Sermons

Wed, Jul 11, 2018

Nehemiah 4-5

A couple of weeks ago we finished in chapter 3 and looked at the placements of the gates and saw a progression as it were that resembles the Christian life. The Christian life starts at the Sheep Gate – embracing Jesus as our sacrifice. Next is the Fish Gate where we become fishers of men. At the Old Gate we learn the unchangeable truths of the Bible. At times we’re by the Valley Gate and need encouragement. Invariably, we end up at the Refuse Gate where we have to toss out some garbage from our lives. That’s when we find the Holy Spirit’s refreshment at the Fountain Gate. And are cleansed by the Word at the Water Gate, And find strength at the Horse Gate. The journey continues until Jesus returns. When He does, He sets His foot down on the Mount of Olives and enters the Eastern Gate where He judges the nations - the Inspection Gate. Embedded in Nehemiah 3 you find a wall-to-wall account of the whole Bible.
Series:Nehemiah
Duration:55 mins 21 secs

Nehemiah 4-5

 

A couple of weeks ago we finished in chapter 3 and looked at the placements of the gates and saw a progression as it were that resembles the Christian life.



The Christian life starts at the Sheep Gate – embracing Jesus as our sacrifice.

Next is the Fish Gate where we become fishers of men.

At the Old Gate we learn the unchangeable truths of the Bible.

At times we’re by the Valley Gate and need encouragement.

Invariably, we end up at the Refuse Gate where we have to toss out some garbage from our lives.

That’s when we find the Holy Spirit’s refreshment at the Fountain Gate.

And are cleansed by the Word at the Water Gate, And find strength at the Horse Gate.

 

The journey continues until Jesus returns.

When He does, He sets His foot down on the Mount of Olives and enters the Eastern Gate where He judges the nations - the Inspection Gate.

 

Embedded in Nehemiah 3 you find a wall-to-wall account of the whole Bible.

 

 

Nehemiah 4

 

When God begins to bless the enemy begins to battle. As God’s people set out to accomplish God’s will the devil will seek to attack us.

 

Three ways the devil battles against us.

1. Intimidate.

2. Infiltrate

3. Isolation

 

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 2:11 (NKJV) “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”



 

1  But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

 

Intimidation…

 

“Ridicule is the language of the devil” The devil loves to taunt the children of God. No one likes to be laughed at.

 

2  And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish--stones that are burned?"

3  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, "Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall."

 

The enemy lies to us. If you have seen the walls of Jerusalem you know a fox could not cause the walls to fall down.

 

4  Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!

 

Nehemiah fights back with prayer!

 

Christians do their best fighting from their knees.

 

5  Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

6  So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

 

God did His part and shut down the enemies plans but the people still had to have a mind to work.

 

What is true with the physical walls is also true with the building of spiritual walls.

The Holy Spirit will help us rebuild walls of morality, character, security, and integrity when we fail, but we also need “a mind to work.” If we don’t do our part in obedience to God’s leading, the walls will remain in ruins. We’ve got to apply God’s Word, pray, fellowship, worship. In other words we need to have a mind to work!



7  Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry,

 

“Sanballat” He was a leader among the Samaritans – north of Jerusalem.

“Tobiah”, and the “Ammonites” were east of Jerusalem.

“Geshem” and the “Arabs” – were south of Jerusalem.

“Ashdodites” were Philistines – a people who lived west of Jerusalem.

 

They have trouble on all sides and they are binding together against Nehemiah and Jerusalem.



8  and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.

9  Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

 

Nehemiah watched and prayed. Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.”

 

Keep your head in the game… Prayer is about dependency.

 

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” A.J. Gordon

 

10  Then Judah said, "The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall."

11  And our adversaries said, "They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease."

12  So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, "From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us."

 

I appreciate what Sandy Adams wrote regarding our need to watch and pray. I’ll paraphrase what he said, “The laborers worked around so much rubbish there was the danger of an ambush. The enemy could easily infiltrate the city, and hide amidst the debris.

 

Spiritually speaking this is the same problem we face in the rebuilding of our lives when we come to the Lord at any time other than our youth. There is so much debris and rubbish from our past. The Bible calls it the “flesh”. You know, evil thoughts, wrong attitudes, bad habits, embarrassing memories, twisted perspectives. We all have them and have to fight through them with the help of God.

