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Nehemiah: A Man of Preparation & Purpose

Nehemiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:37
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Today we are continuing our study through the book of Nehemiah. We are in chapter 2, and looking at verses 11 to 20.
I believe Nehemiah was a great man of God. So far, we have seen that Nehemiah was a man of true character and prayer. He truly cared for others. He was faithful in his duties. And, he took things to the Lord rather than just trying to do it on his own.
We also saw that Nehemiah was a man that prayed patiently, and in faith. He prayed for months, waiting for the moment God would open the door for him to approach the king about Jerusalem. And, while he was praying, Nehemiah prepared for God working, and he planned. When the king asked, Nehemiah knew just what it would take. He had a plan.
Today, we are going to see that Nehemiah was a man of Preparation, and Purpse. He doesn’t just jump in before knowing the details. He had a purpose and he properly prepared to fulfill that purpose.
I hope we can learn from his example this week.
Let’s get into Nehemiah, but first let’s pray and ask the Lord to teach us.
Let’s pray
Nehemiah has asked the king for permission to rebuild the city. He asked him for letters to the officials of the area. He asked him for supplies. And he has traveled to Jerusalem. That is where we are picking up the account of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, in Nehemiah 2:11.
When studying the bible, I encourage people to read a passage a few times, and in different English translations to help think through the passage. Today, we will read through the account in Nehemiah 2:11-20 in the New Living Translation. Then, we will study through it in the New International version.
Let’s read through the account, and then go back and look at it verse by verse.
Nehemiah 2:11–20 NLT
So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate. The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work. But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked. I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”
I love Nehemiah’s example here. Let’s go back and work our way through this passage.
Nehemiah 2:11 NIV
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days
The first thing I see about Nehemiah here is that,

Nehemiah: a man of Preparation

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he stayed there three days before beginning anything.
He was certainly patient in prayer for four months. Now, after waiting those four months to ask the king, and then getting permission, Nehemiah prepared to travel, and then traveled for about four more months to get to Jerusalem. So, now, likely 9-10 months after he asked the king and received permission to rebuild, he finally arrives at Jerusalem! And he stays there three days?
Now that he arrived in Jerusalem, he didn’t just jump into the work.
I’ll be honest. I am not that patient. Have you ever had a project that you were wanting to get done? Did you wait three days, or did you just jump into it?
Or, have you ever wanted something, and it finally arrives. Some assembly required. Have you ever waited patiently to sit down and read all of the instructions first? Or, like me, do you rip it open and begin the construction right away… even without instructions?
That does not often go well. Eventually we see we need to take time. We need to be patient and be sure everything is in place before we begin a big project.
It is important that we take time to prepare, to be ready for the work. Nehemiah did that.

Nehemiah prepared himself

Nehemiah was going to need a place to stay. He was going to need to be somewhat established with a place to live, sleep, eat and work.
He also needed to learn more about the specific situation there in Jerusalem.
Remember, Nehemiah had never been to Jerusalem before. He was raised his whole life in captivity. This was his first time in Jerusalem. This was his first time seeing what the situation was, and getting an even fuller picture than what his brother described. He didn’t know what the different parts of town were. He did not know how to get around.
I think that is what Nehemiah was doing when he first arrived in Jerusalem. He didn’t start the project right away. He just stayed there three days preparing himself.
How did he do it? Well, this is not spelled out for us in the text, but I have some ideas. This kind of reminds me when I first arrived in a remote village in Papua New Guinea to plant a church. We didn’t arrive in the villate the first day and start preaching the gospel. We didn’t even know the language or the people. We didn’t know how to communicate. That would take time. It would take time to learn their language. It would take time to teach them who God is, who Jesus is, and how we got into the mess with sin to begin with. It would take a long time. Knowing that, when we arrived, the first thing we did was prepare ourselves for the long haul. We set up a place to live.
I think Nehemiah likely did the same.
But where to settle? Where to locate? Where is everything? What do the people that live there have to say? We couldn’t just build wherever we wanted. All of the land belonged to someone. We needed to learn from the people who lived there.
I believe Nehemiah did the same.

