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Tag: Nehemiah

The Promise of Restoration

Today we begin a new series of messages from the Book of Nehemiah. I’m guessing that most of you wouldn’t list Nehemiah in your top five favourite books of the Bible, and in fact, it’s quite possible that some of you who couldn’t even tell me who in the world Nehemiah was. So it’s probably a good idea before we start, to briefly have a look at the history and background of Nehemiah. And there is a lot of history to this story – Nehemiah is one of the last stories recorded in the Old Testament – so basically the entire Old Testament is the history and background to Nehemiah. Now I won’t take you through the entire Old Testament, but we really need to go way back and have at least a basic understanding of the history of the nation of Israel.

So I want to start today about 1000 years before the actual story that we’re going to look at. Basically we want to start with the formation of the nation of Israel. As most of you know Jospeh brought his family of about 70 to Egypt to escape a famine – you can read about that in Genesis 46. Well, this visit to Egypt turned into a 400 year stay – and during that time, they grew from a family of 70 to a family of about a million. These people would be the founding fathers of the nation of Israel.

So we’re going to pick it up just after God freed them from slavery in Egypt and led them out towards the Promised Land. Now when God did this, he made a covenant (or an agreement) with them. This was the deal – if they were to obey the terms of the covenant – which include all the instructions you find in Exodus and Leviticus – basically summarized by the ten commandments – but if they were to obey God in all these things, God promised to bless them like crazy!

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The Unexpected Source of Joy

We’ve been preaching through the season of Advent – remembering the first (and looking forward to the second) coming of Jesus. These Advent candles remind us of the many gifts we have (and the gifts we look forward to) because of Jesus’ coming.  We started two weeks ago with God’s gift of hope – last week was a reminder of the gift of peace – and this week, of course, we want to look at God’s gift of joy.

This gift of joy is made possible only because of Jesus’ arrival into the world as a little baby. We read at our Christmas Celebration on Friday in Luke chapter 2 of how, on the night of Jesus’ birth, angels appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem and announced to them this good news that would bring great joy to all people. Let me read for you in Luke 2 – starting at verse 8.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12

This little baby boy, born in the Bethlehem some 2000 years ago would be the source of joy to the world – even for us here in Penhold in 2017.

And I know this probably isn’t necessarily ‘new’ news for you this morning. Chances are, you many of you have heard this good news before. Especially if you’ve been here for the past two weeks.

One of the concerns that I had when we decided to do these Advent messages was that hope, peace, and joy are so intertwined with each other that I feared I’d be preaching the same message every week – just using a different word.

  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us hope because our sins are forgiven and he has promised to return and make all things right.
  • I could talk about how Jesus gives us peace because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.
  • And I could talk about how Jesus gives us joy because our sins are forgiven and He has promised to return and make all things right.

And of course, that would all be very true! Christmas really is a ‘buy one, get two free’ kind of a deal. Hope, peace, and joy are all part of the same package. They are all made possible by Jesus coming to earth, being born as a baby in a manger – living and then dying on the cross and being raised back to life again.

But even though they are all so closely related, I do want to talk a little bit today specifically about joy. As I was studying up on the topic of joy this week – I found that even defining ‘joy’ could be a little tricky. There was no one clear definition of joy.

  • Some would say that joy is another word for happiness. Others would say that joy is certainly not the same thing as happiness.
  • Some would say that joy is a feeling or an emotion. Others would say, no. No it’s not.
  • Some would say we can choose to be joyful – that is it an act of our will – but others see joyfulness a natural by-product of something else.

There are lots of different ways to define joy – I think there can be good arguments made for all of those different ways.

So how do we understand joy? What exactly did the angels mean when they said that this good news would bring great joy to all people? How does this good news help you and I experience joy today?

Regardless of how we define it, joy sure sounds like a good thing – so how do we get it? I guess that’s really our bottom line – how do we experience joy in our lives today?

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Lessons On God’s Work

Well, this is our final week of looking at Nehemiah. We’ve seen how God led Nehemiah to return to Judah from exile to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We’ve also seen how Nehemiah faced great opposition, but persevered in spite of it. Now today we are going to look at just two verses to wrap it all up. But I should mention that this isn’t the end of the story of Nehemiah. In fact, we’re not even half-way through. There is lots more to the story and many more things that can be learned, so I would encourage you to read through the rest of Nehemiah.

But for today, we are going to look at two verse in chapter 6, verse 15 & 16:
So on October 2nd the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.

From these two verses we can draw four principles that we can learn about God’s work.

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Satan’s Tactics: Discouragement, Distractions, & Down-Right Sin

This is our fourth week of looking at Nehemiah and how he led the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls after 70 years of exile. It’s been very interesting (for me anyway) to read through this story and discover what principles we can apply to our situation here.

And I’m very excited to share with you the next part of the story. It’s my favorite part and I think the lessons that we learn from it are very applicable to everyone here. So let’s jump right into it.

Nehemiah 4:1-3
Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”

3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”

God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the wall, God moved the king as to allow Nehemiah to go back to Jerusalem, and God put everything into place so that the walls of Jerusalem can be rebuilt for the His glory. So what does Satan do? He tries to stop it. Doesn’t Satan work the same way today? When God is doing something, Satan tries to get in the way. And he uses the same tactics back then as he does today too. So we are going to look at three of Satan’s tactics to stop God’s work. The first tactic he employs is discouragement.

Table of contents for Nehemiah

  1. Weeping for the Lost
  2. Principles of Preparation
  3. The Work Begins
  4. Satan’s Tactics: Discouragement, Distractions, & Down-Right Sin
  5. Lessons On God’s Work
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The Work Begins

For the past two weeks, we’ve been looking a Nehemiah. Just to recap, Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia around 500 BC. He was a Jew who had been living in exile probably all of his life. Other Jews had earlier been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but rest of the city was in ruins. When Nehemiah heard about this, God laid it on his heart to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. He asked the king for permission to go, and through the sovereignty of God, he was allowed.

As we’ve been talking about Nehemiah wanting to build the walls of Jerusalem, we’ve been applying those principles to us wanting to build the church.

Now Nehemiah is in Jerusalem, so let’s read what happens.
Nehemiah 2:11-16
11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.

Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, takes three days to rest from his long journey, and then goes out at night with a handful of people to inspect the walls.

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Principles of Preparation

When we left Nehemiah last Sunday – he was weeping and mourning and fasting and praying to God because he heard about the terrible state of his countrymen back in Jerusalem. After many years of exile, some of the Jews had returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, but the city was in ruins, the walls had been torn down and the gates had been burned.

We also talked about our countrymen, right here in our community, living in the ruins so to speak – living lives apart from God. And I trust that God has, and will continue to fill your heart with compassion and concern for the lost in our community, because until we feel the same way God does about our friends and neighbors, (that is with great love and compassion) things aren’t going to change for them. They’re going to stay living in the ruins.

But today as we continue to look at the life of Nehemiah, we’re going to see how he begins to take action. And through that, hopefully we can learn a few principles for us to follow in reaching our community for Christ.

Nehemiah 1:5-11 & 2:1-9

The first thing I want you to notice is the time of year. If you remember from last week, it was late autumn when Nehemiah got the report about the broken walls, but when is it when he talks to the king about going back to Jerusalem? Early spring. What did he do all winter?

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