“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).
Nehemiah had come to Jerusalem from the palace at Shushan with a single-minded objective, to rebuild the massive, ruined wall of the city. He was plagued by obstacles. He had received Hanani’s distressing report about the condition of the city and the wall, in Persia, in the month of Kislev, (November-December), 444 B.C. He received permission from King Artaxerxes in the month of Nisan (March-April). He began the work on August 1st. 52 days later, in the month of Elul (August-September), September 25th (some commentators say, October 2nd) the reconstruction of the massive wall was finished.
From the time Nehemiah heard about the condition of the wall until the wall was finished was only nine months, less than two months after he arrived in Jerusalem! Do you think God was in this project?
“His was a faith to move mountains. His confidence in God gave him courage to keep working in spite of the clouds of opposition that gathered around him. He boldly championed the cause of right and scorned the things that would inspire fear. Nehemiah’s courage helped him attain new heights of achievement. Armed with this fortitude, he turned obstacles into opportunities, and outward trials into personal triumphs” –Cyril Barber, Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership.
“We can expect God to accomplish significant advances for His kingdom through our labors, even as Nehemiah did by rebuilding the wall. But until Jesus comes back, there are no endings that go, ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ Even after the wall was built, the enemy infiltrated the ranks and stirred up further trouble. We will never see a perfect church in this fallen world, and if we expect such, we will quit in frustration. Trust God to Use You to Advance His Cause…”–Pastor Stephen Cole, Flagstaff Christian Fellowship.
If there ever was a time for Nehemiah to rest on his laurels, now was the time. Now he can just sit back and admire his work, taking credit for its success. But what he did shows his greatness and gives glory to God.
I. A manifestation of the glory of God (6:16).
John MacArthur writes, “Can you imagine rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls—as recorded in Nehemiah—under modern leadership models?
You could go with the What-do-you-think? leader. He would hold a meeting to determine what the majority opinion was on design options and choice of building materials.
You could choose the I-don’t-care-what-you-think leader. He would make his decisions in a vacuum, leaving the inevitable problems to others.
And there’s always the I-need-time-to-think leader. His indecisiveness would delay progress and frustrate those trying to help.
Of course, none of these leadership models are unique to our time. Indeed, they were around-in one form or another—in Nehemiah’s day. However, Nehemiah was no such leader. He was not passive, arrogant, or indecisive. Good leaders never are. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. Nehemiah rolled up his sleeves and worked as diligently as anyone else. ‘We labored in the work,’ Nehemiah said (Nehemiah 4:21). He wasn’t afraid to get his own hands dirty…And while we should rightly esteem Nehemiah for these traits, he would be the first to say that the “secret” of his success was the Lord. He said as much when he noted that even Israel’s enemies acknowledged that the work had been accomplished with the help of Israel’s God.” –John MacArthur, Leadership is work.
“And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God” (6:16).
We know we are doing a good work when our enemies hear about it and are disheartened, and recognize it a work of God! “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good” (Psalm 127:1 NLT).
“The devil never quits. He is never going to give up while we are still alive. Even those Christians who have lived for more than seventy years, (I am eighty-one years old and the battle is still going on! –Dr. John) The battle is just as intense, sometimes more so, than it ever was. Christians cannot expect the battle to end until the Lord calls them to glory. God has wonderful blessings and much encouragement and joy for us along the way, but we must never cease battling against the world, the flesh, and the devil until we get home. Do not expect your retirement days to be without difficulty or struggle. That is what the world seeks, and that is a confused and distorted view of life. But it is not ours. The enemies will never quit. If they cannot undermine us with fear and flattery, they will try gossip and false rumors. This is what Nehemiah demonstrates for us” –Adapted from a Ray Stedman devotional.
