Overview of Book of Nehemiah Banner

Nehemiah 1:1-2:5

Lord, I Open My Heart to You

Step #1 I Heard Because I Inquired {Neh 1:1-3}
Step #2 I Prayed Because I Heard {Neh 1:4-11c}
Step #3 I Acted Because I Prayed {Neh 1:11d-2:5}

Intro We need a love for God's people and His great work. Our neglect of prayer and the way we easily forget His purpose reveal a rather unwilling and stubborn heart. We say we want great things of God. We say we love God. We say we love His people. But look at our lives. Look at the way we criticize others and blame them for our troubles. Notice our personal and public prayer lives. Today I'd like to speak about one person living in a very pagan environment who through his prayer and dedicated life God used to advance His people in completing an essential part of His plan. This is Nehemiah. This book is one of three historical books written after the captivity in Babylon or Persia.

Recently in our midst, we have seen God do marvelous things. 80 people dedicated themselves to God's purposes at ACR. Already several have made decisions in furthering themselves in better understanding what God wants. Judy Khuu, our mission deaconess, hopes to attend seminary as early as this fall. But you know how easy it is for God to move His people and then His people in turn forget what they said to God. God has revealed to us His general plans for us. We know about meeting together weekly; we know about our general participation in the Great Commission. But we can look around and see what God is doing and know that He is moving in other special ways. We can see that we must accomplish His work. We can see worship schedules, many regular fellowship meetings. But God has been working extra special in our lives. We have see 54 from our church dedicate themselves to do whatever God wants. This is like one quarter of our church! Are we going to be faithful or are we going to forget what God has done among us? I again challenge you what our response should be. It doesn't matter whether you are one who signed your name or not for if we are not on the front lines, then we should be actively supporting the ones who are.

One can look at these things in two ways: as work done, which enables us to sit back and think we are doing quite fine or as work yet undone which calls us to heightened attention to accomplish those things not yet accomplished. I'd like us to look at Nehemiah and challenge you with three proper responses required to fulfill God's yet unfulfilled holy work.

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Step #1 I heard because I inquired {Neh 1:1-3}

Many of you don't really care how others are doing. Some hear how things are going, and yet it is the wrong time of hearing. You hear of certain things from your teacher, Christian friend, and preacher, but you are not hearing the way God would have you hear. In order to hear correctly, you must have a heart of inquiry. You want to know because you care about them. It is not gossip but it is information that brings genuine concern in your heart. This is the reason that care and concern should proceed plans; love must come before action, otherwise we see plans being more important than people. Nehemiah had things right. We see his properly hearing certain things was because he cared about people, especially his brethren.

Some people believe in luck or coincidences. I don't. I believe in the sovereignty of God. When Paul couldn't go further inland on one missionary trip, Luke "happened" to show up and expanded Paul's vision to cross the Aegean Sea and preach the gospel there. This is no accident nor is God's work in our midst an accident. We don't just happen to meet people.

A heart desiring to know of God's plans will bring us into contact with real needs. Nehemiah heard shocking stories. I am sure he heard more than the demise of the wall of Jerusalem. He no doubt heard some good stories, but one thing filtered through the others. There was a great need among God's people. Though they had rebuilt the temple somewhat, the gates were burned and so they had no protection against their enemies. The people were fearsome and demoralized. They seem that they could not get over that problem. They were stuck.

Others listening might have focused on some of the good stories. They would repeat it like a common joke. Or it might be like hearing a documentary on one's old homeland. One hears a lot of interesting facts. Or more particularly, he might ask, "How is so and so doing?" Or "Is that good restaurant still there?" And maybe Nehemiah, being a person, would ask such things. But this is clear, his inquiry was born out of a genuine love. He was one that searched out God's heart for those people.

