Nehemiah • Sermon • Submitted
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In last week’s message, as we were finishing up our look at Nehemiah’s Prayer in chapter 1, we looked at 4 key traits in the life of Nehemiah that we need to put into practice. Those key traits were:
1. The Servant of God Doesn’t Turn Up the Volume. (In other words we don’t ignore needs God places before us, we step out of the stands and onto the playing field.)
2. The Servant of God Is Personally Concerned with the Need, and in the life of Nehemiah we saw that Nehemiah’s personal concern for the need led him to action. Nehemiah knew that living in the bleacher seats is never an option to those who trust in God.
3. The Servant of God Goes to God First When Faced with the Problems of Life. Nehemiah understood that going to God wasn’t reserved for when all else fails, approaching the throne of God was option #1. We also discussed the fact that Nehemiah accepted some personal responsibility for the position the Nation was in, he didn’t just point a finger at the sins of the people, he also pointed a finger at himself and his family.
4. The Servant of God Is Available to Meet the Need Himself. Now you may have noticed we never got to this slide in last weeks message, but in some ways it was one of the underlining themes of the entire message. Often times when God places a need before us He wants us to do more than just pray for that need. Much of the time He is also directing us to do our art to take care of that need.
This brings us to chapter 2 in our study of the Book of Nehemiah. If you haven’t already, turn in your copies of God’s Word to the Book of Nehemiah. You will find it on page 504 of the Pew Bibles.
To begin with this morning, let’s read the first 8 verses of chapter 2. Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
Nehemiah 2:1-8 “1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.”
One of the first things we see in the beginning of chapter 2 is that:
The Servant of God is Persistent in Prayer. Vs. 1
In chapter 1 verse 1, Nehemiah wrote that his brother returned with a report of the condition of Jerusalem, it’s walls and people in the month of Chislev. Chislev starts in November and continues into December on our calendar. In chapter 2 verse 1 he writes that it is now the month of Nisan, Nisan would start on March 15th and continue into April on our calendar.
Now looking back at Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1, I don’t get the impression that Nehemiah was wanting to wait to act, in fact I get the opposite impression. Look at Next Slide
11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.
Highlight “and give success to your servant today” on PowerPoint
What day does Nehemiah indicate he is wanting God to give him success? (Today). So, here Nehemiah is praying that God would grant him success “Today” in November/December, yet the next thing we see recorded takes place in March/April. That means that 4 months have passed since he began praying and seeking direction from God, 4 months. Keep in mind that nothing has changed in Jerusalem, in fact chances are things are getting worse there, yet still Nehemiah waits. I would imagine there had to be times when he got a little frustrated waiting for God to move. As we have pointed out so far in our look at the life of Nehemiah, he was just like us. Chances are, every day after that initial prayer, when it became clear to Nehemiah that God had directed him to be God’s instrument to change to tragic course of the nation of Judah, that every day when he went before the king, he wondered if today is the day.
He probably prayed each day before he entered the kings presence; “Is today the day, God? Is today that day you will grant me favor before the king?” He probably went in expectantly many days, but he never seemed to get God’s peace that today was the day.
By the way, this is something for us to keep in mind anytime when we are seeking God’s direction, particularly on the big decisions of life. We should always be praying for and seeking the peace of God. I am certain this is what Nehemiah was doing.
Have you ever gotten frustrated waiting for God to move? I mean when you think through it, it just doesn’t make sense for God not to act and act now, even better, act yesterday. But I want you to hold onto that thought, because as we move forward this morning, you are going to understand completely why God waited. You will understand that God’s timing is always absolutely perfect.
But for now, Nehemiah waits. Any ideas on what Nehemiah was doing for that 4 months?
I’m sure he did many things while waiting, but I want to highlight 3 things I believe Nehemiah devoted himself to while waiting for God’s clear direction. Next Slide
What do we do when we are praying and waiting?
He devoted himself to pray.
One thing I can tell you with certainty, Nehemiah didn’t just pray one prayer and then move on with life. The prayer we looked at in chapter one became a habit for Nehemiah. It was never a rote, pray without thinking prayer, it was something he prayer with all his heart each day and throughout each day.
Nehemiah understood that
God generally answers prayers in one of three ways, Yes, No and Wait on the Lord.
The Yes and No’s were pretty clear, but the “Wait on the Lord” answers were a little more difficult.
I wonder if perhaps Nehemiah wasn’t familiar with the writings of Isaiah? Isaiah wrote his book about 300 years earlier and there is little doubt that Nehemiah had a deep understanding of God’s Word. It could very well be that Isaiah 40:31 ran through his mind on a frequent basis:
“31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
Nehemiah devoted himself to praying and waiting on the Lord, knowing God would renew his strength daily.
The next thing he did was: Next Slide
He devoted himself to do his very best before the king.
He didn’t set around and twiddle his thumbs while he waited on God. He had a job to do and he did it to the very best of his ability every day. His heart may have been in Jerusalem, but until God opened up the door for him to head that direction, he was going to do his very best where God had him at the moment.
