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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Learning from Nehemiah

If you’ve ever heard a teaching on Nehemiah, chances are you’ve heard it either within the context of learning how to delegate responsibility, the virtues of true patriotism, how if we see a problem then we should attempt to fix it, or how to deal with slander seeing as Tobiah and Sanbalat, are what one could readily call prototypical slanderers.

Today however I wanted to discuss, if only briefly, a few more spiritual aspects of the life and work of the prophet Nehemiah, and hopefully get a better understanding of not only the man, but also what fueled his mission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that was broken down.

After many years in captivity, those who survived returned to Jerusalem only to find its gates burned with fire, and the wall that surrounded the city laying in ruin. Due to countless years of neglect, marauders, and enemy forces the wall that once surrounded Jerusalem, the wall that was a barrier and a protection for those living within the city was in shambles, broken and destroyed.

In those days, a city without walls was in essence a city without defenses. Wherein no walls existed the people of the community were at the mercy of their enemies, susceptible in every way, from being easy prey for bands of bandits, as well as easy conquests for neighboring nations.

News of the wall’s destruction and the burning of the gates of Jerusalem reached Nehemiah who was at the time a high official at the Persian court. Although he lived in another nation and in service to its king, Nehemiah was broken hearted when he heard of what had transpired in Jerusalem, and after informing king Artaxerxes of why he was sorrowful, the king granted his request to be sent to Jerusalem, to rebuild the wall.

The greatest lesson that I personally gleaned from the rebuilding of the wall, was the undeniable importance of prayer. Nehemiah prayed for three months, before rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem in fifty two days. Here was a man who likewise understood the importance of communing with God, and making certain it is God who has set you on a given course.

Nehemiah prayed almost twice as long as it took him to rebuild the wall, a wall that had laid in ruin for almost one hundred years.

On his own Nehemiah had neither the resources or the manpower to rebuild the wall, he didn’t even have the time having been in the service of the king of Persia, but when God gives a plan the go ahead, everything comes together in a beautiful way, like a forty person orchestra performing a symphony.

So what are some practical and spiritual lessons we can glean from this moment in history? What are some practical and spiritual lessons we can learn from the life of the prophet Nehemiah?

First, and foremost, pray before you act.

The rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem was a noble ideal, it was selfless and necessary since the Israelites suffered great distress and reproach for not having a wall, but sometimes good ideas come to a bad end, and noble gestures end up backfiring. Nehemiah prayed, not for a day, or a week, he prayed for three months until he knew that his plan was in accordance with God’s plan.

The second practical and spiritual lesson we can learn from the life of the prophet Nehemiah, is that we must overcome our own selves in order to see the plan of God come to pass.

One day, after having prayed for three months, Nehemiah found himself before the king, giving him his wine, and the king noticed that his countenance was different than what he was accustomed to.

Nehemiah 2:2-3, ‘Therefore the king said to me, ‘why is your face sad since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.’ Then I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, ‘may the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?’”

There are twenty different ways this interaction could have played out if Nehemiah hadn’t overcome himself, if he had not reigned in his fear, and spoken the truth to the king. By his own words Nehemiah testifies that he became dreadfully afraid, he was after all standing before the king of Persia the greatest empire of that time, having to explain why his face was sad. It would be enough to cause trepidation in even the most valiant of men, yet Nehemiah overcame his own fears, and explained why he was so sorrowful to the king.

Not only did the king allow him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, he gave him letters of passage for all the governors of the region until he came to Judah, as well as timber from his own forest to make beams for the gates of the citadel.

Too often our own fears keep us from seeing the plan of God come to pass in our lives, and our own self keeps us from experiencing His power in greater measure.

The third practical and spiritual lesson we can learn from the life of the prophet Nehemiah, is to follow through.

We must do our part; we must follow through; we must go where God leads us and not expect that someone else will pick up the slack or complete the tasks that were specifically designated to us.

Once Nehemiah reached Jerusalem, the first thing he did was inspect the wall thoroughly. He arose in the night, and went through the Valley Gate, to the Serpent Well, and to the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire.

Nehemiah 2:17-18, “Then I said to them, ‘You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the walls of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.’ And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to do this good work.’”

‘Well brother, if God has a plan than He’s going to make it happen.’

True enough, but God’s plan includes you, and it includes me. God’s plans include men who are willing to obey, to follow through, to roll up their sleeves and do a difficult thing even in the face of opposition, even when those comfortable and content with the status quo stand in defiance using any means at their disposal, whether slander, threats or even violence, to keep the plan of God from coming to pass.

Pray before you act, overcome your fears, and follow through to the end, and you will go from victory to victory in Christ our Lord.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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