
that Satan is slowly setting up our nation for a fall much worse than the
stock market crash? Not only the poor are being set up, but the middle
class. They are all obligated. Even the rich are bound because they want
more than what they have. Because they fall for a tax benefit, they
compromise on their desires. How can we stop this syndrome? Only by
God's grace. Only by repenting.

Summary We need an opening of our eyes to see that we have not only
gone against our God but are under His judgment. We claim to be
Christians but we are living like the world and therefore will be judged
with the world. God wants to restore us all, not just a few. He wants to
take the curse of our judgment of our shoulders. I know I have left
many questions hanging. I look at them as secondary issues - important
but not most important. We must look at the scriptures and see that
God believes obedience more important than quality, trust more
important than worry, faith than a loan. God is helping us see our
impoverished situation before we all become in the like similar situation
as group #3. He is showing us the path is one step at a time.

     For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot
     take anything out of it either. And if we have food and
     covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want
     to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish
     and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and
     destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of
     evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the
     faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee
     from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness,
     godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. (1
           Timothy 6:7-11).

           Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be
           conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches,
           but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
           Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be
           generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the
           treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they
           may take hold of that which is life indeed. (1 Timothy 6:17-
           19).

Nehemiah 5:1-19 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #12
                      What Have I Done That Counts?
A. Distress [Nehemiah 5:1-6) Three Desperate Cries Injustice
B. Action (Nehemiah 5:7-13) One Lonely Voice Confrontation
C. Preservation (Nehemiah 5:14-19) One Big Sacrifice Servant Leadership

Many are content to only go so far in our relationship with God. Once we are
out of the extreme dangers, we quickly become content with what we have.
We just wish everything would be settled down so that we could get on with
our life. Or even worse, once we see that God demands a sacrifice on our part,
we quickly get out of our way by busying ourselves and trying to forget God.
Let us put a stop to this. It is time that we get serious with what God is
serious with and that is His mission to save the lost. I don't deny that we
might find difficulty after difficulty as we learn to prioritize His program
over our preferences, but this is what we were called to. The fancy word for
it is sanctification, the gradual changing of our lives to be more and more like
our holy Father in heaven. How long have you been a Christian? If you have
been a Christian for more than a few years, under normal circumstances you
should be able to be discipling others. Why do so many believers be as infants
still feeding on the milk of the Word rather than going for the meat?

At the end of chapter 4, do you remember what Nehemiah was doing? On his
side was a sword while he was working on the wall. They did not even dare to
change clothes. They stayed by the wall day and night. All for what? For a
wall?! The wall was important. It stood for the protection of God's people.
God is concerned about the protection of His people and their worship. So He
sent Nehemiah to them. However, we stand at the feet of our Great General
Jesus Christ who said that we are to work equally hard and desperate not for
our own lives but for the lives of others. This is the grand purpose and theme
of Christianity all summarized in that great word love and proven by the blood
of Christ.

If you are focused only on getting, then you had better turn to some other
religion, for Christianity is based on giving. The only way people are going to
get love is for those who have the love of God to share it with others. And
the only way we are going to get it to others is to give up our parties and
pleasures. Nehemiah the grand official and defender of Jerusalem stood in
the mud with the others, sword by his side, building the wall. But his passion
to do all the will of God drove him to deeper and more costly risks. In chapter
5, we find that Nehemiah was regularly and persistently asking the important
question, "What have I done that counts?" He was not content to let the evil
one knock his brothers down. He was not content to give up the battle of the
Lord. You see there was something different that was driving Nehemiah just
as it drove Jesus. He had compassion. And his compassion led him to action,
and his action was followed up by consistent modeling. We find this pattern
here and elsewhere. Let's look closer at this important pattern to building
the Kingdom of God.

A. Distress [Nehemiah 5:1-5) Three Desperate Cries Injustice
We start with listening to the cry of the people. There is no doubt to me that
what made Jesus so special is not the people He met but the way He
perceived their needs. When do you find that Jesus focused on His own
needs? He was crowded about; bothered night by night. Never harried about
by financial pressures though He had no possessions and no saving accounts.
The only time He could find quietness to pray was in the middle of the night!
Jesus saw the distress all about. He heard their cries for help. The people
are the same. They have great needs. It seems like everytime I take a bus or
plane, someone looking for an ear to hear their problems starts telling me
their sad story. The problem is that we are not compassionate. We do not
really care about people. I am not saying that we do not sense any pain, but
that we are not able to really hit our hearts because the needs are so great.
These people all of a sudden errupted in anguish over the willingness of their
fellow believers to go against God's Law and make money off their poverty.
Last time we covered the three steps into poverty. Step #1 They loaned
themselves into poverty. Step #2 They mortgaged themselves into Poverty.
Step #3 They buried themselves into poverty. A compromise that seems only
mild at first stings us and our children later on. I am not saying that I have
fully covered the question of taking loans with interest. In verse 10 Nehemiah
himself says that he himself with others are giving loans to the poor for their
food. Most commentators think the passage demands the interpretation that
Nehemiah loaned money without any interest. This interpretation says that
the usury that he was criticizing was a loan with interest. The Golden Rule
forbids them or us to make a profit off a brother. In other words, if we are
prepared to give a loan without interest to the poor. This is okay. Don't take
interest. But you must not use the loan against him. If he cannot pay it back,
you need to be prepared to take a lost of money and not the friend. There is
the good side to the loan in that you encourage them to work hard. There is
the bad side that you undutily put pressure on that relationship. We are told
not to put money above a relationship so we must be willing to part with it.
Frankly, if we were more willing to give our money away, I think that we would
do so much more in terms of gifts rather than loans. God would much more
bless you for the gift.

There are many unanswered questions. I only hope that we can take a
resolution to get out of debt and not to step into debt. We can not
immediately get rid of our debt. God wants to set us free finanically as well
as in other areas. If some of you were serious, we could have a forum
discussing these issues. Don't think you have a handle on life when you live in
slavery to others. We are greatly deceived when we excitedly go out from the
loan office upon hearing that we just got that loan we applied for. Don't think
great of yourselves when you got a loan or mortgage. We instead should be
grieving. We cannot correct many past mistakes in an instance of time. It will
take a lot of hard planning and prayer. But this is exactly what the Lord wants
to help you with.

But you see, it is not only us who are in financial distress, but many around us.
And if it is not financial, then it is one of the many forms of oppression and
pain that they are experiencing. Once God opens our eyes to our real situation
and the situation of our country, then you will be alarmed. You will begin to
cry out not just for yourself but for all those around you. The real problem is
that we have no fear of God. We have not connected our pain with our sinful
decisions. I was shocked when I heard a recent general share that since 1992
that our military forces have been cut in two. He then mentioned the lack of
funding and the forced homosexuality into the services. I would add the
moral problem of including women in the active force. Then my eyes were
opened and I saw that God ws readying us for military defeat. God permitted
this loosened protection so that we could be rightly judged!

The fear of God will only come about when we begin to see that the pain that
the people around us are from their sinful choices. It is only then we will not
only hear their pain but know that something can be done to stop it. Can we
hear the cries of the urban children who have no parents to care for them?
Can we hear the distress of the single mother? Can we hear the moaning of
the divorcee? Can we sense the pain of those under crushing financial
pressures? Can we hear the fighting of couples? Can we feel the pain of a
person ripping apart another person? Will we fix this with a government
program? No. Is the solution by getting a new stadium when we haven't even
paid off our old one?

Application I like you need God to teach me to identify with those hurting
around us. For if we are not hearing their cries of distress, we are probably
criticizing them so to excuse ourselves or busying ourselves so our lives are
not disturbed.


B. Action (Nehemiah 5:6-13) One Lonely Voice Confrontation
Nehemiah himself was awoken with their cry. He was one of those rare
leaders that actually heard the cry of the people. He was angry to hear these
things happening. He actually got very angry. We remember from chapter 4
how the enemy was angry. On both occassions the enemy anger controlled
them. A battle ensued. On this occassion Nehemiah got very angry. Anger has
to be handled very carefully. Rarely is righteousness accomplished by anger.
But in this case it did. Note what happened when he saw the great anger swell
up inside him. He actually stopped the 'merry go round' and inspected the
situation. Note in verse 7 how we see that he first verified his feelings. He
probably felt like doing and saying a lot of things but at first refused to. On
seeing his driving anger, he first took a real honest look at the situation.
From this we know that his anger was not controlling him but that Nehemiah
was in control of his anger. His anger was rightly being used to conquer a very
fierce enemy. Let's note the three action steps he took.

1) The first thing he did was to consult with himself. The word 'consult' is
the same as to reign or be king. The idea is that Nehemiah was not out of
control through his anger but was allowing his reason to rule. In other words,
he controlled himself. He reasoned the situation through. Righteous anger will
not just respond but always be led by what is reasonable and proper in the
given situation. I can expect that as a leader he was contemplating what he
might confront if he exposed this situation. Perhaps he was wondering
whether he had the force to impose a change. We don't know what he actually
was thinking except that he did not let fears drive him away from
confrontation but to honestly face the task that God put before him.
Nehemiah is so similar to Jesus. What did Jesus do to plan His day? It
seemed that what he did was always in terms of what He met that day. No
appointments by schedule but by meeting up with different situations and
people. God put this issue before Nehemiah and he was trying to faithfully
respond as he should to it.

2) After consulting with himself, he contended with the nobels and rulers.
The NIV uses 'accused' but this word does not have this meaning. The word
means to contend or stive against. In other words, it seems that Nehemiah
was not considering whether this was a legitimate charge. He accepted their
guilt and now was beginning to challenge them as to the properness of it.
Nehemiah confronted both the nobles and the public officials. We might
think of them as the big property holders or investors and politicians of the
city. We recognize that when these two groups get together, that often the
political decisions made often tend to give advantage to the big businesses.
And the big businesses often end up supporting these politicians. The others
get squeezed out. Nehemiah no doubt knew who they were. He had access to
them. He went right to them and exposed their immoral money making
schemes. They were taking usury from their brothers (7). Not only was it
illegal but it was immoral. In the O.T. there was no difference between the
two. The Israelites were brothers of one another. They descended from
Jacob later named Israel. They had a common forefather and therefore were
brothers. Loans with interest were wrong between brothers. Psalms 15:4-5
says of the man of integrity,

     "But who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt,
     and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, .... He
     who does these things will never be shaken."
     3) This led to the third step. He held a congregational meeting. The
     scriptures called it a great assembly. The purpose of this assembly was
     said to be "against them." We know this is not the first time he
     gathered the people together and reasoned with them. The first time
     was in chapter 2 when he was acting in secrecy about his plans for the
     wall. Then in verses 2:16-17 he made his plan public to both the Jews
     as well as the foreign oppressors. These Jewish leaders were probably
     silently glad to kick out these foreign bullies. They were thinking if it
     worked out right they could control the whole market of making money
     of their brothers.

     At this assembly he gave them three fine arguments.
     The first one is recorded in verse 8. Neh 5:8 says,

     "And I said to them, "We according to our ability have redeemed our
     Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell
     your brothers that they may be sold to us?" In other words, Nehemiah
     and others have been using their money to buy back the Jews that were
     sold into slavery to the extent they could afford it. As slaves on the
     market, maybe a Jewish person in Babylon cost 30 coins of silver. He
     would take his own money and buy them and then because they belonged
     to him, set them free. Now if Nehemiah and others were doing this,
     then how is it that the Jewish leaders were structuring the society in
     such a way that these individuals were one by one being sold back into
     slavery?! This inherent contradiction of purpose caused a big wave of
     quiet reaction among these rulers and officials. Verse 8 says, "Then
     they were silent and could not find a word to say." But Nehemiah
     doesn't stop here.

     The second argument is given in verse 9. Nehemiah was given them
     reason to shame. Shame is a proper response to improper behavior
before the presence of others. Israel was to be a light to the nations
and not just another smudge on the screen. Hey were to differe
themselves fromtheir enemies. If we made enemies with our own people,
then we are countering the very reason they existed.

The third argument further deepened the conviction. In verse 10 it
says that Nehemiah and others were actually lending them money and
grain. We must understand from this that the loans that Nehemiah and
others were giving to the brothers were not the same kind of loans that
these business men were making. There is no sense of usury being
charged. There are some commentators which suggest that this means
that Nehemiah was not charging them an usury interest, that is, an
interest upon an interest. This would be a situation that they could
never practically get out of. There would be no chance of paying back
the loan because the interest charge was so high. This is something like
the high interest on a credit card. Last time we read numerous
commands from the Mosaic Law which prohibited loans with interest.
Let me now quote from Psalm 15:4-5 in describing the man with
integrity.

"But who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt,
and does not change; He does not put out his money at interest, .... He
who does these things will never be shaken."
Nehemiah stood out with others as men who cared. They put their
money where their hearts were. They clearly stood out from the
oppressors. They were helping the poor and needy. My thinking is that
Nehemiah probably was setting up a situation where he didn't want to
just give out big handouts so that people would create improper
relationships with him. He probably used the recovery of loans (if any)
to help set more Israelites in slavery free. However we understand it,
we must see that Nehemiah set a clearcut model in the way he
generously gave and lent. If he was not acting in a way that everyone
would admire, friend and foe, then his rigorous demands would not hold.
But the leaders were caught in a bind. They all of a sudden were aware
of their responsibility to the people.
As long as a famine existed, the people as farmers would never be able
to pay off their debt. Only interest free loans would enable them to
keep their properties and children.

What is it that Nehemiah demanded? In a general context, he
demanded that they leave off the usury. The usury was a financial
obligation. One can look at the list in verse 11 as an expansion of the
effects of usury or a restoration that went beyond the usury. Either
way, all of these things played into the other. It was the usury that
caused the loss of their fields, etc.

Perhaps what was so surprising was the response of the leaders. They
agreed. Nehemiah, the smart one, got the priests and God into the
agreement so they would not go back on their words. Verse 12 says, "So
I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do
according to this promise." This is probably one of those encounters
that the leaders were saying, "Why in the world did we agree to those
absolute terms!"

Then Nehemiah in one of those dramatic cultural symbolisms of his day,
took the front of his robes and radically shook them and said a curse to
those who go back on their words. Theleaders sure would not like this
guy, but note the congregation's response. A big "AMEN!" Then they
praise the Lord. Just think of the implication this had on the society.
Nehemiah could only do it because he had never compromised. Nehemiah
could only have suceeded if his anger pushed him to such extreme
demands. The whole economy changed from dark to light, from night to
day in one day. This is the sign of the year of jubilee when everything
was restored.

Application Let me ask you. What is it that you would like restored in
your life? Do you have certain tender places in your life because you
have abused the Word of God? Secondly, let me ask you whether God
has made you sensitive to any situations in which you need to voice your
opinion or take action? The Lord has started to move in my life so that I
do not just complain to myself or my wife. I begin to do something. I
believe He wants you to start making a difference too.
C. Preservation (Nehemiah 5:14-19) One Big Sacrifice Servant
Leadership
We must move on to one more important point in verses 14-19. Do you
realize the power that Nehemiah exercised in all of this. He was a
deliverer, a conqueror, a generous great uncle, a fellow workman, a spy
for the right side, a man who believed in the people, a man who loved the
people. Not only did he have the emperor's power, but he so rightly
played his part that Israel's enemies have fled, the wall is being rebuilt
and the economy restored. No wonder he was forced into office (14).

The issue is that Nehemiah in or out of office did not change. He loved
the Lord, he kept praying and kept loving the people. The temptation is
that after you have suceeded that you get prideful and let up on the
zeal one once had. Not Nehemiah. This last section is very important for
it gives us a summary of the next decade of Nehemiah's life. The
policies are important but not so important as his life. For if his life
began to compromise or get soft, then the policies would certainly begin
to weaken and corruption set in. Nehemiah models the politicians of
early America that were looked upon as servants. They were called
ministers in their own right. They were called to serve. Only that this
would be given back to our country! Nehemiah did not compromise his
beliefs and in fact went beyond his beliefs so that the work God did
would not be stained.

Nehemiah knew he had enemies closeby. They were powerful and
influencial. He would be watched as a hawk. But every year he could go
out in front and tell everyone that he was not collecting his pay but
dedicating himself and monies for the service of God in serving the
people. He had a right to it. God would not have complained. But do you
see the change he was implementing in what the people should expect of
a governor. I don't think they would expect the new governor to go
without pay, but they would see he must be a governor who cares for
the people and put their needs first.

Let me summarize the effects of his sacrificing his pay:
1) He cared for God's people. He did not want to put any more tax on
them during this famine.
2) He wanted to model good governship. He was reshaping perspective
of politics.
3) He was making sure no one would misunderstood his motives of
assuming governor of Judah.
4) He protected himself from any of his strong opponents.

What was his sacrfice? Land was so cheap. He could have bought so
much land and become a great landowner in Jerusalem. He refused to
buy any land (16). He was not going to take any advantage of the people
that he so much loved.

He did not take his or his kinsmen food allowance. It is only right that
he would be paid this. But as I mentioned before, he was not only not
putting a heavy tax burden on them as the previous governors but didn't
take what everyone considered his right. Why? He mentions again this
phrase the "fear of God." In verse 15 he clearly states that his
relationship with God directed him in his decisions. He did not just do
what others did or what was considered fair. He was dealing with the
people as God would have him to do - just as God would.

We also find in verse 16 that he was back at the wall. He had a great
administrative burden but he was single focused. The wall had to be
built.

Lastly, we find in verse 17 that his hospitality was great. It seems that
there were 150 leaders and officials that would join him in a meal. What
a burden! But he was seeking friendshipwith them. The leaders perhaps
were corrupt, but now he was mentoring them personally.

