a study of Nehemiah
by Terry Somerville
We begin by looking into the book of Nehemiah for clues to Godís ways of restoration.
The Jews were in captivity but a remnant had been allowed to live in Jerusalem. This is a picture of the western church. Nehemiah was a Jew who was cup bearer to King Artaxerxes. Beginning at chapter 1 we are looking for parallels to our situation and the Godly strategies of restoration Nehemiah used.
1. ASSESS THE SITUATION (the condition of Godís people)
vs 2..."I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped exile and concerning Jerusalem.."
vs 3 ..." great trouble and shame...walls broken down...gates destroyed by fire..."
Present Day Church
2. BROKEN HEARTED PRAYER
vs 4 "...I sat down and wept and mourned for days and I continued fasting and prayer..."
Nehemiah loved Godís people and Jerusalem, hence he was broken hearted when he heard of their condition.
Present Day Church
Is our heart broken over the present day condition of the Church? If not we need to pray that our hearts be broken and that we see the situation as God sees it.This cannot be faked, God must break us in our identification with Christ at the cross. We need to be filled with love for the body of Christ, only God can do this in us.
vs 6.7 "I and my Fatherís house have sinned...acted corruptly...have not kept your commandments."
Nehemiah included himself in repentance.
vs 8 " ...the word which thou didst command...if you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples..."
Nehemiah sees that their present condition is from God dealing with their sin!
The Church Today
We must see the churches present difficulties as God dealing with us because of sin.
WE must include ourself and repent for the corporate sin of the church. This may be called a remnant principle. God will act on behalf of a few who begin to do this!.
THE CRITICAL SPIRIT
Because we are part of the church and the whole church is in captivity we unwittingly participate in the sins of the whole church. The division and woundedness includes us. True brokenness and repentance cannot proceed from a critical spirit.
A critical spirit sees the sin in the body of Christ and
accuses and judges it. We then participate in the sin and the church continues in captivity. How can we genuinely be broken and repent?
a) FORGIVE - we must forgive all the others have done to us, we must forgive the church.
b) BLESS - we must bless those who abuse us.
c) BE BROKEN - as we look to the cross we must share His sufferings and yet steadfastly look to Him. We will be treated unjustly, be pierced to the heart, yet turn the other cheek and constantly "entrust ourselves to the faithful creator who judges righteously".(Is 53 ; 1 Peter 2:21)
This deep process of the heart life is necessary for us to
enter into intercession as Nehemiah did.
4. BELIEVE GOD"S PROMISES
vs 9 "if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them , though your dispersed be under the farthest skies, I will gather the thence..."
Nehemiah preyed for restoration on the basis of Godís promises and began to fulfill the necessary conditions.
The Church Today
Godís promises have not changed but apply today. A remnant can fulfill the conditions of promises such as 2 Chron 7:14. They can "Humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways..." God is working in our midst to push us to this by our circumstances.
REVIVAL STRATEDGY II - BREAKTHROUGH
BASED ON NEHEMIAH CH 2.
1. PERSERVERANCE - keep on knocking
CH.1:1 "in the month of Chislev ( Nov.) in the twentieth year...
CH2: "in the month of Nisan ( April) in the twentieth year..
"Now I had not been sad in his presence and the King said to me "why is your face sad"..."
Nehemiah began fasting and praying as recorded is chapter 1 in November. Chapter 2 opens six months later and Nehemiah is trying to control himself in the presence of the King. He was still crying out to God!
Perserverance in prayer is the crying need for us today. Old timers talk of "praying through". This means they persisted "knocking" until the door was answered. They contined with the burden until the answer came.
2. THE BREAKTHROUGH - Godís program begins
"give succes to thy servant today and grant him favor
in the eyes of this man" Neh. 1:11
"then the king said "for what do you make request?", so I
prayed to the God of heaven and said..." Neh.2:4
"and the King granted what I asked , for the good hand of my God was upon me.." vs 8
Nehemiah believed and prayed that God would use the King to open the way of restoration. Yet Nehemiah didnít dare set the agenda, and in fact feared for his life when he the king asked why he was sad. Finally God opened the door and brought the breakthrough.