This is a good lesson for us this morning. If you are not happy with where you are right now, whether it be in work or some other area. You don’t just go to the HR department where you work and turn in your 2 week notice. First you pray and ask for God’s direction, then you wait for Him to open up the next door. Of course you can put out some feelers, but until God makes His direction clear, your job is to be the best employee you can.
You know I worked in a job for 10 years where much of the time I was treated poorly by my boss. Even so, I sought to do my very best for almost every day....yes, there were days from time to time where I didn’t light the world on fire, but the overall pattern of my work was very good.
Right now, unless God intervenes, that boss is very likely in his last days. Since his diagnosis God has opened up many doors for me to minister to him. I have texted with him, have called both he and his son and have had several opportunities to pray with both of them. That doesn’t happen if I check out and just go through the motions those 10 years. It happens because I sought to do as good job despite hard circumstances.
God also opened the door for me to minister to many others I worked with those 10 years. Had I quit when the going got rough, I would have missed most of those opportunities.
Your job right now is to do your very best until God leads you clearly in another direction, and when you do leave, you do so in such a way that they would take you back in a heart-beat.
That’s what Nehemiah did.
The next thing he did was: Next Slide
He devoted himself to putting together a plan of action.
This becomes clear to us as we read verses 5-8. Next Slides
The moment he received a favorable answer from the king, after a quick prayer, he handed the king a laundry list of needs. He didn’t make that list up on the spot, he had been planning on this day for 4 months, praying and planning, so when the day arrived, he was prepared.
Let’s look at the verses together.
5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
He not only had a plan, he had put together a time table for how long the plan would take. In the end he was in Jerusalem for 12 years.
Ok, so we have seen in the life of Nehemiah that The Servant of God is Persistent in Prayer, the next thing we see from the story of Nehemiah is: Next Slides
The Servant of God Trusts God’s Perfect Plan and God’s Perfect Timing. Vs. 1
Have you ever been in one of those times where God’s answer to your prayer was “wait on the Lord” and while you were waiting you thought to yourself; “This makes no sense at all, this is a good thing, why would God want me to wait?”?
I have on many occasions.
This is exactly where Nehemiah finds himself as we read through the first 2 chapters of Nehemiah. He pretty much has a sense of what God is calling him to do, he knows it is not just needed but also good, yet day after day for 4 months God has him wait. I am pretty sure that there were many occasions where He wandered why God was having him wait. To be honest, I don’t think he ever fully knew until the day he stepped into God’s presence. But with the hind site of history and the understanding of Biblical prophecy, we now know why God had him wait for the perfect day, and why it was so important to wait for that exact date.
The date is important, because it establishes the date given to restore Jerusalem and its walls. Daniel 9:25, which was written around 100 years before Nehemiah, says that exactly 173,880 days from this day that Nehemiah was given the command to rebuild the walls - which was March 14, 445 B.C. - that Jesus the Messiah would be presented to Israel. He was presented to Israel in what we now call the Triumphal Entry, which is found in Matthew 21. Zechariah adds in Zecharian 9:9:
Zechariah 9:9/Daniel 9/Matthew 21:1-5
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Sir Robert Anderson, the eminent British astronomer and mathematician, makes a strong case that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy exactly, to the day, entering Jerusalem on Sunday, April 6, 32 A.D., precisely 173,880 days from Nehemiah 2:1.
The significance of this can not be overstated, as well as it’s meaning to us today.
So, what can we take from this for us today? It is a good question. What this means for us, particularly when we in the middle of those times where we are in the “wait on the Lord” times. It means we can trust the Sovereign Lord even in those often painful times as we “wait”. You see often times while we wait for God to answer our 1 prayer request, He is working behind the scenes on several other things we don’t even see. Nehemiah may not have understood at that time why he needed to wait, but God was at work behind the scenes accomplishing His perfect plan. He does the same with us today.
As hard as it may be for me to understand, this world does not revolve around me. Guess what? It doesn’t revolve around you either, but it does revolve around God and His perfect plan and His perfect timing.
By the way, God’s perfect plan and His perfect timing also are a reason for His “No” answers to our prayers. His perspective is quite different than ours. He isn’t limited by time or place and He see’s all of history at any given moment. In fact what we need to understand is that His “no” answers to our prayers are not just No, but No, because I have a better plan. We can trust Him and His plan.
So, what have we learned this morning? We have learned that
The Servant of God is Persistent in Prayer.
And that while we are praying and waiting we need to
Continue in our devotion to prayer.
We were reminded that God generally answers prayers in one of three ways, Yes, No and Wait on the Lord.
Also that while we are praying and waiting we need to be devoted to do our very best.
And that when we are praying and waiting, especially those times we get a sense from God that He is leading us in a different direction, that we also need to be devoting ourself to putting together a plan of action, so that when we get God’s peace, we are ready to roll.
Lastly, we learned that:
The Servant of God Trusts God’s Perfect Plan and God’s Perfect Timing.