Nehemiah closes with one of his great prayers in verse 19, "Remember
me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this
people." This is the second of many "Remember" prayers that Nehemiah
would lift up. This is a true leader's prayer. He could see his sacrifices.
His life was dedicated to them. We can expect that his fortune was
down greatly. He had more enemies than one could count in and outside
the country. He risked his life for the sake of the people. All was given
to them. Now his real hope because he would nto compromise getting
wealth from them, that God would somehow, someway remember him in
his faithfulness. What do you think God would do for Nehemiah? Do you
think God would greatly reward Nehemiah? Sure.

Application Now the key is do you want this kind of leader around you?
Would you like to turn the tables around on the way people are wrongly
using their positions? Would you like this kind of reward? God has called
us all as saints. We are the lights in the world. We are His temples of
love. Brothers and sisters, if we do not turn our lives around and begin
to do what is excellent, then we will be judged in the curse of
mediocracy. Let us ask the fear of God to occupy our hearts that we
might do the right thing, the excellent thing, the think that will be
remembered by those around us.

We can see that he was living for another time. He was investing his
skills and life now for the sake of a future kingdom - the kingdom of
God. And in Nehemiah we have an excellent model of how we need to be
motivated, called, and action oriented. God is not only going to ask us
what we professed but our works are going to be tested. What is it that
you have done in this life will count in the next? What things will God
remember? What will be remembered for eternity?

Galatians 6:4 says, "But let each one examine his own work, and then he
will have [reason for] boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in
regard to another."

I Corinthians 3:12-15 says, "Now if any man builds upon the foundation
with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will
become evident; for the day will show it, because it is [to be] revealed
with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If
any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a
reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he
himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

God would hear Nehemiah's prayer. Will He hear your prayer?

05383 hvn nashah {naw-shaw'} a primitive root [rather identical with
05382, in the sense of 05378]; TWOT - 1427; AV - exact 3, lend 3, lend
on usury 2, creditor 2, extortioner 1,
     taker of usury 1, usurer 1; 13
     1) to lend, be a creditor; 1a) (Qal); 1a1) to lend-------

     04855 avvm mashsha' {mash-shaw'} from 05383; TWOT - 1424a; n m
     AV - usury 2; 2
     1) lending on interest, usury
     1a) in Neh. 5:11, the rate of "usury" was only one per cent



Nehemiah 6:1-19 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #13
                           "RUMBLING RUMORS"
#1) Rumors tend to catch us off guard. 6:1-2 Don't be surprised when
they come.
#2) Rumors will not come from your friends. 6:2 Rumors have nothing in
common with love.
#3) Rumors by nature are distracting. 6:3 Focus on your calling and
mission.
#4) Rumors can take up a lot of time. 6:4 Refuse to engage in defense
beyond the simple truth.
#5) Rumors might even get worse. 6:5-6 Sometimes the situation gets
worse before improving.
#6) Rumors easily disillusion those around us. 6:5-9 We cannot always
count on those around us.
#7) Rumors foster the ability to make wrong decisions. 6:10-14 Be
careful making stressful decisions .

Nehemiah has been a wonderful example of a man of faith and character. We
must remember that when we study these people that God is trying to lift
each one of our faith and character higher too. Just as we studied in II
Peter 1 with all of those character traits, one builds upon another. We must
look at our godliness as godly and yet growing at the same time.
Sanctification, the perfection of our response to the Holy Spirit in our life, is
a growing process.

Some think that the great men of faith like Abraham, David, Nehemiah all of
a sudden had faith. We learn differently in scripture. Each one of them and
us go through different trials designed by the sovereign hand so that our own
faith might grow. Jesus never asks us to walk a road He hasn't walked. After
speaking of His death for our sins in verse 9, Hebrews 2:10-11 continues to
read,

     "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom
     are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of
     their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and
     those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is
     not ashamed to call them brethren."
     If our main purpose in life is to avoid troubles, we are in for a great
     disappointment for we will never learn from our trials. Trials and
     testings are there for us to learn to be more patient and loving always
     trusting God to work things out for us. The Lord wants us to instead
     make a glorious eternity our goal so that we will rightly handle the
     testings on earth. If we like many around us are seeking to be happy and
     secure, then we will jump the ship of sanctification at great cost to our
     lives.

     You might be wondering why Nehemiah who is so great and kind needs to
     go through so many testings. We could be satisfied with a mere
     materialistic answer that change itself brings trouble and Nehemiah was
     bringing change. But we need to go behind this word 'change' to
     understand the real reason of distress that Nehemiah was facing. There
     is a clear spiritual battle going on as Ephesians 6 says there goes on at
     the present. The battle between the forces of darkness and the forces
     of light. The enemies stand for the darkness. They persist in seeking
     for power and control so that they can manipulate and hurt God's
     people. Nehemiah represents the forces of the light. Today I hope to
     engage a very specific discussion on rumors. Rumors are one common
     means the evil one has utilized in destroying godly men and women as
     well as bringing God's great work to a halt. Now you must remember
     that it was God who called Nehemiah and sent him here. God did not just
     kill off these enemies. God saw these enemies and their attempts to
     thwart God's people as a wonderful opportunity to build up their faith,
     strengthen their resolve to serve the Lord and so to gain eternal
     rewards.
Rumors are unique in the way they try to tear a person down. I wonder
how many godly men and special works of God have been attempted to
shut down through rumors. Sometimes they are against a person's
character. Maybe someone comes against them saying that they are an
adulterer or have been seen in a liquor shop. Sometimes the accusations
truly seem impossible. For example, not in a few places it has been
alleged that Christians met in secret because they are cannibals and
drink the blood of their victims. This is a slight variation of Holy
Communion where Jesus said, "Eat my body and drink my blood." If no
one has any contact with Christianity, the stories I suppose are
credible.

This brings us to the focus of rumors: they are possible because there
is ignorance. Rumors are lies. But they are lies against others for the
purpose of tearing down a person or work of God. People tell rumors for
a lot of reasons usually associated with jealousy but sometimes out of
fear. I suppose that many a time they are not even aware they are
spreading rumors with an evil purpose. They are too engrossed in their
hate for their victim. We should not wonder that people even spread
rumors about Jesus Christ Himself. If rumors have been used before to
destroy a work of God, then clearly they will be used again and again.
The clear remedy is for us to hold to the scriptural standard that we
dismiss accusations that come from only one source. We need
verification, two witnesses, to bring an accusation against an elder.
Some people will come up and say in private that they know the
importance of evidence, but still ask the pastor not to say who told
them this thing. This goes contrary to the scriptural method! This is
very wrong. If you know a wrong and feel it needs to be exposed to the
elders, then you must be ready to supply your name. For who knows,
maybe you yourself are the source of the rumor!

Some rumors are only petty jealousies against an individual; some are
revolved are around leaders of God's work. We will look carefully into
this passage of Nehemiah 6:1-19 to find the hardships that rumors
can be. In a day of the internet, one can only think that a Web page can
be quickly put up, pretended to be written by the author, but all for the
purpose for maligning their ministry. One can send emails pretending to
be written by the person charged. Now is the time for the church to be
aware of the schemes of the evil one to protect that which is good,
great and beautiful. It reminds me of the work to enjoy the good
letters from my friends and coworkers in the Lord. I have to sort out
the good from the downright evil email. I don't even dare open many
emails. We sometime need to slug through the mud of the low river to
get to the high ground on the other side. Nehemiah plowed through the
mess. It was hard on him. But he kept his vision. He kept on going in the
strength of the Lord. Let us now look at seven observations on rumors
and solutions to those challenges.

#1) Rumors tend to catch us off guard. 6:1-2 Don't be surprised
when they come.
I would like to begin by again clearly asserting that we should not be
caught off guard. If God is doing a great work, then we should expect
rumors to occur. If there is something to be jealous of, then in the
context of God's work, we usually think of it to be good. In this case
the wall has been rebuilt. In a remarkably short time the wall of
Jerusalem was restored. The gates were not yet repaired, but the wall
was. Even now the enemy could see what God was doing. They didn't
need for it all to be finished to see what good was happening.

Solution If rumors arise to destroy the work of God and the people of
God, then don't be alarmed by them. I am not saying they are easy to
take. We will discuss this later. I am sure some of my grey hairs are
from such things. But if they come, then we should perceive that
something good is happening. If nothing was happening, then there would
be no jealousy.

#2) Rumors will not come from your friends. 6:2 Rumors have nothing
in common with love.
It is obvious but let me state it. Rumors will not come from your friends.
They might pretend to be your friends and smile at you, but they will
indeed be your enemies, at least for the moment. A friend does not tell
lies against another. In this case the enemies were very apparent, but
we must remember that often times the rumor starters come from
within rather than without. We know from previous chapters that
Sanballat, Tobiah and Arab had strong influence over the area even still.
If they hadn't, then this message would not have meant anything. God
was doing much in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was surrounded by
dignitaries of other states and influential people such as this diabolic
trio.

Solution In order to reduce the devastation upon our hearts and
ministries, we must understand the motives of those who say such lies.
Nehemiah saw through them right away and said in response, in 6:2,
"But they were planning to harm me." We might be naive and at first not
understand their motives. This is okay as far as trust is developed in
certain relationships. But if people are persistent in their rumors, then
we should be able to rather quickly see through their motives. They
want to harm us. We should not get caught up in wondering how we can
please them. € I should put a caution here. Sometimes we might get
prideful and a brother comes along to help us get a better perspective
on the ministry. This is a true brother who is concerned. They are saying
the truth. Only we might think what they are saying is not true because
we are reacting and are too prideful to learn from those around us.
Please do not confuse the two! We desperately need brothers who come
alongside in love to keep us from falling into great sin. Rumors, though,
are not true. They are false and come from the motive to harm and hurt.

#3) Rumors by nature are distracting. 6:3 Focus on your calling and
mission.
Rumors by nature are distracting. They absorb lots of time and
emotional energy. Sometimes we do not know where the source is. In
Nehemiah's case we do. In fact we are not at all surprised by these
guys doing such things. They are desperate to retain some of their
power in this area. But when we do not know the source of the rumors,
we need to trace back from person to person asking where they got that
information. We cannot deal with the issue rightly until we know. Any
proper defense will take the aim of the enemy into consideration. But
even when we find out who the enemy is, we must spend much time
trying to work through the rumor itself. We need to honestly ask if any
of it is true. We need to apologize for any part of it that is true. But
often times we are hurt that it is a former friend stating these things.
We are hurt. And frankly, I think there is great disappointment that
cannot be easily brushed aside. Rumors can easily get you daydreaming
away thinking about all the various ins and outs of the different
possibilities. Satan puts a nicely arranged basket of fears right next
to the man of God so that at his convenience he can reach in and use to
his devastation.

Solution The solution is not to spend a lot of time on them. We must
spend as little time as possible. This includes formal discussion with the
rumor starters as well as those times when we are by ourselves. We
must refuse to let these "suppose this happens" questions go back and
forth in our minds. We need to be resolute in our minds like Nehemiah
who said,

"So 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?" You might wonder how can you control what you think. The
key is in what Nehemiah said, "I am doing a great work and I cannot
come down." He focused on his ministry. Sometimes we think we must do
everything that is put in front of us. This is not true. We need to keep
our main calling in mind as we discern the items of priority. Of course
we will need to spend time discerning each issue. This is unavoidable. But
after we have decided how God wants us to respond, we must constrain
ourselves from thinking about such things. I believe this is one reason
that the apostles were deliberately not women. These are extremely
difficult situations even for men who can stand a bit more objectively
outside the situation. But for women who are entangled in such things,
because of their unique and special makeup, it is very difficult, near
impossible, for them to come out of such a battle without many a scar.
If you cannot stand objectively outside to evaluate such an attack, then
you will need to stay in the arena and fight the whole time.

#4) Rumors can take up a lot of time. 6:4 Refuse to engage in
defense beyond the simple truth.
Rumors can take up a lot of time. Now this is very similar to the previous
item. Because rumors demand an answer, they can easily get us off
focus. We see that in verse 4 Nehemiah received messages four times.
Each time they demanded an answer. But each time he refused to spend
more time on the issue.

Solution Their persistence demands your persistence. Don't go thinking
the whole thing through again if new information is not brought up.
Answer briefly. Stay focused on the work God has given you to do. If
you can be caught distracted, then you will stop evangelizing, studying
God's Word and praying. Phil 4:6 is very simple, "Be anxious for
nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God." Talk to the Lord about the
problem. Ask Him to help. And thank Him for His help. The last step is
important because it assures you that you have entrusted Him with the
problem.

#5) Rumors might worsen before things get better. Sometimes the
situation gets even worse still.
Things can get worse before they get better. Sometimes we think we
are at the worst point already and ready for God to spring us loose from
the trap. But no. He waits. There was this fifth letter that revealed
more of their intention. This is where a person is really tested. Often
we know something is being said, but we can't quite chase it down. There
are distorted stories. But when its final appearance comes in full force,
one is taken back. When you get a full picture, you are most likely to be
dismayed because you see the absolute darkness in the hearts of
others. You see the full lie staring at you. You are incredible that
someone could say such a blatant lie and how others would believe it. You
are shocked at why someone would hate you with such blindness.
Nehemiah again received the message. We can not be sure it was the
same message completely or in an updated form. Or perhaps it was
different in that the letter was open so Sanballat's servant could read
it. This was an indication that Sanballat was letting the rumor loose.
This is what the letter said in Nehemiah 6:6-7,

"In it was written, "It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says,
that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are
rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these
reports. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem
concerning you, 'A king is in Judah!' And now it will be reported to the
king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel
together." When the full plan was shared, we find that basically the
rumor was a covering for a compromise. The accusations are that
Nehemiah:
1) Was rebelling against the emperor whom he loved and served for
many years,
2) Had devious purposes for rebuilding the wall such as to express
rebellion rather than caring for the people.
3) Had this secret ambition all along to be a self-proclaimed king.
4) Had already begun to do these things.

Should you be quiet or speak up? Should you defend yourself or ignore
it? Should you speak the full truth and bring accusation against your
enemies or just leave? What was Nehemiah threatened with?
€ Betrayal against the emperor he faithfully served for many years.
€ False motives in serving the people he so dearly loved and
wholeheartedly gave himself.
€ Outright lies in his desire to be king.

All his hard work could be swallowed up in a second. The attack becomes
most vicious not when our reputation is threatened, but when our work
and all that we stood for and all those relationships which you have
treasured, might turn into thin air. There is nothing that hurts the
faithful man more than having people believe he had false motives.
When we carefully compare Nehemiah with David after the Bethsheba
incident, we find that at least David had done wrong. But Nehemiah gave
his life, sweat, time, gifts, monies all to these people.

Solution Nehemiah responded with a simple accurate message. "Such
things as you are saying have not been done." It was not an elaborate
defense. It was a simple and truthful defense. But notice that
Nehemiah still refused to go with the servant and discuss them further.
Once he went down to their territory, he would have been admitting
compromise. This is true faithfulness. A truly faithful man is one which
acts faithful and true even when others misunderstand him. He does not
change just to look good to others. Looking good is no good unless one is
good. If one tries to look good, then there is some bad. He understands
he might loose all appreciation from others for what he has done, but he
has not done it for appreciation but because he cares for the people.
This is the man of integrity.

#6) Rumors easily disillusion those around us. 6:5-9 We cannot
always count on those around us.
We see that others around us might also be demoralized by these
rumors. They were trying to frighten Nehemiah and the others into
compromise. This is what Nehemiah 6:9 says. "For all of them were
trying to frighten us, thinking, "They will become discouraged with the
work and it will not be done."

Sometimes we might be tempted to think, "If it was only me being
attacked, that would be okay." But rumors by definition travel outside
the accuser and the accused. Nehemiah had others around him that
were being affected. The rumors in this case were serious charges being
brought against Nehemiah and his associates who are supposedly
declaring him as king. Once the letter is open; once the rumor is spread,
those weaker in faith will indeed question whether Nehemiah's response
is the right one. They will certainly encourage him to go down and see
what the other side has to say. They might even suggest they are trying
to protect Nehemiah from these charges. Or perhaps they think
Nehemiah doesn't want to go down because he has things to hide. Things
could get so bad that the people of Jerusalem would throw him out
because the emperor might come and burn down the whole city. As the
last stones were being laid on the wall, they could be tempted to forget
it because the whole wall would be torn down soon anyway. Once the wall
was stopped being built, then it would be hard to get going again. And
one would never get them going like they were then.

Solution Nehemiah only had one solution to the quickly deteriorating
circumstances. He prayed. His prayers are always recorded as short,
emergency like, prayers. He said in the later part of verse 9, "But now,
O God, strengthen my hands." From this statement, we can see that
Nehemiah was troubled. All his dreams were apt to be thrown in his
face. He didn't question God, though. He didn't go around blaming
everyone for believing these rumors or not being man enough to stand
against compromise. He just faithfully asked God to help him in his
great time of distress. We can see this short prayer as the last words
of a dying man. He had no strength to protect himself, the nation or his
reputation.

#7) Rumors foster the ability to make wrong decisions. 6:10-14 Be
careful when you make decisions.
Nehemiah heard the coffin nails being pounded in, one by one. Because
Nehemiah failed to come to the enemy, the enemy came to him with a
setup. Like Daniel from long ago, his enemies could not find moral failure
in his life. The enemies set him up by passing a law that he couldn't pray.
Now here, many decades later we find Nehemiah being 'framed'. We
already see that he was weak. He sensed a loss of control. He hears
another rumor, more threatening than the one before. The rumor was
coming from a totally different direction. It was a death threat.
Someone said someone was trying to kill Nehemiah. They quickly
recommended that he enter the temple and close the doors. The
assumption is that the enemy would not dare go in there. He would be
protected in the temple. In fact the whole thing was a plot to show how
presumptuous Nehemiah was to go into the temple, as if he was a priest.
Once he went in, they would instantly change their story to say that
Nehemiah was trying to get them to go into the temple with him and
proclaim him as king, but they chose not to because it was a holy place.

