Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/16/15 Sermon - Nehemiah's Inspection

Nehemiah’s Inspection

Nehemiah 2:11-20

 

So far in our reading of Nehemiah, we have been introduced to a Jewish man who was born in Persia, but had a heart for Jerusalem and his Jewish heritage. He did not choose to return to Jerusalem when Ezra took 50,000 Jews back with him, but his brother did recently visit the city and reported to him that it was still in ruins. The temple had been rebuilt, but nothing of value could remain in the city because the walls had not been rebuilt and ultimately the city was in disgrace. Nehemiah’s heart was broken. It just so happened, that Nehemiah had the job of being the cupbearer for the King of Persia. And after praying for four months on what he should do, Nehemiah had the opportunity to discuss his dismay with the King. The king offered to assist Nehemiah in his plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This was definitely God changing the mind of the King, because the city of Jerusalem had historically been a city opposing the Persians and their rule over them. Yet, God put it on the heart of a pagan king, to assist Nehemiah with timber, money and a small army for protection.

Today’s Scripture reading has Nehemiah in Jerusalem. In fact, we read that Nehemiah stayed in Jerusalem three days before doing anything or saying anything to anyone. Nehemiah may have had a burden on his heart, but he certainly wasn’t wearing his heart on his sleeve. He was waiting on the Lord to direct his path and demonstrated resting in God by not doing or saying anything until God wanted him to move, rather than taking over for himself.  There was wisdom in not rushing things, and not trying to fix things on his own accord.  Nehemiah knew God was leading and he didn’t need to tell everyone about it. He just needed to do what God had called him to do, and his actions would speak louder than his words.

Well, after three days, Nehemiah decided to investigate the walls for himself. He did so rather discreetly, at night. He took only a few men with him and only one animal, probably a mule or donkey for him to ride.

The word translated “examine” in this text was a medical term for “probing a wound to see the extent of its damage.” All through the night, Nehemiah took a personal inspection of the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

I suspect tears were in his eyes as he walked through the rubble and saw for himself what they were up against. Nehemiah had prepared himself for what he was seeing. He was ready, his heart was ready to act but he needed to take an honest look, not based on what others said, or what he wanted to believe, but on what was really true. By facing the reality of the situation, Nehemiah was able to be honest with God and to watch the Holy Spirit work through him to complete the task.

Nehemiah showed us that when there was a struggle or issue, it was important to count the cost before getting started. Nehemiah knew it was important to figure out the cost in terms of time, effort, money and leadership, if he wanted his vision to become a reality.

After getting a true understanding of what was at stake, Nehemiah went before the leaders of Jerusalem. I think it is important to point out two significant approaches Nehemiah used to address the leaders. In verse 17 Nehemiah stated, “You see the trouble we are in…”

Point #1 – Nehemiah didn’t try to inform the locals of what was going on in their neighborhood. Nehemiah began his conversation with a statement that showed the leaders, he had not come tell them something they don’t already know. Nehemiah was the outsider. These leaders had been living day in and day out with the realization they had no walls. Nehemiah was the one who needed to learn what it was like, he could only imagine.

Point #2) Nehemiah began his conversation with the pronoun, “we”. He didn’t come in and say “I” am going to fix it for you. Rather, he came alongside. He didn’t blame them or criticize them for not getting the walls fixed. He had come in to help them. Nehemiah showed them that he saw their pain and he experienced pain himself and was willing to join them.

How often have towns like Damariscotta had people who have, come from “out of town” and with good intentions and tried to “fix” a problem or issue they saw as needing help, only to have the locals, dig their heels in and refuse to budge? Even if the newbies had a great idea that may solve a dilemma, the method in which was chosen to assist, blocked progress.

The locals wouldn’t even listen to the solution to the problem or believe the sincerity of those who wanted to help.

Nehemiah avoided this digging in of the heels, because he offered to come in and work together with those who were living in disgrace. In verse 17 he continued saying, “Come, let US rebuild the wall of Jerusalem”. Then he proceeded to share how God had put it on his heart and how God had moved the heart of the Persian King to offer his assistance in the venture.

Wisdom displayed. Nehemiah wasn’t there to toot his own horn and show how great he was. Nehemiah had a humble heart and desired to see God get the honor and the glory. His approach with those Jews living in Jerusalem showed he was a servant, being used by God, and he was seeking others, who would serve along with him, with their gifts and talents to ensure the job was completed.

It is also important to see what Nehemiah didn’t do. He didn’t manipulate, by begging or making deals. He knew God had sent him to do the job and he felt since God had sent him, it was a high calling. Nehemiah only wanted those leaders to join him who were also called by God.

He had seen God move the heart of the Persian king. Nehemiah trusted God to move the hearts of the Jewish leaders who were going to stick to the task because it was God calling them, not Nehemiah calling them.

