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The key to Nehemiah is the place prayer took in the steps of restoration. Prayer is honest talk with God depicting the prophet's dependence upon God. Sometimes it was for wisdom, sometimes for deliverance. But it was always God that Nehemiah, God's faithful servant, turned toward.
"You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach." (Nehemiah 2:17).
REBUILDING OUR FAITH
An Outline of Nehemiah
Nehemiah has two natural divisions. One focuses on the actual building of the Jerusalem walls while the later describes the shaping of the hearts of God's people there.
A. Devotion to God's Mission (1-6)
1. Seeing the Need (1)
a)Completion Gained by Unity (3)
Chapters 1-6 focus on God's work through Nehemiah and the people to rebuild Jerusalem walls. Enemies attacked the people at their many vulnerable places to hinder them from their work. Hopelessness, anger, doubts, intimidation and fears were all targeted to hold this people back.
Nehemiah as a type of Christ led the people forward into completion of their task of building the kingdom of God.
B. Dedication to Spiritual Renewal (7-12)
1. Steps to Restoration (7-9)
Chapters 7-13 focus on the work of God in the hearts of the people. Attention was given to proper leadership, purity of the people, commitment to God and His Word and Nehemiah's cry for help.
Nehemiah bravely led the people into a deeper walk with God and built a community around Him.
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Rebuilding Your Faith (ROF)
Provides an overview of the Book of Nehemiah with special focus on the “remember me” prayer clauses and helps develop Nehemiah’s overall theme of desperate need of God’s help to bring and sustain revival.
A historical introduction shows where Nehemiah fits into time and history especially with respect to Ezra and the Book of Ezra.
The Message of The Book of Nehemiah: Rebuilding Our Faith provides a solid understanding of the message and person of Nehemiah. He went through a personal crisis, trying his faith and yet proving in the end to be a great example of how God mightily works through one humble and willing prayerful godly man.
Nehemiah proves to be a great example of how God through a person’s humble prayers can change God’s ways. We will find it wasn’t because Nehemiah was rich but because Nehemiah had compassion on God’s people as He Himself did. In this study we will find four actions that Nehemiah took to bring about a great blessing upon the people of God that will challenge us on how God can use our prayers to bring revival.
We can look on what needs to be done in two ways: Work that would be nice to be done and work that must be done. On the one hand we can be content to sit back and think that things are as good as they can be or as undone work which calls us to heightened attention to further accomplish those things that must be done. I’d like us to look at the person of Nehemiah and challenge you with three proper responses required to fulfill God’s yet unfulfilled holy work.
How did God rebuild the city of Jerusalem from one man in a distant and remote nation? Nehemiah did not believe the organization of the community could exist unless the soul of the people was revived. Through Nehemiah we can learn know how to take the promise of God and wave it high in desperate hope. In other words, we are looking at reclaiming the land, rebuilding our faith, and regrouping the lost. We are laying the important pillars of the foundation by restoring God’s vision to the people. Both Nehemiah’s prepared heart as well as his responsive heart will be carefully observed.
This is the first of many prayers in the book of Nehemiah. One might wonder why there are so many prayers written in a book, but they do have their purpose. They let us sense the agony of a man and the burden of his heart. They also provide the evidence that there is a God who does hear prayer. Let’s focus on five important emphases that should often be part of our prayers.
Each of us should know and desire God’s will to be done. The believing man and woman of God must say that I am willing to be part of what you lay on my heart to pray. It is a scary task. It is not a light one, but it is a very needed task. Prayer is dynamic in that you are making God’s will to be done on earth. Prayer is active even though the body is still. Honest prayer demands the person praying to be wiling to be part of the means God is going to use to accomplish this matter. And this is just where we find Nehemiah. Let’s then look at four characteristics that the person of God needs to see God’s will done.
We might think that everything depended upon Nehemiah, but through his many prayers we should realize it was God working through him. The people were demoralized, broken and oppressed. Nehemiah was a key man that God used in rebuilding these people. If we think the wall was the main task, you will quickly learn differently. The whole society needed rebuilding and therefore the hearts of the people needed to be changed. How often we make laws without fitting the people for these laws? We will first examine how Nehemiah got involved in this work through a bit of review and then secondly pay special detail to the things he did once Nehemiah got to Jerusalem. Have you given up on yourself? You are not quite sure know where you fit in? Just hang in there for God has His plans for you.
The reconstruction of Jerusalem centers around the rebuilding of the city gates. Well constructed gates are key to the security of any ancient city. Without effective gates even a great wall is not of much use. The most convenient and accurate way of describing what was being done would be by referring to the work around those gates. Let’s look at the work being done about the ten mentioned gates and note how inspiration and hope played such an important place in the rebuilding process.
Two waves of attack came against Nehemiah, the Jews and the rebuilding of the wall mentioned in chapter 4. These formidable attacks are easily identifiable. In the first verse of each section, verses 1 and 7, the use the word ‘angry’ becomes key. The descriptive phrase, “very angry”, describes the hearts in which these influential men, first mentioned in chapter 2, purposed to foil the Jews. Let us take a look at the first wave of anger and how Nehemiah and the Jews rightly responded to it.
