Nehemiah and Calvary Construction Company: #2 Proceed
Text: Nehemiah 2
Introduction: Last week we began issued the challenge for rebuilders and we looked at the first steps involved. First comes the commitment to care enough to become involved and then the realization of total reliance upon God through prayer and fasting.
Being a rebuilder requires thought and planning, an intellectual as well as emotional task.
Sacrifice Yourself Nehemiah 2:1-6
And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So, I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So, it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
His job, career even life were laid on the line before the king. As the king’s cupbearer, it was his job to taste the Kings wine and sometimes his food. It was dangerous to appear in the king’s presence looking afraid or upset or nervous. Such an appearance could get you arrested or killed if the King was suspicious that your look meant you were trying to poison him.
Nehemiah’s relationship with the King was such that the King instead of arresting him or ordering him killed outright instead asked him why he was sad and Nehemiah told the story that his brother had brought back from Jerusalem about 4 months before.
When the king asks, what is wrong, the first thing Nehemiah does is say a silent prayer. In vs 4 “So I prayed to the God of Heaven.” There is much about prayer in this book, it would make a good reference just on prayer and going to God. But All we’ll say her is that prayer doesn’t have to be loud or long to be powerful, it just has to be used and used often.
Next, Nehemiah gave his reasons why he needed to return to Jerusalem. “The city, the place of my father’s graves lie in waste and the gates are burnt down.” Now it has been over 100 years since the Jews as a people were in Jerusalem and it would be unlikely that Nehemiah could even find the graves of his grandparents or grandparents, but that is not what he is really saying. In the ancient world, the duty of the living to the dead was very important. There was a duty to care for their graves, people were buried and then a year later their bones were gathered and put into an Ossuary, a bone box and that was passed down as was the sepulcher where it was buried from one generation to another. It was a sacred and cultural duty to care for the places and remains of your ancestors, your fathers.
In fact, probably the most famous ossuary was shown in October of 2002, a chalkstone box, which bore the inscription written in Aramaic: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Despite many of the Israeli Authorities who proclaimed the box a fake and the man who discovered it a con man, it was examined and after years of research and several trials it was declared to be genuine. That ossuary was an example of the reverence the Jewish people held for their dead.
Artaxerxes, the King understood these reasons and gave Nehemiah permission to leave and set a time to accomplish the task. It would take 4 months just to make the journey from Shushan, the palace, to Jerusalem.
To be a rebuilder in the Lord’s work means being willing to risk much in order to accomplish much. Just as Nehemiah risked his freedom, his job and even his life by showing his true feelings before the King, a member of the Calvary Construction Crew must be willing to risk much if they are to be successful in restoring broken lives, failed families and wasted communities. If we are not willing to put it all on the line for Jesus Christ who gave it all for us, then who or what would we be willing to risk it all for?
Let Christ himself teach this better than I. Here are some of the most direct, in your face, no excuses, no loophole verses in all the Bible.
Luke 9:57-62 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
When I told my preacher Grandfather that I was called to preach but I needed some time to finish some things before I went off to Bible College and started serving in a church, his words to me were, “You remember what the Lord said don’t you? Let the dead bury the dead. Come follow me.” You know what I said, “You’re right I’ll be there in 2 weeks when school starts.” What excuse could I offer? What excuse can you offer when God’s word calls us to risk the world’s comforts and serve Him?
Henry Martyn had already done more than his share of missionary service in India when he announced he was going to Persia. Doctors had told him that the heat would kill him if he stayed in India yet the heat in Persia was worse.
Arrived and studied the language, translated the NT and Psalms in only 9 months. Told he had to have the Shah's permission to distribute it. He traveled 600 miles to Teheran but was denied permission to see the Shah. He turned around and traveled 400 miles to the British Ambassador who gave him a recommendation but then said, You will have to present them yourself."