We need to understand Godís ways. We may have Godís vision, but not His program. Many people lose the vision because they fail to wait for Godís timing and provisions.We must wait for the Lord!.
3. GOD'S PROVISION - Godís resources provided
"for what do you make request? ....send me to Judah ... that I may rebuild ..." Neh.2:4
"let letters be given me.." vs 7
When God brought the breakthrough provision was given according to all Nehemiah requested. Note that Nehemiah knew exactly what was needed:
a) He asked to be sent to rebuild. Ie: he goes under the kings command to carry out Godís purpose.
b) He asked for provisions from the kings wealth.
c) He asked for letters of authority.
God will release his provision for his work today.
Like Nehemiah three features will mark this provision.
a) Provision is always given in a "being sent" mode. A purpose comes from above us!
b) Specific planning and requests will bring specific provisions.
c) Authority will be given to carry out the plans.
a) The Vision - seeing Godís ultimate purpose visit our heart. b) The Program - wait for Godís timing and methods to be revealed.
REVIVAL STRATEDGY III
BASED ON NEHEMIAH 2:9-16
1. AUTHORITY GRANTED
We must also realize that we go forth as Christ did. He said ĎI do nothing on my own authority, but I do whatever the Father shows me " When we are in this position we possess the "kings letter" and the Kings army backs us up! We have the right to act!
Likewise, the bible declares the earth and its peoples are under spiritual governors, both angelic and demonic. All these authorities are set in place by God. Ex:
"There is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God." Rom 13:1
These rulers step aside because of the authority given us. They do so because they also serve the King (angels) or fear the army (devils).
2. OPPOSITION ARISES
As we begin to excercise the authority God gives us the
devil will oppose us. He will contrive may devious things.
3. NEHEMIAH PERSONALLY ASSESSES THE SITUATION
Now Nehemiah goes out to see for himself the task that lay
ahead. He is personally involved and doesnít simply take others word for it but personally checks it out before leading others into this work.
How important that we first personally assess the task before communicating it to others. For example, how foolish it would be to feed the "starving children in Turkey" when there are no starving children there! Lets be sure we are not on some spiritual wild goose chase!"
REVIVAL STATEDGY IV
Based On Nehemiah 2:17-20
NEHEMIAH SHARES THE VISION
vs 17 "Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in,
how Jerusalem lies in ruins with itís gates burned.Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer suffer disgrace."
Now that Nehemiah had personally seen the need he enlists Godís people and begins to lead them in the vision God had given him. He pointed out the need because they had grown indifferent to a situation they thought would never change. He shared the calling and grace of God that was with him to show them how God would change it. They said "let us rise and build".
We see basic principles in carrying out Godís vision:
a) There is a proper time to go public. Wait till then.
b) Reveal the need to the people, show them till indifference is eliminated.
c) Reveal Godís solution and provisions and grace.
e) Wait for the people to say "let us arise and build".
RESISTING THE ENEMY
Satan will oppose Godís work, both in our own mind and through others. Satan knows if we move ahead he has to relinquish what he possesses because Jesus broke Satanís authority at the cross and delivered it to the Father. Every vision from God will plunder Satans goods if it is carried out. Now we look at the basic schemes the enemy will use to stop us.
OPPOSITION AND VICTORY # 1
"They derided us and despised us and said "What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the King?" vs 19
To be "Derided and despised" means they laughed at and looked down on the vision that was now publically stated. Additionally they questioned Nehemiahs motives basically saying it was all for himself. They knew if Nehemiah went foreward with his plan their turf would be threatened and try to stop the plans before they begin.
