Peninsula Community Church
February 19, 2017
Rebuilding Faith and Hope
Nehemiah 1:1-11 – The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.
This is a long passage but it is one that informs our perspective about confronting the issues we face. In this passage, we find there are at least five steps that Nehemiah takes that helps him process the news he received and aides him in overcoming the difficulties he faced.
To begin with we, find that Nehemiah was sincerely and genuinely concerned about the problem (Nehemiah 1:1-4) he faced and the issues confronting Jerusalem. Notice that Nehemiah inquired about the situation in his homeland. He asked questions. He got information. He did not want to assume what the problem was or how problematic things might be. The report from Jerusalem was that those who remained in Jerusalem during the captivity and had survived were in great trouble and they were filled with shame at the disrepair of their city. The city itself was broken down and the gates were destroyed. The walls had been destroyed and there was great discouragement in the city. It seemed that it was a impossible task to return to the homeland and even if they returned could the land be rebuilt and restored?
The question for us today is are you facing issues that seem to have your spirit broken and your heart devastated. Does the issue you face seem impossible to resolve? Does the mountain in front of you seem too large? Does the rubble and junk around you seem to be too much to overcome? You might answer yes to all of these but that is where Nehemiah found himself. While the problems we face may seem overwhelming and may seem too big to overcome, I wonder sometimes if this is exactly where God wants us to be because it forces us to turn to him.
So what did Nehemiah do? As we have already stated Nehemiah had an honest appraisal of the situation. Two things happen here that I think are very positive in the story. First of all, Nehemiah does not deny the problems in Jerusalem. At the same time, he does not over exaggerate the problems.
You see we can deny the problem that exists but in denying the problem we are never moved to make a difference or bring change. You see I am very familiar with this mode of operation. When I was growing up, my family was good at denying the problems that existed. It is not that we necessarily denied them, the fact is we just did not talk about them. The unspoken reality for us was that if we did not talk about the problem then the problem would go away or it would cease to exist. While this seemed helpful in the moment, because we refused to talk about problems we faced, they in fact affected and impacted all of our relationships. The truth of the matter is that we must be honest and acknowledge the problem in realistic terms. We must not and cannot deny the problems we face. We cannot be an ostrich with our heads in the sand.
On the other hand, we cannot nor should we exaggerate the problems we face. We can make mountains out of a mole hill but in so doing we can talk ourselves into doubt and hopelessness. Once again we need to be honest about the issues we face. We do not deny the problem but at the same time we must not exaggerate the problem either. Nehemiah had a real sense of the problems and he brought those things to God in prayer. That was the wisdom of God being exhibited through Nehemiah’s life.
The second thing we find here is that Nehemiah had a strong conviction about God’s Character. In Nehemiah 1:5 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you.
Notice what Nehemiah did. He did not run to a whole lot of people to tell them the story but he got on his face before God in prayer and fasting. These are two critical keys to victory in our life. First, we need to know that prayer helps us align our will with God’s will and secondly, fasting invites God to feed our soul and our spirit with His nourishment and His food.
In the process, Nehemiah proclaims the greatness and awesomeness of God. He reminds himself that God is faithful and that He will keep His covenant and that no matter what comes God does not ever stops loving us. His conviction is that God will save him and the city of Jerusalem and that God will keep His word. So let me ask you, are you convicted or at least convinced that God is faithful and that He will keep His word. That was the heart of Nehemiah. He had an assurance of God’s faithfulness and that God would come through in a big way. May we too understand the power of God and know that He is awesome and that He is faithful to fulfill His word in us. May we never lose sight of that, no matter what comes our way.
The third act of Nehemiah is that he confessed his sin (Nehemiah 1:6-7). Notice that he did not blame others nor did he excuse his sin but he admitted that he needed to confess his sin. He took responsibility for his part of the problem while acknowledging that others were also responsible. Here is the deal. We must be honest with God about our role and our part in the situations we face. The problem too often is that we fail to personally address the issues that should be addressed. Perhaps our actions or our words have added to the depth of the problem so we need to take on our part of the problem. Israel had been disobedient and therefore had their land taken from them. That was the reality of the time. Disobedience and rebellion on Israel’s part had caused them to lose what had been promised to them.
I must admit that there are times where we are innocent in the issues we face but the reality is too often we have things in our life that need to be repented of. Notice that Nehemiah stood in the gap for his family, his nation, and he repented not only of their sin but also his sin. This has always been a major part of the restoration in our life. We recognize the problem, we honor God, and then we repent of those things we know where we have come up short and where we have sinned. This is critical so that we do not repeat the issues again. We repent and change our ways so as not to exasperate the problem.
Fourth, Nehemiah had a confidence in God’s promises (Nehemiah 1:8-10). God had promised that if they repent and change their ways, He would restore and heal their land. Not only did Nehemiah praise God for who He was but He also placed his confidence in God’s ability to keep His promises. God had promised He would keep Israel and that He would restore them if they repented. And as we read the rest of the story, we find that is exactly what God did.
And finally, Nehemiah made a commitment to get involved (Nehemiah 1:11). We find that not only had Nehemiah been getting news about the condition of Jerusalem, not only had he been praying and fasting but he also took steps to bring change. He decided to approach the King which took a lot for him to do this because the king had the power to destroy Nehemiah if he so desired. But Nehemiah was not going to sit back and allow things to continue the way they were.
You see, Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the king. For those who may not understand this job let me explain. Nehemiah was tasked with tasting the wine that was to be served at any of the meals that were served to the King. Now for some of us might want a job like that. It would be like going to a wine tasting every day. But here was the problem. The wine taster’s job was to test the wine to be sure it was suitable for consumption but also that no one had placed any poison in the wine. So he had built a trust with the king. Using this trust he went before the king to seek permission to go to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding process. This was a real step of faith because that meant that the king would have to select a new cupbearer but as we learn later the king relented and allowed Him to go.
He took action knowing that God would protect Him and would bring about His will for the day and the time. Sometimes when we face issues in life we can fail to play our part and accept our responsibility for the task. We can easily make excuses and put off doing our part but we must step up to the plate. We must be in the game and be engaged in the process. You see Nehemiah could have stayed in his home and wept and cried but never engage. In so doing, he would never feel the impact of being a part of the solution or the process of healing. It is possible that Jerusalem would not have been restored which would have delayed the return of the children of Israel to their homeland.
Please note that Nehemiah did not force anyone else to be apart of his plan. He offered and people stepped up to the plate. Too often we try to force God’s hand or the hand of others. It is noteworthy that there was almost a four month period between the time Nehemiah received word from Jerusalem to the time he encountered the king. He was patient. He did not rush into the situation. He took one step at a time. In the end, he chose action and faithfulness over denial and fear. That is our choice and that is the action we must take.
God was in all of this. Not only did the king give permission but its is noteworthy that as you read this passage you will find that Nehemiah was careful to note that the queen was beside the king. This is critical because it has been suggested that this queen was none other than Queen Esther. God was orchestrating the return back to Jerusalem. Years before Esther had taken a step of faith to be obedient to God’s call to step up to the plate and let God use her. I encourage you to read three books together. Read Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah as they portray the faithfulness of God and the way He moves to bring about His will and purposes. Esther stepped up to the plate and so did Nehemiah and God used their faithfulness to bring about His will and purpose.
Here is the promise. God is at work even when we don’t see Him. God will move people, He will move mountains, He will change hearts but He will move. Things may be in motion when we don’t even realize it. That is God and that is the way we should be moving forward. That is why we can praise Him in the storm no matter what comes.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom