Getting Kicked to the Glory of God

January 8, 2014 at 10:51 am | Posted in Nehemiah | 4 Comments
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The Book of Nehemiah demonstrates the greatness of God. God chose Nehemiah to do a great work. He didn’t choose him because of his training, background, or aptitude, but Nehemiah did recognize the greatness of God.

And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

Nehemiah 1:5

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

Nehemiah 4:14

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Nehemiah 8:6

In Nehemiah God’s people go from great affliction and reproach to great joy.

And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

Nehemiah 1:3

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

Nehemiah 12:43

Difficult situations are opportunities to show God’s greatness. We see obstacles when really they’re great opportunities. Nehemiah could have heard the bad news about Jerusalem, and seen a big problem. Do you look at the seats in your local church and get discouraged about how many are empty? Or do you look at those empty seats and get excited about the great opportunity to see them filled? One of the ways that Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God was not because God made it so that Nehemiah had no problems, but rather because God caused Nehemiah to overcome his problems. If Nehemiah had done it on his own, he would have received the glory, not God.

Some people say, “If God is so great, why is he letting my enemies kick my behind?” They forget that getting your behind kicked means you are walking in the lead. Some of us need to start something for God that’s too big for us to finish on our own – so everyone will know it’s God and not us when it gets accomplished.

Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God because he was attacked by enemies.

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18 (emphasis added)

That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

Nehemiah 6:2-3

Nehemiah recognized the greatness of God, and this caused him to say, “Oh yes,” instead of “Oh no.” Don’t go down there into the plain of “Ono (Oh no).” If you are doing the work of a great God, you don’t have to compromise with the world to get it done. How do you think those mocking, scorning enemies of God felt when they saw the celebration – even standing on the very wall they had tried to prevent? They felt ashamed, but they must have also thought, “What a great God.”

Defeating Slander, Intimidation, and Discouragement

October 14, 2013 at 11:31 am | Posted in Nehemiah | 3 Comments
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In Nehemiah Chapter 5 we see an example of how the world tries to disrupt the work of God, as wealthier workers began to take advantage of poorer workers.

And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

Nehemiah 5:1-5

Nehemiah was originally angry, but he controlled his anger.

And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

Nehemiah 5:6-7

He dealt with the problem through Biblical teaching and preaching. He used six different reasons to condemn the practice of usury, and one of them was the testimony of the people of God in front of unbelievers.

Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

Nehemiah 5:9

Another highlight of Nehemiah Chapter 5 is the fact that the leaders worked too.

Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.

Nehemiah 5:16

When there’s work to do we need to be motivated by love. We need to do it the way God’s Word says to do it. And we need to do it – do all – to the glory of God. Do it for the right reason, do it the right way, and give the glory to the right One!

Nehemiah Chapter 6 shows that the way to overcome fear is with faith. Nehemiah wouldn’t compromise with the enemy. He would not be defeated in the work, and he wouldn’t compromise the work.

Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

Nehemiah 6:1-4

Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 2:20

By faith that stands firm we can stand up to: (1) slander (Nehemiah 6:5-9); (2) intimidation (Nehemiah 6:10-14); and (3) the discouragement of no end in sight (Nehemiah 6:15-19). As Christians, our “end” is not “in sight.” We live by faith and not by sight. We “walk in the Spirit,” and a walker is someone who has a place to go.

Throughout all the distractions, Nehemiah never stopped working:

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 2:4

So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.

Nehemiah 2:11

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

Nehemiah 4:6

So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

Nehemiah 4:21

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

Nehemiah 6:15

Scorn, Schemes, Scoundrels, Schizophrenics, and Scares

September 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 3 Comments
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And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5 (emphasis added)

Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

Nehemiah 2:7 (emphasis added)

Nehemiah’s “send me” became his “give me.” Perhaps it would be good for us to sometimes pray as volunteers before praying as beggars. “Let my friend be saved” becomes “give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with him.” “Heal my eyes” becomes “Lord, I repent of using my eyes to look with lust; help me to use them to see people’s needs.” I’m not saying we should try to bribe God. He knows our hearts. But Nehemiah had been fasting, praying, and planning for four months before his emergency prayer to God in the presence of the king.

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 2:4

The journey to Jerusalem took approximately two months, and Nehemiah traveled with a military escort, including some of the king’s officers. It must have been discouraging for him to see that there were enemies waiting for him when he got there, but there will often be enemies waiting when we set out by faith on a journey to do the will of God. We must not mistake the successful arrival at the place of battle for the victory itself. Recovering from an illness is not the victory; it’s only the successful trip to get back into the fight.

These were Nehemiah’s enemies:

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?

Nehemiah 2:19

Sanballat held an official position in Samaria, and it is very common for worldly officials to oppose the work of God when money is at stake. Tobiah was an Ammonite: a sworn enemy of the Jews (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The devil opposes anything and everything Godly. Tobiah was related to some of the workers by marriage. Therefore, he had a “foothold” to try to interfere with the work, and he gathered intelligence. The devil is in the intelligence-gathering business. He can’t read our minds, but he doesn’t need to do so. He can learn everything he needs just by hitching a ride in the back seat on our way home from church. That’s why it’s important to prepare your weapons for battle in church, not just to have a party. The devil can spoil a party, but he can’t overcome a vigilant Christian warrior. Too many professing Christians are like dogs after a bath. They feel like they’ve been scrubbed clean during church and they can’t wait to get back in the mud.

wet dog shake

Geshem represents the flesh. The devil and the world will always try to enlist the flesh. Our flesh is weak, and it is a burden which must be borne and battled throughout the life of a believer.