Solution Nehemiah hadn't lost overall understanding of how God and
Satan was working through this circumstance. First of all, his immediate
sense was that it would be wrong and foolish to enter the temple. He
was not a priest. After this, we find that in verse 12 that he got a clear
message from God that this was a set up. God had not sent him to
prophecy about his death and to warn him to flee. Had he not earlier
prayed, he might not have gotten the extra perception he needed to
discern this situation. If we ever get too hectic and worried to pray, we
surely have written failure over our problem. In verse 13, we see the
summary of this story found in verses 10-12, "He was hired for this
reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so
that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach
me."

In conclusion, Nehemiah prayed one of his famous "Remember .."
prayers. He did not ask God to remember him but the works of Tobiah,
Sanballat and Noradiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets
who were willing to use their gifts and offices to get things done among
God's people. He did not accuse them but simply left them into God's
justice. He was feeling very alone at this stage, but he refused to take
personal vengeance and instead stood with God and God with him.

Summary (14-19) You might wonder what happened to all these
challenges. In verses 15-19 we find first of all that these influential
leaders had inroads into the lives of not a few people. Tobiah is
particularly pointed out that he had in-laws there in Jerusalem. People
by obligation were bound to do as he wanted. They would be the
informants as well as the rumor leakers. Hey were even saying what good
leaders Tobiah and Sanballat were. They became the force for their
mass media campaign.

However in spite of everything and all the obstacles, we must realize
that they finally finished the wall in 52 days. After this happened, the
other nations were amazed and the whole spiritual climate changed. God
was behind this work. Nehemiah was used, but he was himself helped by
God. When everything was threatened, he did not compromise. He stood
firm. He stayed truthful. He refused to compromise. He refused to be
distracted from God's main mission for him. In time the truth verified
itself.

Perhaps you will have rumors against yourself or against the church.
Stand firm in the truth. Refuse to serve man but God and the truth.
Don't compromise lest you pay for it the rest of your days. If God
intends to restore your reputation, then He will do it. If he doesn't,
then it will be done in heaven. God does not promise that every plot of
this kind fails, but that according to His sovereign purpose the most
important thing is whether we are doing the work of God because we
love Him. Rumors like other trials are not pleasant but God can and does
use them to help us grow as His people in our faith, our resolve to be
     faithful and willingness to live for Him alone. God is ever expanding our
     limited understandings of His greatness. This usually happens only when
     we are desperate and ask Him for help in difficult situations. This is why
     we find Nehemiah often praying. These are the critical points in his life
     when He saw the Lord in His power and grace in a new way. His faith was
     growing. I love Psalm 29:10 11 which says

     "The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
     The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His
     people with peace." A flood is the most chaotic time possible. And yet it
     clearly says the LORD sat as king at the flood. The Lord is sovereign
     over every situation. He is asking us to take every circumstance, as
     difficult as it may be, whether rumors or other things, and to entrust it
     into His hands. When we start praying we will see God intervene with
     His wonderful grace. The purpose for all of it can be found in verse 9 of
     the same Psalm where it says, "In His temple everything says, "Glory!""
     God is able to take the most heinous situation and show forth His glory
     in it. We are not living for happiness but for God's glory. And if it be
     for God's glory, then let us see like Nehemiah and Christ Jesus, that we
     can commit ourselves to God no matter what the situation be.

Nehemiah 7:1-73 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #14
                           "REJUVENATION"
A.) The Structure (7:1-3)
B.) The Organism (7:4-65)
1. The burden (4-5)
2. The people (6-38)
3. The called (39-60)
4. The unsure (61-69)
C.) The Provisions (7:70-72)

I often drive about the Northside. I just love some of the older buildings. But
I suppose there are not much more sadder sights than seeing one of these
formerly glorious buildings in decay. Windows bordered up. Holes. Peeled
paint. Run down yard. Rotten wood. Bad roof. Ruined gutters. There is one
house I often go by which has recently been going through the process of
restoration. The three story outside brick wall was smoothed and pointed.
Windows and sashes are being refurbished. And though it is not done, one can
see the former glory coming alive. Section by section it is being restored.

We have this picture of restoration or rejuvenation here in chapter 7 of
Nehemiah. Rejuvenation in Webster's is defined as " to restore to youthful
vigor, appearance, etc.; make young again; to restore to a former state; make
fresh or new again." There seem to be at least three parts to rejuvenating
something, each being crucial to the maintenance of the true restoration: the
structure, the insides or organism and the support for the organism. If we
used a person as an example, we would say there is the body, the life or soul
and the provision to keep that life alive. They depend upon each other. At
some point in the past, this wonderful house had one or more problems that
resulted in the decay of the whole. Let's now discuss these three parts as we
find them in chapter 7 of Nehemiah.

A.) The Structure (7:1-3)
All along I have emphasized that Nehemiah's goal was not merely to rebuild
the wall. The wall was important to the welfare of the community and city.
The wall is like our skin which protects us from evading enemies. The enemies
might not be so obvious but they are present. Without the wall, the enemies
would be much more apparent. Regarding Jerusalem, we have been acquainted
with some of their strong enemies. When the defenses of the city were down,
these enemies were strengthened. But when the defenses were put up, then
the influence and power of these enemies decreased. This is the reason they
kept coming up with plans to foil them in their rebuilding of the walls.
However, it is obvious that it would be wise as a church, society, family or
individual never to let our defenses be lowered in the first place and allow the
enemy in. This is what is happening all around us now.

However amidst all the campaigns to hold back the building of the wall
including threats of all sorts, the wall was rebuilt. In the 52 days to rebuild
the wall, we find that Nehemiah found an immense amount of opposition. But
at the same time through extreme dedication, trust in God and cooperation
with the people, the wall was rebuilt. No doubt in this case the wall could be
rebuilt in 52 days because they did not start from scratch. He merely
restored the broken down places. But I can imagine they had to rebuild a lot
of the gaps in the wall from the bottom up. Once the alignment is out, one has
to go back and make major adjustments.

What is it that Nehemiah did once the wall was rebuilt? Nehemiah 7:1-3
says,

     "Now it came about when the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the
     doors, and the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were
     appointed, that I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander
     of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and
     feared God more than many. Then I said to them, "Do not let the gates
     of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot, and while they are standing
     guard, let them shut and bolt the doors. Also appoint guards from the
     inhabitants of Jerusalem, each at his post, and each in front of his own
     house." A whole list of things were quickly done. Nehemiah immediately
     had set up the doors or gates. Gatekeepers were appointed. Singers and
     Levites were appointed. Furthermore, he put Hanani his brother in
     charge of the fortress and Jerusalem's defense. He gave special
     instructions to those manning the gates. He also set up a local militia.
     Basically, these things can be collected under two broad categories:
     defense and focus.

     As to defense, we can see Nehemiah was greatly interested in
     protecting the work that they had just accomplished. The wall was
     rebuilt but there would be attempts to destroy the work they had done.
     Guards were appointed. Gatekeepers were given specific directions as to
     when and how to open the gates. Security was of most importance. He
     found the most trustworthy person to be the commander of the
     fortress. He could not afford anyone to be bought with a favor. People
     can deceive another. We need to take extra precautions in crucial areas
     of leadership.

     The second interesting thing he was concerned about was the focus or
     vision. We see that he appointed singers and Levites. This has to do
     more with securing the life within. Remember that the three parts are
     interdependent. Nehemiah could easily be content with the building of
     the wall in 52 days, but this defense is nothing unless the peoples' focus
     is corrected. They must focus on the intention of the wall. It would be
very easy to just settle down to normal and satisfied lives. Once the
structure is built, they could stop worrying about the world out there
and get busy with restoring their own material lives. After
concentrating so intensely on material things, it is easy to forget the
greater goals in life.

Nehemiah however, by appointing the singers and the Levites, was saying
that the wall is not the goal. They had done well, very well. But there is
more to what they were doing than the mere repairing of a wall. The
world would be content with that but God's people are not. The defense
is in place so that we can go further in our spiritual lives. I think often
how many Christians are content to go only so far in their Christian lives.
They stop at a certain point because their lives are focused around the
wall rather than the Lord. Or a church which has focused on the building
of a church building. How often they become content with the building
of it even though the building is nothing but a curse without a growing
ministry of love and evangelism. By establishing the singers and Levites,
he turned the focus back around the Lord. They were all of a sudden
realizing something greater than the wall is being rebuilt and that they
must take interest in it. I find two immediate applications to the
rebuilding of the wall.

Application #1 Actually, there are two ways to start a church. Some
start from the outside and then build the inside; others start on the
inside and wait for it to develop before building the outward structure.
What did the Lord do in His redemption plan? He did both at the same
time. The frame of salvation was planned and carried out in the work of
Jesus Christ. There is no doubt that it is on the basis of faith in what
Christ has done that saves. Salvation does not come about because we
are better and better. We simply step in the walls of salvation by faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ and the favor of God, His precious work on the
cross all become instantly ours. The wall of salvation surrounds us.
Praise God. Anytime we have doubts and fears, we only have to look a
the wall and send back the Accuser with all his lies.


Application #2 The lesson is very apparent. Take advantage of the
protection we have received. I think of the command in Ephesians
6:10-15,

"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on
the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the
schemes of the devil. ...Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that
you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to
stand firm."
We must utilize the authority we have in Christ Jesus. The Lord has
rightly protected us and told us about our spiritual armor. But what
fools we are if we are to neglect them. What fools we are if we do not
take them seriously. Let me ask you, have you taken your armor
seriously.

B.) The Organism (7:4-65)
There are four parts to this life spoken here.
1. The burden (4-5)
Salvation can well be represented by the walls or the clear proclamation
of the Gospel based on the precious work of Christ. Salvation is also
importantly the bringing of the people into the walls of salvation. Many
in Christendom do not think salvation includes the bringing of God's
people into the wall of salvation, but clearly this is the testimony and
intent of the scriptures to let us know that salvation from the start to
the end it is the grace of God. Let me state this a bit clearer. Many
Christians think that Christ is God's gift to us; they are right. But then
they say that faith is our gift to God. Here they are wrong. We have
nothing to bring to the gracious throne of God. The scriptures say that
we were chosen before the foundation of the world because of His
choice. The scriptures state that no man searches for God or is even
able to - that is, without the Spirit's aid. The scriptures state that even
faith is the result of God's wondrous saving power. In other words, man
is trying to hold on to his independence. Man is prideful about his right
choices. The scriptures are clear that it is God's wonderful grace in
that He does not only provide justification of the righteous but that He
justifies them. Christ is not only the sacrifice, but also we know that
God our Father actually justifies us. It is not up to the bright, the
intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the zealous, or those of a certain
heritage. John 1:13 says, "But as many as received Him, to them He
gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in
His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor
of the will of man, but of God."

Birth is of the Lord. We do not say we want to be born. We are born and
one day realize the life we have. John 3 again confirms this by saying we
are born from above or born again. Ephesians 2:8 10 says, "For by
grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it
is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

So we find that the Lord has both the walls and the people in the walls
of salvation all planned out. This leaves no room for the pride of man. All
the glory goes to God. What can we do but give great thanks to such a
God! This is what paul does in Romans after covering the discussion of
salvation, sanctification and election. Romans 11:33-36 says, "Oh, the
depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME
HIS COUNSELOR?
Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK
TO HIM AGAIN?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the
glory forever. Amen."

2. The people (6-38)
Who is it that came back from captivity? Well, first of all we discover
in verse 7 what seems to be a list of twelve separate individuals who led
other exiles back to the land. The scriptures say, "who came with
Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai,
Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah." we recognize maybe a few
names but most of them we do not even know of. If this verse did not
list them, we just wouldn't have had a clue that there was such a serious
movement to come back to the land.
Application This reminds me that many great men and women of God are
scarcely mentioned in the annals of men and history, but God remembers
them. God sent them just like Nehemiah. I am sure their calling was
different but the effect was the same. They led those who were exiled
back into the land of promise. I hope God has men like this here in this
church. I hope he has those faithful and obedient servants are just
willing to do what God calls them to. I know you might not feel especially
gifted. These men all could probably say they did not have the
connections, the flair, the gifts, the wealth of Nehemiah. But note all of
their names were written down because they were faithful.

But I also want you to not starting at the end of verse 7 is a whole list
of families of Israel that had returned. It was not enough to applaud
those who led them back but the actual families that came back are
identified. Again we know of some of the names or city names, but most
we don't know. Isn't it good that we are not God?! Isn't it good that
judgment don't rest upon our memories?!
Application This leads us to wonder if for any reason that you were
chastised by God, would you come back to Him? Would you gripe and
forget Him? Would you love Him or your new set up?

3. The called (39-60)
In verses 39-60 we find those that had a special duty or calling. Most of
them had some duty regarding the temple service. If we remember in
the Mosaic Law, the families were linked to temple service. Depending
upon who your father was, you might be a priest if you were male, of
age, and ceremonially clean. This was the same for the singers,
gatekeepers and servants. Again we find that for a whole healthy
community, they needed some from each position. We will read later how
at times they had shortages of certain offices such as priest. We don't
know how important each position is until it is not rightly being done.
Then we all sense a great need.

Application I hope you are not wrestling with god's call on your life. I
hope that you can see that God had chose you for it. Whether it be up
front or down behind the scenes, we recognize that the Lord has gifted
and called each one of us for a special role. If you think you are in a
tight spot, just remember that the Lord back then called men according
to their heritage. We really need to stop fussing and just excel at what
we are called to do.

4. The unsure (61-65)
Lastly, we turn our thoughts for a moment for those who did not fit in.
There were two kinds of 'lost' families. One kind was the typical family
except they lost their family records. No one could vouch for who they
were. Of course the importance to them was that they could not prove
any land was theirs as an inheritance. But this could be easily worked
through no doubt because so many others did not come back to the land.

However, the other group were those who called themselves priests.
They search and search among their ancestral registration but could not
find their names in there. How was it to be handled? They were very
careful. They were not blaming these priests. They did not do anything
wrong. It is just that they could not prove their ancestry and therefore
their calling. Instead of just taking their word for it, they considered
them unclean and excluded from the priesthood. E might think this was
too strict but when one is trying to put things back together we must be
careful it is done according to the original model. In the end, they would
wait until a priest arose with a Urim and Thumim which to this day is
still a vague thing. It was an instrument which enabled the priest to
discern the will of God in such a matter. The families had to wait who
knows how long. And even at that, they might still be excluded.

Application I think it is important for us to be careful on allowing people
to join the church. We must verify their faith and calling. We have them
write testimonies. But for those being called into the ministry, we must
even be more careful. We should not just take anyone. The church of
God has standards that are set out in I Timothy and Titus very clearly.
It is true we do not judge people on their place in the church anymore
by who their father is, but instead by the lives they live. There are
strong demands that in our broken society are more and more difficult
to fulfill.

Once the shell, the wall was built, then the insides needed to be focused
upon.
Nehemiah knew if God would rebuild the wall, then the insides would
have to be restored to. He had full confidence that if God would work
out the wall of the city, then He would certainly work out the insides of
the city. We can be that sure with the great work of salvation. It is the
wrong response to say that if God provided for salvation, then we do not
need to do anything about the bringing in of the people. No. Actually, we
are responsible to get the people inside. We are the evangelists. One of
the great burdens of D.L. Moody, the Father of Mass Evangelism, is that
when he started his training institute in Chicago, he built it with the
express purpose of getting laymen involved in evangelism. He himself
was a Sunday School teacher. But he knew God enabled him to spread
the gospel. He believed God intended not only pastors to share the
gospel as was common back then, but for the body of Christ to beckon
the world into its lovely doors.

We have a great and serious obligation to usher people to the love doors
of God's kingdom. We trust God to work it all out. He is sovereign. He is
Lord. He is the Redeemer. He is the Savior. But He has called us to join
Him in His glorious saving plan by sharing the gospel and making
disciples. As part of His great plan, we therefore get to share the
rewards and the honored position of being with our Lord.

C.) The Provisions (7:70-72)
The third crucial part of this healthy community was its life support.
We have the wall which is the basis upon which the community was
protected and defined. Secondly, we have the life that is living within
the city. But now we must remember the importance of supporting this
life. It is insufficient just to put people in the city walls with the best
plans possible and trust all be well. They need to be provided for. Yes,
there are many means for them to be supported, but we should not be
so naive that God's work can go on without provision.

Just like our bodies which are our structure or working framework for
our lives or souls. We need to feed our bodies, nourish our souls. They
obviously thought about this need. In verse 70 we read that the heads
of the fathers households gave to the work. They had the most wealth;
they led in the giving. What did they need? They needed a lot of temple
     equipment. Some even provided priests' garments. Altogether these
     patriarchs gave 20, 000 drachmas and 2,200 silver minas. This was a
     sizeable start. Then the people themselves joined in and matched the
     golden drachmas and silver.

     There was a need and the need was met. Was there sacrifice? No doubt
     there was. But we must remember that the only way these people got
     this wealth was because of the way God treated them in the exile. God
     blessed them. Now they could have had this wealth hold them back from
     returning. But they saw it the right way. They saw their wealth as the
     Lord's. They would do with it what their Lord wanted.

     Application Too often we see our wealth and resources as ours rather
     than the Lord's. We are prisoners of this wealth as long as we do not
     freely give as the Lord leads. And often it is not of our wealth but of
     our gifts or skills. The Lord has given these resources so that we could
     keep the organism living and keep the administration flowing.

     As a result we find in verse 73 that all of israel lived in their cities.
     Things could get back to some level of normality. The wall of the capital
     city no doubt played a strong role in establishing the identity of God's
     people. They could not easily organize or support. However, once the wall
     was rebuilt, then everyone began to get more and more encouraged.
     They could see how God would fulfill other dreams. Because of the wall,
     the temple could get its right attention. They were not allowed to just
     be content with security. They were not to live for security but for
     God's will. If we live for our security, then we are just imprisoning
     ourselves in a needless prison. We live by faith in our living and loving
     God.

            Nehemiah 8:1-12 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #15

                     REVIVAL AT THE WATER GATE

A. Desire for God's Word (Nehemiah 8:1-5)
B. Response to God's Word (Nehemiah 8:6-9)
C. Celebration of God's Word (Nehemiah 8:10-12)
                                                    1905 WELSH REVIVAL
It never starts where you would think it
                                                   A Revival of Righteousness
would or should. Revival is hard to
understand. Revivals starts when signs of           (From Men for Nations)
life and morality are all but gone. In fact,
this word 're-vive' means bring back to life.     "It was in 1904. ALL WALES
When all hope is gone, when the scene            WAS AFLAME. The nation had
cannot be any darker, then it seems it might     drifted far from God. Spiritual
be time for a sovereign work of God to start       conditions were low indeed.
up. 1905 Welsh Revival was like this. (See        Church attendance was poor,
sidebar).                                           and sin abounded on every
                                                              side,"
One of the most important messages of
Nehemiah is that we are not to be content        "Suddenly, like an unexpected
to have a good working facility or well          tornado, THE SPIRIT OF GOD
functioning church administration. We must       swept over the land. The
instead press on and have an inward soul or      churches were filled to
life that exudes an organization. Of course,     capacity; the meetings ran day
We are not starting from scratch. The new        and night. ... Prayer, testimony,
work is built on the foundation of what was      and singing would sweep over
left. But the key is for us to discover the      the congregation in torrents,
heartbeat of the life that is suppose to fill    and hundreds of souls would
the structures. The rebuilt wall was fine,       surrender to God
but the spiritual vacuum of the people wrote     Indescribable scenes took
hypocrisy on the very walls they rebuilt.        place; nothing had ever come
                                                 to Wales with such far-
One of the saddest sights is a dead church.      reaching results. Everywhere
I am not one that that applauds meetings         THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
and pretends church. Vibrancy is gone.           was felt: in the street, in the
There is no passion about missions. There is     stores, in the trains.
no victory over the world. There is the
pervasive dullness of religiosity. The incense   "INFIDELS were converted,
from your materialistic hearts is throwing       drunkards, thieves, and
manure all about God's Word. We don't see        gamblers were saved, and
it. We don't even believe it. We would deny      thousands were reclaimed to
it. But still your fingers are more acquainted   respectability. Confessions of
with catalogues than the Bible pages. You        awful sins were heard on every
can find this or that coveted item much          side. Old debts were paid.
                                                 Theaters and saloons closed
                                                 for lack of patronage. Police
more quicker than the book Zephaniah in your Bible. God has so desired that
you not only know where the books of the Bible are, but they are imprinted in
your hearts and minds. You are deceived if you think we have a strong church.
Our refusal to give our whole hearts to God proves we are living in covenant
judgment rather than blessing. Is it not time for you to break forth from the
impurity of your hearts and be gathered together much like the Israelites of
long ago at the Water Gate? Yes, now is the time.

In chapter 8, we find the people gathered together again. We do not find
that Nehemiah gathered the people this time. God gathered them. Zephaniah
3:20 reads,

     "At that time I will bring you in, Even at the time when I gather
     you together; Indeed, I will give you renown and praise Among all
     the peoples of the earth, When I restore your fortunes before
     your eyes," Says the LORD."

Let us review what happened on that day way back when they were facing
such spiritual dullness. Let's especially note the three signs of a great
movement of God upon a people of God.

A. Desire for God's Word (Nehemiah 8:1-5)

Firstly, we discover that the people touched by the Spirit of God have a great
longing for God's Word. There are six ways we can see this desire for God's
Word coming alive in their hearts.

1) Focused on God's Word (1)

First of all these Israelites were interested in God's Word. I mean they are
very interested in hearing what God had to say. The LORD had given not many
things that endured through time. We have experiences but they fade. But
the Word of God was something as a permanent gift. In Nehemiah they are
talking about the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch, that is, the first 5 books of
the Bible written by Moses. They all of a sudden were greatly aware of their
need to hear what God wanted to speak to them.

Application
Did you ever have this great thirst for God's Word? Those Christians in China
spent literal months and years writing down their own copies of the
scriptures. When they couldn't bring the copy of the holy scriptures home
with them, then they would memorize it. They simply cannot understand that
we would have a Bible, perhaps many Bibles, and not read and meditate in
God's Word all through the day and night. We are dull. We have little
response to God's Word.

God wants devotion. He wants us to hold devotion times not from dead
tradition but living love. We can easily see how we have the same situation as
they perhaps. They did not know God's Word. They had not loved God's Word
but just heard of it. But your relationship with God's Word has a lot to do
with your relationship with God. While I was in Chicago and she was in
Massachusetts or Toronto, we were what might be called 'going steady.' I
used to write and receive letters all the time. Her words were precious. They
are so precious we still have the box of them in our room. Her words were a
fairly good substitute for her presence just so the next time seeing her
wasn't too far off. But by time there was Christmas break or some vacation,
I would take a 24 hour Greyhound bus back to the east coast to see her for
maybe just a few days. If I was not interested in her, I would not have
written so much or read so eagerly her letters. If I had no interest, I might
deal with her letters as with any other 'junk' mail; it gets tossed into the
wastebasket.

Can others tell you are in love with God by the way you eagerly study and
discuss God's Word? What do you like reading the most? God longs for us to
come together and ask to hear more of His Word. Next time you pick up that
novel, magazine or catalogue, ask yourselves whether you in fact have just
again bypassed His Word for some materialistic preoccupation, fictional
adventure or indifferent business. God wants your whole heart.

2) People initiated (1)

The next thing to note is the way the people gathered together. They
gathered together as one man and they asked Ezra to read the scriptures. I
can not think of one pastor who has been asked by his congregation to have
God's Word read and spoken to them. Again, we have the burden of exhorting
God's people to attend regularly the few services we actually have. Ezra
however was asked to read the book of the Law of Moses to the people. Have
you recently read through the first five books of the Bible? Genesis is okay.
Exodus for the most part is entertaining. But Leviticus, Numbers and
Deuteronomy? What would it take to have you read them? They had a great
hunger for all the Word of God.

Application

When is your free time? What do you think of when traveling in a car? Did
you ever think about how cold our hearts are when we time and time again
choose not to hear God's Word.

3) Longing to understand (2)

Perhaps we would never think of our lack of love for God's Word unless we
heard stories like this one here in Nehemiah. We think our Christian living is
normal. But wherever revival of the church has broken out across the world,
regardless of cultural background or age, the Word of God is lifted up and
highly esteemed by all. To be frank, many of them no doubt would express
great wonder upon hearing how we need to be exhorted to keep reading God's
Word as to whether we in fact are real Christians. They look at us as if we do
not have a heart for God. We can fool ourselves by saying that we are
Christians because we have the Word of God but the real sign to look out for
is whether we love the Word of God. This is what we see here. All the men
and women and children who could understand came before him to listen.

Let me give an example of guilt manipulated or love motivated. We are
exhorted by our Heavenly Father to meet weekly with His people. This is the
normal and expected meeting as dictated by the Word of God. If one does
what is minimally expected, then they feel this is good. But their attitude
could still be poor. They might be those manipulated by guilt. They feel so bad
if they don't go, that they regularly do come. But really they have missed out
on the main purpose. It is not the attendance that God is so much focusing on
but the meeting with God and His people. Compare this with those who come
more than expected or required. Probably guilt is not making them to go to
extra services. Something deeper, a thirst for God's Word, is perhaps driving
them to go to God's Word. I remember making deliberate decisions on getting
out of pools, leaving my friends, forsaking special trips, walking miles in the
snow just to get to church.

Of course there are certain occupations that makes it impossible for doctors,
etc. to regularly attend services.

Application

So let me ask you. Are you, are we the lukewarm believers the Lord wants to
spew from His mouth? Have you put other things in front of the opportunities
to hear God's Word? Young people, do you attend the youth meetings with
great desire and delight to hear God's Word or are you content on playing an
instrument, doing your school work, talking on the phone? But you might
respond defensively but my parents don't let me go to youth group. Is this
true or just an excuse? If you do poorly in your studies, do you pray and seek
God for a studious and disciplined life so that you could get to Youth Group or
Junior Youth Group meetings? Or are you older and just can't seem to get up
on the morning for devotions? Is the problem that you do not love God's
Word enough so that you turn off the television and get to bed early? I
strongly believe that until we say no to the many distractions that the world
offer, even good ones, we are not loving God's Word.

4) Length of Service (3a)

I wonder how many times people have complained about long meetings? In how
many council meetings has this discussion come up in? Part of it is trying to
understand the people but more than anything it is the grand confession of
our hearts that do not long for God's Word. We don't have chairs so we buy
chairs or pews. We don't have cushions, so we buy cushions. But here they
met from early morning to midday with a minimum of 4 hours. I know that you
are probably thinking that these people don't have jobs and school pressures
that we do. But these thoughts really cover over the true longings of our
hearts. We just do not want to admit even if we had time, we would want to
hear God's Word. In fact you do have time. We have more free time then
many generations before this. We can criticize and say that a longer service
is not any more spiritual than a short one, a longer sermon is not more
spiritual than a short one. Of course a long service does not prove anything.
This is not what is even being discussed here. It was long because the people
wanted it long. .......... They longed to be in the House of the Lord.

Application. Do you desire more time hearing God's Word?

5) Attitude of hearers (3)

This brings us to the attitude of the believers. The people were attentive to
the book of the law. Now they did have language problems. They were not
learned people. They could for the most part not read. But they had this for
them. They wanted to learn. They were attentive. Sometimes I see people
falling asleep. Sometimes I see notes being passed or girls giggling or guys
laughing. You are not being attentive to God's Word. When you are thinking
about what you need to prepare for a meal tomorrow or how you are going to
finish off that report. You are not being attentive to God's Word. These
people stood for hours just to hear God's Word. And they were paying a lot
of attention. I believe that we evangelicals have the same problem with the
liberals, except they are more honest. We have dead hearts. We don't really
care or believe God's Word is relevant to us. The liberals confessed this
openly, changed their doctrine and started discussing social issues. We just
don't really take God's Word seriously.

Application

What is your degree of attentiveness when you come? Do you come late or
get here early to pray? I long for that time when God's people are here early
praying for the worship time. They desire so much for God to speak and for
them to hear that they come an hour early to pray. Many churches around the
world do this now. Some care for others so much that during one worship
service they will be downstairs praying for the people upstairs so that they
would be attentive.

6) Respect for God's Word (4-5)

Lastly, I want to mention the respect they had for God's Word. I know this
was a special occasion of a sort. They had finished the wall and organized the
people. But something else was being done here. The people's heart was being
reformed by the Word of God. There was the scribe Ezra standing up at the
wooden pulpit they made for the occasion. Six on his right hand; seven stood
on his left. He was higher not only so that people could see but also so that
people could hear.

Most interesting is that when the word of God was opened, the people stood.
These people didn't have chairs; they probably just had a blanket or flat rock
to sit on. However, when the scrolls were opened, when he opened the book,
the people stood up. They respected God's Word. They could sense the
presence of God. They knew that God was speaking. They knew that when
honored people were in your presence, they would stand. Well they stood and
stood. I read at the Stand in the Gap rally that they had the whole Bible read
27 times before every one came. I am not too sure whether this was for who.
My guess it was for the evil beings to hear so much of God's Word that they
run away in terror. In this case, we have the Word of God for the people.

Summary

I want to ask you where you are now at. Do you now thirst for God's Word?
Is your desire to know God's Word preoccupying your mind? Just like having a
girlfriend, you think when you can meet with her. Your mind is on her. You
want to be with her. You take your extra thought time to think about her. But
God wants this also to be true about His Word. Is there that longing, that
thirst, that love for God's Word? I have told several, even many of you this is
now my prayer request: that I would love God's Word more and more. I want
to do naturally what I am told to do in scripture if I am to be successful in
what I do. I want to meditate in His Word day and night. May God visit us
with a fresh anointing of His Spirit to love His mighty Word. Let us now turn
our thoughts to a people who were stirred by the Spirit of God and the way it
affected their worship.

B. Response to God's Word (Nehemiah 8:6-9)

Longing for God's Word directly relates to our worship of God. We have not
understood the important place of reading and teaching God's Word during a
worship service because we have not ever been moved by God's Word.
Tradition guides us rather than God moving us. Let me make several notes
regarding their worship.
1) Leader's prayer

Please note with me in verse 6 that Ezra himself was moved greatly by God's
Word. Ezra responded with a great prayer of praise. I don't know if they
sung, but one could imagine that the prayer held everyone's attention for in
the next words the people not only said Amen but "Amen, Amen!" It is
insufficient for a speaker not to respond to God's Word. The speaker leads
the others into worship.

Application

My concern with this pulpit is not so much the ability to preach but that men
who love God and His Word preach it. I want to hear messages of God so
powerful that the speaker can but barely control himself with a great praise
chorus in the end.

2) People's worship (6b)

Worship follows the hearing of God's Word not just by the speaker but by all
the individuals making up the congregation. Here we see the people bowed low
and lifted up their hands. I am not convinced that this is always necessary,
but I am convinced that if you want to lift your hands and bow down or kneel,
or even put your face to the ground, that this is thoroughly permissible. But
don't get carried away by what others are doing. Do it only if you have to. I
just can't stand phony worship. If you worship by lifting your hands, then it
should be in response to His presence and your willingness to do what He says.
If you are doing it because last week He met you, I wouldn't suggest to do it.
It is not the action that expresses spirituality but the attitude. In this case,
we are convinced this was not just any typical response to imitating what is
going on up front by the leaders but they themselves responding to God
Himself. This is what worship is: God's people responding to the glory of God.

Application

Before going on, let me ask you directly, "Have you ever worshiped God ?"
"Have you been so impressed with the presence of God that you bodily,
emotionally and spiritually respond?

3) Further understanding desired (7)
I recently read a book on what happens during revivals. One thing that occurs
is long meetings. I remember one account where a revival had just begun. The
speaker spoke and the people were so moved that they were crying and
weeping before God. God had come close to them, or more accurately, their
eyes were opened to the presence of God that is always near them. God is
always here. After speaking to them, he decided it would be good to have
another special meeting for the next night. But no one moved. They just
stayed put. He couldn't help but preach another sermon right at that time.
After a couple of more hours, he finished, but the people still didn't move.
After much convincing, he finally got the people to return to their homes. But
the people would be there the next night in even greater numbers.

Application

These people remained in their places. They stayed still. One did not have to
take a survey as to what should happen next. Indeed this happens during
times of revival, but how I long this might happen in our quiet times with the
Lord, with our Sunday School classes, Bible studies and sermon. May there be
that 'wish it would go on heart.'

4) Mourning and weeping (8-9)

Being in a Chinese church, we know the difficulty of understanding words that
we don't really understand. We know something great was happening that day
because God's people were impacted even when they did not fully understand
the message because of language problems. The people knew God was there.
But when a translation was given, then we see that even a greater
understanding came over the people. I am not sure what language they
translated from or to. I suppose they read it in Hebrew, the language the OT
was originally written and translated to Chaldean.

When they understood it, then their hearts were particularly touched. We
will not get into all the things written in the Books of Moses. Next time we
will focus on one particular thing they were specially convicted in. But today,
it is sufficient to see that they mourned and wept when they heard what God
had expected of them, but they had failed to keep. We should not be
surprised when we hear the people of God carried away in tears. They are
very sad tears of disappointing our God but they are refreshing because of
God's healing grace.

Application

Have you ever responded to God's Words with tears? Have you ever been
able to see your sins with the light of God's Word shining on our hearts?

Summary

God's Word is as powerful as a two-edged sword. When it is wielded by the
Spirit of God, then it swings into our souls convicting us of our sins and His
wonderful grace. We see our great ignorance, transgression, sin and passivity
to the things of God. We weep because we have been so blind, so stubborn, so
hard, so unappreciative, so worldly. When God's Word is revealed for what it
is, then one weeps and weeps. The tears break out. The hearts are humbled
and healed.

C. Celebration of God's Word (8:10-12)

Perhaps what we least understand is after God's people met God and heard
His Word, they were told to stop crying. Now truly, they had greatly sinned.
They can look back and see why they had sinned. They read Genesis, Exodus,
Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They know now why their ancestors
were taken into exile. One would have thought that they should have stayed
that way for a good long while. After all their sin took a long time. Wouldn't
they need in penance to weep and weep, cry and cry, mourn and mourn. For
every sin they committed, were they expected to cry for 5 minutes. No. This
is not what God desired.

This is because God had made that day an holy day. God marked that day off
in a special way. God wanted to be remembered not just for judgment but also
for grace and mercy. Let me quickly mention three things.

     * God wanted them to be more aware of His strength than their
     weaknesses.
     * God wanted them to be instilled with the joy of His presence
     than lingering on in a sense of shame.
     * God wanted them to know what a wonderful thing it was to gain
     insight into God's Word so they could obey than just to sob over
     how they have disobeyed.

Simply put, they were to celebrate. And so the festival went on. God wanted
to have a happy people. Happy are those who know their sins are forgiven!
Anytime God comes and reveals Himself in special ways, we should celebrate.
Even as God's people, we can see we do not desire Him as we ought. We are
not thankful as we should be. We are easily distracted. But God doesn't want
us weeping all our days. The point of grief is for recognition of wrong doing
and the deciding to do right. This is a time of joy when He reveals His Word
to us.
    • God wanted them to be more aware of His strength than just their
weaknesses.
   • God wanted them to be instilled with the joy of His presence than just
linger on in a sense of shame.
   • God wanted them to know what a wonderful thing it is to gain insight into
God's Word so they can obey than just to sob over how they have disobeyed.

Simply put, they were to celebrate. And so the festival went on. God wanted
to have a happy people. Happy are those who know their sins are forgiven!
Anytime God comes and reveals Himself in special ways, we should celebrate.
Even as God's people, we can see we do not desire Him as we ought. We are
not thankful as we should be. We are easily distracted. But God doesn't want
us weeping all our days. The point of grief is for recognition of wrong doing
and the deciding to do right. This is a time of joy when He reveals His Word
to us.

Application

When God's people meet God in a special way, they should take extra notice
of these times. They are significant. God reveals Himself through His various
attributes at different times. If we grieve so much that we cannot rightly
understand the whole purpose of God, then we will strip away from what
lessons God had originally purposed to teach us.

Conclusion
As we conclude, we must notice that God is rich in grace and man great in his
sin. Man might had started looking good and ordered in his city walls, but this
did not mean they were right in spirit. God had to do a special work within His
people to create the inner soul of the city. This is what He does when He
causes us to become Christians. We are born from above. We are made a new
creation. The old has passed away; the new have come. He visits His people in
special ways in a special way in our lives to accomplish His glorious purposes.
They didn't deserve this special visit. Note their sins. But neither do we
deserve such a visit. But may God revive us just the same. May God come to
us as He came to them at the Water Gate. May the rivers of life be poured
forth upon us with a stream so mighty and strong, so clean and pure, that we
would weep over our sins to such a degree we need to be reminded that it is
also a day of great grace.

Nehemiah 8:13-18 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #16
                      THE REWARD OF OBEDIENCE
A. Learning God's Word (8:13-14)
B. Obeying God's Word (8:14-17)
C. Celebration of God's Word (8:18)

Have you ever read God's Word and not really understood it but just never
followed it up? Maybe it was in your devotional Bible reading of the day or it
was something the pastor or Sunday School teacher said. But in the back of
your mind you decided not to pursue the matter. You just let it go and busy
yourself with the many other matters wrestling for your time. What makes us
put the Bible down and forget something we don't really understand? Why is
it that some of you have not done in depth studies of God's Word? Hebrews
5:13-14 summarizes this mentality saying,
      "For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word
      of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who
      because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil."
The key issue undermining your whole pursuit or non-pursuit of understanding
God's Word is whether you think that understanding God's Word makes a
difference in your life. But there is even a more important issue behind this
one. We acknowledge some people study the Bible just to know the Bible
better. For example, they want to master different kinds of literature. This
is not what really will drive a person to want to understand these pieces of
writing from thousand years ago. What we need to identify is the driving
force of these Israelites that brought them back on the second day to
sincerely understand the meaning and application of God's Word. After all,
they had their party. They listened to what God had to say. But they came
back another day so they could really understand what was in God' Word. The
reason is not very difficult. They wanted to obey God. They feared God. They
reckoned that if they obeyed, they would be greatly blessed. But on the
other side, if they disobeyed, they would be cursed. Perhaps the section on
the day before about "blessed are ... ," and then "cursed are you if you ....,"
stuck in their hearts an minds. Deuteronomy 27:14-28.6 says,
      "The Levites shall then answer and say to all the men of Israel with a
      loud voice, 'Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an
      abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and
      sets it up in secret.' And all the people shall answer and say, 'Amen.'
      'Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.' And all the people
      shall say, 'Amen.' 'Cursed is he who moves his neighbor's boundary
      mark.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.' 'Cursed is he who misleads a
      blind person on the road.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'"
      "Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the LORD your God, being
      careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the
      LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. "And
      all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey
      the LORD your God. "Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall
      you be in the country. "Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and
      the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the
      increase of your herd and the young of your flock. "Blessed shall be your
      basket and your kneading bowl. "Blessed shall you be when you come in,
      and blessed shall you be when you go out."
They had a sensitive heart towards God. They knew it made a difference if
they obeyed God or not. They needed to know God's Word to obey it.

In a moment we are going to scout over one particular area of life in which
they were particularly convicted. But we need to remember it is not the
knowing of the law that makes the real difference in their lives but the doing
of it. And this is one of the greatest difficulties we have as Christians. We
are not attentive to God's Word like when you look at your grades on your
report card, or what your friend wrote in that note, or the news that the
stock market dropped 100 points at opening. We do not believe it really makes
a difference. It comes to an issue of belief or unbelief. You say the Bible is
important but you never stay up to 1:00 a.m. studying the Bible because you
might miss out on something and disobey God, do you? For you boss, your
teacher, your parent you will do these things but not for the Lord. This is
because you don't believe Him. Not really. No doubt the Israelites were like
this too until the revival at the Water Gate. Something woke up inside them.
No one could explain it. It was as if the light was turned on in the dark room.
They suddenly had a new fresh belief that if they neglected God's Word,
then they were going to miss out on the best and receive the very worse.
They believed God's Word. So in Nehemiah 8:13 the leaders needed to get
back and clarify some things that didn't seem like the right thing going on.

Let' look at the pattern: Learning -> Obeying -> Learning More.

A. Learning God's Word (8:13-14)
As we already mentioned the leaders gathered together on the second day,
the day after the revival started, to hear more. One might think that they
only were merely curious or that they came out of obligation. This is clearly
not the case. Later on in 8:16 we see once things have been clarified for the
people, they responded to the teachings. This is the difference between
belief and curiosity or tradition. Belief brings obedience but tradition brings
no response.


But then you are wondering why they did not bring everyone together the
second day. The crowd was too great. Maybe without portable potties and
sound systems they actually found many difficulties holding such a big rally.
Besides not being able to care for the people, there was larger principle at
hand. One which we can learn from. Just think of an army. You do not tell all
the soldiers the plan at once. You tell the leaders and the leaders tell the
regular soldiers. Good communication and follow up does not just depend on
one leader or good teacher like Ezra the scribe.

In fact, what you have here is a workable model of training. When certain
individuals believe a certain teaching or training is important, then the
interpreter, the trainer, can have great impact on the lives of many people.
Note who came out to the training sessions. Fathers of greater households,
probably more like the old grandfathers or patriarchs of different family
clans, priests who served the temple and Levites who served around the
temple.

Their purpose was clear. They were there to "gain insight into the words of
the law." They actually thought that it would make a difference to know
God's words. They knew that they would get insight into the law and that this
insight would change their lives. That is why they were there. They did not
want to know these things for knowledge sake. Instead they were willing for
the scriptures to directly shape their lives. They knew something had to be
done in their lives, but they were not quite sure. They needed to find what
these things were.

Application Think of the difference between the person reading God's Word
because it is going to make a difference in their lives and the person who
reads it because someone told him he should. Do you have this unquenchable
desire to know God's Word? Do you possess this belief that God's Word is
very relevant to your lives? Have you gone back for a second look at a passage
because you feared out missing what God might be saying to you at that
particular time? Have you as a father, actually looked at the scriptures seeing
what is necessary for you to do? Have you wife taken the Word of the world
or the Word of the Lord more seriously? Have you Sunday School teacher
actually taken the children beyond the story to the reason what the story
was written?

B. Obeying God's Word (8:14-17)
As they came back to get further understanding in verse 14, they found in
the law that the Lord had commanded them through Moses that they, the
sons of Israel, the Jews, should live in booths during the feast of the seventh
month. What is this thing they were suppose to do?

We can look and find this described in the Book of Moses in two places, both
in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16. It just so happened when the revival
started it was on the first day of the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar.
See 8:2. How timely! It seemed that God was giving extra grace in calling His
people together. In fact we know that the people of Israel are to call the
people together on that day for a holy meeting. There is no mention of the
horns. The way 8:1 is phrased, it seems that this meeting was unusual. There
was no mention of the Feast of Trumpets which started on that day. Why
would they ask the priests to do certain things unless no one knew what to do.
If they didn't know about the Feast of Booths, there is the obvious
conclusion that they did not know about the Feast of Trumpets either.
Leviticus 23:24 says,

     "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'In the seventh month on the first
     of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing [of trumpets],
     a holy convocation." After they heard the Word of God, they then
     realized that they have missed out on no just the Feast of Trumpets but
     also all the Feasts. This is also the reason they were not allowed to
     mourn on that day. They were to feast because it was a feast day, a holy
     day. Actually there were three out of seven feasts in the seventh
     month. These were the last ones of the year. Let me summarize them.
     What is particularly mentioned in this chapter is the Feast of Booths
     ore the Feast of Tents, the last feast of the year.
     1 Feast of Trumpets # 5 in month 7 Tishri September-October Early
     Autumn
     Rosh Hashanah {According to Jewish teachings, this begins ten days of
     judgment when all the children of men pass before the Creator. Ten
     days is given for repentance. A solemn assembly called by trumpets to
     prepare for the Day of Atonement. Though Rosen says stands for
     Christ's return, it seems to better represent the going forth of the
     gospel into all the lands calling people to faith in Christ before the great
     Judgment Day.
     10 Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) # 6 in month 7 Tishri September-
     October Autumn A solemn assembly of repentance and forgiveness
     representing the Day of Judgment when the sheep are separated from
     the wolves (Zech 12:10; 13:1). Christ will appear and forever His people
     will be in God's presence.
     15-21 Feast of Tabernacles; Feast of Booths # 7 in month 7 Tishri
     September October Autumn Harvest celebration and memorial of the
     wilderness traveling. Final harvest of God's people from all ages
     gathered together. Earth's pilgrimage is over; rest in heaven; the
     eternal sabbath (He 4).
I should mention that this year is the jubilee of jubilee, the 50th year.
This is why the Promise Keepers rally in Washington D.C. was started
with a Jewish Christian blowing the horn. It was not the first day but it
was in the first ten days. It is believed that God called these men
together in a very special way. If you were there, you would have to
believe this too. It was incredible the way these men came from so far
to put their faces on the ground in humble subjection to the Lord.

But we need to focus on the last feast, the Feast of Tabernacles or
Feast of Booths. Let me read from Leviticus 23:39-41,

"On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have
gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the
LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the
eighth day. 'Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the
foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and
willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God
for seven days. 'You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for
seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your
generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month."

Let me summarize what conclusions they came to after studying God's
Law. On the seventh month there should be a feast. Furthermore, what
would characterize this time is the living in booths or tents. The
environmentalists would love Nehemiah 8:15,
"So they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and
in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches, and
wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of
other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written."
Actually, I want you to know that pruning and cutting back in the fall is
one of the best things for trees so that they can be strengthened and
protected from a hard winter. Obedience doesn't ask if we understand
nature and pruning. It is a step of faith that God takes care of
everything well if we go by His will. An environmentalist is an extreme
and dangerous person because he only takes in a narrow understanding
of the world. The godly person takes into all the considerations and
necessities of life as they live obediently to God. Everyone was going to
take down the limbs and branches to make a habitation for a week for
their family. Family camping was built right into the Law of God. Lev
23:44 says,
"so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in
booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD
your God."
This is to represent that our times on earth are so temporary. Heaven is
our home.

What a wonderful teaching during the rebuilding of a city. We can so
emphasize programs and buildings that we neglect the people. The moral
fabric of the people are most important. Our lives here are temporary.
You can buy and build but remember that none of it can be taken with
you. If we care for the bodies and skill training of our children but
neglect their souls, what a horrible mistake. We have only so many
important matters.

Obedience does require a change of behavior. Without the right
frame of mind, one will find numerous objections to carrying out this
command or any command in the scriptures. I am not an Israelite, but I
still can think of several objections. (Maybe I have practiced this a lot
in the past).

     We must keep our defenses up. The enemy might invade us.
     We must not rest for seven days and allow our militant posture be
      lost. It is hard to regain.
     Crime might increase.
     It's totally impractical. Waste of trees, energy and time.
     Our enemies will think we have gone crazy.
     We will have lost valuable time before the cold to finish building
      our houses.
     This was written about 1,000 years before; it couldn't apply to our
      situation!

There are seven excuses, one for each day of the week. See how easy it
is to bypass the importance of keeping God's Word with the many
concerns we have. We can always find excuses to disobey God. We think
we are wise when we are actually foolish. I agree that some things don't
seem as if they make sense, but who cares if we understand them if we
are pleasing the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The things that
make us look different as the people of God are the actual things that
mark us as the people of God, whether it is tithing, worshiping together,
spending time praying with your family, reading God's Word, etc. We for
the most part have tried to live like the world and still please God. It
will never work. And if you don't believe Him, just keep disobeying Him
nd you will find the necessary consequences troubling your life.

Only when we have the right perspective toward God and His Word, will
we or they obey. When they went back twice to understand God's Word,
it showed they took it seriously.

Application My question is when you hear God's Word, have you really
seriously obeyed it. These people have neglected celebrating the Feasts
of Booths for over 900 years, from Joshua's time. They didn't think it
very important. They didn't believe it would make a difference. But did
it? You bet.The last line of 8:17 says, "And there was great rejoicing."
Obedience will bring a joy into your life that you never even thought
existed. Are your moaning, bitter and depressed? There is a good
chance that you have put off some serious steps of obedience.
Medicines will never substitute obedience. Psychiatrists will never
absolve you from your sin. Obedience is. Give up your big spending and
tithe. Shut off that television and start taking God's Word and prayer
seriously. Read to be changed. You will never be the same.

C. Celebration of God's Word (8:18)
So they did celebrate. God created moral community as they centered
around His Word. Some people think that morals create sad people, but
as we see here, that the happiest people are those who have and live by
morals. They live by God's standards. Think about your neighbors or
friends. Which ones enjoy life the most? The ones stealing, disobedient
to their parents, skipping classes, cheating on papers? Of course not.
There is a generation of sad and depressed people that are mad angry.
They feel cheated out of life. This is why there is so much violence. The
children that obey are the happiest. The parents and young people who
are committed to obedience shine like a bright light in this dark world.
This is the joy stemming from obedience.

Some people think that morals are imposed upon us from the outside.
This is true to only a limited extent. Although morals must be imposed
upon us, it is this imposing or the instruction of them that forces us to
learn them. The real joy comes when as you mature, you can say these
are not only things my parents believe but what I believe. Once you live
by these principles of God on your own, then you are indeed free. Each
year there was the reminder of the Law. But if the people disobeyed
God, they would not come. They would not ever find the joy in obeying
them. Laws help but you can always get around them. Morals are those
right choices that guide your lives even in very strenuous times.

Application During the feast, they lived in God's Word. They met
together. They ate together. They celebrated together. And in
obedience, they had a solemn assembly as required on the very last day.
They did not get carried away with the feasting but found there was a
purpose in it all. Their Creator was calling them to a time of judgment
after their wanderings on earth. They needed to get their life in order
now. Many religions provide a second chance. Christianity does not. If
they refused to live in the tents, then they would face severe
consequences. We are not Jews. We do not need to live in tents. But
there is a figurative truth with even greater significance. The tents
stand for the temporal things of earth. We are like pilgrims just
passing through. But if you live for the world, if you have made it
your permanent home, then you have refused to live as a pilgrim. You
have refused to leave the world and follow Christ. Surely your judgment
will not be just some consequence on earth but eternal in nature.

Conclusion One last application and conclusion. Have you taken God's
Word seriously? Have you been convinced of the truth of God's Word
so that you go back a second time? I might look foolish to my friends; I
might not be able to send my children to prestigious schools. But the
real difference is whether I have set my heart on the Lord and what He
says. The important issue is whether we have listened with such
intensity as to obey what we have heard. The world is perishing. The
     world is depressed. Come to the Words of Life and find new life and
     purpose in Jesus.

            Nehemiah 9:1-38 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #17

                     EXPERIENCING TRUE WORSHIP

A. Present Earnestness: Honest Worship (Nehemiah 9:1-3)
B. Past Memories: Life Worship (Nehemiah 9:4-38)
C. Future Meetings: Developing this Worship (Nehemiah 9:4-38)

Did you ever notice that our worship service begins with a confessional
prayer? I have lately wondered whether this is the most proper way to start.
It is right in one sense for we are sinners. We do not come quickly before
God but humbly. How much of our worship is acceptable if we sit down having
unforgiven sin in our lives? But as I look at different passages whether in the
Psalms or in passages such as these in Nehemiah, I realize that there might
be a more appropriate way to start such as with a time of praise and worship.
The reasoning behind this is that maybe we are not humbled. Maybe we are
rushing into church late. Maybe coming late is just a portrayal of our lives
where we rush into God’s presence. And if we rush into God’s presence
without a prepared heart, we falsely worship. Confession might not then be
genuine confession. Preparation for Sunday worship rightly begins on
Saturday night. It continues as we get up early meeting God on by ourselves.
When we come together, we are continuing what we already began at home.
You don't do this? “I try, but you know how hard it is.” Perhaps we cannot
even see our sins let alone confess them.

Maybe instead we need to start with a time of praise and exaltation. After a
simple welcome we just begin to honor God by stating how great He is and
what He has done in our past. After our souls have awakened to the glory and
presence of God, then we might be more ready to confess our waywardness.
We then can see our dark sins much more easily in contrast to His holy light.
I am still praying and searching what is on the Lord’s heart for this worship
service. Today as we look at chapter 9, we will be able to observe a genuine
time of worship. There they confessed and worshiped Jehovah as their God.
It stands as a past event encouraging us to join in genuine worship and putting
aside many of the problems that have encumbered us in the past. Things were
not perfect for these Israelites, but God was willing to meet them on their
own turf in the city of Jerusalem where they rebuilt the walls.

