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Nehemiah – Faithfulness to God

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OTI-16

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Nehemiah models sainthood. Sensitive and yielded he serves God. Faithful and transparent he shows godliness. His characteristics read like the want ads for biblical ministry in the 90’s – “Powerful Team Builder”, “Fervent Man of Prayer”, “Humble Servant”, “Godly Politician” and so on. What can we learn from him? More than could be shared in one study. We can survey his life and the book that bears his name and glean three practical insights, treasures from his legacy. Nehemiah models: Godly Character, Godly Prayers and Godly Leadership.

OUTLINE

I.       The Rebuilding of the Walls (chaps. 1-6)

A.       Nehemiah’s prayer voiced (chap. 1)

B.       Nehemiah’s prayer answered (2:1-8)

C.       Nehemiah’s preparation for the work (2:9-20)

D.       Nehemiah’s delegation of the work (chap. 3)

E.       Nehemiah’s reactions to opposition (chap. 4)

F.       Nehemiah’s handling of internal problems (5:1-13)

G.       Nehemiah’s service as governor (5:14-19)

H.       Nehemiah’s response to opposition against him personally (6:1-14)

I.    Nehemiah’s completion of the project (6:15-19)

II.      The Restoration of the People (chaps. 7-13)

A.     The security of the city (7:1-3)

B.     The census of the returnees (7:4-73a)

C.    The ministry of Ezra (7:73b-10:39)

D.    The list of Judean residents (11:1-12:26)

E.     The dedication of the wall (12:27-47)

F.         The reforms under Nehemiah (chap. 13)[1] 

The subject of prayer is such a vast and important subject, we can only hope to learn a facet of it in this study.  But if that small aspect of prayer that touches your heart results in even greater devotion to and worship for our God, then we have invested well our time together. First of all, let’s touch on some basics with regard to the Old Testament’s recorded prayers.  Nehemiah has the 8th most prayers recorded in the Bible.[2] The total number of prayers, short and long, are no less than 139.  There are ten different words used to describe praying as we shall see later. 

It is also interesting to note that Nehemiah is second among the  books of the Old Testament for the most lines or cm. of recorded prayers.[3] On the other end, there are fifteen Old Testament books that have no prayers recorded in them.[4]  

I.                     Nehemiah: GODLY CHARACTER

A.                 As We begin to look closely at the individual prayers of some men and one woman, let’s start with Nehemiah.  The key to learning from him is to see how prayer flows from his life.  Nehemiah’s prayers are just a reflection of his continual devotion to God.  In fact, the book of Nehemiah is more like a diary detailing his life and thoughts, and it is the largest work of its kind in the Bible.

B.                 So, what characterized the life that produced such a magnificent prayer as that recorded in Nehemiah 1:4-11?  The following are just a few of the many distinguishing characteristics that marked God’s servant, Nehemiah: 

1.                  He was grieved when God’s name was not honoredNehemiah 2:2 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.”  I was very much afraid, (NIV)

2.                  He continually demonstrated complete dependence upon God    Nehemiah 2:4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, (NIV)

3.                  He always gave the glory to God   Nehemiah 2:8-9 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. (NIV)

4.                  He always shared with others how God has been at work in his life Nehemiah 2:18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, Let us start rebuilding. So they began this good work. (NIV)

5.                  Most of all, the key to his life was that he feared God  Nehemiah 5:15 But the earlier governors — those preceding me — placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. (NIV)

C.                Now that we have seen that God desires us to commune with Him…let’s meditate on these things:

1.                  Do those distinguishing characteristics that marked Nehemiah’s life mark us?

2.                  Are we always seeking to share God’s hand in our life?

3.                  Do we draw from Old Testament scriptures to glorify God’s great work in our lives?

4.                  Do prayers flow from your life because of dependence on the Lord?

II.                   Nehemiah: GODLY PRAYERS

A.                 Nehemiah Models Intercessory Prayer: William Law of the 17th century well stated that it is  “not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they are; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic of our prayers, how argumentative they may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be – which God cares for. Fervency of spirit is that which availeth much!