Allow me to sermonize a bit: How do we know if God’s hand is upon our church? Do we see God in great church buildings, large crowds, lots of activities, big offerings and great music? Not necessarily! We all know of mega-churches that have very little impact on their communities. When our impact is such that lives are being changed, bad people are becoming better, alcoholics are getting sober, addicts are getting clean, homes are being put back together, the proud are becoming humble, and the selfish are becoming generous…when we begin to love each other without regard to color, nationality or denominational labels…when the homeless are housed, the hungry are fed, and the naked clothed…when it is obvious that only God can account for what is happening in our church, then we are doing a God’s work.
When the finished work is staring them in the face, they can’t argue with success. You can’t argue with changed lives, The man born blind in John 9:25, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” He was a living testimony to the power of God! The church that is practicing real Bible Christianity will always silence a critical world..
If the church of Jesus Christ could just come together in unity, like a great and mighty army, the world would take notice. Then drug abusers and sellers, criminals of every ilk, international terrorists and all exploiters would either get right or get out!
What is happening in your life that can only be explained by the presence of God?
II. Watch the Gates (7:1-3)
“Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. And I said to them, ‘Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house.’”
Normally the gates were opened at dawn, but much opposition still exists among the enemies of God. Tobiah is still writing hate letters (6:19). The things of God will always need to be guarded.
What things need to be guarded in the church?
Scriptures: Now I know Spurgeon said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” “All Scripture is God-breathed (given by divine inspiration)” (2 Timothy 3:16 AMP).
“The Bible, the Word of the one true and living God, is the truth and the only source of truth that convicts of sin, warns of judgment, saves the sinner, purifies, cleanses, matures the believer and gives the hope of eternal glory. And because it is the revelation of God by which God does His work to His own ever-lasting glory, it is the priority for the church and for every believer. It is also always under attack, always under assault by Satan and his demons and the people in the kingdom of darkness. Attacks on the Bible have never ceased, they’ve only accumulated through the years” –John MacArthur, God’s own defense of Scripture.
Doctrine: “Fight strenuously for (the defense of) the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (the faith that is the sum of Christian belief that was given verbally to believers)” (Jude 3, AMP). Jude 3, admonishes every believer to “Earnestly contend!” The Greek word for “contend” is agonizomai, which appears as agonize in its English form. The Greek athletes exerted themselves to the point of agony in an effort to win the contest. The saints of God should use the same intense effort to defend what we believe.
Jesus Christ is God: This the truth that separates the “haves” from the “have not’s!” The true believers from the unbelievers. He was virgin born, lived a sinless life, and died a horrible death for all of mankind. “He paid for our sins with His own blood. He did not pay for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 NLT). “The Word was God” (John 1:1). John 1:14 says “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” This clearly indicates that Jesus is God in the flesh.
The resurrection: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
The Exclusivity of Jesus Christ, He is the only way to heaven: Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way, (there is no other way) the Truth (there is no other Truth) , and the Life (there is no other life). No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). (author’s emphasis). “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).
III. The numbering of the people (7:4-73).
The largest part of chapter 7 is an extract from the archives of Ezra’s numbering in Ezra chapter 2. In Ezra the question is, “Who among the exiles are Jews?” Here the question is, “Who is available to repopulate and revitalize the city? “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy” (Verse 4,5).
This document contains nine categories:
1) The original leaders who came with Ezra (Verses 6,7).
2) Jews who were laymen, common men (Verses 8-38) ”God must have loved common people, He made so many of them” –Possibly, Abraham Lincoln or possibly Will Rogers.
3) Priests (Verses 39-42.
4) Levites (Verse 43). They served the Temple.
5) Singers (Verse 44). A 148 member choir under Asaph.
6) Gatekeepers (Verse 45).
7) Temple servants (Verses 45-56).
8) The descendants of the servants of Solomon (Verses 57-60).
9) Those whose ancestry was questionably (Verses 61-65).
“Altogether the whole assembly was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; and they had two hundred and forty-five men and women singers” (Verses 67,68).
“Their horses were seven hundred and thirty-six, their mules two hundred and forty-five, their camels four hundred and thirty-five, and donkeys six thousand seven hundred and twenty” (Verse 68, 69).