Application When you heard the report on China, on Asia or on other needs, are you interested merely on what is interesting, or are you paying attention to the spiritual need in that place? Are you looking at this world just for your benefit to see where to invest or to see what God is doing around the world? Perhaps there are some of you who are so caught up in their plans, their world, their girlfriend, their work or their personal relationship problems, that you can't even begin to listen to God's world. God told us to have no other God before us. Let us sit at his feet and listen to what he wants. I remember my godly grandfather who went blind around 75 because of glaucoma. He would sit in his room upstairs and listen to the radio. But he wouldn't just listen. Hour after hour, he would listen and pray. I remember as a boy how I thought that to be such a waste of time. But there was a difference between him and I. He was concerned and praying; I was selfish and only concerned for my own little life. Oh, that I won't just look at this world with concern in me. Oh, that God might move us so that when we are moved such at ACR or other places, that we are so genuinely moved that we do not forget, but instead down deep we are changed because we care.

Step #2 I prayed because I heard {Neh 1:4-11c}

Nehemiah cared so much for those people. He cared about God's work. He cared so much that it interfered with his regular schedule. I'd like to briefly share how Nehemiah responded upon hearing such discouraging news of Jerusalem. He responded right away. Nor was he forgetful. He avoided forgetting what he could discern as being so important to him at one point in life by properly responding. Let's observe his response.

He humbled his heart {1:4}. He sat and wept and mourned for days. He was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. He didn't have any solutions. He cared. Yes, he thought, as we will later see. But God gripped him with news of a real need. His heart was so overtaken that he sat down and cried. How little we honestly mourn! Our repentant prayers and humbled words are more "lip words" than "heart words." But the Lord wants to see our hearts responding not just our lips. His love was shaping his response. Nehemiah indeed had a comfortable lifestyle. He was all set. He had an prestigious position. It is not like a cabinet position here where it will change along with the President but because of the king's life long position, it was a rather stable position.

It is so easy for us to say that we care, but are we shaken from our comfortable lives enough to respond? I know we can't respond to all the news we hear, but when we rightly listen, then on certain items, we will be moved. We need to hear the world with Jesus' ears and see the world with his eyes. Have you ever fasted for a special need of others or has it always been for yourself? Have you mourned for others more than for yourself? Do you regularly and sincerely pray more for others than for your self? God wants a heart response. God wants us to pray because there are needs. {Concert of Prayer}

He respected God's purposes {1:5}. Nehemiah didn't say God was unfair or that those people are victims. Instead he properly begins his prayer with full recognition of who God is. He didn't try to bring God under the situation but the situation under God's greatness. True service begins with sincere worship. He states God's greatness. He also focuses on His covenant. Far too often we have the audacity to plan God's plans for Him! This is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We really can't control Him, but thankfully we can serve Him.

Common Confession {1:6-7}. When we respond with our hearts rather than just emotion, our pride is set aside. Instead of seeing how great we are, we see the sin involved. We see that even though we might have a great mission program, it would collapse if we had not learned of true confession. True confession enables us to look at ourselves the way God looks at us. We then find only one response. We tell Him of the wrong in a manner which shows we are sorry for such things. Nehemiah could participate in this, though perhaps, he seemed not to be included. He was a righteous man and didn't live during the captivity. But he found something in common. He was one of them. He joined in confessing the sins of these people. It is much easier to accept praise for something you haven't done than to take blame for something you haven't done! I find it important that in praying for a certain people, that we join together with them confessing their sins just because we are part of mankind with them. Though Jesus had no sin, we see he identified with the Israelites by being baptized in water and even in a most horrible way identified with man by taking their sin upon Himself and by dying on the cross.

Remembered the covenant truths {1:8-10}.

Nehemiah like Jeremiah before him and Moses before him goes back to the agreement God had made with His people. There are promises therein by which they can draw hope. For Nehemiah and the Israelites, it meant an explanation as to why they were scattered about and a mention of God's promise to bring them back to the land. For us, we go to the New Covenant and find an explanation of our present problems as well as hope in His promises and plans. We might think of a oppressed nation like North Korea. Have you prayed for N. Korea. Have you only thought about the possibility of a war disturbing your life or have you thought of the people who have been imprisoned away from the gospel for many years? With Kim dead, it is a most strategic time. We might not think there is any hope, but those who know of the covenant of God, the gospel brings hope to any people who trust in Him.

