Nehemiah - Becoming Concerned for the Things of God
by Mike Marette
Closing Song: Your Love is Amazing
Everyone bow your head and close your eyes – what is the main concern in your life right now? A family member, health situation, job? Think through that – as we go through God’s word, to talk about concerns and that God is concerned about those things we are concerned about.
Lord, thank You that You love us – because of Your love we have gathered together and know with confidence that You will take care of us – so much weighs on our minds – careers, homes, marriages, friends, our nation. Thank You that You know about it and You are not going to leave us in that situation alone but You are going to act – You already have in that circumstance.
We are going through a series – How God Works in Our Lives – the way He worked in the Old Testament – He still works today – Circumstances are different, but at least the principles are the same and true.
We are going to look at Nehemiah.
586 BC – Jerusalem fell to Babylon.
538 BC – Cyrus issued decree – Israel could return and rebuild their temple – about 42000 Jews returned to Israel.
515 BC – the Temple was finished (Time of Haggai and Zechariah)
457 BC – Ezra returned – Nehemiah returned about a decade later.
Nehemiah 1:1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, [in] the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol,
Susa – part of Iran – a good distance from Israel
2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped [and] had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was concerned about something – you can see what was on his heart – the people of God and the City of God. What I have discovered – how we can fulfill God’s purpose and calling – how He has done it through others and can do it through us. At some point in our lives, God needs to move – to the point where God’s people, God’s work, God’s mission needs to become a primary concern of our lives. Not just concerned about our own situation, success and happiness – beyond that – being concerned about others – and the mission that God has called us to. This is a milestone in every believer’s life.
We took Tony to campus on Thursday – I did nine years of fulltime ministry at OSU – and - Back when I was on campus – I was responsible for the North Dorms – and it was like déjà vu. Moving him in - there was this excitement, it is so unique. Most students are coming in today – and for Tony – excitement about getting out of the house. But there is something about living on campus! For the parents, they would prefer that you commute. Living on campus though – it is OSU, and there is football – there is a difference for Commuters and Residents. You don’t have a car and need to get involved. But most of us, as Christians, are commuters. We show up and leave and aren’t engaged with the things God is concerned about. I challenge us today to move from being a commuter to being on campus as it concerns your relationship with God.
Jesus met with the disciples for breakfast a few days before He ascended.
Peter, do you love me?
You know that I love You.
Feed my sheep – tend for my people. If you love God it is seen in your love for God. Who are the people in God’s family that we are concerned about – that you are involved and connecting with?
We had a party here yesterday – a corn roast – Doug did a great job. When I am at these things – I am a nervous wreck. I look out – and watching what is going on – and if I see someone not connecting… - and if someone is talking to me, I get distracted, - there is this concern. In the same way, your concern for God’s people, what level is it at?
Nehemiah - How are they? He was desperately concerned to know how things are going.
3 They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.
Things were not going well. There had been wars since 538 – The stock market and everything else was crashing in Jerusalem – The news was bad.
Nehemiah gets an honest assessment. He is able to see the reality of the circumstance.
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
God takes this concern – for His people and His work, and turns it into a burden for Nehemiah that begins to consume Him. - 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
We have a defining moment for Nehemiah.
2 Cor. 11: 28 Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure upon me [of] concern for all the churches
Before that, he was talking about the shipwrecks and beatings and all that he had been through, and beyond that…28 Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure upon me [of] concern for all the churches
29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
He has this burden, this passion, that consumes him for the people and mission of God.
Nehemiah has the same thing – this defining moment.
Sometimes defining moments are these mountaintop experiences – like a conference, but usually defining moments come when everything goes south. Oftentimes defining moments are forced upon us – by outward circumstances. I talked a month ago about our church 12 years ago – a defining moment. We had some days of fasting and God did a great thing. I didn’t tell you this, I don’t like to talk about this – the church consultant told me I would never be a great preacher or pastor. I have been a pastor for a number of years – I chose for that to be a defining moment in my life. I determined in my life at that time that I would always grow and get better – to the best of my ability. This is not a boast, because I still have a lot of improvement to do – but once a week or more, I think, How can I get better at what I do? I am always searching for ways to grow as a Christian.