The attack worsened as the enemies attached lethal-sounding threats to their vicious anger. These bullies “conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.” They wanted to destroy the work so that they could continue their unjust control over the people. We will study this fight in two ways: the threats and the reason for the threats. In a latter message we will focus on the means to overcome such threats.
In past messages I have touched upon a reason why fear is used. It is a great intimidator especially if you have people under your power already. I here want to further explore how anger can so easily turn people from doing God’s will. We must admit the enemy did find ways to poke into the hearts of the people and at first discourage and later create fear. In both cases, the people began to give up. In 4:4-5 Nehemiah cried out, “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! ... ... for they have demoralized the builders.” In 4:10 it reads, “Thus in Judah it was said, ‘The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish; And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall.’”
How is it that the enemy was so successful? I sense we must explore these issues a bit further because of two reasons. We need to learn the evil one’s tactics so that we will not fall to them. The evil one no doubt uses such tactics to keep us from doing what God wants. Secondly, we must study these tactics so that we can overcome the evil one where we now might find ourselves defeated. Let’s now discuss why these threats work are so effective.
Nehemiah 4:10 reads, “Thus in Judah it was said, ‘The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish; And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall.’” God is so gracious. He knows of their fears. He knows about their distress. Don’t ever think that God doesn’t care or is not able to help. Nehemiah’s presence and faith is a gift of grace to bring the people out of their fears to serve Him alone. And God did use Nehemiah’s strong and humble leadership to lead the people out of their despair and fears. Nehemiah intercepted with prayer and penetrating truth statements which kept them working on the wall at first to half its height and then to begin building on top of that to complete it. Now let us turn and examine verses 7 to 23 and examine five ways Nehemiah had led the people from out of their fear.
Let’s analyze the three different states of poverty. The first group are those that take personal loans. The second group, mentioned in verse 3, mortgage their large holdings or possessions. The third group has been so engrossed into borrowing that now they only have their children left.
In chapter 5, we find that Nehemiah was regularly and persistently asking the important question, “What have I done that counts?” He was not content to let the evil one knock his brothers down. He was not content to give up the battle of the Lord. You see there was something different that was driving Nehemiah just as it drove Jesus. He had compassion. His compassion led him to action, and his action was followed up by consistent management. Let’s look closer at this important pattern to building the kingdom of God.
Some rumors are instigated only by petty jealousies against an individual. Some are are more insidious as they target the leaders of God’s work. We will look carefully into Nehemiah 6:1-19 to find the hardships that rumors can bring. Now is the time for the church to be aware of the evil one’s schemes and to protect that which is good, great and beautiful. We sometime need to slug through the low lying mudflats to reach the high ground. Nehemiah plowed through the mess. It was hard on him. But he maintained his vision. He persisted trusting in the strength of the Lord. Let us look at seven observations on rumors and solutions to the challenges brought.
Nehemiah 7 paints a wonderful picture of restoration or rejuvenation. Webster’s dictionary defines rejuvenation as “to restore to youthful vigor, appearance, etc.; make young again; to restore to a former state; make fresh or new again.” There seem to be at least three aspects to rejuvenation each being crucial to the maintenance of the true restoration: the structure, the insides or organism and the support for the organism. If we used a person as an example, we would say there is the body, the life or soul and the provision to keep that life alive. They depend upon each other. At some point in the past, this wonderful house had one or more problems that resulted in the decay of the whole. Let’s now discuss these three aspects found in chapter 7 of Nehemiah.
In chapter 8, God’s people again gathered together. Nehemiah did not gather the people this time. God gathered them. Zephaniah 3:20 reads, “At that time I will bring you in, even at the time when I gather you together; Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes," Says the LORD.” Let us review what happened on that great day of revival still spoken of today even during times the people faced spiritual dullness. Let’s especially note the three signs of a great movement of God upon a people of God.
It is not the knowing of the law that makes the real difference in one’s life but the doing of it. One does not believe until he carries it out. Not really. No doubt the Israelites thought a simple knowledge of God and what He wanted was okay until the revival broke out at the Water Gate. Something woke up inside them. No one could explain it. It was as if the light was turned on in the dark room. They all of a sudden believed God’s Word. So in Nehemiah 8:13 the leaders needed to get back and clarify what was happening. Let’s analyze the pattern seen here: Learning -> Obeying -> Learning More.
We need first to honestly look at our present worship for what it is. Secondly, we need to go to the past and see what creates true worship. Thirdly, we need to see the steps into developing this worship in our own lives.
Let us not despise outward reform if it starts from the heart. Let’s look at four significant changes they made a huge difference in the community of God’s people. Let us not just ask for the Spirit of God to move but to move in such a way that our lives begin swaying in harmony with the will of God.
Four times the phrase ‘remember me” are used in this chapter. Each time the words capture the difficult and unpleasant time it was for Nehemiah to be placed under such intense pressure. Each “remember me” prayer brought him again before God to beg for His divine grace into an otherwise very unpleasant task. Join with me in looking at these four shaping events as positive ones where God was encouraging the people to choose the best rather than tolerating the worst. We will naturally resist adopting this perspective, but it is necessary for us to do so like Nehemiah.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988