1.                  Christ set an example of. Luke 22:32; 23:34; John 17:9-24.

2.                  Prayer is Commanded. I Timothy 2:1; James 5:14,16.

3.                  Prayer should be offered up for:

a)                 Kings. I Timothy 2:2.

b)                 All in authority. 1Ti 2:2.

c)                  Ministers. 2Co 1:11; Php 1:19.

d)                 The Church. Ps 122:6; Isa 62:6,7.

e)                 All saints. Eph 6:18.

f)                    All men. 1Ti 2:1.

g)                 Masters. Ge 24:12-14.

h)                  Servants. Luke 7:2,3.

i)                    Children. Ge 17:18; Mt 15:22.

j)                    Friends. Job 42:8.

k)                  Fellow-countrymen. Ro 10:1.

l)                    The sick. James 5:14.

m)                 Persecutors. Mt 5:44.

n)                  Enemies among whom we dwell. Jer 29:7.

o)                 Those who envy us. Nu 12:13.

p)                 Those who forsake us. 2Ti 4:16.

q)                 Those who murmur against God. Nu 11:1,2; 14:13,19.

4.                  By ministers for their people. Eph 1:16; 3:14-19; Php 1:4.

5.                  Encouragement to. James 5:16; 1Jo 5:16.

6.                  Beneficial to the offerer. Job 42:10.

7.                  Sin of neglecting. 1Sa 12:23.

8.                  Seek an interest in. 1Sa 12:19; Heb 13:18.

9.                  Unavailing for the obstinately-impenitent. Jer 7:13-16; 14:10,11.

10.             Exemplified

a)                 Abraham. Ge 18:23-32.

b)                 Abraham’s servant. Genesis 24:12-14.

c)                  Moses. Ex 8:12; 32:11-13.

d)                 Samuel. 1Sa 7:5.

e)                 Solomon. 1Ki 8:30-36.

f)                   Elisha. 2Ki 4:33.

g)                 Hezekiah. 2Ch 30:18.

h)                  Isaiah. 2Ch 32:20.

i)                    Nehemiah. Ne 1:4-11.

j)                    David. Ps 25:22.

k)                  Ezekiel. Eze 9:8.

l)                    Daniel. Da 9:3-19.

m)               Stephen. Ac 7:60.

n)                  Peter and John. Ac 8:15.

o)                 Church of Jerusalem. Ac 12:5.

p)                 Paul. Col 1:9-12; 2Th 1:11.

q)                 Epaphras. Col 4:12.

r)                   Philemon. Phm 1:22.

B.                 Nehemiah records the single longest prayer in the Bible is Ezra’s prayer in Nehemiah 9:6-37.  Although there is no mention of his name in the versions we use,  the Septuagint or LXX [the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures used by Christ and the Apostles] has a note that it was he who was praying.   Note the elements of that blessed prayer in Nehemiah 9:

1.                  He is the CREATOR. v. 6

2.                  God is the one who CHOOSES AND CALLS. v. 7-8

3.                  God is shown to be the one who led the children of Israel to keep His PROMISES  to His people (v. 9-15).

4.                  How is He revealed?  A God of in v. 17:

a)                 FORGIVENESS

b)                 GRACIOUS

c)                  COMPASSIONATE

d)                 SLOW TO ANGER

e)                 ABOUNDING IN LOVINGKINDNESS

5.                  What other attributes of God does Ezra express into his prayer of communion with God? 

a)                 COMPASSION v. 19

b)                 TEACHER v. 20a

c)                  PROVIDER v. 21

d)                 FULFILLER v. 23

e)                 DEFENDER v. 25

f)                    CHASTENER v. 26-30

g)                 LOYALTY v. 31

h)                  GREAT, MIGHTY AND AWESOME PROMISE KEEPER v. 32

C.                Ezra bursts forth into the single longest recorded prayer in the Bible.  It breathes with the great attributes of God, words of praise and petition, how grand.  But, what can this prayer mean to us end-of-the-twentieth century, people of activity and busy lives?  Just this – they show us a pattern of praise and petition we can imitate.  Today let’s try to begin to incorporate some of them.

1.                  Have you ever approached God in prayer and thanked Him for being Creator?  If not, try it even now.

2.                  How about thanking Him for calling you to salvation?  If not…

3.                  Then, let’s just, with eyes upon the scriptures, read Ezra’s prayer in Nehemiah 9:19-32 and echo his words as we thank God for being COMPASSIONATE (v. 19) for being our TEACHER (v. 20) and PROVIDER (v. 21), for KEEPING HIS WORD (v. 23)…keep going!

III.                  Nehemiah: GODLY LEADERSHIP. 

A.                 The First Element of Godly Leadership demonstrated by Nehemiah is how to deal with facing obstacles and opponents[5].

