Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/20/15 Sermon - The Wall is Built

“The Wall is Built”

Nehemiah 6:1-19

 

As we continue through the book of Nehemiah, let’s remember the theme of Nehemiah’s journal. The book of Nehemiah is his journal to God when God chose him to rebuild the walls. Now mind you, God didn’t choose Nehemiah because he was an expert in construction and had spent his life building walls. In the fact the opposite was true. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the King of Persia, and I suspect didn’t have to do any manual labor. No, God chose Nehemiah because of Nehemiah’s concern for God’s people. Nehemiah saw his nation in distress and had a burden. He took that burden to God and God told him to do something about it and that He would help him along the way. Now just because God was with Nehemiah through this journey doesn’t mean God was going to fix everything so it was “easy”. God promised to be with Nehemiah and guide him and we are reading Nehemiah’s responses back to God as he goes through this project. Just as a side note, a personal journal is a very therapeutic process and if you are ever going through an ordeal, I highly recommend writing one.

Before we get started with the details of Nehemiah 6 the concept you should keep in mind is “discernment.” Discernment in the Christian context is the ability to judge matters according to God’s view of them, and not according to their outward appearance. Let me say that again so you don’t miss it, Discernment in the Christian context is the ability to judge matters according to God’s view of them, and not according to their outward appearance. So often when we are going through trials, we are so absorbed with the problem that we tend to see the outward appearance and take it at “face value” and assume that what we see is what we get. Nehemiah shows us how to look at things the way God looks at things.

1 Samuel 16:7 puts it like this, “For the Lord does not see as humans sees; for humans look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

At this point in the story, the wall around Jerusalem was almost done. The building of the walls was almost complete, all of the holes and gaps had been filled, and all they had left was to hang the gates, or put on the doors. Then the city of Jerusalem would be secure. And who happened to appear? Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab.

This guys had been around before, since chapter 2, and each time they appeared they had been in opposition to the building of the walls. This time Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to Nehemiah asking him to join them among the villages in Ono in the desert. Basically they were asking Nehemiah to take a break and come to a resort in the desert and relax and they could have a meaningful discussion. Or so it appeared.

Notice Nehemiah’s response. He discerned that they want to do him harm and he did not take them up on their offer. He explained that he did not think he should be taking time off while there was a job still left to be done. I suspect their offer was tempting. Nehemiah had to be physically exhausted and could probably have enjoyed a relaxing time off. Remember, he was the cupbearer for the King of Persia. Where ever the King went, so went Nehemiah. He was probably used to luxurious trips to the oasis and after the struggle of building the wall it must have sounded like a nice idea. But Nehemiah was discerning and focused. Even after being asked four times, he gave the same answer. The option may have seemed nice, but based on previous behavior, it sounded too nice. Up to this point, Sanballat and Tobiah and their Arab friends have only been adversaries to the building of the wall.

Did it make sense that they were now freely offering a friendly meeting? Or did it make more sense that this was a last ditch effort to stop the completion of the walls? Sanballat’s outward appearance did not fool Nehemiah’s discernment.

The nice approach of deception did not work so Sanballat decided to use slander as a means to get the work on the wall to stop. Sanballat sent an open letter to Nehemiah that read a report had gone out to the nations stating that the reason they were building a wall was because Nehemiah and the Jews planned to rebel and Nehemiah was planning to become King.

Discernment stepped in again. Sanballat came up with a vague accusation about a report that the nations had reported. Vague accusations make it sound like “everyone” is talking about it or a “number of people” are saying. Nehemiah was not swayed. He knew the truth and he knew what Sanballat had stated was false. Even if a thousand nations had reported it, it would still be false. What Nehemiah was doing was not easy, discerning the truth and sticking to the discernment took tenacity and a trust in something bigger than himself. Nehemiah held on to the truth that God had sent him to finish the wall and that was what he was going to do.

We can see a bit of Nehemiah’s need for God’s help because we read another one of Nehemiah’s prayers, Nehemiah says, “O God, strengthen my hands.”

The attempt to get Nehemiah to stop working on the wall continued. This time, Sanballat and Tobiah hired a “prophet” to give Nehemiah a prophecy that would supposedly save him. So Shemaiah, invited Nehemiah to go into the temple with him to protect himself from those who were out to kill him. Again, on the outside, it may have looked legitimate. Here was a prophet trying to protect the leader from being killed and who would kill him if he were hiding and taking refuge in the temple of God. What better place to hide? Except, Nehemiah knew his Scripture and his Biblical history and he knew that only priests were allowed in the temple. Perhaps Nehemiah remembered the story from Second Chronicles 26, when King Uzziah , who was not a priest, went into the temple, and he was instantly struck with leprosy. Nehemiah was not a priest, and he was able to discern that Shemaiah was trying to instill fear into him, so he would act on that fear, and save himself.  