In order to restore pure worship we need to take three steps.

  Firstly we need to honestly look at our present worship for what it is.
Secondly, we need to go to the past and see what creates true worship.
Thirdly, we need to see the steps into developing this worship in our own
lives.
I am not trying to say it is easy as a 1-2-3 step maneuver. In fact in time we
will continually come back to these same points.

A. Present Earnestness: Honest Worship (Nehemiah 9:1-3)

What is our present worship like? Do we dare ask if God is pleased? I suppose
this is not the question most people ask. They ask if they themselves are
pleased. I am not saying that a worship time pleasing God is not pleasing to us,
but that when we focus on our worship time as primarily something for us
rather than Him, we have made a major blunder. But how do we go about
evaluating our worship times? Do we go back with what pleases us or what
pleases God? We must go back to what pleases God but this can prove very
difficult since we are not God and that we have a blind spot of arrogance in
many things that we do. Before we go on, let us first go back to these
Israelites in Jerusalem and try to learn from their own worship time.

Remember three out of seven God-ordained Israelite feasts occurred in the
seventh month. The Feast of Trumpets is on day 1 of the seventh month. This
coincided with what happened in verse 1. God gathered them together for
what they later discovered to be the Feast of Trumpets. Day 10 started the
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Later in chapter 8 we see them being
convicted about their neglect of holding the Feast of Tabernacles or the
Feast of Booths on the 15-21 of the seventh month. Right after Yom Kippur,
they had a few days to finish gathering in of the harvest. After this they
would celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. I would like to make some frank
comments about their worship and the significance about these things.

#1 Special meeting
I honestly do not know why they held this special meeting referred to on the
24th rather than the 21rst as the scripture dictated.

• Maybe they did have that final rest on the 21rst. This was an additional
assembly.
• Or maybe because of the rush job, they had it a little later.
• Or possibly, things were going so good they couldn't stop celebrating it.
They hadn't held this feast for hundreds of years, they just kept going on
overtime for three days and ended three days late.

We read where they could have made many excuses for not having the Feast
that year. The enemy, no preparations, haven't finished building their houses,
etc., but instead we find that the feast kept going on and on. I am waiting
expectantly for those days where we finally are able to really sense God’s
glory in such a way that time and pressures of our earthly schedules are not
felt.

#2 Baggy clothes

They wore things that they were not used to. This was not easy to do. I don't
know where the habit of getting dressed nice on Sundays came about, but we
should notice that sometimes our disheveled clothing is much more
appropriate. Maybe that is why we don't dress up - except we don't realize it!
Our clothes should symbolize, and I believe, do portray our hearts. They
fasted. They went without food. Then they wore sackcloth. I don't know if
you have ever seen a burlap bag that things used to be stored in, but this is
probably exactly what it was like. Scratchy and very unappealing. Maybe this
is the origin of ‘baggy’ clothes. They are made from bags or sacks. It got even
worse. They didn't take showers. They actually put dirt on themselves. I must
say this goes much against the way we do things today. Yes it was a special
time. But God was so real that they put their preferences and conveniences
aside and got serious with the Lord. I know you might say it was just outward.
But the next verse shows it was more than this.

#3 Painful separation

Verse 2 states that the real descendants of Israel separated themselves
from the other nationalities that they had mingled with. By mingled they
mean at least married to and possibly include those they had made friends
with and business associates. Remember Israel was the new name for Jacob
from whom all the 12 tribes descended making up all the Israelites. They
didn't make excuses for their sins such as “I really love this girl,” or “There
was just no one else,” etc.. They made a powerful statement by separating
themselves from these foreigners. This would allow them to take a real
honest look at where they were. As long as you are hiding your sin, you cannot
confess it. Confession means the open recognition that what you have done is
wrong. They confessed not only their sins but the sins of their fathers. We
must understand that most of our sins are also the sins of our fathers and
fathers’ fathers. We think of ourselves too much as individuals and cannot
properly understand how we live under the world that our parents have made.
As much as we do not like what sins are happening in the high places, we
cannot easily say that we have no part in it. We live in America; many of us
are Americans. What is it that is unholy that God asks you to separate from?

#4 Intense listening to God’s Word

In verse 3 they stood in their place as they read from the book of “the law of
the LORD their God” for one fourth of the day. The Word of God was indeed
what God was speaking. A number of young people asked me last Sunday, “How
does God speak to us?” We forget that God has already spoken so clearly in
His Word. We just don't really pay attention. Do you take notes? Do you have
a spiritual journal?

#5 Confessed and Worshiped

Next still in verse 3 we find them confessing and worshiping the Lord their
God. Confession and worship was combined together. Worship is not just
singing songs or coming to church. Worship is an act of recognizing and
responding to God’s glorious person. Confession is an act of worship because
we can only come so close before He reveals more of our sin and worldliness.
We confess our sins and then go closer to the Lord. It is hard to worship and
not confess because we often find incomplete qualities about ourselves.

I am not saying we are to imitate them here, but we are to sense, appreciate
and duplicate what they were in fact doing. They were stepping closer to God.
We must refuse the shabby worship where we are thinking about the work I
need to do when I get home or what I will be doing with my friends after
church or what computer game or television show you will watch when you get
home. These all show that you are an hypocrite. You are not really worshiping
God but focusing on your desires. You are more important to God.

Application

It would probably do us a lot of good to tear our nice jeans, wear some boxes
or garbage bags over our ripped clothes with some dirt smudged in our hair
and over our lipstick and on our hands. Get nice and grimy and gritty. God
might much prefer the later if your mind was on why you are here instead of
where else you could be! But how are we going to really get honest with
ourselves? It is obvious that we must penetrate imitation of others or
compliance with others and touch upon our own motivations. Changes are good
sometimes because it doesn't allow us to come up with such cozy false
statements about how ‘good’ we are. We need to get honest about how we
listen or don't listen to God. In confession tell Him all about it. It is then you
will feel His holiness and presence.

B. Past Memories: Life Worship (Nehemiah 9:4-38)

Secondly, we need to the Israelites’ past to see an example of true worship.
Verse 4 continues the description of spontaneous worship. Through these
next series of verses we will see that music in song is not just a singspiration
where you feel happy. Worship through music is singing in the Spirit. I
suppose this is the root of the word singspiration, except this is not what we
usually mean. We need an experience with God to worship Him. It might be
real difficult or very joyful, but they are times we praise God. They are times
that we find God interacting with us during happy or sad times. I am more
sure of God’s mercy now that I have a broken briefcase then when my
briefcase was whole and not broken. Why? Because God saw my desperate
situation (stolen keys, etc.) and heard me. Furthermore I got a clearer
perspective of my association with things. I had the chance to refute any real
affection for those things. Instead of moaning and despairing, I praised God
because I could live without these things. But I never could live without Him.
I want you now to join me by reviewing your life as we join the Hebrews in
their worship.
5 • Praising His greatness
6 • Declaring His superior person and everthing’s dependence upon Him.
7-8 • Overall view of their redemption and God’s starting it and fulfilling
it.
9-12 • Release as Deliverer (Savior)
- Thou didst see the affliction (9)
- Thou didst perform great signs and wonders (10)
- Thou didst divide the sea (11)
- Thou didst lead them by day, .. By night (12)
13-15 • Revelation as Lawgiver
- Thou didst come down on Mount Sinai (13)
- Didst speak with them from heaven (13)
- Thou didst give them just ordinances and true laws, good statutes and
commandments. (13)
- Thou didst make known to them Thy holy sabbath
- Didst lay down for them commandments, statutes, and law
- Thou didst provide bread from heaven for them for their hunger
- Thou didst bring forth water from a rock for them for their thirst
- Thou didst tell them to enter in order to possess the land which Thou didst
swear to give them.
16-25 • Merciful and Gracious
Plenty of sin but God ....
-But Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to
anger,
and abounding in lovingkindness;
- Thou didst not forsake them. "Even when they made for themselves A calf
of molten metal.
- And Thou didst give Thy good Spirit to instruct them,
- Thy manna Thou didst not withhold from their mouth,
- Thou didst give them water for their thirst.
- Indeed, forty years Thou didst provide for them in the wilderness and they
were not in want; =Their clothes did not wear out,
= nor did their feet swell.
-Thou didst also give them kingdoms and peoples,
-Thou didst allot them to them as a boundary.
- And they took possession of the land of Sihon ...And the land of Og
- Thou didst make their sons numerous as the stars of heaven,
- Thou didst bring them into the land which Thou hadst told their fathers to
enter and possess.
= Thou didst subdue before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites,
= Thou didst give them into their hand, with their kings, and the peoples of
the land,
= They captured fortified cities and a fertile land.
= They took possession of houses full of every good thing, hewn cisterns,
vineyards, olive groves, Fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, were filled, and
grew fat,
And reveled in Thy great goodness. (Nehemiah 9:17-25).

This time of confession and worship can not be separated. We find that the
greatest points of any godly person or nation is when they understand their
spiritual needs. In other words, they can plainly see their sins. They are able
to recognize their defaulting the standards of their Creator. At the same
time we find another principle operating. When they did not see their sins and
faults, it did not mean that they did not have them. Instead because they did
not recognize them, they fell into depraved times of sadness. This day for
the Jews was a glad day because they were confessing their sins. They could
enter into time of worship because true worship occurs only when we are able
to see God interacting with our lives. Many of us became Christians when we
were sad or lonely. God stepped into our barren life and brought fullness.
Worship is when we remember these special times of acquaintance with God.
Hope, faith and love combine into a glorious flow of praise to God.

Application

If someone has asked you what has God done in your lives, what would you
say? It is true that we might mention something from the past. This is okay if
it impresses you. But if you are stretching to find something to speak about,
then you can be sure worship is going to be very lacking because thankfulness
is not locked up with different events in your life. God was never associated
with those events.

C. Future Meetings: Developing this Worship (Nehemiah 9:4-38)
Lastly, we need to see the steps of cultivating this worship in our own lives.
Your worship is contingent on your own honest perspective of your life. Unless
you have seen God’s goodness and your sin, then there will be no worship. It is
hard for those brought in the church to worship God because it is not real
life. The things around them are not seen as God’s being good to them. Nor
are there sins seen as sins or as something important. They never connect the
picture between their sufferings and their waywardness. They never see that
the Lord brings those refining fires to purify and restore.

How are we going to restore our worship service? You need to encounter God.
(Experiencing God by Blackaby). We can change the worship service around,
make it shorter, make it longer, but is this the real change we are looking for.
You might be more pleased because it suits you or a bit upset because it is
not the way that you want it. But this is irrelevant in what really needs to be
done in our worship times.

A revival is when God cuts through the excuses and dreams of our false
lives with the real facts of life. The truth comes as a sword in our lives.
God plunders what is stolen and replaces it with what is good and kind. A
real meeting of God always requires us to deal with our personal
relationship with God. This is why we must refuse to sing songs that just
have a good tune or make us feel happy. We must not have excited warm
ups with empty words and tunes. We need to have the truth of God’s
glory brought before our eyes, whether in song, prayer, testimony,
scripture reading or preaching.

I am afraid that our Christian culture distorts real worship by distorting the
facts. Even though again and again in scripture that our sorrows in life are
said to be related to God and His dealings with us, we are quite happy to think
it is because I did not get my cheerios or see my psychiatrist. We refuse to
get wise but live in foolishness.

What is the difference between a wise boy and foolish one? We should not
think the wise one is the one that does not do wrong. This is unrealistic. God
says children are naturally foolish. The real difference is not that one is
naturally good and the other naturally foolish. All are foolish. Then what is
the difference? The wise ones get something that the foolish ones do not
consistently get. What is that? Love through discipline. The foolish child
never is able to put the troubles in life together with wrong mistakes. So he
continues to make foolish decisions. He never can get control of his desires.
What happens when the foolish boy gets caught? It says in Proverbs that
either he will curse you or laugh at you! A foolish person has not been able to
put together consequences with wrong behavior.

The wise person started off the same. Foolish. But because of constant
discipline, he became wise. What is wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to see the
consequences of wrong behavior ahead of time and so this insight or wisdom
becomes a force in his life to not to wrong. Is he tempted? Of course. But he
sees through the scam.

Application

Let me get personal with you big and small. Are you foolish or wise? If you are
foolish, then you cannot worship God. This is the reason Jacob’s brother was
given over to ungodliness. Sooner or later it would come out that he did not
fear God but delight in what pleased him and his senses. He judged everything
not by God but by what he could get away with. Foolish people cannot worship
God. They gab in service. They need a coke can in their hand to get them to
sit still. They have not seen the connection with the trouble they face in life
and God’s loving purpose. If this foolish person is Christian, God is going to
make it hurt so hard at one point that he wakes up. His life might be in pieces,
but at least he begins to get God in perspective. He learns worship the hard
way. David got overconfident at a certain stage, sinned, played the fool of
denial, but when later exposed, his worship of God deepened. If you are not a
Christian, God will let you go. It is like going down one slide after another
always ending on a lower platform. Only before the judgment seat will you
wake up to what you have done wrong. Only then will you see and feel the
smoke of hell that you will always regret and never be able to turn from.

The truly wise person is the one who not only the one who has been able to
see the consequences to bad decisions, but he has also been able to see that
God is the one orienting the experiences of life not just to avoid evil but to
come closer to God. He finds his mistakes are God treating him mercifully and
graciously. He welcomes God’s chase of him through his wrong decisions in
life. Because these are combined with God’s great wisdom and mercy, these
difficult times become instructive times. All the ways he is enlightened of
how God had wonderfully has treated him even in his sin become his living
testimony. Salvation is not a historical event of the past but a record that
you are still in a living relationship with God forever.

Conclusion

The question is obvious. Do we have true or false worship? There are many
things we just don't understand. But God is greater than these things. He
purposely sets you up so that you might believe in Him. Sometimes He just
simply does not carry on the way he should so that we have a new experience
trusting Him. And so a Christian’s relationship goes on and on. We must no
longer tolerate sin and worldliness. Let us get serious with God and find His
great and wonderful testimony.

             Nehemiah 10-12. Rebuilding Our Faith Series #18

                                “Live Worship”

1) Commitment to the Lord (Nehemiah 9:38-10:29)
2) Separation from the ungodly (Nehemiah 10:28-30)
3) Support for the house of God (Nehemiah 10:32-39)
4) Reorganization for the future (Nehemiah 11-12)

There is sign off route 65 pointing to Bellevue. For the longest time I was
really puzzled about what its message. It read ‘Live Worship Shop.’ The only
image that came to my mind was a sign that said, “Live lobsters.” That meant
you could buy living lobsters rather than dead and ready prepared. I know of
many different churches in the Bellevue area, but it really made me wonder
what they were claiming by having ‘Live Worship.’ Were they disassociating
themselves from all the dead worship places? Or were they more positively
promoting their lively worship, more modern in approach. But there was no
church name with the sign. So it seemed to describe all the Bellevue churches
in this way which I knew was not true. In the end I realized that I had read
the sign wrong. They listed ‘Live, Worship, Shop’ as a list of three things that
are good to do in Bellevue.

But the question still seems to be a good one. What is ‘live worship?’ What
needs to be going on in this place for things to be really living? Jerusalem was
having a great revival - a “re-living” if you would. New life was coming back
into their lives. It is like blowing up a big inflatable rabbit. Things were taking
shape. When we look closely into chapter 9, we find it was a revival of the
heart. Change was happening inside their lives. They now longed for God’s
word and obedience.

In Mark 4 Jesus gave the parable of the sower. The last group on which the
seed was sown was fertile. When the Word of God landed on such receptive
hearts, it bore great fruit even to 30, 60 and 100 times the original. As we
look at chapters 10-12 we find that true spiritual revival will always manifest
itself in the reshaping of behavior and activities. During the big Scottish
revival, all the bars went bankrupt. The police had no work so they formed
quartets and went about singing in different churches. Because they readily
took God’s Word into their lives, they bore much fruit that influenced
generations.

Chapter 10 of Nehemiah shows the resolution of the revived Jews. They were
not just saying that they regretted their unholy lifestyle but that they
repented from it. Regret is when one is sorrowful just for the consequences.
Repentance is when one is genuinely sorry they disobeyed and stopped doing
what hurt that relationship. They finally connected the fact that true
worship is when one sees God in each aspect of life. This is what fearing the
Lord means. And as leaders of the people, they could testify that they were
ready to change things around. Do not think these changes were easy. Do not
think it is easy to commit yourself to a higher standard that pleases God. But
something happened in their fundamental understanding of God that brought
forth this willingness to change their behavior. Jesus referred to this change
of the inner heart when He talked to Nicodemus in John 3: 3-10 saying,

     “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see
     the kingdom of God." Nicodemus *said to Him, "How can a man be
     born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his
     mother's womb and be born, can he?" Jesus answered, "Truly,
     truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he
     cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the
     flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not
     marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' "The wind
     blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not
     know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who
     is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How
     can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you
     the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?”

Let us not despise outward reform if it comes from the heart. Let's now
look at the four significant changes they made. Let us not just ask for
the Spirit of God to move but to move in such a way that our lives begin
swaying in tune with the will of God.

1. Commitment to the Lord (Nehemiah 9:38-10:29)

The first significant change that we find in their lives is that they signed a
covenant. They made a covenant together before the Lord. Verse 9:38 says,
“Now because of all this We are making an agreement in writing; And on the
sealed document are the names of our leaders, our Levites and our priests.”
They subjected themselves to live their lives according to the words of the
covenant at the risk of suffering God’s curse. If they broke the covenant,
then they would be cursed by God. They were basically making themselves
consciously accountable to God.