Intercede on the behalf of Others {1:11}.

It is no good to study about prayer and not pray. Nor is it good to pray without a heart for a people because you really need to identify with them. We plead with God on behalf of these people. We stand ready to do whatever He wants us to do. This is why it is hard to pray for a people without caring for them for if God would want to use you to be part of this answer, then you must be ready. There is no substitute for prayer.

One of the main reasons I am preaching about this today is that we need to respond to God's work. If He is raising up front line warriors from our congregation, then we must stand with them in prayer. Are we going to send our young, our brightest, our best and not stand with them in the battle? You might find one person on that list and pray for them. Pray they go forward. Pray they will succeed far more than they ever thought. I fear we as a congregation will not stand with them. God is already planning to send some of our leaders such as Youth and Junior Youth fellowship leaders away for service. Who will take their places? Who will diligently pray for them.

Step #3 I acted because I prayed {Neh 1:11d-2:5}

God doesn't call everyone who prays with a caring heart, but it is very likely that those He does call will be from those that do pray and care about a certain people. So we should not be surprised to see that God was burdening Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the great King Artaxerxes, to step out in faith to accomplish what was on the heart of God. Even on the lips of his prayer, Nehemiah was making himself available to God.

Now don't think that this was easy to do. He was under intense pressure by his position. He was never to look sad before the king. This was plain court law, but he allowed this problem to sadden his face. Whoops! The king noticed, but instead of sentencing him with death, he gave Nehemiah an opportunity to share what was on his heart. Nehemiah knew he could have lost his position, or his life, but when God burdens a heart, he rightly learned to follow through and trust God for the consequences.

Yes, we might never get our old jobs back. Or we might lose some benefits. It might cost us trouble, but these things because of love interfere with the normal calculating power. You remember how God called Caleb and Esther. He had a comfortable job and house, but they cared about people. They ministered to them. And from that, they saw, they were willing to leave a good job, the degrees and serve God's people as a pastor.

Some might think it is dangerous to pray. Yes, it is. Maybe God will choose you out of the other concerned people. But, think again the reason God made you. Would it not be more ideal, more wonderful, more beautiful to find yourself to be a solution to someone with a need. For if we call ourselves Christians, but can't find ourselves to step beyond the concern for our own lives, then John rightly questions whether we are true Christians.

Any true prayer for some people has to include a statement, a willingness, to go to that place and be part of the solution. The question is are we so shaped in our heart that we are living for Jesus and others? Someone's life is more important than ours. God's plans for other lives are more important than ours.

Conclusion Do you have the heart of prayer?
Have you responded with real sincere Christian activities?
Are you willing to go? Are you going?

Prayer is the means by which the Lord of all brings His determined purposes to pass.

Book of Nehemiah Index: Rebuilding Your Faith

Nehemiah

REVIVAL AT THE WATER GATE

Nehemiah Overview and Notes | Nehemiah Outline | Also see notes on Ezra

Nehemiah Historical Introduction | Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Nehemiah 1:1-2:5 | Nehemiah 1:1-4 Love for God

Nehemiah 1:11-2.8 God's will | Nehemiah 2.9-20 Prepare

Prayer: Prayers that Changes the World 1:4-11 | Nehemiah 1:1-11 Prayer | Nehemiah 1:05-11 Prayer

Nehemiah 3:1-32 (1/2) Hope | Nehemiah 3:1-32 (2/2) Gates

Nehemiah 3 Jerusalem Map (pdf)

Nehemiah 4:1-6 Anger & Despair | Nehemiah 4:7-23 Anger & Fears

Nehemiah 4:7-23 Threats | Nehemiah 4:7-23 Overcoming Fear

Nehemiah 5:1-05 Loans | Nehemiah 5:1-19 Counts

Nehemiah 6:1-19 Rumors | Nehemiah 7:1-73 Restore

Nehemiah 8:1-12 Revival | Nehemiah 8:13-18 Obedience

Nehemiah 9:1-38| Strength & Direction in Life | Confess

Nehemiah 10-12 Covenant | Nehemiah 13:1-31 Restoration

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