Nehemiah prepared by listening

And, I believe he took time to learn from the people there what the conditions were. He needed to learn from them where things were. He needed to learn where to get things. He needed to learn from them where he might settle. He needed to learn who the leaders were. He needed to learn what the greatest needs were before beginning.
What if he started on the project without preparing and listening to those that lived there? He might have put a road over the spot where a well or market was needing to be rebuilt. He might have planned things in his own mind, and messed up what needed to be done had he not taken time to prepare.
So, Nehemiah prepared by listening to those that were there.
Then, Nehemiah 2:12-16.
Nehemiah 2:12–16 NIV
I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.

Nehemiah prepared by observing

We see this when he goes out alone during the night. He examines all of the walls. He didn’t just see some of the places. He checked all of the walls and all of the gates.
When it got difficult, and he couldn’t even take his horse, he kept going so that he would see everything.
It is one thing to plan to build something. It is another matter to actually build it when you actually arrive on location. You need to see the lay of the land. You need to figure out how things will be oriented. You need to see how you will get supplies in and around.
Nehemiah needed to see for himself so he could properly lead this major construction project.
So, as a good leader, Nehemiah took time to observe.
He needed to be able to speak with real knowledge to the people as he led them to do the work.
Which is another way he prepared.
Nehemiah 2:17–18 NIV
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

Nehemiah prepared the people

Nehemiah took time to listen to the people. He didn’t just arrive and tell them that the King sent him to rebuild the walls.
What would happen if he just told them that the government would rebuild the walls when he arrived? Would they have listened? They already had their opinions about this king that commanded their city not be rebuilt.
Also, if he would have just said the government was providing, they would have likely responded like people all over. Fine, let the government do it.
Nehemiah took time to prepare the people by listening to them. He learned who the leaders were. He learned their concerns.
Then, he used that.

Nehemiah prepared them by appealing to their concerns and desires

Then, after getting first hand knowledge himself, he appealed to them using their feelings. “We will no longer be in disgrace.” Where did he get that? Well he had listened to his brother and friends back in chapter one. Now, he listened to the people. He knew they did not like being in disgrace, looked down upon and treated like dirt by their neighbors. So he appealed to their desire to not be in disgrace.

Nehemiah prepared them with his testimony

Nehemiah shared how graciously God worked and how the king gave him permission to go and rebuild the city. The king gave the letters to the governors so they could not stop the work legally. He gave him letters to get the wood needed for all of the construction.
God had worked a miracle to get the very king that commanded the city to not be rebuilt, to command that it would be rebuilt, and pay for it!
When Nehemiah prepared the people, they responded, “Let us start rebuilding.” And they started the work.
When they did, there was still opposition from the local leaders. They could not stop the work legally. But they tried other methods.
Nehemiah 2:19 NIV
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
When you work for the Lord, Satan will try to hinder the work.

Nehemiah faced Opposition

The leaders of Samaria, Ammon and the Arabs tried to stop the work first by ridiculing them.
What does ridicule do? Ridicule can make us feel ashamed and incapable. If they could make them feel ashamed and incapable, they would stop the work.
Have you ever faced ridicule? How did you handle it?
They also used intimidation. They asked the question, “Are you rebelling against the king?” even though they knew this wasn’t true. Why would they do that? Because if they could create fear in the hearts of the people that others might think this of them, if they could make them afraid that the king would hear that they were rebelling and come and punish them, the work would stop. They tried to use fear.
Have you ever started something, and then faced fear? Fear of what other might think? Fear of what was going to happen if this didn’t go right? Fear can cripple us, and stop all the work we are doing.
How do you handle your fear?
Well, Nehemiah handled it perfectly. How did he handle it? Well, first I want to look back at another verse we already read, and then look at his response.
Nehemiah 2:12 NIV
I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
Do you see that? God put in his heart this job.
That is important. Nehemiah knew he was working for God. He knew this was not his idea. He knew this was God’s idea. Nehemiah knew this was God’s purpose!

Nehemiah was a man of purpose

Not just his purpose. This was God-given purpose. Because he knew this was from God, and that God was behind it, Nehemiah gave this answer to the men who attempted to ridicule and intimidate him.
Nehemiah 2:20 NIV
I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

God’s purpose means: God will give success

Since this was God’s purpose, Nehemiah knew that God would take care of seeing it through. No one can thwart God’s purpose. When God is going to do something, no one will stop it.
Nehemiah knew that, so he was not worried about being incapable. He knew that God would give the strength to carry out this huge task.
Nehemiah was not afraid, because he knew that God would take care of them, and protect them.