A) THE ENEMY MOCKS THE VISION
B) THE ENEMY QUESTIONS OUR MOTIVES
"The God of heaven will make us prosper , and we His servants will arise and build; but you have no portion or right or memorial in Jerusalem." vs 20
Nehemia didnít defend himself. He said it is God, not us that will make the impossible happen. Then he says that as Godís servants we WILL build. Then he says that the enmies have no rights , they are not part of it at all.
"Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."
1.) GODíS WORK IS PROSPERED BY GOD
We must realize if we are doing Godís work he will supply the power to carry it out. Depend on it when you are belittled. If you
depend on your own strength then the calling really is in doubt!
2) DONíT DEFEND YOURSELF, GOD DEFENDS THOSE WHO SERVE HIM
3) PUT THE ENEMY IN HIS PLACE
REVIVAL STRATDEGY PART V
Based on Nehemiah ch 3,4
RESTORATION WORK BEGINS - THE GATES
IN Chapter three we find a lengthly description of the
restoration as it begins.
It is worth noting the emphasis put on the reconstruction. We note several features:
a) The work begins with the gates and doors. This restores some integrety and control to the path ways in and out of the city.
b) Most workers worked opposite their homes.
1. Restoration Begins With Leadership - personal & corporate
1.) Personal - we must have self control!
2.) Family - the leadership of fathers begins.
3.) Church - Godly, spirit directed leaders must take over. from the people and the ungodly
C h4 THE SECOND OPPOSITION ARISES
"...he was angry and greatly enraged, and he ridiculed the
Jews...in the presence of his brethren and of the army of Samaria... " Neh. 3:1,2
This opposition takes a new turn. We note that:
1.) The enemy is enraged when the work has actually begun.
2.) The ridicule now goes out to the public, and to those who are enemies. It is meant, once again, to discourage the desire to work. (see vs 6)
3.) It is done in front of those working.
We will also find that Satan is enraged when we actually
begin the work of restoration. He hates it. His ridicule will become public before those who disagree with us. Amazingly those people will repeat to us the same things Satans said to our minds when he first opposes us.
"Hear O God, for we are despised; turn back their taunt on their own heads, and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt and let not their sin be blotted from thy sight; for they have provoked Thee to anger before the builders." vs 4,5
Note Nehemiahís attitude:
a.) He did not dispute with them.
b.) He is aware of Godís attitude. Anger!
c.) On that basis he calls for a reversal, that the enemy may find themselves in the situation the Jews are one day, but without mercy! This is recorded in a manner that suggest it may have been a public statement he made before everyone.
Today we must be careful to guard our attitudes likewise. Nehemiahís prayer was based on his position and authority under God. He was aware of Godís response and acted in accord with it.
a.) We should not dispute the opposition.
b.) We find out Godís attitude to the opposition.
c.) We publically stand before God and call for the
opposition to be reversed.
REVIVAL STRATEGY VI
Based on Nehemiah 4:7-14
ATTACK OF CONFUSION
" they plotted together to come and fight and cause confusion in Jerusalem" Neh4:8
As the work was progressing the enemy became angry. It is significant that two things happened.
a) There were plots developed - the enemy now has strategy in mind
b) They were trying to cause confusion among Godís people.
"And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection
against them day and night." Neh. 4:9
We note that this was done before the actual problem started. They heard of the enemies plans and prepared with a guard to watch out for a sneak attack.
We need to be aware that our spiritual adversaries have strategies against us. Paul said we are not ignorant of his devices" concerning the devilís tricks. The devil looks for our weak spots and strikes there.
CONFUSION: this is essentially a COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWNS and a prime tactic of the enemy. He will cause us to misunderstand each other, and to misunderstand our leader by planting confusing thoughts and feelings in our minds. This "stirs up trouble" when ever we pay heed to it. This is why we are told "be humble with one another" and to "consider others better than ourself". This keeps us from believing the enemies confusion.