1.                  Dealing with External Opposition. Nehemiah faced three forms of outside adversaries:

a)                 SCORN [4:1-6]

b)                 FORCE [4:7-23]

c)                  CRAFT [6:1-19]

(1)               Pretense 6:1-4

(2)               Bluff  6:5-9

(3)               Treachery  6:10-14.

2.                  Dealing with Internal Opposition. Nehemiah faced three forms of inside adversaries:

a)                 DEBRIS Nehemiah 4:10     Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (NIV)

b)                 FEAR Nehemiah 4:11-14     Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us. 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (NIV)

(1)               Nehemiah taught them to face fear by LOOKING TO GOD Nehemiah 4:14a After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, . . .” (NIV)

(2)               Nehemiah taught them to face fear by COUNTING THE COST Nehemiah 4:14b “and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (NIV)

(3)               Nehemiah taught them to face fear by PREPARING FOR BATTLE  4:16-23. Our weapons are spiritual 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV). But only more powerful! THE WORD, PRAYER and FULLNESS OF THE SPIRIT.

c)                  GREED  [5:1-13]

B.                 The second Element of Godly leadership is practicing effective leadership. Donald K. Campbell lists 21 such factors[6]:

1.                  He established a reasonable and attainable goal.

2.                  He had a sense of mission.

3.                  He was willing to get involved.

4.                  He rearranged his priorities in order to accomplish his goal.

5.                  He patiently waited for God’s timing.

6.                  He showed respect to his superior.

7.                  He prayed at crucial times.

8.                  He made his request with tact and graciousness.

9.                  He was well prepared and thought of his needs in advance.

10.             He went through proper channels.

11.             He took time (three days) to rest, pray, and plan.

12.             He investigated the situation firsthand.

13.             He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem.

14.             He identified himself as one with the people.

15.             He set before them a reasonable and attainable goal.

16.             He assured them God was in the project.

17.             He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles.

18.             He displayed God’s confidence in facing obstacles.

19.             He did not argue with opponents.

20.             He was not discouraged by opposition.

21.             He courageously used the authority of his position.[7]

OUTLINE OF CONTENTS 

The Book of Nehemiah 

I.                     Nehemiah’s commission and first governorship (1:1-7:73) 

A.                 Nehemiah receives commission from Persian king to rebuild walls of Jerusalem (1:1-2:8) 

B.                 Initial steps: opposition from non-Jews, secret survey of walls, organization of Jews for rebuilding (2:9-3:32) 

C.                Opposition from non-Jews and defensive tactics of Nehemiah (4:1-23) 

D.                Nehemiah’s economic reforms among Jews (5:1-19) 

E.                 Walls completed despite plots against Nehemiah by non-Jews (6:1-7:3) 

F.                 Concern for repopulating Jerusalem: census of returned exiles (7:4-73) 

II.                   Religious observances in response to the law (8:1-10:39) 

A.                 Ezra reads the book of the law to the people (8:1-12) 

B.                 Resulting celebration of Feast of Booths (8:13-17) 

C.                A psalm of distress: public confession of sin (9:1-37) 

D.                A new covenant to keep the law and support the Temple (9:38-10:39) 

III.                  Further organization of the Jewish community (11:1-13:31) 

A.                 Repopulation: lists of people and officials living in Jerusalem (11:1-12:26) 

B.                 Dedication of city walls and arrangements for Temple revenues (12:27-13:3) 

C.                Nehemiah’s second governorship: reforms in keeping with the law (13:4-31)  [8]


[1]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2] David  282cm.; Solomon   114cm.; Ezra  85cm.; Moses 58cm.; Habbakuk   50cm.; Daniel     29cm.; Hannah  28cm.; Nehemiah   26cm.; Jonah 18cm.;  Jeremiah   15cm.

[3] Psalms  over 250cm.; Nehemiah  90cm.; II Chronicles   74cm.; I Kings  64cm.; Habbakuk  50cm.; I Chronicles    42cm.; II Samuel  36cm.; Daniel   29cm.;  Ezra  21cm.; I Samuel  20cm.

[4] Ruth, Esther, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

[5] The material used here is drawn from J. S. Baxter’s Mark these Men, pp. 169-92.

[6] Nehemiah: Man in Charge, p. 23.

[7]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[8]Achtemier, Paul J., Th.D., Harper’s Bible Dictionary, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1985.

 
 
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