The leaders did listen to God and said, Yes, let’s get started and we read not only did they say yes, they actually got started doing the work. I am sure it didn’t hurt that Nehemiah had brought the materials they would need to get the work done. But even so, if you are like me, you could come up with quite a few reasons why the people could have left Nehemiah to do the work himself.

For example, I know you have heard this before. “We don’t need  new walls. We have gotten along quite fine for the past 100 years without walls. After all, we do have a temple.”

But you see, God wants us to do far more than just “get along”. God wants the best for us.

Another common response may have gone something like this, see if you can relate, “Nehemiah, are you kidding! That is too much work. Watch it, before you get burned out.”

And one of my favorite responses comes from those who see the opposition as too strong. It goes something like this, “Nehemiah, you have no idea what you are talking about. Why even start? We tried this before and it didn’t work.”

This response forgets, “That greater is He that is in me, then he that is in the world.”

God was definitely a part of the program, because they began the good work.

Another reason we can tell God was in it, is that immediately there is opposition.

Tobiah and Sanballat make it very clear they are not part of the team. Even though they are Jews, fellow brothers, and citizens of Jerusalem, they mocked and ridiculed those who started to work on repairing the walls. Opposition is always difficult to deal with, but when it comes from someone within your group, it is then mixed with the pain of betrayal.

Interestingly, Tobiah and Sanballat then ask if they realized they were rebelling against the king? A definite give away that these two men were more concerned with earthly things, than heavenly things. The King of Persia was a higher authority for these two men, then God in heaven. 

Of course we know these two were completely ignorant of what was really going on. The king had already provided the timber, supplies and an army to help get the job done. And in the big picture, did it really matter if the king of Persia was for or against the work, if the God of heaven and earth was for it?

Notice Nehemiah’s response was not, “Let me tell you about the king of Persia’s role in this. Or “You talk to us about rebelling against the king of Persia, Will YOU rebel against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?”

No, Nehemiah knew that no matter how much time he spent trying to convince these men that the king of Persia was on his side, these two men would not believe him.

Instead, Nehemiah claimed the God of heaven would give them success. He stuck to his mission and would not allow the nay sayers to get him off track. Nehemiah stuck to the plan, and claimed what God had revealed to him.

The opposition did not immediately go away. In fact, we will see that these two men remain in opposition throughout the entire endeavor. They are relentless, yet they are eventually proven wrong.

There we have Nehemiah’s inspection. After hearing that Jerusalem was still in a bad place, God moved Nehemiah to do something about it. Nehemiah had an idea of what was needed, but he needed to find out the details on his own before proceeding. When he discovered what was really required, Nehemiah reached out to others for assistance. In the process he also came across others who were in resistance. But all of the way, through Nehemiah keeps his eyes on God, remembers whose project it really was, and because God remains the authority in his life, He kept going back to the belief that the plan would succeed because it was God who had given it to him.  

If someone took a tour of your life the same way Nehemiah took a tour of Jerusalem, would they notice broken down portions in the figurative walls of your life?

Are you, or someone you know, living with a constant sense of fear, poverty and insecurity?

Let’s not hide our eyes from the broken down places. God is in the business of healing and redeeming. He wants to change the broken pieces and make them whole. When we put our eyes on Jesus, and not on the world, we can begin to make the first steps of change, even today.

I encourage those of us who see the broken places, to begin the process of rebuilding and healing them.

It begins with prayer. Extensive prayer. The kind of prayer that keeps you praying, until you don’t know any more to pray so you ask the Holy Spirit to do the praying for you.

In Romans 8:26-28 Paul explains it like this, and I am reading from The Message (MSG)

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good

After the extended prayer, it will be time to solicit assistance from others. Be intentional, Nehemiah didn’t just ask everyone around him. And he didn’t just ask other Jewish believers. His first supporter was a pagan king. If we have done our prayer time long enough, it will become clear to us, who we are to talk to and look to for help and / or guidance.

Then comes the difficult, emotional part, the inspection.

Even though emotions can’t be taken out of the formula, the inspection needs to be done, as honestly and detailed as possible. Carefully examine what is needed to make things whole again.

Most importantly, examine your heart, your prayers, your vision and your passion and make sure it aligns with being used by God to set things right. Remember, this isn’t about you being the hero, it is about becoming right before God. You are on the right track when God is in the center.

Finally, remember, the Bible makes it clear we have enemies and opponents. The Bible also makes it clear

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . spiritual armies of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)

And one of the ways the spiritual enemy attacks us is by using flesh-and-blood people. Even those people who are closest to us may wittingly or unwittingly be used as a tool by our spiritual enemies.  It is important to always keep our focus on whose we are and what we are being called to do. Our enemies want to divert us from remembering those two things.

Whose we are and what God has called us to do.

The best way to keep our focus on those two things is simply to claim them.

Claim whose you are,

You are a child of the King

and claim what God has called you to do.

And if you haven’t received a clear view of what that is,

claim that God is going to reveal it.

Above all we should claim, Jeremiah 29:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Let’s pray.