Notice the tactics of opposition in which the world and the devil enlist the flesh to help attack the work and the workers of God:

Scorn

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Nehemiah 4:1-2

Mockery and ridicule must not deter the work of God.

Schemes

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Nehemiah 4:7-8

In spiritual warfare, our enemies will set traps. They spend time and effort planning and plotting.

Scoundrels and Schizophrenics

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

Nehemiah 4:10

A scoundrel is someone who is deceitful and unreliable – someone who will lie to get out of work. A schizophrenic is someone who is afflicted by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements. Christian workers can be infiltrated and influenced by lazy and double-minded enemies of the work of God.

Scares

And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

Nehemiah 4:11-12

Fear of God is the friend of faith. Fear of failure is the enemy of faith. Nehemiah and his helpers had started a project so big and so daunting that only God could finish it, and they trusted Him to use them to do so. Don’t be ignorant of the devices of your enemies. You know who they are (world, devil, flesh), and now you know their tactics.

Petitioning the King

September 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 4 Comments
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Lord, help us to be active doing Your will, executing the decrees of Heaven. I pray that we would be like the workers in Jerusalem, holding our trowels in one hand, and our swords in the other – working with one hand, vigilant and prepared to defend against the enemy with the other hand. Let us not be slothful in business, but let us be fervent in spirit, serving You. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Nehemiah’s name meant “the Lord has comforted.” He was a very successful man. As a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes Longimanus (the Long-Handed), he was in a trusted position. He was trusted to protect the king from danger, and he was trusted to give advice. He was trusted to be presentable, and trusted to be prepared. In this way he was a good example for Christian managers and employees today. Can your employer trust you to give good advice? Are you someone that people can trust to be presentable? Do you run when there’s danger, or is that when you can be counted on most?

Perhaps Nehemiah was taught by his father, Hachaliah, to depend on the Lord, because he lived in a time when (despite his name) he was not comforted by the news of his people in Jerusalem.

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

Nehemiah 1:1-4

Nehemiah cared enough to ask someone how the people were doing, and he cared enough to get upset when the news was bad. He cared enough to admit his – and his people’s – guilt, and he cared enough to remember the promises of God.

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Nehemiah 1:8-9

He also cared enough to pray.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:11

This was a simple prayer, but sometimes it’s the strength of our prayers, not the length of our prayers, that touch God. Most of the prayer is talking about God and His Word. Nehemiah’s petition itself was very brief.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5

Nehemiah approached both the king of Persia and the King of the Universe. The earthly king saw the sorrow on his face; the Heavenly King saw the sorrow in his heart.

Comparisons, Calculations, and Christophany

July 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Daniel | 6 Comments
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Daniel Chapter 8 contains a vision which comes about 12 years before the handwriting on the wall incident. This is the vision of the goat and the ram, and here it extends into a comparison of Antiochus Epiphanes (whose name meant “revelation of the gods”), the ruler of Syria after the death of Alexander the Great. There are comparisons between Epiphanes and the Antichrist. They both begin modestly but increase in power. They both blaspheme God by speaking great things. They both persecute the Jews. They both claim to be gods and put images in the temple. They both impose their religion on the people. Both are opposed by a believing remnant that knows God. Both are energized by the devil and are great deceivers. Both appear successful and invincible. Both are defeated by a redeemer (Judas Maccabeus in the case of Epiphanes and Jesus Christ in the case of the Antichrist).

The events in Daniel Chapter 9 take place right after the handwriting on the wall incident – in 539 B.C. Daniel read the Word of God to prepare for prayer and worship.

In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

Daniel 9:2-3

Daniel’s prayer was interrupted by the angel Gabriel.

And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.

Daniel 9:20-21

Gabriel gave Daniel the prophecy of the 70 weeks.

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Daniel 9:24

These “weeks” are seven-year periods, so the 70 “weeks” or 70 “sevens” are really 490 years. The first period is 49 years (7 X 7). This is the period of time found in Nehemiah 2:5-8 when Nehemiah was authorized to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and the gates, not just the temple.

The second period is 483 years (445 B.C. to 29/30 A.D.): the time of Christ’s ministry on earth. Daniel 9:27 deals with the final 7 years, known as the Tribulation – the pronoun “he” refers to the Antichrist, not the Messiah: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Daniel Chapter 10 shows us that the “70 week prophetic calendar” given in Daniel also had prophetic applications which have already become history. In the big picture, the 70 “times” are 70 periods of 70 years, but in Daniel’s time, there were two separate 70 year periods of fulfilled prophecy. The first Jews were deported to Babylon in 605 B.C., and the first captives returned to their land in 536 B.C. (70 years). The temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. and was rebuilt and dedicated in 515 B.C. (70 years).

Daniel was going through a period of three weeks of fasting and praying and using no ointment, probably in order to get more understanding about the visions and prophecies he had already been given. Daniel received a vision of what may have been Jesus Christ. Then he received knowledge of the battle between Gabriel and Michael and the demons who were the princes of Persia and Greece. Persia is modern Iran. (Modern Iraq is Biblical Babylon.)


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