(Neh 4:10 NIV) Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, "The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall."
(Neh 4:10 KJV) 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.
Here is an Old Testament illustration of a New Testament truth. I want to use the King James Version of this verse. “…There is much rubbish”
The New Testament parallel to this verse is found in 2 Corinthians 4:8.9.
2 Cor 4:8 NIV We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
2 Cor 4:9 NIV persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
This is a source of great comfort to turn to the Bible and discover that all through history people of God who answered His call to service were confronted with the very same problems that we face.
Let’s look at the story of Nehemiah:
Nehemiah was still in Babylon and was a cupbearer to the King. Word came to him from Judah that those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. (Neh. 1:3)
This news saddened Nehemiah very much and he sat down and wept and was in mourning. He began to pray and fast and that prayer is found in Nehemiah 1:5-11
5 Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands,
6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you.
7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations,
9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'
10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.
11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king.
And so Nehemiah found favor in the eyes of the King and the King sends him home to do the work of rebuilding the walls of the Holy City, Jerusalem. He gave him materials, army officers and calvary to go with him. When he arrives in the city and surveys the damage, he is faced with discouragement of every possible kind.
I. INTERNAL TROUBLE STRIKES
A. At first everything went fine.
1. As stated, the king had equipped him, commissioned him. He had made his plans, gathered the people together and organized them for the rebuilding effort.
2. As so often happens following a time of great success there is a time of trouble and discouragement.
3. The enemy attacks. Nehemiah 4:1-3
Neh. 4:1 NIV) When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,
Neh. 4:2 NIV) and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, "What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble--burned as they are?"
Neh. 4:3 NIV) Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, "What they are building--if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!"
4. It reminds me of the story of Elijah after the great victory over the 450 prophets of Baal. What a spiritual high that must have been. To see the power of God demonstrated against His enemies.
5. And then, in a moment, one threat from Jezebel sends him to the wilderness in despair and depression.
6. In this story in Nehemiah, God’s people had a mind to work, a heart to pray, and an eye to watch, and the enemies of God’s work were set back.
7. (Read about this in Nehemiah 4:6-23).
B. Two kinds of trouble we find in our walk with God; one external, the other internal
1. In our text in Nehemiah 4:10 there is a description of internal trouble striking at Nehemiah. “There is decaying strength, accumulating rubbish, and an impossible task.”
a. Notice who was saying this:
b. It was Judah!
c. What a word of comfort this must have been to Nehemiah.. ha ha.
d. Judah, not you! You are the tribe selected by God to bring forth the Messiah (Genesis 49:10)
e. You are the cream of the army, the crack regiment and here you are threatening revolt and mutiny, and filled with discouragement. “We’re weak and feeble with too much rubbish and too big a job to face.”
f. Judah, we expected trouble from outside enemies, but not you. No doubt this was a big letdown to Nehemiah when Judah came to him with this attitude of discouragement.
2. It would have been so easy to go back to Persia and be a cupbearer again, but there is no indication that Nehemiah ever considered it.
a. When a person is called of God, he is sure of himself in the sense that he is sure of God’s power and ability, even though he may have to stand-alone; retreat is never in his vocabulary.
3. This is a powerful weapon in the hands of Satan.
a. When the cream of the army threatens desertion, when the prayer partners become discouraged, when the missionary wants to come home because the burden is too great, when those who should be sharing the burden most deeply with the Nehemiah’s of our time have no vision at all.
b. We could label this the Christian’s MID-LIFE CRISIS.
The initial exuberance of becoming a Christian is over (the honeymoon). We have settled down to a day-to-day existence and somehow our vision for Christ is obscured.
c. Don’t lose the wonder of Jesus! Don’t lose your vision! “Without a vision the people perish…” Don’t allow diversions that seem so legitimate to enter your life and take the place of the vision you should have for the work of God.
II. THIS IS NOT TO MINIMIZE THE TASK NOR THE BURDEN
A. Nebuchadnezzar had done a thorough job. The city and gates were in ruins. It was hopeless to start the rebuilding process until the excavation work had been completed, until the original foundations had been exposed.
1. The foundation had to be cleared and the new wall built on the rock. There were no backhoes, power equipment, only manual labor and crude implements, by our standards.
2. To some the work of preparation was a time-consuming, unspectacular effort. But it was essential work. Just ask Ace Mills. Before the walls could go up, they had to dig down.
a. Compare this to the Christian life. They way up is down, Scripture says “rooted and grounded in Him” for He is the Rock!
B. The Church has had to contend with Rubbish down through history.
1. The paganism of the Roman Empire, the mythology of the Greek gods, false heresies, traditions, prejudices to mention a few.
2. All these sought to keep the Church from her work, but down through time God matched the rubbish-makers with excavators.
3. And the Scripture has spoken of the last days as a time of godlessness where from all sides there would be those who would seek to clutter the pathway of the church with rubbish.
(2 Tim 3:1 NIV) But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
(2 Tim 3:2 NIV) People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
(2 Tim 3:3 NIV) without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
(2 Tim 3:4 NIV) treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--
(2 Tim 3:5 NIV) having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
4. There will always be the few who will take Custer’s last stand over a pile of rubbish. In other words, they will defend to the death the existence of any heap of rubbish, no matter how unsavory or how useless it may be
5. In other words, they will make a sacred shrine out of something that has nothing to do with the purpose of the church,i.e. to evangelize the world.
6. The work of excavating must come first. The foundation must be laid bare. And Who is the foundation? The Lord Jesus must be the basis for our building. Unless we build on Him, the structure will not stand the test.
C. Not only rubbish in the church but rubbish in the hearts of God’s people.
(1 Cor 3:16 NIV) Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?
(1 Cor 3:17 NIV) If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
1. There is a building going up here. Is there much rubbish?
2. What kind of rubbish? Pride, unbelief, anger, hatred, bitterness, unforgiving spirit, evil desire, a careless, dry and barren life to name a few.
3. These things will clutter our lives and prevent the building process from completion.
We never ‘arrive’ There must be that constant attention to our spiritual man that keeps us at the foot of the cross. The great Apostle Paul could say after all the wonderful experiences he had with the Lord, “that I may know him”
(Eph 1:17 NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
If you imagine that because you are a Christian, you have been filled with His Spirit—that you will never have a problem with self any longer—just back the garbage truck up to your heart. I must realize as the scripture has said, “I know that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing.
Three things for getting the rubbish out of our heart and out of our church:
1. Make sure the foundation is laid right…on the Rock!
2. Remember that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost! It is His work to build it. He began it. Make sure that what we allow to enter in to our body either through our mouth or through our eyes, that it will honor the temple where God dwells.
(Phil 1:6 NIV) being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
3. Then we are to build also as “Laborers together with God.”
(2 Pet 1:5 NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;
(2 Pet 1:6 NIV) and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;
(2 Pet 1:7 NIV) and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
This is the building process. Day by day we build and grow in Him, we never stop until He opens that door and says, “enter in”