We have been examining Nehemiah, and we have looked at the call and vision he had, and also at the attacks he suffered to complete his destiny. After 90 years of people saying it could not be done, Nehemiah inspired the same people and they built the entire wall in 52 days! Clearly they were dealing with a different counsel that us!
The book of Nehemiah doesn’t just deal with the construction of a wall, but the construction of a nation. Nehemiah had to face further pressures, even from his own people. I want to finish this series by seeing what we can draw from some of the situations he faced.
Nehemiah 2:18 (ESV)
And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
We too have seen incredible blessings and miracles at Ignite. We have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars miraculously supplied, incredible favour miraculously obtained, and amazing opportunities miraculously opened.
But as we prepare to move into Nambour, we also need to remain vigilant, with our hands strengthened for the good work, because the enemy is trying to derail our efforts and throw us off our destiny, and sometimes, strangely, when we are blessed then we often forget God. Sometimes the devil comes as a roaring lion, but other times as a serpent, here’s 7 things the people experienced as they built the city wall, and the nation.
1. PEOPLE WERE SCARED
Sanballat and Tobiah constantly harassed and threatened Nehemiah and the people, causing widespread fear among the workers. But Nehemiah, as I explained last week, never gave up, never gave in and never gave way to his enemies.
He was jeered, he was mocked, his motives were questioned, and his name slandered. He faced the threat of violence and the legalistic threat of so called prophets prophesying against him. But through it all Nehemiah stood strong and never deflected from his calling.
Nehemiah 4:15-16 (ESV)
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah,
Nehemiah inspired his people, as I want to inspire you for the great task God has ahead of us in Nambour.
Nehemiah 6:9 (ESV)
For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
Strengthen our hands, O Lord! There will be things said, or implied, there will be people discouraging us, maybe some leaving, but we need to stay focussed on the Kingdom of God, and let God take care of the rest!
Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
2. PEOPLE WERE SEDULOUS (HARD WORKING)
SEDULOUS means hard working and persistent. The people worked hard on the wall, and our success also will require some hard work. Floating along being half committed and expecting God to just bless us is foolishness.
Nehemiah 4:6 (ESV)
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
I want to encourage you to have a mind to work. I’m not asking you to work yourselves into the ground, but with wisdom and obedience, let’s work together to the Kingdom. Now you might think you’d have to be a contortionist to have your head in the clouds, feet on the ground, to put your nose to the grindstone, back to the wall, and hands to the plow.
To move into our destiny is going to require some hard work, but when you work for the Lord according to His will He gives you energy and grace.
Isaiah 40:30-31 (ESV)
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
One of the brilliant leadership decisions Nehemiah made was to have everybody repair the wall in and around their own property.
Nehemiah 3:28 (ESV)
Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house.
Each family took ownership and pride in his own section of wall, (Nehemiah 3) and he repaired his own bit.
The lesson is that we should work, and work hard, but not doing what we are told to do under duress, but serving where we are gifted doing what we love. That’s what our 201 is about. At Ignite, I’d love you to serve with us as we move into Nambour, but let all do it where we love, where we are gifted and passionate!
As we move, there will be a way for all of us to serve where we love serving. Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Nehemiah 6:16 (ESV)
And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
Psalms 127:1 (ESV)
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
3. PEOPLE WERE SELFISH
Let’s be honest, all of us are selfish to some degree. Well, Nehemiah had to battle selfishness even amongst his own people.
The Jewish leaders saw a chance to make money, and were exploiting their brothers, making them slaves, and exacting large interest payments from them.
Nehemiah 5:6-7 (ESV)
I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them
Nehemiah 5:10-12 (ESV)
Let us abandon this exacting of interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised.
Nehemiah pulled them up, addressed their selfishness, and demanded they repent, and undo the evil they had done. Here at Ignite, we are all about real people, real community and real God. There is no room for personal agendas, from me or anyone else. We are servants, we are bond slaves, we are God’s body, and our calling is to serve.
Mark 10:45 (ESV)
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A little bit later Nehemiah headed back to Persia to report in with the king, and when he returned he found more issues. He had to deal with them again…
Nehemiah 5:15 (ESV)
The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people.
