This coming Sunday, during children’s church, I am going to teach on Nehemiah. This lesson will close out the teaching of the Old Testament, a task that we began in January. I excited about all that the kids have learned. After this Sunday, we are going to begin our journey through the New Testament, focusing on the teachings of Christ to His disciples and then to His Church.
So, we finish out the Old Testament with Nehemiah’s story and how he led the people out of the Babylonia captivity. Before we get into this message, let’s see if we can review what we have learned so far, over the past couple of months:
- David’s humility and Goliath’s pride
- David’s repentance
- Naaman’s salvation
- Jesus explained by Isaiah
- Daniel’s Faithfulness
In Daniel’s case, he was born in Israel, but, after taken into captivity, he never saw Jerusalem again. He served the Babylonian and Persian kings all the rest of his life. God did give Daniel the grace to learn that the children of Israel would not stay in Babylon/Persia forever. They were going to go home and he shared that good news with his people. One of the men who knew this from Daniel’s teachings was Nehemiah. This is where the story continues. God is going to use Nehemiah to rescue His people.
I. Nehemiah’s good life in Susa
At this point in Nehemiah’s life, he was living a dream. If he were an American, he would have been living the American dream. He had a good job. Nehemiah lived in the capital city of the world’s most dominating empire of the day. It would have been like living in Rome during the height of Rome’s power. Nehemiah was in the service of the king. He had the king’s favor. He lived in comfort. Things were going well for him, except for the fact that he was a foreigner in a foreign land. Not only that, Nehemiah had a good relationship with God and as a result, he had a servant’s heart. As a result of being connected with God, Nehemiah found favor in the eyes of men, especially those in authority over him. Nehemiah is similar to Daniel, a hard worker who is trustworthy and, because of these qualities, he is given responsibilities. Since Nehemiah walked with God, he was sensitive to the voice of God. He was in the right place to hear from the Lord. At the same time, all of these comforts could have led Nehemiah to get too comfortable to carry out the great calling that God had for his life. He, like many of us, could have fallen into a routine of enjoying his life, allowing the years to slip by quickly, without ever really accomplishing all that God had for him to do. Routine and comfort, things that are not necessarily bad, can end up lulling us to complacency, again, leading us to miss the great calling that the Lord has for us.
On the other hand, Nehemiah’s homeland was in shambles. Nehemiah was aware of this and it bothered him. He did not close a bling eye to the problems around him just because of his comfort. I often ask the same of myself. I have been blessed to live in the wealthiest nation in the world. Am I going to use the wealth that God has blessed me with to make a difference for the kingdom of heaven or, am I going to get lulled to complacency by routine and comfort?
II. Nehemiah’s Prayer
As mentioned above, Nehemiah had a good relationship with God. One of the signs of that relationship is the fact that he spent time in prayer, conversing with God. Nehemiah interceded with God on behalf of his people. He appeals to God’s character and Name. He knew His God personally, intimately. Nehemiah understood the root of all societal problems is sin. This prayer was prayed long before the white-washing of modern psychology which teaches people to blame their environment for society’s problems instead of themselves because of their own poor choices. Nehemiah understood that if society were ever going to change then the people must admit their sin (take blame for their actions), repent of all of the evil that they had done, return to God, and walk with Him faithfully day in and day out. Because of these factors, Nehemiah prays for repentance and spiritual revival among his people.
We live in a similar society today. There are many, many problems as a result people’s sins. Instead of playing the blame game, we need to admit our faults, confess our sins, repent of them, return to God, and walk with Him faithfully. Is that your prayer for your people? Do you need to spend more time in prayer, praying for these specific things as Nehemiah did? I sure know that I do. Are you going to do something about it or just say, “Lord, please come back soon. I can’t take it here any longer.”? Take the first step. Hit your knees and intercede before God on behalf of the wicked people around you and you will be amazed at what God will do.
III. Nehemiah’s Calling
While Nehemiah was praying, God revealed His great calling to him. God wanted Nehemiah to lead the children of Israel back to Jerusalem and rebuild an entire society. This would mean that Nehemiah would have to give up the comforts of his life and go and work hard leading people who were going to be very difficult because of all of their experience living in a destructive society. It is hard enough to stop the decline of a society. It is even more difficult to rebuild a society that has fallen apart and lived in destruction for many years. Nehemiah did not hesitate. He answered God’s call to serve his people and rebuild their society. The really cool part about this task was the fact that God was going to use King Artaxerxes to fund the trip back to Jerusalem and the building project that was going to have to take place. Nehemiah is a great leader because of his servant’s heart. He rolls up his sleeves and works with the people. He does not stand around and give orders. Also, he does not try to do it all by himself. He encourages teamwork. As the old saying goes, “many hands make light work”. This was true during Nehemiah’s days and it is true today. God invites us to join Him in His work. He forms a team, even though He could do it all by Himself. When we answer God’s calling, we seek to encourage others to join us and work together with us as part of a team to change society for good. They made it back to Jerusalem and Nehemiah scoped out the city, made a plan, and challenged everyone to work according to the plan. It was very difficult. They had their swords with them as they rebuilt the wall. It took 52 days to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah worked hard to rebuild the city and reestablish the society. Because of this great calling, Nehemiah left a lasting legacy.
IV. Nehemiah’s Legacy
Nehemiah had the chance to reestablish Israel on the principles of the Word of God. Their society was originally founded on the Word of God, yet, as time went on, they drifted from their foundation. As a result, they were sent into exile twice. Once they were exiled in the Assyrian captivity and then again in the Babylonian captivity. Now, they have a chance to start over and Nehemiah does it the right way. With the help of the prophet Ezra, corporate, public worship is reconstituted. God’s Word is placed back in Its proper place within society. The Scriptures were read publicly and the people were taught to obey the Scriptures once again. The feasts were reconstituted so that the people would remember the Lord and their relationship with Him. As a result of public worship and the Scriptures, the people repented and returned to God. They began to walk with Him in obedience once again. Nehemiah impacted his society for good all the rest of the days of his life. Not long after Nehemiah, the people fell away again and as a result, they did not hear from God for 400 years, until the days just before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah from long ago.
What about you my dear friend, do you pray for the people of your nation? Are you connected with God, spending time with Him so that you can be sensitive to His holy calling for your life? Are you living to impact your society in a positive manner? Are you actively teaching others how they can return to God? What kind of legacy are you leaving for future generations? Do you try to do it all on your own, or, do you encourage teamwork? May the Lord help us impact our society the same way that Nehemiah did!