God’s purpose means: we are His servants

Nehemiah was not caught up in being the leader. He didn’t worry about having to carry the burden of this project. He knew he, and all the others were God’s Servants. They were just doing what God wanted. That was enough.
God didn’t expect them to do more than they could do. God just wanted them to serve Him, doing what he told them to do. Nothing more. And as His servants, He would supply what was needed. They were working with His provisions.
Knowing the truth, that this was not his own purpose, his own project, his own leadership gave Nehemiah all that he needed to stand up against the ridicule and intimidation.
What a great example for us today!

What about me?

When reading this passage, it makes me ask questions. How am I like, or should I be like Nehemiah?
Nehemiah was a man of purpose. And not just his own purpose. He was a man of God’s purpose.

Am I a man of God’s purpose?

What is it that God has for me to do? I guarantee that God does have a purpose for you and for me. He is at work in us to carry out his purposes.
Philippians 2:13 NIV
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
He has things he wants to do in this world. He has purposes for us being where we are, in this day and age. He wants to use us for His purposes.
And since it is His purposes, He will provide what we need. He will give success to what we are doing for Him as His servants fulfilling His purposes.
This week, I encourage you to ask the Lord, what is your purpose for me today? What is your purpose for me right now.
Then after praying, take time to read God’s word everyday. As you read God’s word, ask what He his purpose for you is. If you sincerely ask, and read his letter to you, you will find His purpose for you! Then, when you are working as His servant for His purpose, you will have success! Not as the world defines success (money and power). You will have true success!
The next thing I think we can learn from Nehemiah is to prepare.

Am I a man of Preparation?

When Nehemiah knew the purpose of God, he didn’t just jump without looking.
God sometimes gives us a vision well before we will actually do the work. He told Paul he would be a minister to the Gentiles about 14 years before his first missionary journey took place.
God gives us purpose. Then, we need to take time to prepare. We need to prepare ourselves by listening and learning from others. We need to prepare ourselves by observing and getting a real knowledge of what needs to be done, and how God is moving.
We also at times need to prepare those around us to join in the work by appealing to their concerns and desires. We need to prepare them by sharing our testimony of how God is at work.
Have you done that? Can you share how God is at work in your life? How has He been at work?
Take time this week to prepare a testimony of how God has been working in your life. I encourage you to share that with your church family on Faithlife. Share it as a post! Let’s encourage each other with how God is working!
There is much to be done in this world. There are many hurting people around us. They need us to be living as God’s servants, carrying out His purposes. We need to know the purposes of God. We need to prepare. And we need to reach out then as His servants, working in His strength as an example and light for all to see.
I pray that God will use us individually, and as a church family.
Let’s pray now that we will be like Nehemiah, knowing and working for God’s Purposes, and preparing ourselves and others to carry out the work.
Read Nehemiah 2:11-20. Note verse 12. Why did Nehemiah want to rebuild Jerusalem? Where did he find his purpose? What does having God-given purpose do for us? What did it do for Nehemiah when facing ridicule and intimidation? See Nehemiah 2:20. Pray each day, asking God to show you His purpose for you. Read His Word daily asking God to show you his purpose for you.
Read Colossians 1:9-12. What do these verses tell you about God’s purpose for you? How would these play out in practical ways in your life today? Read 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Pay attention to the source for their work, labor and endurance. How would this look in your life today?
Read Hosea 10:12. We are in planting season now. How does this imagery speak to your God-given purpose today? What is your unplowed ground? What is meant by seek the Lord? Consider the context. Read Hosea 10:13. What did Israel do that was wrong? Who did they depend upon? When fulfilling God’s purpose, we need to rely on whose strength?
Read Psalm 40:8. Much of what God’s will for us is summed up in the two great commands. (What are they?) What part does having the word in our heart play in fulfilling our God-given purpose? Practically speaking, what are some of the purposes God has for you? As a single? As a spouse? As a parent? As a grandparent? As a student? As a worker? As a boss? As a friend? As a neighbor? As a Christian in this world? Make a list. Ask the Lord to work in your heart to make these your God-given purposes for the day. Consider a practical way to carry out God’s purpose for you.
Read 1 Peter 1:13-15. Also read Ephesians 6:10-18. How can we prepare ourselves for fulfilling our God-given purpose?
Take time to write out a testimony of how God is working for you, providing for you, giving what you need to share with the church family on Faithlife. It does not need to be long. A couple sentences to a paragraph, will do.
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