 

The Holy Spirit works in our lives to establish new thoughts, healthy attitudes, good habits, biblical perspectives – but the flesh is always there. Like Nehemiah, we’re also rebuilding in the midst of the rubbish – and it’s the flesh that makes it easy for the enemy to infiltrate, and sabotage, and try to destroy the work. Al the more reason we must watch and pray!”

 

13  Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

 

Where does the enemy attack? At the foundation and at the openings. He attacks what we believe and where we receive.

 

Proverbs 4:23-26 (NKJV)

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

24  Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you.

25  Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you.

26  Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.



14  And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."

 

Build walls of protection around your family. If you don’t, the devil will pillage those that you love.

 

15  And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.

 

Its been rightly noted that the enemy never retreats, he merely regroups.

 

Luke 4:13 (NKJV) “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.”



16  So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.

17  Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.

 

So then, what does it takes to rebuild the walls of our lives? A sword in one hand, and a shovel in the other... constantly building and battling – ready for war as they work – ready to fight all the while fixing.

 

We need to build and battle! So what if you build walls, but aren’t ready when the enemy attacks. On the other hand, I know believers with a combat mentality - they love to fight - they’re always anti-something, but they never cultivate personal peace, joy, holiness.

 

Verse 17 strikes the balance, “with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.” It takes a sword and a shovel.

 

We need balanced lives… Spiritual maturity is best evidenced by balance.

 

18  Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

19  Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, "The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall.

20  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."

 

We are not unaware of the enemies devices.

1. Intimidation

2. Infiltration

3. Isolation

 

If the workers got so spread out from one another the enemy could pick them off one at a time. Thats what happens when the enemy works. He isolates you and there is no one there to help in times of battle. You are left to fight alone.

 

21  So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared.

 

Talk about dedication!

 

22  At the same time I also said to the people, "Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day."

23  So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.

 

You’d think that with the dedication of the workers the wall would get done ASAP but as we will see in chapter 5 a problem comes up that brings the work to a halt.  The wall is about half way built at this time.



Nehemiah 5

 

1  And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren.

 

Christians fighting against one another isn’t anything new. There is a division among the people that hasn’t been dealt with and now its hindering the work of God.

 

2  For there were those who said, "We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live."

3  There were also some who said, "We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine."

4  There were also those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our lands and vineyards.

5  Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards."

 

There is a famine in the land and the people are at the end of their rope. They are just trying to survive. You can sense the bitterness and strife among the people. The taxes levied by the king along with a bad economy was causing many families to become bankrupt. You do not skip paying taxes to a monarchy. The situation for many families were so bad they had to sell their sons and daughters as slaves just to survive and had no means of redeeming them.

 

The walls are half built. Why build a wall if our family is sold in to slavery? Why work so hard only to be taxed so heavily you cant take care of your family.

 

The cries of the people were heard by Nehemiah…

 

6  And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.

 

He didn’t just hear the cries of the people, he took action and got involved personally. What was taking place was a violation of God’s Word. God cares about the poor. When you came out of Egypt you were just like these people. God had been gracious to the children of Israel as He had given them a land flowing with milk and honey. God provided homes and vineyards, well’s and cistern’s. God did that so they would also take care of the poor and the stranger that were in the land.  

 

7  After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, "Each of you is exacting usury from his brother." So I called a great assembly against them.

 

Nehemiah called a public meeting because the problem was so big and involved so many people.

 

8  And I said to them, "According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?" Then they were silenced and found nothing to say.

 

Remember God has chosen the Jewish people to give the world the holy scriptures and through them the promised Messiah. Is this any way to treat God’s people.

 

They were convicted. They knew they were wrong and there was no excuse.

 

9  Then I said, "What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?

 

The fear of the Lord is missing in their lives.

 

The world is watching and they were giving the enemies of God opportunity to bring a reproach on the nation of Israel.

 

10  I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury!

11  Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them."

 

In verse 12 we see the first step in the bearing the fruit of repentance.

 

12  So they said, "We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say." Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.

 

They agreed to restore all that had been taken by usury. To seal the deal the priests were called in to require an oath… Not just a covenant between me and you but between you and God. “Cross my heart and hope to die”.

 

Its better not to make a vow than to make a vow and break it…



13  Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, "So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.

 

A vivid image of what Nehemiah said that the Lord would do if they failed to fulfill their promise. May you lose everything you own by the hand of God. They would become like “dust in the wind” in the land. The people responded Amen which means “So Be It”. Then they praised the Lord.