Check out what Nehemiah did next. Instead of attacking Shemaiah, Nehemiah prayed for Tobiah and Sanballat, and the others who were part of their deception and asked God to remember what they were doing. Nehemiah had faith that God was taking care of him, and he also had faith that God would take care of his enemies.

Then we come to verse 15 and 16, The wall was finished, in fifty-two days! Not only was the wall completed, when the enemies heard about it, they were disheartened, because they perceived the work was done by God.  This makes sense because it was only the power of God that could have completed such an enormous task in such a short period of time. The walls had been in ruins for more than 100 years. When Nehemiah first heard about the state of the walls, he spent more than double the amount of time praying about the situation, than it took to complete the project.

What a revelation! The ruins of the wall were more of a spiritual battle than a physical battle. Definitely a God thing!

The opposition still remained evident. We read in verses 17-19 that the work was finished despite some who were friends with the enemy Tobiah. There were friends of Tobiah within Jerusalem who remained loyal to Tobiah and sent him letters, as informants, keeping him abreast as to what was going on. We read that they had no trouble being in cohoots with him, because he was related to many of them. Who knows why they couldn’t see the bad side of Tobiah? Basically these men saw what they wanted to see. In fact, Nehemiah wrote that they tried to recommend this man, but Nehemiah had a view of Tobiah as well. He had received not so good letters from Tobiah and therefore had a different opinion. And that was where Nehemiah left it. He didn’t try to persuade the friends of Tobiah of how bad he really was, he wasn’t going to deny what he knew to be true. He let it go and gave it to God. Again, Nehemiah refused to be distracted. He had a task, he was called to build the wall, and he was sticking to the task.

I wonder how many of us are sitting here, living our Christian lives, that no one takes notice of, because our walls are like those of Jerusalem, they are broken down. When others from outside the Christian church look at us, we are no different from the world. Why would anyone choose Christianity if broken walls are all they see? However, if we allow the LORD to do a building work in us, for us and with us, others will notice. Just like the building of the walls of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem was God’s city, but as it sat for over 100 years with broken walls, others didn’t seem to take notice. Then along came a man with a heart of the LORD, he grieved, he ached, he prayed, he planned, he asked boldly, he went, he fought, he encouraged, he stood strong, he saw the job through to completion, and he surrounded himself with people who had the same kind of heart.

Nehemiah wasn’t much, in fact, he was just one man, with a big God. That was all he needed to complete the task. So what is stopping those of us who need to see our struggles through to completion? I think first and foremost, it is fear. There is a spiritual battle going on around any struggle that keeps God’s people from being free of broken walls. Today’s scripture shows us that we need the gift of discernment.

Philippians 1:9-10

BlameConfusion

Edification, Goal Of

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.

 

The Spiritual battle is alive and well, 1 Peter 5:8 says,
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

 

Nehemiah’s experienced these attacks first hand and they were supposed to reveal his fear. Sanballat, Tobiah and their cohorts used a three-fold attack of pretended friendship, slander and false religion, to try and get Nehemiah off track. Nehemiah is not our only example, this same three-fold attack was used against our Savior Jesus Christ. Nehemiah was asked to come down to the plain of Ono, they asked Jesus to come down from the cross, but Jesus was doing a great work- his greatest work- on the cross, and he would not be stopped.

 

Both Nehemiah and Jesus were slandered and neither chose to debate their critics, instead they spoke the truth and trusted in their Father in heaven to know better and do better than they could. A false prophet offered Nehemiah an easy way out, and Satan also offered Jesus a way out of the cross if he would only worship Satan and the kingdoms of this world would be his.

God used these two men and wrote about them in this book as examples for us to follow. Let’s not limit God. Let’s get rid of the false belief that God cannot use us. He used a man named Nehemiah to fix a 100 year old problem in less than two months. God hasn’t changed, He is the same today, yesterday  and forever. He sits on the throne in heaven and desires to work through us today. Who knows, the very trial you are working through today, may be the example others will use to work through a similar problem tomorrow.

Tackle your fears with God’s truth, which you can find in His Word. Stand firm on His Word. Pray often and expect miracles. Little is much in the Master’s Hands.

Let’s pray.