One special aspect of this covenant was that the Israelites had
representatives of different groups involved in the signing. Let me read again
verses 10:28-29 for the full impact of this covenant among the Israelites.

     “Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the
     gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all those who
     had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law
     of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who
     had knowledge and understanding, are joining with their kinsmen,
     their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to
     walk in God's law, which was given through Moses, God's servant,
     and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our
     Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes.”

This was a group or people movement. Some people don't quite know how to
handle groups when they come to know the Lord. America has a very
individualistic way of interpreting the scriptures. Everything is “I”. Our songs
are “I” or “me.” How I wish we could sing and pray the “we” and “us.” Prayer
May God not just move in one or two of our hearts but the whole of our
hearts!

This covenant would settle their hearts and build a framework on which they
could build their new community around God. Without this seriousness and
focus, it is not clear how long their zeal would last. Of course they would
think the excitement would last forever, but it wouldn't. They were together
willing to take the necessary steps to shape Israel’s future around God.

Oaths are important vows. No one is to take them lightly. Baptism is a
covenant written with our bodies and marriage with our vows. We are not to
take our faith lightly. When we are baptized, we state our lives will revolve
around our Lord’s wishes. When we marry, we are saying that we will be
deliberately faithful to our spouse. Our decisions in life will be shaped around
these commitments. Some people ask why we should join the organizational
church? The reason is that this commitment helps mold your life to a
framework that you deem important for the future. You want to be held
accountable for the way you serve the Lord while you are in Pittsburgh.

Application

“Live Worship” for the Israelites meant commitment. They saw that if they
put their heart to God’s business in a serious way, they could help mold,
protect and bless their children. They were done with their games. If you
were to sign a covenant today, what would you write on it? What could you
commit yourself to? Would there be anything in the covenant that would set
you apart from the world? This is our second point.

2) Separation from the ungodly (Nehemiah 10:28-30)

We just don't understand what God really expects of His worshippers. He
demands a separation of our lives from the world. I believe that the greatest
reasons for ‘dead’ worship is because of worldliness. Our hearts are attached
to the world. This shows up in our relationships and the way we are willing to
compromise on issues the Lord has spoken clearly on. In 10:28-30 we find
their willingness to start clean. They were to come apart from their ungodly
compromises and start off clean.

Now this is the most difficult point to follow through with. We can easily sign
our name, but it is hard to break the alliances we have formed with the
ungodly. These associations have become part of life, with whom you talk,
with whom you live. It is the hardest to modify because this is the one area
so crucial to their future. They could make some changes but without a clean
break, if they did not separate themselves from the ungodly now in these
compromises of life, then they would lose their identity within one generation.
They were committing themselves to separate themselves from these
relationships meant that they were quite common. One cannot make a
commitment to walk in the law of God (28) unless they have separated
themselves from the world. For the Jews, this was very much an issue of
relating only with other Jews. For Christians, it is simply to find other devout
Christians to covenant with in issues of marriage and business. II Corinthians
6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked.” The image is to have two different
kinds of animals sharing a yoke pulling the plow along. They walk at different
speeds and no doubt do not relate very well with each other. The pulling of
the yoke will be greatly affected by being joined with another of not common
faith.

Besides our faith, marriage is the most important relationship that is
established in our lives. These Israelite parents were finally getting their act
together to preserve what was good and holy. They were determined not to
give their daughters to those who did not commit themselves to a like faith
and lifestyle. Nor were they willing to take a woman that has not a similar
conviction. If you have not clearly stated in your lives that you would not
marry a non-Christian, then you are making great trouble for your lives. Make
the commitments now while your mind is clear. This is the value of oaths. They
stand as a loud confirming voice during our confusing moments. It doesn't
matter whether you are in ‘love’. You have made a promise to love God first.
Unless you are clearly committed to marrying a godly Christian of great zeal,
then you will be baited. You will be sucked in by the clever devices of the evil
one. You will have no one but yourself to blame.
They were to separate from the ungodly in business partnerships too. They
decided to stop trading on the sabbath just as God had told them. This is
another bold step. They had to take a risk that their normal customers who
regularly went to them would go and find another seller. The advantage of
everyone playing by the same rules make it much easier for everyone and
helps maintain the high moral standard. The issue is that the evil one controls
non-Christians. Jesus said that the evil one is their father. We are greatly
subjecting ourselves to the evil one's temptations and frustrations when we
sign on with these non Christians. We are becoming unequally yoked. It is like
inserting a needle in your skin and leaving it there so that whenever the evil
one wants to bring trouble into your lives, all he has to do is squeeze.

In verse 31 they were separating themselves unto the Word of the Lord.
They would no longer sell and buy on the sabbath, not pick the harvest on the
seventh year or push people into sin by exacting every debt. They were
putting God’s desires above their own preferences.

We normally think of worship of God as only happening on Sunday morning but
in fact God has called us as a people to live out our life separate unto Him.
Some people reject this kind of thinking with one or more of the following
lines of reasoning:
• Some say that this separatism is too radical.
• Some say that pluralism is more noble; tolerance more excellent.
• Some deny that this separateness is asked for by the Lord.
• Most deny any connection between what they say and what they live.

He was helping them to step out of their desperate and disobedient state.
They as a community had clearly compromised God’s law and the financial,
spiritual and emotional burdens were very obvious. Some people think they can
easily separate their spiritual lives from other aspects of their lives. I tried
to show you last time that this is simply impossible. Real worship is when we
come bringing our whole lives under the reigns of the Holy Spirit. A Christian
is one who follows Christ in all of his life.

Application

Before I go on, let me make few applications. Our Sunday is not the sabbath.
We must understand that there is a fundamental calendar change. There are
principles that go on regarding the sabbath such as breaking from work once
a week. We work to live not live to work. We are not machines nor
materialistic garbage cans preoccupied on buying and selling. When I studied,
busy as I was, I took off Sunday from my studies. As a pastor I take off
Monday. Some might criticize me, but I believe that it is not having a
weekend off but a special time stating that I am more important than my
occupation. I am not the center of the universe but God is. His command is
enough to rotate my life around.

Some people use the principle of stewardship to get away with sins like
grabbing the last penny of interest. Clearly there are principles that override
so-called good stewardship. They would not shop on the sabbath. They would
rest their bodies rather than maximize them. They would forego the seventh
year crop. What a waste! But God says it is normal and good. Nor should we
love to get back our loans more than care for the needs of others. Money
must not rule us. Capitalism can be a sin. Materialism is sin. Our lives are not
ours nor is our money. We are stewards of what God has given us and must
use it in a way that pleases our Lord; our pleasures and comforts only follow
this priority. Each year I wrestle with giving more and more to missions. It
doesn't come easily, but it is clearly our Lord’s priority.

3) Support for the house of God (Nehemiah 10:32-39)

Religious worship is not free. In order to preserve the order that delights
God, we will find that again and again it will cost us time, effort and money. I
appreciate our recent presentation of the church's budget before the
congregation. The connection between our offerings and our ministries was
clearly shown. Without the offerings, the ministries would not go on. Any area
that we are not willing to provide the resources, whether personnel or
financial, will become an area of need rather than strength. As we look at
their commitment to serve the Lord, let us see what their undermining goal
was. It is found in 10:39, “We will not neglect the house of our God.”

We will get into specifics in a moment, but I want you to think about one good
improvement that has been going on here in this congregation of God’s people.
I have seen a great improvement on our worship teams. I have been very
encouraged and blessed. I think we are finally beginning to see the glory of
worshiping God! But in order for this to happen, you must prepare your hearts
behind the scenes. You might take drum lessons. You take time practicing with
each other. You think of keeping a pure heart so to protect your music
offerings. You sometimes are even here before I get here at 9:00.
Maintaining decor and glory about God’s house, which is us His people as we
assemble together, is our priority in life. We must make it our goal of
excellence in serving the Lord wherever He has called us . The welfare of the
house of God is dependent upon us. We are the house of God. Let me read two
references confirming this.
“...But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we
hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.”
(Hebrews 3:6)

     “I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in
     the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the
     pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

I would like to outline three areas mentioned. They are broad but crucial
areas. We will speak of financial offerings, faith offerings, and personal
offerings.

Financial offerings

The Israelites put themselves under pledge to provide 1/3 of a shekel a year
for the main worship supplies. What did the law require? Exodus 30:13 says,

     “This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel
     according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty
     gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD.”

Accountants will notice that 1/3 and 1/2 shekel are differing amounts. I
believe with some commentators that this is to be seen beyond the regular
1/2 shekel required in the Law. They were trying to build up the treasury that
has been in shambles. The other possible interpretation is that because of
their dire poverty they were giving only 1/3 of a shekel which is better than
none. The problem with this interpretation is that their other covenant
commitments were very strong. What sense does it make to covenant
something short of what the law demanded? It only makes sense if they were
covenanting something equal or more.
Application

Some people ask me about the necessity of offering a tithe which is 10% of
our income. It is clear from this passage that these impoverished Jews were
giving more than a tithe. They had many more offerings that added up to
more than 10%. The point of this matter is why are we willing to secure
better houses, clothes and cars and accommodations then they and let the
tithe be the last of our commitments. They made giving to God their highest
priority. They covenanted their money to God. They understood that God is
not only interested in getting a good portion of what He has given to you, but
that He wants His part given before you give others their portion. This is
referred to as the first fruits which is the next point.

     • For the shewbread, etc. To defray the expenses of the twelve
     loaves, which every week were set on the table of shewbread,
     #Leviticus 24:5-9|,
     • and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt
     offering; for the daily sacrifice, morning and evening, which always
     had a meat offering along with it, #Ex 29:38-42|,
     • of the sabbaths, and of the new moons; on which were additional
     sacrifices, #Nu 28:9-15|,
     • and for the set feasts; of passover, Pentecost, and tabernacles;
     in which also were offered other sacrifices, besides the daily one,
     #Nu 28:16-31 29:1-39|,
     • and for the holy things: which were both by way of thanksgiving
     to God, and that they might feast and rejoice together:
     • and for the sin offerings, to make an atonement for Israel; for
     the whole body of the people, and so were made at the public
     expense:
     • and for all the work of the house of our God; whatever else was
     necessary that is not mentioned. [GILL]

Faith offerings

Starting in verse 35 and right on down to verse 37 we find that the word
‘first’ or ‘first-fruits’ is repeatedly used. Listen to these offerings they were
committing themselves to give as first fruits.
* They needed to bring the first fruits of crops (10:35)
* They needed to bring the first fruits of fruit trees (10:35)
* They needed to bring the first born of sons, cattle, herds, flocks. (10:36)
* They needed to bring the first of dough, contributions, tree, wine, oil to the
priests (10:37)
* They needed to bring tithes to Levites (10:37)

By the way, you might be wondering how to offer your sons. Substitutes are
welcome. One would redeem or pay for in exchange for the donkey or son.

On the one hand these first fruits are the easiest to commit to; on the other
hand they are the hardest.
How so?

•They are easy to commit to because unlike the above shekel, they were
proportional. In other words, they only could give what they got. First-fruits
of nothing is nothing. If one is real poor, they would not be obligated to give
much at all. Students do not get much personal money so they don't need to
pay much.

•On the other hand, this is a very difficult commitment to make because it
required faith. Faith is needed because you would take the first portion and
give it away. You might be very hungry waiting for the first supply of grain to
appear after the winter. By giving the first-fruits, you might be going another
week without food. Or who knows whether you will have enough? What if a
storm comes or you get sick? Faith is required to give the first-fruits to the
Lord. It takes commitment. Our lives must revolve around the Lord. Basically,
this commitment to bring the first of all requires a full recognition that
everything you have is given to you by God’s grace. You are confessing this is
true by the offering. By offering you are stating that it is not the money that
cares for you but God Himself.

Application

Have you learned to live by faith in your giving? This requires us to give to
God before we pay our other bills. Some think that utilities and mortgages
are ‘first’ payments. I strongly disagree. God does not want leftovers of
doubt and selfishness. He wants you to think of ‘first’ offerings unto Himself
and to anticipate how He will provide for your other needs. Once we switch
our way of looking at our finances, ‘dead’ worship finally comes alive. Our
dependence or trust upon the Lord becomes very relevant to our lives.

Personal offerings

In Nehemiah 12, we find a clear description of which priests and Levites came
to the land of Israel. They were easy to track because they were families,
not just individuals. One could not volunteer to be a Levite or priest. You were
called by God by virtue of who your father was. This might sound terribly
undemocratic, but God wasn't worried about this. He called them. They were
expected to serve in His designated way. Through their forefathers they
would pass one different traits of loyalty that were important to God.

The people could not just walk into the Lord’s sanctuary. They had to have
priests to make offerings, care for the temple, and do many other things.
Money was not just needed to provide for the actual worship materials. Many
things had to be done to maintain this worship.

The priests were to maintain the worship of God in a holy and proper manner.
They were to be supplied financially by the public, that is, the Israelite
community. They were then in turn set apart to serve God in whatever way
God had designated them to serve. It is wrong to think of the pastor as the
only priest. This is a distortion. He indeed is a priest, but if you are God’s
people, so are you. If you really are going to understand this, then you will see
that the financial role is minor compared to the time, energy and effort put
into the priestly role you are to serve. The welfare of the house of God
depends upon you.

This is probably the most radical of all the life changes mentioned above. God
has called us His priests. We are to maintain His house. I Peter 2:9-10 says,
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A
PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the
excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous
light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF
GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”

Think about your volunteer hours for God’s service. Maybe we can deduct
some of our travel from our taxes as we travel back and forth to meetings we
lead. But this does nothing to determine your worth before God. Just think of
the time and hard work that you put in as servants of the Lord. If we on
average got $10./hour for our volunteer work, our budget would explode to
over million dollars. Think of the tremendous team of priests at work. The
business world can't understand the church. They use money to get their
workers to work. The church on the other hand lives on volunteers. We cook,
clean, watch children, teach, prepare materials, play instruments, lead,
preach, sing, pray, etc. I hope you take part in maintaining the House of God;
it must not be neglected.

Note in 12:27 at the dedication of the wall, Nehemiah got together a great
praise time. He remembered it was God who built the wall. Nehemiah was
faithful but it was only God that got all the work done safely. They had two
choirs who proceeded on the wall from both directions and met up at the
temple. Everyone had a special duty. In verse 30 we read of the Levites, “And
the priests and the Levites purified themselves; they also purified the people,
the gates, and the wall.” We do not only have material matters to deal with
like money and wealth, but we have spiritual duties. The Spirit of God has
given each of His people a spiritual gift to use for the building up of the
House of God.

Application

What part are you taking? Some things require money. But God really wants
you. God is expecting for you to use your time in different aspects of service.
Both the OT and NT help us get a general understanding of worship. It
requires all of us to be faithful so that it is not neglected. Let me read a
passage from Ephesians 4 reminding you of the critical place each one of us
take in this place where God resides. If you are not faithful, everyone will be
affected. Positively, if everyone does their part as the Israelis covenanted,
the House of God will not be neglected. Everyone will know that we put God as
the priority in life. The invisible One shapes our visible lives. Ephesians 4:10-
13 says,

     “He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all
     the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as
     apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some
     as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the
     work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we
     all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
     Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which
     belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

Again, what is God asking of you in your service? Are you doing it? Is God the
priority in your life or are you giving second or third place rather than first
fruits?

4) Reorganization (Nehemiah 11-12)

From chapters 11-12 we see a strong emphasis on infrastructure changes.
They were deluded if they thought that this great rally would in and of itself
bring great change. God was interested in life changes. This is just what
discipleship means - changes in our life resulting in being more like Jesus
Christ. We have learned that just building a wall to maintain life was not
enough. We then learned that just having a spiritual encounter is not enough.
We must go on and secure that spiritual change with changes in our priorities
and lifestyles.

It makes sense that God would want to reposition us to best suit His
purposes. Missions is this redistributing of the wealth and vibrancy of God’s
glorious church. We export not American culture but God’s people to other
parts of the world. Note in the first verses of chapter 11 that the Israelites
made big sacrifices to move ahead to where God wanted them to be. They saw
a great need of repopulating Jerusalem, the holy city. They cast lots to see
who would go and live there. The houses were in horrible shape. Were you
going to take your family to live there? Corruption still lingered on. They
decided however, that they would do as God pleased. Everyone risked their
family's future because of God’s design. They would take lots. One out of ten
families would be chosen by lot. If they were chosen, they would listen to
God’s call and go live in Jerusalem.

If you want a strong house of God, then you and I are going to need to make
some sacrifices. We talk about consolidation. It will take our money. It will
take our volunteer hours. It will necessitate our prayers. Will you come out to
our late night prayer meeting this Friday night? We want to train our young
people to be like Jesus. Are you spending time with God to know how best to
do this, whether it be your own children or those in your Sunday School class.

Conclusion:

Nehemiah 12:30 speaks of the need of purification. It is insufficient to just
have some past spiritual ‘highs.’ These great close times with God enable us to
see what real changes must be made in our lives to maintain those blessings.
We must be dedicated to do a great job for the Lord all the time. We need to
set our lives apart for Him as well as those things that protect us, support us,
or even our service. God wants to build up His house of Worship so that He
will manifest His glory. If we are sloppy or lazy, we would but insult Him. But
if each of us dedicated ourselves to Him and as a whole purified ourselves for
Him, I think He would be delighted in revealing more of His glorious person to
us. This is what live worship is. We as God’s people, prepared and dedicated so
that the glory of God appears in His home. We have seen improvement, but
let us all get ready for a greater revealing of God. Let us do a sort of ‘spring
cleaning’ in the House of God that pleases Him, a housecleaning that affects
our lifestyle.