 

Nehemiah went back to the Word of God and demanded the people to live by it. This was tough love but love none the less.



Chapter 5 closes with a brief biography regarding Nehemiah's 12 year stint as governor. He supported himself rather than charge the people for his leadership. The taxes would have provided for Nehemiah’s expenses.

 

Because of the burden on his brethren he did not take advantage of his position to purchase land. Nehemiah devoted his time to making Jerusalem safe for his brothers, as a public servant not a hireling. He paid his own way and supplied his own table and welcoming strangers to dine with him and exercising his gift of hospitality. He did all this because he feared God. Nehemiah knew God kept good records and was very much aware of the sacrifices he made and to Nehemiah thats what mattered most.

 

14  Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor's provisions.

15  But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God.

 

Nehemiah is not bragging, he is giving an account of his time as governor.

 

16  Indeed, I also continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were gathered there for the work.

17  And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from the nations around us.

 

Thats a big table!

 

18  Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor's provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people.

19  Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

 

Nehemiah is trusting God to reward him.

 

No sooner had they dealt with the internal conflict the enemies

 

Nehemiah 6

 

1  Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates),

2  that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono." But they thought to do me harm.

 

You have to love the name of this village, Ono.

 

The enemy moves from the many to the one. If the enemy take the leaders out, the rest will be vulnerable to defeat. The devil understands this very well…

 

If Nehemiah went to this meeting he would have lost valuable time. The city of Ono was hostile towards Israel so it wouldn’t be a good place for a peace treaty. If they were serious they would have just come to Jerusalem. This is an assassination attempt.

 

3  So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?"

 

I busy doing what God has called me to do. “I’m doing a great work”… Whatever you do in the name of the Lord know you have been called to a great work!

 

Whatever God calls you too is a great work!

 

If you don’t believe God has called you to a great work, you will be distracted by lesser things. You will be susceptible to the enemies schemes. Stay busy in the things of God and you will be safe.

 

The safest place to be is the center of God’s will. Any other place is dangerous.

 

We need to keep our focus on the ministry God has called us too. Who will share the gospel? Who will advance the kingdom and the cause of Christ?

 

4  But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.

 

The devil doesn’t give up. Four times…

 

Opportunity knocks, temptation really does lean on the doorbell.

 

5  Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand.

 

The accusation they were bringing against Nehemiah they are distributing among the people.

 

6  In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king.

 

It is reported… The devil wants to get us to try to track down every accusation that is made against us. He knows if you get caught up in this you will stop the work of God.

 

Geshem is a sworn enemy of the Jews. This is a bold face lie they are spreading.



7  And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, "There is a king in Judah!" Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.

8  Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart."

 

If you lead anything in the body of Christ you are going to be lied about.

 

The temptation we spend defending ourselves is time that is not spent building the wall.

 

9  For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done." Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

10  Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you."

 

The devil uses fear… He wants us to live in fear and to do something disobedient to the Word of God.

 

Nehemiah knows this is not of God as we will see by his response.

 

God doesn’t use carnal fear nor greed to motivate us to do His work. God uses His Spirit and His peace to lead us.

 

11  And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!"

 

Nehemiah knows the way to walk in victory is to flee temptation.

 

12  Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

13  For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

14  My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.

 

He gives it all to God…

 

15  So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.

 

52 days! The walls will get finished even though there is opposition to the work of God. When God is about to do something great the enemy amps up his attacks and opposition.

 

God is

 

16  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.

 

The greatest revenge on the enemy is to finish the work God has called us to. Quitting is easy and people do it every day.

 

17  Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them.

 

Tobiah is opposing the work. The nobles of Judah are playing all sides not knowing who would prevail.

 

18  For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.

19  Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.

 

They aligned themselves with Tobiah who had married into their families… this was a violation of God’s law. They put human relationships and alliances above the Word of God, above the work of God.  

 

Tobiah was family you could say. So the point of all this is to know and be aware that the most dangerous person we face in our lives in our service to the Lord isn’t the attack from the obvious enemies, the greatest attack we face is the so called brother or sister who has sold out to the world, to money and power.

 

If what you teach and what you preach stands between what the so called brother or sister desires you can count on being stabbed in the back.  People will oppose any work of God that doesn’t support their desire and lifestyle. They will seek to silence both the message and the messenger.

 

James 1:2-8 (NKJV)

2  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

3  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

4  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

6  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

7  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Don’t live in fear! The wall will get built. God will see to it.

 

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