PRAYER: sets our minds on the objective once again, and brings God to the work revealing the truth to us.
SET A GUARD: At this point a single guard would be sufficient. This is one who is watching out for the flock and sounds the alarm if trouble arises. God appoints such people in the body of Christ in the five fold ministry (see Ephesians)
ATTACK OF FEAR
It appears that this guard was not enough. The enemy pressed on with the same tactic resulting in fear.
"the strength of the burden bearers is failing and there is much rubbish; we are not able to work on the wall." And our enemies said "They will not know or see till we come into the midst of them and kill them and stop the work." When the Jews who lived by them came they said to us ten times " From all the places
where they live they will come up against us." Neh. 4:10-12 Several things are happening here:
1.) Their strength is failing.
2.) Rubbish inhibits the work.
3.) The enemy threatens the Jews who live near them and boast they can sneak in beacuse of the rubbish and kill them. They are afraid
"Do not be afraid , remember the Lord who is great and
terrible and fight..."
" we all returned to the wall...
"half my servants worked on construction and half held spears
shields , bows and coats of mail ..."
"the leaders stood behind the wall..."
"those who carried burdens each with one hand labored on the work and with the other hand held his weapon"
"each of the builders had his sword at his side while he built"
"in the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet ralley to us there..."
"every man and his servant pass the night in Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and labor by day..."
"None of us took off our clothes, each kept his weapon in his hand."
Basically the response is to have no fear; work and be always prepared to fight; guard each other and ralley to each other.
THE CHURCH TODAY
How we need to learn from this today. We are often hidden in "rubble" and vulnerable to attack. His tactics today are the same.
1.) To create enough rubble to exhaust us and get us to stop Godís work.
2.) To isolate us in rubble. Causing independence.
3.) To make us fear by whispering his plans into our minds. This causes us to run.
4.) To make us suspicious of other Christians and accuse the leadership of leading us into a dangerous place. This causes rebellion.
THIS WARFARE IS PRIMARILY IN THE MIND OF BELIEVERS
Let us beware of the independent attitude that prevents us from guarding one another and responding to leadership. Rather each of us must stand and fight the enemy.The new testament is filled with instructions for us to take the same stand as Nehemiah and the Jews did.
"Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxierties on him, for he cares for you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him,..." (1 Peter 5:6-9)
"Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the tricks of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11)
" God has not given us a spirit of fear.." 2 Timothy 1:7
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others" Phillipians 2:4
"Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong" 1 Cor 16:13
"Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account." Hebrews 13:17
REVIVAL STRATEGY VII
Based On Nehemiah Chapter 5
INTERNAL STRIFE THREATENS THE WORK
"Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brethren...let us get grain that we may eat...we are mortgaging our fields...we are forcing our sons and daughters to be slaves." Nehemiah 5:1-5
Here we see the threat to the work is from within rather than the enemies without. There was a famine in the land and this forced the poorer Jews to borrow from the wealthier Jews. When they could not pay they had to give up their fields, the source of their income. This ultimately led to giving their sons and daughters as slaves. We note several things:
1. The difficult circumstance was created because these Jews were willing to work on the wall at personal expense in hard times.
2. Others took advantage of the situation for personal gain.
3. They did have mercy or compassion but applied the letter of the law to their brethren. "Iíve got the right.."
I brought charges against these nobles and officials...I held a great assembly against them...I said "Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God?" ...Leave off this interest...Return to them this day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards and their houses, and the hundredth of money the grain , wine and oil you have been exacting of them... I took an oath..."Nehemiah 5:6-13
Here Nehemiah takes strong action and rebukes them before the assembly. He demands restitution and an oath before the Lord. Furthermore he sets the example in his own conduct by laying no burden on the people as former governors did, but he constantly gives what he had available.
TODAY IN THE CHURCH
There is a modern Christian parallel that goes beyond aiding one another financially. It has to do with our attitudes towards one another and having mercy on one another in difficult circumstances.