One million Promise Keepers prayed in Washington D.C. for four hours, but
they neglected to set up an apparatus by which they would take rule there
through prayers. The evil one came in and has caused great harm since that
time.

          Nehemiah 13:-31 Rebuilding Our Faith Series #19/19

                      "RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS"
A. Restoring Sanctity in the Temple (13:1-14)
B. Restoring Sacredness to the Sabbath (13:15-22)
C. Restoring Purity to God's People (13:23-29)
D. Restoring All Things to Their Design (13:30-31)

There is a design that goes beyond our own design. Although our church does
have a theme for each year, we try to tap into the overall design and purpose
of God rather than just focus on our own immediate concerns. We are trying
to plug ourselves into God's overall will for us in Pittsburgh and in the world.
For example, we know God has put us here to train others in the discipling
ministry even though many will not stay here long term. We are satisfied with
God using us in His overall kingdom building. Nehemiah was like this. He had a
kingdom building concept. He was willing to travel far away and sacrifice his
wealth and security for a lonely group of people far from his home. It was not
easy for him as an outsider getting involved in this distant community. I want
you to think of Nehemiah as a faithful man of God who managed his household
well. He excelled at what he did. In my understanding he was, though no
verses testify to this specifically, a figure of Christ who would straighten out
God's household. Acts 3:21 speak of Christ in this way,

     "Jesus, the Christ ...Whom heaven must receive until the period of
     restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His
     holy prophets from ancient time."
     Nehemiah was sent to fix up or restore the city of Jerusalem. No doubt
     there was a greater mission implied, the establishing of God's reign in
     the city of Jerusalem. Christ was sent from the Father to prepare the
     heavenly Jerusalem. Christ's work was done in such a way that it would
     last forever. Revelation 21:1-4 says,
     "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the
     first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the
     holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made
     ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from
     the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He
     shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself
     shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes;
     and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any
     mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

     We will see the same thoroughness in Nehemiah's work and service. God
     is interested in building His kingdom on earth. He wants to build it
     through us. We typically lack this vision He has for us. We are
     concerned that the children get a good education and job. This is of
     course good. But sometimes we lack the devotion to develop godly
     families. We only give them enough dose of church through Sunday
     School hoping they don't get into trouble and get a good education and a
     good job. We just want to get by comfortably. God sent Jesus into the
     world to bring us one big step further. He wanted us to get eternal life,
a life known for its enduring as well as its righteous character. He has
called us to join Him in His kingdom building work.
Application Let me ask you. Are you thinking about what God wants to
do in your life or mostly focusing on what you want in life?

God often uses people and situations, good or bad, to shape us. He wants
us to be more effective and blessed. He wants us to be blessed so that
we can pass these blessings on to others. This generation generally has
no moral backbone and therefore lacks these blessings. Our desires and
emotions lead us rather than biblical principles. We live by convenience
not properness. We might not be deliberately being disobedient but just
out of lack of concern or zealousness, we tend to go by our
circumstances. But when you think of it, pressures on our lives really
bring greater blessing than lack of pressure. I use a bread machine at
home quite regularly. It is I the bread maker that decides which
ingredients are going to go into the pot. I force them to mix with the
aid of the machine. Because I mix certain things in the mix, I can
predict the outcome. Of course I need to pay special attention to the
balance of ingredients. But there is also the pressure of the pan, time
and heat. I want a certain result so I go after a certain controllable
environment to bring this result about.

Christian living is better described as Christian discipleship. The word
disciple is closely related to discipline. There is the life of constraints
that develop a greater likeness like our Master in our lifestyle and talk.
But today's generation is repulsed from these constraints. They live in
the premise that freedom and happiness comes from doing what they
desire not the desire of another. Many of us probably believe that
'freedom of choice' is a right of life.

We read earlier of a great revival. But times have gone on when we
reach this last chapter of Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 13 we find Nehemiah
returning after a long absence. I think everyone had appreciated what
Nehemiah had done for the people. God was greatly working in their
midst during this time. They got back control of the city. They built up
the defense walls. They actually ruled the city. The priesthood was
restored to its proper roles. The people were taught God's Word and
began to carry out commands that were long hidden in antiquity. They
were a people of shame and misery and later became a people that had
much to celebrate. But when Nehemiah returned, we find that he
discovered that they as a people were already making serious
compromises to their faith. Yes, one could look at it as a freedom of
choice. They had their own lives to live. But Nehemiah saw these
individual improper choices as ones that greatly impacted the whole
community. Nehemiah came on very strong restoring things back to
normal. We see a zealousness, almost a madness, in making things
normal. I think of Jesus in the temple ripping up the money changer
tables when I see Nehemiah here.

What are we to learn from this chapter? I think we are to see that
Nehemiah's return visit was a sign of God's grace. It was pressure. It
was difficult. One could even use the word 'force.' But God was trying
to bring back what was good in their lives. If we are immature, we will
not easily accept these restoration projects planned from the outside in
our lives. We will revolt over them. But really, we need God's work of
discipline in our lives to preserve what is good. Otherwise we will fall
into great sin and decay as Nehemiah warned the people in 13:26,

"Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things? Yet among
the many nations there was no king like him, and he was loved by his God,
and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women
caused even him to sin."
Four times the words 'Remember me" are used in this chapter. Each
time they capture the difficult and unpleasant time it was for Nehemiah
to be that pressure that God used to help rescue the people. Each
"Remember" prayer brought him to God asking to bring His divine grace
into an otherwise very unpleasant task. I want you to join with me in
training ourselves to look at these four shaping events as positive ones
where God was encouraging the people to choose the best rather than
tolerating the worst. We will naturally resist this shaping but it is best
for us. God our Father is the model parent who brings the best into His
childrens' lives even though it is difficult.
A. Restoring Sanctity in the Temple (13:1-14)
We firstly find that there had been a compromise among individuals
that impacted the whole temple worship. It started as a small kind
gesture. The high priest, Eliashib, was appointed in charge over the
chambers of the house of God. They were used for storage of grain
offerings, frankincense, utensils, tithes of grain, wine and oil for the
Levites, singers and the gatekeepers. Now it just so happened that
there was a very influential person named Tobiah who was related to
Eliashib and who somehow got permission to stay in one of these very
large storage rooms.

All of a sudden, you have this big guy move into the storage room and
make it his home! He has the best of foods, wine, oil and utensils. It is
like a rat having his home in a corn silo. What do you think would happen
to all those volunteer offerings once this news was heard? If you knew
your volunteer offerings would go into a storage room managed by a very
powerful man other than God had appointed, you would have very little
trust in your offerings to be well used. You would only give so that your
conscience only squeaked a little.

This of course brought further decay to the temple service. Nehemiah
had done a lot of restoration in temple worship including Levites,
priests, gatekeepers and singers. He restored their livelihood which
depended wholly on the tithes of the people. We shouldn't be surprised
that the whole system broke down because the Levites and others were
not getting their portion of the tithe. They had to return to the field to
care for their families. It says that Nehemiah first noted that Tobiah
had taken a room by permission of the high priest and then noted the
broken down priestly system. We do not know if Tobiah had planned for
the collapse of the priestly system or whether he was just greedy for
food and power, in this case the two were closely connected. It doesn't
really matter except that sin in the house of God will always cause the
breakdown of worship. Compromise with the allocation of space and
resources of what belongs to God will result in the disturbance of our
worship and service.
Nehemiah was incensed. He was probably wondering why no one else did
anything about it. He went and threw Tobiah and his things out. He then
gave an order to clean the rooms and to restore them to their proper
usage. Having done this, he restored the tithing system and again posted
the Levites, singers, etc. back to their original places. Furthermore, to
assure corruption didn't again occur, he appointed others,
representatives of different groups, to be in charge of the storerooms
and distribution of tithes. Eliashib lost his appointment. Eliashib was
still related to Tobiah. After Nehemiah returned home, he saw that a
thorough change was needed. The system worked okay; God commanded
it. The problem is that compromise of a principle hurt the whole area of
worship and service.

Application it is hard for any church to stand up to a leader who has
compromised. But if we have done wrong, please, it is your duty to bring
it before the elders. The compromise was only for one room, but it
affected the whole service. Financial matters are always touchy. It is
not legalistic to go by legal laws. Legalism is the manipulation of laws to
get what a person wants. We must be very careful to go by the
principles revealed in God's Word. Compromises always hurt. Obedience
preserves what is good. Nehemiah knew it was very difficult to step
against this Tobiah who happened to be related to most of the
influential people in the city. But he did what was right and all profited
from it.

B. Restoring Sacredness to the Sabbath (13:15-22)
Verses 13:15-22 mentions the second event in which Nehemiah
brought the pressure upon the community where it was acting
unfaithful. Each area exposed was an area of disobedience. In this case
was a general secularization of the sabbath. The Jews were not to do
any work, buying or trading on the sabbath. For the Jew the sabbath
was from Friday evening to Saturday evening. In verse 15 we find
numerous violations listed.
* Treading wine presses
* Gathering and delivery of grain, wine, gapes, figs and other things.
* Selling of the foods and because of this buying foods.
Because of their own weaknesses, outsiders came from Tyre and other
places to sell their select goods in Jerusalem. They not only came to
Judah to do this but also to Jerusalem itself (16). Nobody wanted to
miss out on the imported fish brought from the sea.

Again, we can look at Nehemiah who rebuked them and shut the gates on
the sabbath as a legalist. It looked like he was only caring for certain
laws. I am sure there were sick people who could benefit from certain
goods being sold in the market. They had not freezers and
refrigerators. But Nehemiah lived by the fear of God; this is different
from the spirit of the manipulating legalist. Notice his reprimand in
verse 18,

"Did not your fathers do the same so that our God brought on us, and on
this city, all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by
profaning the sabbath."
If it merely is the doing of one thing against the preference of others,
then we see that it doesn't really matter. We can say everyone should
have the freedom of choice. You don't have to buy anything on the
sabbath. But if others want to, should they not be able? Nehemiah knew
the issue was a spiritual issue. God was in on this deal. God's wrath was
on them because of their sin. They have an example of their fathers and
all the trouble they had because of their sin.

Nehemiah's prayer again reminds us of the difficulty he had in
confronting this issue. It was not easy for him to face those that were
making money on the sabbath. It was not easy to convince the people not
to buy fresh food on the sabbath. He needed God's great compassion
and love in his heart to do these things rightly.

Application I believe the truest sense of the sabbath has been fulfilled
by those who have believed in Christ. We have entered the final rest of
Christ. Our lives depend on Christ not our good works. But there is the
temptation to live for this world. There is the temptation to strive for
excellence for yourself rather than for God. Along the way you will face
the decisions that will cut into your time with God. Will you join in the
frivolous partying of the world or maintain that closeness with God. This
age is now a rest where we excel in kingdom building. We do it at home
and in our personal lives. We do it at work and with our neighbors. We
are concerned for God's kingdom and passing on His great love.

C. Restoring Purity to God's People (13:23-29)
The third confrontation has to do with the decay of the family.
Nehemiah again came on strong. He did it not just because there was a
law on the books but because obedience to that law affected the way
God would deal with them as a people. The biggest problem is that many
of us live our lives as if God is not really there. So God's instructions
are important but not that important. For example, we can say that it is
wrong for a Christian to marry a non-Christian from this verse or later
on in the NT. II Cor 6:14-18 says,

"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have
righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with
darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a
believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the
temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just
as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
"Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,"
says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will
welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and
daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty."
Now you might take this commandment seriously until you meet up with
this delightful person at work. After a bit of sharing, you see yourselves
as possible marriage mates. You the Christian is hoping that one day you
will find that the other person is a Christian. Or you think, "If not, he or
she is such good person that this person would accept Christ if he knew
a bit more." In fact, the compromise has already happened because you
have shared many things with that person but not your clear witness to
Christ. You didn't want to offend the person. I suppose we just do not
realize how much God is displeased at our willingness to consider
marriage with non-believers. God really is concerned for our welfare.

Nehemiah's great zeal comes out as we see him contending with these
parents, cursing them, striking some of them and even pulling out their
hair. Lastly he made them swear that they will not give their children in
marriage to, in this case, non-Jews. The reason is again clear that he is
not just a vicious Law keeper of the laws that he had set up. Not at all.
He knew the welfare of the people depended on the protection of their
faith. Once we are tolerant for another faith in our family, then our
faith is compromised. We will not be part of kingdom building if our
family is divided. Much anguish will come from such marriages.

Application There is the direct warning for us not to marry an
unbeliever. I would go a step further in spirit with this teaching and say
that we should find mates who have a common heart and vision that you
have. Some people get married on the other side of the baptism tank.
Yes, we can be happy that they were baptized so you can marry them.
But we should be very careful for we know not of the real heart of this
one under these circumstances.

I also would encourage the parents to be like Nehemiah a bit more. I do
not man that we should go hitting non-Christians that might come home
with our older children, but that we should exercise more authority as
parents in whom our children see or not. If your child dates a non-
Christian, then why should you permit it? She likes him. She might say it
is nothing until one day she elopes and off she goes. It is clear that God
expects us to guide our children through the process of finding a mate.
You no doubt are like me in having heard and seen many wreckless
marriages. I will also challenge you young people. Many of your parents
are upstairs. They do not hear what I am saying. But I challenge you out
of your faithfulness to God and to His design for you, don't' even
contemplate a dating relationship with a non-Christian. Even a great king
like Solomon was rebuked terribly because of this sin.

D. Restoring All Things to Its Design (13:30-31)
Lastly in verse 30-31 we find the fourth event where Nehemiah
restored everything to its design. I marvel at Nehemiah's faithfulness
in not leaving any stone upturned. He made sure everything was working
right. He had the priests purified. He made sure everyone was doing his
job. He made sure there would be wood for the sacrifices. If I had a
nice ball of bread being mixed, would I mind if someone dropped one
small drop of poison in it? I wouldn't eat a bite of it. The other day I
banged a bottle on a corelle bowl. It splattered into small fragments.
We had to throw some dishes of food away. Why? Well, we thought we
got all the pieces out, but we couldn't be sure.

There is a price of impurity no matter where it is in our lives. We might
think it as inconsequential, but it is not. I Peter 4:17 says,

"For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;
and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those
who do not obey the gospel of God?"
We are wise if we have the discipline to work through each area of our
lives searching for God to cleanse us, not just from the stain of sin but
also from its presence in our hearts. We will need to change the way we
live, talk and make decisions. Psalm 139:23-24 says,
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious
thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the
everlasting way."
Every sinful way is a hurtful way. We often do not have the willpower to
make those decisive needful changes in our lives. This reminds me of the
man whose limb was caught under a tree. His choice was simple. Being
out in the woods by himself. Either he would sever the limb and go to
rescue or die a slow death. He cut his way to freedom.

Summary We need to understand the kingdom building vision that the
Lord wants us to share with Him. We have been taught to compromise
and tolerate sin. This makes us ineffective. We do not use this word
compromise because it is too guilt laden. We use the word choices and
freedom to do what we want. However, we often have not really thought
through the cost of our decisions. Because we have compromised in
different areas of our lives, our faithful Father in heaven will through
different means like Nehemiah challenge us to do what is right. Maybe
He will make us move. Maybe He will do this through a loss of job. Maybe
he will do it by shutting the gates. Close up your opportunities. Maybe
He will do it by contending with you and even striking you. Maybe He will
do it by changing those things around you.
    God, if He is your father, pledges to discipline us for your good. If we
    see God like Nehemiah, we should know that it is not just that God is
    angry because you have violated His principles of life, but that the
    consequences of doing it on you and others will be disastrous. He wants
    you to turn to His loving truth. He wants you to trust Him rather than
    get bitter.

    But He wants something more I believe. As I look at this people, I found
    that they started going back to their evil ways after Nehemiah left. I
    would wish that we would bring God's truth right inside our hearts. We
    can act immaturely all our lives with a strike here and there. But God's
    intent is that you grow up. Growing up as a Christian means that you take
    His truth an treasure it within your heart. So even if your
    circumstances change, you move home, you wrestle with difficult
    decisions, you will be faithful.

    I think of my son, Daniel, who is now wearing a cast around his broken
    leg. He needed the support for six weeks so that his bone could heal
    properly. This protected him from extra pain as well as guided the
    healing process. But are we going to keep him in the cast all his life? It
    will protect his leg. It makes his leg stronger. Anyone who gets banged
    by his cast knows what I mean. The muscle gets weak when he doesn't
    use his leg. God wants us to treasure His principles - like the bone. So
    that at the proper time we can have real healing and take off that cast.
    You might have got upset with the way Nehemiah pushed himself into
    the life of the Israelite community. But if we take an honest look, the
    things that were worth keeping were the very things he protected, built
    up and guarded. Many people are living in a spirit of despair. They have
    no hope. They don't believe there is anything better than just moping
    around. God's desire is that we become Kingdom builders.

Remember the   "Remember the word which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses,
    word       saying, 'If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;
               (Nehemiah 1:8).
Nehemiah 1:8

Remember me    Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for
               this people. (Nehemiah 5:19).
 Nehemiah
   5:19

Remember ...   Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of
 these works   theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets
  of theirs    who were trying to frighten me. (Nehemiah 6:14).

 Nehemiah
   6:14

Remember me    Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds
               which I have performed for the house of my God and its services.
 Nehemiah      (Nehemiah 13:14).
  13:14

Remember me    And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and
               come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day. For this also
 Nehemiah      remember me, O my God, and have compassion on me according to the
  13:22        greatness of Thy lovingkindness. (Nehemiah 13:22).

 Remember      Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood
   them        and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. (Nehemiah 13:29).

 Nehemiah
  13:29

Remember me    And I arranged for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the
               first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good. (Nehemiah 13:31).
 Nehemiah
  13:31

								
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