This sermon is a great reminder from the scriptures through the example taken from the book of Nehemiah. Many years ago, I wrote a song basically summing up the book of Nehemiah. It was to go with a sermon about the wall of Jerusalem. This sermon below is a refreshing reminder to me.
This has been a difficult winter for many people. For me, I have experienced the crumbling down of some protective walls. Many times, I have fought the battle in prayer. Sometimes we are in that battle field, just trying to get through the day to rise another day. Sometimes the problems are still there when we get out of bed. When this happens, it is of great help to know you have a friend you can trust and ask to pray with you or for you. Sometimes we can feel so beaten down by the battle, we need to ask someone esle to pray for us. One prayer can make a huge difference in the battle. Even if that prayer, initially, only reveals to you that someone cares and understands what you are going through.
So, many times we hear about tearing down the walls around us. This sermon gives another perspective. I am learning that some walls are needed. Without walls or boundaries, we become totally vulnerable for attacks. In the case of protection a wall is good and it serves a great purpose. There is always a big gate for entry. We can open that gate at any time to allow that which is good to enter. The book of Nehemiah shows many strategic battle plans in the success of rebuilding that wall in the midst of the battle. (Prayer and fasting, reverence and humility before God, determination, effort, reverent obedience, steadfast faith, trust) May you recognize some of these strategies and apply them to your broken-down wall. May the Lord God of Heaven help you rebuild your wall.
Nehemiah – song
The wall of Jerusalem was broken down.
The gates burned with fire to the ground.
Nehemiah, sat there and prayed to God above.
O Lord, God of Heaven, the Great and awesome God,
Let your ear be attentive and eyes open to prayer.
Let me go to Judah and rebuild the ruins there.
By the Gracious hand of God.
Many men worked day and night.
With reverent obedience, they worked with all their might.
Although they were ridiculed and insulted to their face,
Though the threat of attack was against them, they kept a steady pace.
They worked with half their men holding onto spears.
But God was on their side to alleviate their fears.
They sacrificed everything they had.
They rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, by the hand of God.
Nehemiah sat there and prayed to God above.
O Lord, God of Heaven, You’re a great and awesome God.
If you intend to work, you can get the job done.
Work with the Lord. He is the awesome one.
When Bad News Arrives
Ezra 9:8-9 (ESV) “8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold[a] within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection[b] in Judea and Jerusalem.”
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
Nehemiah 1:1-4 (ESV) “Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
Background of Nehemiah:
“Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it”
The HISTORY of the people of Israel was given to us SO THAT we could learn the lessons and avoid repeating their mistakes.
1 Corinthians 10:6-11(ESV) –6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ[a] to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
**What is the lesson?? I want to learn the lesson!! God’s chosen people, the Jews, couldn’t seem to get it right…so it must be really complicated– right??
It’s actually AMAZINGLY simple!
It’s so simple you wonder how anyone could get it wrong!
It’s so simple you have to ask yourself, “Why do I so often forget this?”
- The primary lesson is Obey and honor God and He promises to bless you. The opposite is also true: Disobey and ignore God and you will experience trouble and suffering.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 (ESV) 30 “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, 2 and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.”
And generation after generation of Israelites experienced this cycle of OBEDIENCE for a time, followed by a DECLINE (growing cold and compromise) into sin and idolatry, followed by God’s JUDGMENT and usually their defeat and slavery to some military power.
**The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are a glimpse into one of those periods when Israel had fallen into sin and rebellion against God and were being dominated by the Persian Empire. They had been either KILLED or REMOVED from their homeland and most of the things important to them lay abandoned and ruined.
**BUT GOD WAS AT WORK!!! In the 5th century B.C….after almost 70 years of dominance… the Persian rulers began to…not “allow”…but INSIST that Jews return to Jerusalem.
Ezra 1:1(ESV) -“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing”.
The result of this first movement was that almost 50,000 Jews got to return and they attempted to rebuild the temple…BUT it would be ALMOST 50 YEARS LATER that a priest named Ezra would be sent back by King Artaxerxes with the authority and resources to rebuild the temple. Now “JUMP AHEAD” another 15 years…and you find God moving in the heart of a man who was uniquely gifted to TACKLE another important task that needed to be done for the sake of Jerusalem’s IDENTITY and PROTECTION. That man is King Artaxerxes “Cup Bearer to the King was a man named Nehemiah.
