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?
Let’s back up to verse 4 of chapter 1.
“for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”
How long do you suppose “for days” is? Not 4 days, for days! The prayer in chapter one is certainly not the only prayer that Nehemiah prayed. It’s merely a sampling. Nehemiah spend the winter praying to God, confessing his sins and the sins of his family, seeking God’s guidance and direction, and asking God to go before him when he would talk to the king.
This is a key principle, not only in rebuilding city walls or reaching our community for Christ, but in just living the Christian life.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “Pray continually.”
You might remember when we were studying the church we read Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”.
Did you notice in chapter 2, verse 4 when the king asked him what he wanted, it says “With a prayer to the God in heaven, I replied…”?
He prayed. Right there in front of the king. He may not have got on his knees and folded his hands and recited a long prayer, but he prayed. Probably something like … “Help me God”. Nehemiah was devoted to prayer. I’m sure he spend time talking with God every day. Before he took on a great project like rebuilding the wall, he spent the winter in prayer about it.
And that’s exactly what we need to do as well. We need to pray. Not just when we are planing to build a new church. Not just when we are planing to reach out to our community. But every day. It should be part of our lives.
Our prayers don’t have to be eloquent and beautiful. In fact, Jesus said that God doesn’t much care for eloquence.
5″And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Just simply talk to him. The real you talking to the real God. That’s the kind of prayers that God likes.
So here’s Nehemiah, a man who “prays continually” and has prayed specifically for what God has laid on his heart for the past four months, standing in front of the king. The king asks him, “What can I do for you?” One more prayer goes out and Nehemiah responds in verse 5 of chapter 2.
I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
There are two words I want you to notice in that verse. Any guesses which two they are? “SEND ME”
Did Nehemiah want the king to send someone else to rebuild the walls? Someone who was more qualified? Someone who had more education? Someone who was younger? Someone who was older? Someone who had more free time?
No! He said “Send me! God’s put this on my heart. Send me to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls!”
This sounds a lot like another person from the Bible you’re probably familiar with.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
And then there is the other end of the spectrum.
Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”
Which one of those sounds like you? When God puts something on your heart, and asks you to do something, how do you respond? Send me or please send someone else?
As members of the body of Christ, God has given each one of us certain gifts and abilities and he’s also given each of us a unique job to do. In fact, throughout our lives, God will give us many jobs. For some of us, one of those jobs might be to serve in India for 40 years. For some, a job might be to clean the church bathrooms. For some a job might be to invite your neighbor over for supper. For some, it might be to share the Gospel with your fishing buddy. For some, one job may be to run the powerpoint or read the morning’s Scripture.
What job does God have for you this week? Or more importantly, how will you respond when He asks you? Will it be… Send me to India… Send me to the church bathrooms… Send me to the kitchen… Send me behind the pulpit…
Or do we say, “Lord, please send someone else.”
Nehemiah said “Send me to Jerusalem!”
Well, the king agreed to Nehemiah’s request to send Him to Jerusalem. So Nehemiah had a second request.
7 I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. 8 And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.
9 When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me.
Why did the king grant Nehemiah these requests? Because he had been such a loyal cup bearer over the years? Because he relentlessly petitioned the king?
“And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.”
Why did the king grant all of Nehemiah’s requests? Because of God. If this wasn’t God’s doing, would Nehemiah have ever been allowed to go to Jerusalem? No way – it was all because of God.
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.
Is God sovereign? Absolutely. If he wants something to happen, can anyone or anything stop Him? No way.
Psalm 115:3 says “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”
God wanted Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, so God makes it happen. God has absolute control over every event and every person, including kings, presidents, and prime ministers.
I think about our own building project. If God wants us to build a new facility, who or what is going to stop him? Will a lack of funds? Will a lack of workers? Will permits and red tape?
Romans 8:31 says “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
There is nothing in this world that is outside the sovereign control of our God.
It kinda makes it hard to worry about things then, doesn’t it? If God is in control, won’t he provide my needs? Provide a roof over my head? Keep me through times of hardships or even recession?
And going back to what we talked about earlier, won’t He help me do the job that He’s asked me to do? Absolutely. It doesn’t matter how difficult it seems or how unqualified we feel or what obstacles stand in our way – God is sovereign. There is no problem too big or too complicated for Him to handle with ease.
And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so great to be a child of God. We are in such a privileged position to have a Heavenly Father who loves us more than we can imagine and has all the power and authority in the world to take care of us. What a joy to be a child of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!
I don’t know what this next week holds for you and there are probably some things that you don’t even know about yet either. But you can be assured that nothing will happen this week that is outside of the sovereign control of your Heavenly Father.