Nehemiah 13:11-12 (ESV)
So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
The more successful we get, the more tempting it is to selfishly hold onto stuff.
Philippians 2:3 (ESV)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4. PEOPLE WERE SHAPED
This world is always trying to make us compromise, to influence, shape and squeeze us into its mould. If you decide to make a stand for Jesus, somehow, somewhere, someone, even some Christian, will try and water your witness down. They will challenge you to defend yourself, to discuss, to discourse.
We live in the most offended, opinionated and argumentative generation in history, and people out there in coffee shops, on Facebook and even in church will argue and attack to defend something that doesn’t even affect them.
In Nehemiah case, they constantly called for meetings, arbitrations, discussions and arguments, but he said,
Nehemiah 6:3 (ESV)
And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?
Listen as we move into Nambour, there will be all kinds of pressure on you to not get involved but to pursue other, sometimes even quite legitimate, stuff. I want to encourage you to keep your eyes firmly fixed on Christ, and His call on your life, and in this world of opinion, don’t let them conform you to their mould.
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
You renew your mind by filling it with the right stuff… worship music, church, sermons and especially, the Word of God.
Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
In the end, Only 3 things are eternal… God, His Word and the souls of men and women. There are other things that might be good, might even be God, but we should never lose sight of eternity.
5. PEOPLE WERE SINFUL
When Nehemiah went away for a short time, it did not take long for the people to backside into sin. By the time he returned they were ignoring the Sabbath, exploiting one another, installing a pagan enemy in the temple, even marrying foreign wives and adopting their religious beliefs.
Nehemiah 13:27 (ESV)
Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”
They had stopped supporting the priests, they had withheld money from their tithes and offerings, and they had quickly sunk into sin.
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Like you and I, it doesn’t take much effort to backside into sin. It does take effort and commitment to remain holy, but now more than ever, we need to be holy in our sinful, morally perverted nation.
1 Peter 1:14-15 (ESV)
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
Purity matters. It matters to God, it matters to each other and it matters to how our community sees us as a church. Let’s be holy together.
6. PEOPLE WERE SORRY
When the Book of the Law was found and brought out, the people gathered and listened for hours. Then they wept and realised their need to confess
Nehemiah 9:2 (ESV)
And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
They really felt the gravity of their sin. We are often too flippant about sin, we often tolerate it and hush it up, but these people were genuinely sorry, repented, and confessed their sin, and the sins of their fathers.
I believe that we as Australians need to confess not only our sins, but also those of our nation, because God said in Ezekiel,
Ezekiel 22:30 (ESV)
And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
Let us be those who confess our nation’s sins and stand in the gap for our people and our community.
7. PEOPLE WERE SEEKING GOD
This led to the people truly and honestly seeking God. They stood all day listening to Ezra read the Word of God to them. We can barely open it once a day these days!
Nehemiah 8:8 (ESV)
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Seeking God involves repentance, and reading and knowing His Word (Gideons).
It involved repentance, where they consciously stopped sinning and actively sought God. And it was practical and even joyous, for the joy of the Lord is their strength. And, remarkably, it was fiscally demonstrative…
Nehemiah 10:35 (ESV)
We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the LORD;
Nehemiah 10:37 (ESV)
and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground,
They gave, they tithed, they feasted and rejoiced, and they sought the Lord with all their hearts. The job was completed in 52 days, but at their earliest opportunity they still backslid into sin, and had to repent of their sin, the sins of others and their father’ sins.
As we work towards our big move, if we truly want to have a big effect on our community, I’m calling you today to stand in the gap for our people. I know you haven’t personally commited these sins, but can we not stand for our people and confess the, before God?
2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
List of Australia’s Sins to ask forgiveness for…
Racism, against Aboriginal people and immigrants
Legalising murder, abortion, euthanasia
Sex related legislation
Ignoring God and His law
Ungrateful Spirit, when we have so much
WHY DO WE NEED TO CONFESS OUR SIN?
WHY SHOULD WE CONFESS THE SINS OF OUR NATION AND PEOPLE? 2 CHRONICLES 7:14
HOW DOES CONFESSING SIN HELP YOU TO SEEK GOD MORE?