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How many of you got a chance to watch Michael Jackson’s funeral this past week?
I only saw bits and pieces of it, but it was amazing to see people from all the world pay tribute to the King of Pop.
I was reading something by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary the past week about it.
He said, (and I paraphrase here), that it was really sad to see the mass hysteria and mass emotion over Michael.
It shows how people ache for a Messiah and the Gospel and until Jesus comes, all devotion and allegiance and affection will be transfer from one person to another.
Although I think Michael Jackson did do a lot in terms of music for the world, if we hold true the adage that “Only one life.
It will soon, soon be past.
Only what is done for Christ will last,” then all of his accomplishments will be burned up in the fire (1 Cor.
It is the Word of God and the work of God done in and through the people of God and for Jesus Christ that will truly last.
If that’s the case, the stuff that matters is happening right here in front of us!
And what a privilege to be part of it!
But sadly not everyone, even in the church, sees it that way.
I come from an immigrant community who is so fired up about church, but really it is more a culture club than anything else.
Yeah, you go to church, but that’s on the side.
The real goal is to make yourself great, have a great job, make lots of money and make your parents look great in front of peers, so that they can brag about you and get some of the glory.
God is there to serve them, a means to this end.
This is wrong, idolatrous thinking.
We are here to serve God.
We are here to bring Him glory.
That is the greatest thing on the planet.
“A great many people have got a false idea about the church,” said evangelist D.L. Moody.
“They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy, is all they want.
The idea of work for them—actual work in the church—never enters their minds.”[1]
We have been going through the book of Nehemiah verse-by-verse.
The theme of the book is building God’s people for God’s work.
Today we are going to look at “God’s work done God’s way.”
In the year 586 BC, after ignoring repeated warnings by God to turn from idolatry and sin, the Babylonians came and invaded Judah in judgment and took the Jews into exile.
Still God in His mercy had promised that after 70 years, He would bring His people back.
This is exactly what happened.
God worked in the heart of a Persian King named Cyrus, since Persia conquered Babylon, to let the exiles return.
They made three different trips.
First Zerubabbel led a group, then Ezra.
However, as they went back and started rebuilding the wall, opposition came and they stopped the work.
14 years go by.
The wall, a symbol of their national identity and security, continued to lay in ruins.
It made them a laughing-stock by all the neighboring nations and a laughing-stock of God.
But during this time, when the people of God had given up and were in despair and wondered if God was noticing anything and if He was keeping His promises, God was orchestrating His plans.
He was working in the dark, raising up Nehemiah to be a cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes.
We have spent the last few messages talking about how God prepares His workers for His work.
But before God uses someone for His work, He makes them usable.
This is what He did with Nehemiah.
He broke Nehemiah’s heart with a burden to serve Him and His people.
Then through some prayer and planning, Nehemiah waited for God’s timing.
Four months later, he miraculously gets the King’s permission and resources to go to Jerusalem.
As Nehemiah heard God’s call, He also learned that all who are called by God will get God’s provision to answer the call.
But as he gets there, he immediately finds opposition and the need overwhelming as he takes some time to tour the devastation.
We learned some lessons about dealing with discouragement.
Nehemiah doesn’t take the first camel out of Jerusalem back to Persia, but instead turns the obstacle of discouragement into an opportunity to rally the people of God to link their arms together and put their hands into the mighty hand of God and to the work of God.
This is where we are.
The work is about to start as we pick up the story in Nehemiah 3. One of the joys of preaching through a Bible book is having to deal with obscure passages.
This is what is before us today.
In this chapter we have almost 40 names with 45 sections of construction, including 10 gates.
If you ever encountered a list of names or a genealogy in your devotions, you probably skim or skip it altogether.
It looks like reading the yellow pages, most of the names you cannot pronounce and you probably don’t care about them anyway, so you move on.
In fact, some of the commentaries I looked at completely ignored this chapter or had nothing to say.
But before us today, whether we like or not, we have a list of names that not only Nehemiah decided to put in his journal, but God decided to put as part of His Word.
This makes me realize that God loves to take note of His workers.
How encouraging this must have been to a bunch of people who thought God had forsaken them.
I can see Nehemiah (his name is not even recorded here) looking at each one of these workers as he walks by the walls, praying over each one as he writes their names down and possibly even encouraging them saying, “You are so valuable in the work of God.
Thank you!” How much more does God take notice of us and each little brick we put into the wall of His work amen?
Since this is not a typical narrative here, what I want to do today is glean some principles about how to do God’s work in God’s way from this chapter.
Take a note of this first thing then:
Every work of God needs to first set priorities (Neh.
I will put the map up so we can get a better idea of what is going on here.
The work begins at the Sheep Gate at the northeastern part of the wall and goes counterclockwise.
Notice who begins the work first.
Eliashib, the high priest and other priests are working on the sheep gate.
Now look at the profession of these people and the name of the gate.
What do you think the sheep gate was for?
The sheep for sacrifices in the temple worship would be brought that way.
See what Nehemiah does first?
He makes sure the important part of the Temple worship, the sacrifice for the sins of people, is taken care of first.
In other words, Nehemiah is making sure the priorities are in order.
What is most important?
It is the worship of God through sacrifice for sin.
What is interesting is that 400 hundred years later, right inside this gate, in a nearby garden called Gethsemane, the Lamb of God, would walk through this reconstructed gate to pray and finally be led as a lamb led to the slaughter (Is.
53:7) from here.[2] Isn’t that amazing?!
But these priests set the example for everyone else.
The priests rolled up their sleeves and though they don’t typically work with stones and hammers, they were willing to do any type of labor toward rebuilding the wall, fueled for the glory of God.
Well unfortunately, Eliashib did not continue to be faithful as later on, due to being related to Tobiah, he allied with the enemy and conspired against Nehemiah (Neh.
Let us be careful as we allow nothing to distract us from the work of God, even our own relatives!
What they are saying in essence is “Put God first.”
If this was now, they would put this verse on the gate: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt.
We would do well to make sure our priority here is lifting up the person of Jesus Christ.
As Paul said, “HIM we proclaim” (Col.
One may disassociate Buddha from his teaching, Confucius and others from theirs, but Christ was His teaching.
The message is not about human happiness or political influence or Christ and self-help or Christ and psychology or Christ and material wealth.
Christ is the center of the bulls eye.
Let us in the work of God continue to put Him first.
Let’s show God He is first on our list in our lives.
So not going to church on Sunday is never an option.
Not being a Bible to church is not an option.
I am not here to cuddle with you.
I am not here to spoon feed your formula and tickle you.
When we come to church, we want to tell God you are first in my life!
So I am here to receive from you.
Fill me up so that I can be poured out for others.
So bring a Bible and get ready to dig in the Word.
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