Lessons from Nehemiah
14th January 2018
Allen Schnell 14 January 2018
Firstly, a little bit of background to our message today.
Nehemiah was in exile in Babylon. He was cupbearer to the King, which meant he chose the wine and tasted it before the King drank it to ensure it was not poisoned. In other words, he had a trusted and respected position in the house of the King.
His brother returns from Judea, and when Nehemiah asks about his old home, he is told it is in a mess. The walls are broken down, the gates have been burnt. When he hears this, he is shocked as he remembered Jerusalem in all its splendour.
What does Nehemiah do when he hears this news? He doesn’t say ”This doesn’t affect me“ or ”There’s nothing I can do”- instead he turns to his Almighty God in earnest prayer, over a number of days whilst fasting. This shows how serious he is.
Now let’s look a moment at Nehemiah’s prayer.
He starts by acknowledging God or who He is.
Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. (Nehemiah 1: 5-6)
Having done this, he confesses his sins and those of his fellow Israelites and remembers the warning given through Moses.
Only when he has done this does he turn to God with his request for success and favour with the King when he approaches him. We must remember that the kings of those days were fickle and could order a servant to be executed on a whim.
It’s interesting how he gets the kings attention. I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.’ (Nehemiah 2: 1-2). This was not pre-planned by Nehemiah, but God used this to give him an opening …. and he was ready for it.
We need to note that he went before the King not only expectantly but also prepared. When the king asks how long it this would take, he is ready and sets a time. But he does not stop there, he continues and asks for letters of safe passage to Jerusalem. He still does not stop there, he also asks for a letter to the Keeper of the Kings forest for supplies. He has spent time considering all he would need. He was well prepared.
And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. (Nehemiah 2: 8). Nehemiah acknowledges that this is not his doing but only through God’s intervention. When God answers our prayers we know we are in His favour and moving in the right direction. But this doesn’t mean that it will all be plain sailing – the Devil will do everything in His power to stop something that is of God.
We find this was true for Nehemiah.
- He was mocked – for what he was trying to do in the time he had
- He and those working with him were physically and emotionally attacked
- He was defamed by his enemy with false accusations.
But, while he trusted that God was with him, he took steps to be continually on guard and prepared against the attacks of the enemy. (Nehemiah 4: 16-18). They were prepared for attack just as we should be by daily putting on the full armour of God – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, (1 Peter 5:8-9)
What lessons can we learn from Nehemiah?
When stepping out into something new, no matter how big or small –
- We should earnestly seek God’s guidance, remembering how awesome and powerful He is – nothing is impossible for Him.
- We need to take a deep look at ourselves to see if there is any sin in our lives that can be blocking us from moving forward, and confess this. We might also have to acknowledge the sin of a bigger group.
- We need to be expectant to hear God’s answer to our prayers. This can come in many different ways.
- We need to be prepared for when the answer comes and ready to move forward. This could mean many different things, big or small, but we must be ready to go, trusting that God is with us.
- When this happens, we must know that the gracious hand of God is on us and we are in His favour. But this does not mean there won’t be challenges. We must never become complacent and let our guard down.
Nehemiah went forward with great expectations. And he saw God’s hand at work.
Let us also move into this year with great expectations!
“Jesus knows me this I love”
He – our shepherd – knows us and what we need even before we ask.