- Nehemiah has genuine concern for his people- (verses 1 and 2)
Nehemiah 1:1-4 (ESV)
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
“Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem.”
Why would Nehemiah care about a bunch of people hundreds of miles away from where he was? Nehemiah was well taken care of by the king, in fact the kings life depended upon Nehemiah the cup bearer. Nehemiah would be set for life if he continued on in the king’s court.
Was it perhaps because Nehemiah was a Jew that he was concerned about the people in Jerusalem? I am a Canadian but I don’t often think about the other Canadians scattered about the world.
Do you always care about people all around the world just because they are the same religion as you? We should but we don’t. Perhaps it was because Nehemiah had great memories of Jerusalem when he was a kid? No, that couldn’t be it because Nehemiah was born the son of slave, born into captivity and had never stepped foot into Jerusalem up to this point in his life.
Actually, in these verses, his concern seems to grow out of two things:
1.) The involvement of his own brother, Hananai, in the work of the exiles.
2.) His understanding of the importance of Jerusalem to his people in their worship.
Question: Do I have a genuine concern for what people around me are going through?
3.) Nehemiah hears a report that breaks his heart- (Verse 3 and first half of 4)
“3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
**The importance of a WALL in Nehemiah’s day could not be overstated. Without a wall, a city was nothing more than a group of people waiting to be robbed, harassed and even killed. During that first fifty year period, an attempt was made to rebuild the walls but King Artaxerxes was warned about the history of the Jewish people and he demanded that they stop. So those 50,000 or so people were LITERALLY in constant danger and the broken city walls and burned gates were a constant reminder of the humiliation that their captors had subjected them to.
Canada has become a nation whose walls are broken down…and for the most part, we didn’t have an enemy come in and take them down by force. WE dismantled the walls so that we could be “free”. The freedom to do – ‘WHAT I want to do WHEN I’ want to do it, has destroyed the walls of MARRIAGE and FAMILY and SELF-CONTROL and ABSTAINANCE and everyone is in DANGER because there are no walls anymore.
- ALL AROUND US are individuals…marriages…and families that are in DANGER because the walls are down and they don’t even understand why.
***It’s NOT ENOUGH for us to point to our “better” marriages and “happier” families while those around us are victimized…they want to know if we CARE.
Question: Does it bother you when you hear about a painful situation?
-When I hear of a hurting marriage
-An abused child
-A lonely widow
Dr. Tony Campolo said: “We are caught up in a particular point in our national life in which we are not only terribly materialistic, but worse than that; we’re becoming emotionally dead as a people. We don’t sing, we don’t dance, and we don’t even sin with much enthusiasm. There is deadness everywhere. High schools are apathetic. Colleges are apathetic. Worst of all– some fellowships are apathetic. If WE are no longer alive– what hope is there for the world?”
- “Don’t just DO something…sit there!”
Neh. 1:4 – “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
**We are all familiar with the saying- “Don’t just SIT there…do something!” It’s very “Canadian”.
I appreciate what Nehemiah does. When confronted with the report from his brother, it doesn’t say that he offered a single word of advice…he didn’t offer to speak to the king about the matter…he didn’t make a personal “resolution”…he got before the God of heaven and he PRAYED. Actually…he FASTED and PRAYED.
Can you see that image…of a man who has been confronted with a HUGE PROBLEM…and who feels an INTENSE BURDEN and is not going to DO ANYTHING or GO ANYWHERE until he really prays about it.
Question: What’s my instinctive reaction to “bad news?”
-Work things out on my own?
-Talk to people about it?
-Fall into depression?
-Let it bring me to a place of true dependence upon God again?
Application: How are things going in your life?
If you would say, “Things are going well with me!” Do you realize that God hasn’t blessed you so you could simply “soak it in” for yourself. Everything you have (including a good marriage and happy family life) is a resource God expects you to use for His glory.
If you would say, “Things are not going well with me!”, it’s time to take responsibility for the broken-down walls in your life and seek help in rebuilding them. If Hanani had not been honest with Nehemiah about the condition of the people, he probably wouldn’t have responded in the same way…open up with a Godly friend you feel you can trust. Tell them about your burden or your struggle. And recognize the place that real prayer and brokenness before God will play.
Let’s all be concerned for one another and see what we can do to help each other rebuild the walls of our life. Let’s pray.
Sermon notes: Rev. Pastor Bryan Vaughan
Hope For Today Fellowship – http://www.hopefortodayfellowship.ca