Barely able to stand, He rode all night on the back of a mule and rested in the day under a piece of canvas on poles to give protection from the sun. Back in Teheran he was greeted by the Shah and given permission to circulate the scriptures. Ten days later in 1812, he died in Turkey.
Shortly before he had written in his dairy, "I sat and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God. In solitude my Companion, my Friend, and Comforter."
"No one ever accomplished anything worthwhile unless they were willing to sacrifice everything worthwhile in exchange." DKM
Moreover, I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me. Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
He secured written authority from the King for passage, provisions and protection. The journey to Jerusalem would take 4 months and pass though several regions of Persian controlled empire under the authority of satraps or governors of those areas. Without authority, and permission none of governors would have let Nehemiah and his group pass through their land.
He also had to have protection in the form of soldiers to travel with him, due to roving bands of rebels and robbers that preyed on those traveling without protection.
Nehemiah even mentions one of those satraps or governors who will be a recurring thorn in his side throughout this work, Sanballat the Horonite along with Tobiah his servant. We don’t know much about Sanballat except that he is found in other writings of the Persian Empire outside of Scripture. We also know that he had one of the best names for a bad guy ever given. Sanballat, just sounds like a though doesn’t it. When I was a kid I used to watch Rocky and Bullwinkle and they had to deal with a bad guy named, Boris Badenuf. Sanballat’s name is like Boris Badenuf, it just sounds like he was going to be a bad guy.
But you have to love what Nehemiah says about Sanballat and Tobiah, “It grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to see the welfare of the children of Israel.” That’s an introduction for a true hero and Nehemiah will enter the rank and file of the heroes of God’s work with the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
We as Christians are proposing to do some pretty audacious things. We propose to change people from the inside out, from sinners to saints. We propose to overcome evil with good, to love your enemies, to do good to those who despitefully use us and most audacious of all, we intend to do this everywhere. Ignoring borders, laws of man, obstacles, finances and impossible odds. Where do we get the authority to do all that? Right here in the book that has the authority of heaven, earth and all eternity.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.
This is our authority given to us by Jesus Christ or Lord and Savior, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and the Coming King of Glory.
A young catholic girl came home complaining to her mother about a classmate who was a Baptist asking about her salvation. The mother said, "You tell that nosy young man it's none of his business. “The girl replied, "But mom, the way he acts I think he thinks it is his business."
Let me tell you backed with the authority of God’s Word, it is your business, it is your calling, it is your commission to rebuild the souls of the lost with the power of the Gospel.
So, I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.
A full survey of the wall and its ruins.
He knew what he was going to get himself into. He had to break his heart and yet it did not make it faint. He saw the terrible waste but knew that with God’s power and grace ruins could be restored to the great city of God once again.
Don’t be overcome by the romance of the task that we as the children of God have been called to. We must realize the task you are about undertake if formidable, some would say it is impossible. Indeed, it would be impossible except for the authority and promises of God.
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
We dare not approach the work without fully realizing how difficult it is to save a life, to save a soul. To turn the lost from hell to heaven. To rescue a culture that has become toxic in its own septic sexuality. But we must never think it is our strength or will that is needed to do the impossible, it is God’s grace that we can only accept and then pass on to those just like us that need their lives and souls restored to love and fellowship with God.
Jesus looks out upon the city that Nehemiah had rebuilt and sees not physical ruins but spiritual waste.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Jesus knew that to save the soul of Jerusalem, the people of the city and of the entire world, it would cost him his very life. He willingly gave that life and in that sacrifice, gave us the power and the hope to do the impossible. Knowing that it is possible in His power because we have experienced the impossible in our own life. We have be restored in the grace of God to regain that image of God we were created in, to overcome sin and death and one to experience eternal life by the amazing love of God.
It has happened to us and now our task is to take that good news to those ruined and wasted lives all around us. May we rise to the task as those who heard Nehemiah rose to the work of rebuilding the wall.
Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
ay, “Let Us strengthen our hands for this good work.” d