Your growth time is not done. For Nehemiah, it has just begun. When the bad news comes in – we think it is done – the end. But it is really oftentimes a new beginning that God wants in your life. What is key is saying, WAIT A MINUTE – I am not going to let this define me, but I will let this be a defining moment. We need to take that, and determine – Have an honest evaluation of it. Where are the needs? You can’t change them all at once – but you can always be working on the weaknesses in you. “I am a sinner and I have problems, but God loves me and forgives me” – “Now I’ll work on this one!” You can see God’s progress in you. Paul told Timothy – Let your progress be made known to all. Make progress so that all may see that you are growing and changing.
Nehemiah takes the burden and turns it to God.
Have you ever gotten a bill – like insurance that is not paid properly – and you get it Friday at 5:30 and you can’t do anything about it all weekend? I want to take care of it immediately! But what happens with Nehemiah – instead of solving or fixing the situation – He realizes he can’t – so he turns to God. Only God could fix the circumstance.
Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King. He had to taste anything that might have been poisoned! It was more than that – He was administrative assistant to the king and had the king’s confidence and was in charge of his household. He had responsibility that we couldn’t imagine. But what he was concerned about was far away and there was nothing he could do about it – so he had to go to God. The opportunity was there, because he was close to the king – but with opportunity came risk. If he approached the king and he was not happy about it, it would cost him his life. Without God working – Nehemiah has no way of meeting the needs. He turns to God in prayer – and there are three things that will help us with our concerns.
This was over a couple of months of prayer before he ever opened his mouth to the king.
5 And I said, "I beseech Thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
The first thing he does is confesses who God is – the Great and awesome God. He first wants to remember and confess that He is talking to someone who is in complete control who can fix and change this. The great and awesome God.
Ps. 138: 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth. 5 Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great [is] the glory of the LORD.
All that is going on in the world – all the financial turmoil – whatever anyone will bring up to try to ruin me… there is no one who will not bow before the great and awesome God who is on my side.
6 For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly; But the haughty He knows from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me; Thou wilt stretch forth Thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Thy right hand will save me. 8 The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Thy loving-kindness, O Lord, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Thy hands.
This same God is concerned about the things that we are concerned about. He is able and willing because He loves us.
6 let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open to hear the prayer of Thy servant which I am praying before Thee now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Thy servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against Thee; I and my father's house have sinned. 7 "We have acted very corruptly against Thee and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses.
First – He confesses WHO God is
Second – He confesses his sins and the sins of the people. We don’t do this as often as we should – we don’t want to feel bad – we don’t want to acknowledge our faults. He is not wallowing in guilt, but acknowledging how he has fallen short. It is a sign of confidence to be able to confess to God where we have blown it. We are confessing because God forgives.
God takes this concern and turns it into a burden.
Third – He confesses God’s faithfulness.
8 "Remember the word which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; 9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.' 10 "And they are Thy servants and Thy people whom Thou didst redeem by Thy great power and by Thy strong hand.
He goes through this simple progression – he first
Remembers who God is and that He is concerned and can accomplish what concerns us.
Then he does an honest evaluation and how he has fallen short – and then comes back to the promises of God and His faithfulness
God will remain faithful to us – even when we are unfaithful.
11 "O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant and the prayer of Thy servants who delight to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man."
After the concern becomes a burden, he turns to God in prayer and THEN he takes action. And his action would not be successful had he not spent the months turning back to God and putting his concerns back into the hands of God.
Lord, you will accomplish what concerns us. The things from the beginning that weighed on our minds – we acknowledge those to you – but You are the great and awesome God and you forgive us of our sin and wrongdoing – you will remain faithful when we are faithless and You will remain true to Your promise – In Your name, amen.