Vs. 1, “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews.” The enemy was keeping tabs of the progress that Israel was making and underestimated their success. So they tried ridicule again and then resorted to use violence if they did not cease. Nehemiah would not be fazed and persisted to encourage his people to keep up building the walls. Even though there was legitimate fear and hope was giving out, Nehemiah stood up like Mel Gibson’s character William Wallace in Braveheart and gave an emotional speech to stir courage in the ranks.
Regarding application…Responding in Faith. Vs. 13, “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.” There is a difference having faith and reckless faith. God does indeed answer our prayer requests according to His will and His timing. However, that doesn’t mean we just sit on our rear ends and expect God to do all the work. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we do not defend our loved ones, our land (U.S.A.), etc. I love how Nehemiah would ensure that there was protection and also production simultaneously. We can do both. There is a belief among some that Christians should be pacifists and always seek peace. If that were the case, we would not be here today. Always be ready to respond in faith not fear!
Vs. 1, “Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel.” This was a huge rebuiliding process that took many hands to make. There are ten gates mentioned here and it’s notable to see the vast array of people God employed to accomplish this endeavor. Some scholars use the different gates for representing Gospel message, Sheep gates represents the Cross, Fish gate represents fishers of men, Valley gate represents the shadow of the valley of death, etc. While Nehemiah is known for the rebuliding of the wall, he could not have completed this without everyone else.
Regarding application…Teamwork. It’s amazing what we can do when we work as a team. Both GKUMC and the Promise church rent space for their services and every Sunday it takes a team effort to setup all the chairs, praise equipment, food, etc. It always amazes me every Sunday to see how effective people are when they work together as a team. One of the things that I will never forget regarding teamwork is when the YG went on our first Ropes retreat program. This was a awhlie ago, Nari & Youngjoo were in 6th or 7th grade. We were going over all these team obastacles that the Ropes counselor was taking us through. One of them was a 12 foot wall. It was the last obstacle of the day and she was giving us a time restriction. Being asian and shorter didn’t help us any (though Jason was there, but he was smaller then). It was a task that I didn’t think we were going to pass. But lo and behold, we climbed and conqured! It was a monumental moment and I think we all suprised ourselves and especially the counselor who was awestruck. All because of teamwork and not giving up!
Vs. 5, “and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” Four months would pass as Nehemiah would patiently wait and the sadness of his heart would weigh heavy. He would ask the Persian king Artaxerxes if he may go to Jerusalem to help the rebuilding process. Upon arriving to Jerusalem, Nehemiah would take wisely scout the area by night to not stir any possible response from Israel’s enemies. Without doubt or fear, he would press on to challenge the people to help him build.
Regarding application…Ridicule. Vs. 19, “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.” This same type of opposition and ridicule came in Ezra’s time, but Nehemiah would hold steadfast. It’s not easy to do any task when people belittle you along the way. This is a mean sin-filled world and we must learn to not allow ridicule to bring us down. Growing up in a little farming town, I often was the subject of ridicule. While it’s not as obvious as we grow up, people still find ways to ridicule, gossip and slander others. Whether it’s a form of jealousy or envy…or just the enemy outright trying to discourage, we must stand up for what we believe in.
Though not the last book in the Old Testament order of books, Nehemiah is the last book Chronologically. Nehemiah covers the last historical period of the Old Testament. After this there would be no more inspired record or Word from God for the next 400 years. The next communication of God came from angel of God when he came at the temple when he announced the birth of John the Baptist. The one who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Nehemiah a prayerful man of action and organization is the leading character of the narrative. Most believe Nehemiah wrote this book which bears his name. He probably recorded these events sometime between 445 – 425 b.c. Even though Nehemiah was Jewish, he held a significant role in the Persian Empire and then was named Governer of Judah. He describes the third return of exile to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. Telling how the walls were rebuilt in 52 days and how the people were renewed in their fatih. (NIV Audio Bible)
Vs. 3, “They said to me, “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.” Though the temple was restored, the walls of Jerusalem were still not completely rebuilt. You might remember they started it in early on in the book of Ezra but the enemy put fear in their hearts. The walls were very important for the protection of the people and showed to the enemy that they were ready to defend themselves if needed. Upon hearing the report of the condition of his people, Nehemiah wept and felt a burden for his people. Nehemiah was a man of prayer and we see that in the opening chapter. His hope is that the Persian king would grant him permission to go to his people and help. This was the same king that granted Ezra to go years earlier.
Regarding application…Confession. Vs. 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.” It takes courage and humility to admit failure and sin. Nehemiah understood the full scope of what brought all of this in the first place. The reason why they were even looking at a rebuilding project was because the nation had sinned years earlier to bring this about. The hebrew word for confess basically means to “cast off”…we cast off our sins and lay them before the Lord. Most of you who know me are aware that I’m a picky eater. When I was in grade school one of my sisters who was married at the time was hosting an evening get together with famly & frineds. I believe they made some sort of soup that night and I had made a really childish remark about how it wasn’t very good. When I got home that night, my mom approached me about the comment and it was then that I cried and confessed it was a really mean thing to say. Even though I was very young, I knew what I had said was wrong and it was such a good feeling to confess it and let it go.
***We will be continuing on with the OT in the book of Nehemiah tomorrow***
Vs. 10, “Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt.” Ezra’s sorrow would be a positive influence as the people began to understand the ramification of their sins. It is never easy to deal with sin. But a broken and contrite heart would help the process of repentance. Though not everyone would agree with Ezra, those who did would also confess publicly. It was not as easy as we think it would have been to correct this matter. But, they knew they needed to heed God’s law and they took the time to be wise in dealing with the sin.
Regarding application…Marriage. Vs. 3, “Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.” Marriage is a picture of Jesus and the church. Divorce is a serious matter and while it did happen in the Bible, we must also understand that it is not part of God’s will. This situation does not allow us to use this as a basis to think we have a way out of a bad marriage (I Cor. 7:12-16). We have the responsibliity to not enter a marriage with an unbeliver. Marriage is a wonderful gift from God and most of us are not called to be celibate. Be wise in your relationships and when you marry that special person, know that it isn’t always going to be the perfect marriage. But marriages strive to partner together to be one in spirit and mind for the glory of God. Praise God for marriage. If you are not married yet (most of you aren’t), take the time to be praying for that future spouse!
Vs. 2, “They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” This was a discouraging time for God’s people as they broke the law (Ex. 34:16). We are exhorted not to be unequally yoked and that is what was happening by God’s people marrying unbelievers (II Cor. 6:14). This was something that people of all classes including the Levites, priests and leaders of Israel. The heart of the matter lied in the fact that they were turning away from God and being influenced by their pagan marriages to turn to idolatry. This was a shocking turn of events for Ezra and he was certainly ashamed by this. The Lord had done so much for them and this is how they were responding. Yet, we see a wonderful prayer lifted up to God.
Regarding application…Do we deserve it? Vs. 13, “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this.” Often times in our lives there is a sense of “entitlement”…as if we deserve to have good things come our way. We sacrificed all these years of schooling, so we deserve a good career. We sacrificed all these years of serving God, so we deserve to be blessed. We gave so much time to others, so we deserve to receive. Yet, we are poignantly reminded that we are sinners and deserve nothing. But God’s grace has given us acceptance and love. God is the giver of good things and it’s truly a blessing any time God chooses to bless us. But may we never take for granted the things He has given to us. None of us are deserving…thankfully, it’s nothing we can do that makes us any better. We just need to be humble and strive to live daily for our Lord.