IV. Everyone has a job to do.
“Some of the heads of families made voluntary offerings for the work. The governor made a gift to the treasury of 1,000 drachmas of gold (about nineteen pounds), 50 bowls, and 530 garments for the priests. Some of the heads of the families made gifts to the treasury for the work; it came to 20,000 drachmas of gold and 2,200 minas of silver (about one and a third tons). Gifts from the rest of the people totaled 20,000 drachmas of gold (about 375 pounds), 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 garments for the priests. The priests, Levites, security guards, singers, and Temple support staff, along with some others, and the rest of the People of Israel, all found a place to live in their own towns” (Verses 70-73 MSG).
Statistics show that in any organization 20% of the members do 80% of the work. It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to picture that percentage in the church! In a study of fund-raising organizations, telethons, etc., they found that 10% promise to give and follow through with their promise. 20% promise to give, but would follow through only when pressured to give. 70% would say they would give, but give nothing, and do nothing, even with much prompting.
God’s people in Nehemiah’s day knew how to give: They gave 375 pounds of gold, and 5,550 pounds of silver, plus bowls and garments.
“Among born again Christians, which includes both evangelicals and non-evangelicals, 12% tithed in 2012, which is on par with the average for the past decade” –Barna research.
They not only gave their gold and silver, they gave themselves!
Someone once described football as, “22 men running around who desperately need rest, watched by 50,000 fans who desperately need exercise.” But God never expected His work to be just for spectators. He has given gifts to every believer and He expects us to use them for His glory. Too many of God’s people are like the man in an institution who spent all of his time sewing two pieces of cloth together, with no knot in the thread. Too many of God’s people spend so much time doing trivial things, they rob themselves of doing something really important.
Who were these heroes of the faith? Just ordinary people! There were no superstars. They are named in chapter 2. David’s “Mighty men” were just common soldiers with uncommon ability. Gideon himself was shocked when God addressed him as “a mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). And Gideon’s 300 were just ordinary people, but with extraordinary courage. Some of God’s choicest heroes of the faith were just people committed to the work of God. The Spurgeon’s, Finney’s, Moody’s, Sunday’s and Graham’s were not superstars, just men willing to be used by God.
Take a look at Nehemiah’s army, “The common laborers held a tool in one hand and a spear in the other. Each of the builders had a sword strapped to his side as he worked” (Nehemiah 4:17). They were faithful, courageous, hard workers, not superstars. The only ones who did not pull their weight and do their fair share were the nobles, “Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord” (Nehemiah 3:5).
In God’s work everyone is qualified and expected to put their shoulders to the work of their Lord! God is not looking for superstars, just common people with willing hearts.
“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of the brightest and the best among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these nobodies to expose the hollow pretensions of the somebodies? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 MSG).
Dr. Bob Jones said, “The most important light in the house is not the fancy chandelier in the parlor, it’s the small light in the back hall that keeps you from breaking your fool neck when you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Nehemiah’s army never gave up! Even under extreme hardships and persecution, Nehemiah and his army never gave up. Every day they were faced with new opposition, yet they persevered. Never forget, consecrated incompetence is still incompetence! Dedicated inefficiency is still inefficiency! God expects His army to sharpen his tools for the next project.
Talk about never giving up: Will you who saw Gabriella Anderson, Swiss long-distance runner in the 1984 Olympics ever forget her? It was the women’s marathon, Joan Benoit won in a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 52 seconds. Twenty minutes after Benoit finished, then 39-year-old Andersen entered the stadium. The crowd gasped in horror as she staggered onto the track, her torso twisted, her left arm limp, her right leg mostly seized. She waved away medical personnel who rushed to help her, knowing that, if they touched her, she would be disqualified. The L.A. Coliseum crowd applauded and cheered as she limped around the track in the race’s final 400 meters, occasionally stopping and holding her head…the medical personal watched her closely and let her continue her march to the finish line. What perseverance, and that for the hope of an earthly prize.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7,8).
Hang in there!
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also the New Living Translation (NLT); The Message (MSG); The Amplified Bible (AMP); and The Living Bible (TLB).