1. Like the Jews we are working to restore the "city", the fulness of Gods work today. It is not easy, requires us to pay a price, and many come in impoverished, marred by the world and sin.
2. It is easy for others to take advantage of those in need and make gain in pride and place among the brethren. This happens as fingers are pointed in accusation and legalism without mercy.
3. Many people in church "enslave " their brethren with legalism and judgements making unscriptural requirements or holding fellow christian in contempt.
RESTORATION IN THE CHURCH
We have instructions on Christian behavior that is similar to Nehemiahís commands.
1. " Owe no man anything except to love one another" Rom.13:8
2. " Clothe yourself with humility towards one another" 1 Peter 5:4
3. Beware of taking offence
4. "Prefer one another" Rom.12:10
5. "Admit no accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses." 1 Timothy 5:19"
6. "Forgive one another" MATT.6:14
7. Leaders - rebuke, exhort, instruct 2 Timothy 4:2
8. "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all so that the rest may stand in fear." 1 Timothy 5:20
9. Obey your leaders and submit to them. Heb.13:17
10. If you think you stand, take heed lest you fall. 1 Cor 10:12
REVIVAL STRATEGY VIII
Based on Nehemiah ch. 6
"Come and let us meet together...but they intended to do me harm... they
sent an open letter saying "It is reported among the nations... that you are planning to rebel... you wish to become their king... you have set up prophets to proclaim concerning you" Neh 6:2,6,7
THE OPPOSITION OF SLANDER
Nehemiah is now opposed personally. Note the tactics:
a.) Distraction "Come and talk, we need to sort things out. 4 X b.) Slander - an "open letter" spreading the news "It is said..."
c.) Accusation about his motives being selfish -" rebel and become King"
d.) Accusation of religious manipulation - "you set up prophets"
e.) Threats "now this will be reported to king"
"I sent to them saying "No such things as you say have been done, for you
are inventing them out of your own mind." For they all wanted to frighten us." vs 8,9
THE CHURCH TODAY
As Godís moves forward today it will come under attack and the leaders will be accused of selfishness and other wrong motives. This most frequently will come from Christians, and God help the church that has elders doing this. The features of this attack are the same for us as Nehemiah:
1.) Continual demands of "we need to talk" -
2.) Accusations which cannot be proven - ie : feelings, motives
3.) Spreading the "talk" in open, or talking behind leaders back, rather than scriptural approach.
4.) Anonymous complainers "It is said" becomes an issue, without anyone knowing who said it.
5.) Accusations and lies without witnesses backing it up. (eg: the prophets Nehemiah had "set up")
6.) Threats behind demands for action. Just the use of a threat indicates the
true nature of those making the accusation.
THE THREAT OF FALSE PROPHETS
"Let us meet together in the house of God within the temple... let us close the doors for they are coming to kill you... "Neh. 6:10
Nehemiah is now confronted with several false prophets hired by Sanballat to bring a "word from the Lord". This word would make him fear, and sin by going into the holy place within the temple.
"I understood and saw that God had not sent him but he had pronounced the
prophecy against me because Sanballat and Tobiah had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid , and act in this way and sin..." vs 12
The church is full of religious spirits! Well meaning people will give
"words from the Lord" that are not true, or we may hear them from a spirit ourself.Any word from the Lord is suspect if:
a). It directs us to something sinful, no matter how religious it appears. Beware of thinking "God said it to me so it must be OK"
b.) It appeals to something in our flesh for itís motivation. Eg: fear, lust, selfishness.
c.) It takes us off a track we know God has set us on.
We need to discern the truth, both by understanding and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"So the wall was finished on the twenty day of the month... in fifty two days."
Let us get our eyes on Jesus and press forward in the work God is telling us to do. Restoration and revival come at a price with great spiritual opposition. But as we obey and fix our eyes on the goal Godís purposes will be fulfilled.