Sermons

Wed, May 30, 2018

Nehemiah Overview

Jewish tradition identifies Nehemiah himself as the primary author of this historical book. Much of the book is written from his first-person perspective. Nothing is known about his youth or background; we meet him as an adult serving in the Persian royal court as the personal cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1: 11– 2: 1). This prestigious position reveals something of Nehemiah’s upright character. Though he remained in Persia after the exiles had been allowed to go home, he was highly interested in the state of affairs in Judah (his brother Hanani had returned there earlier; Nehemiah 1: 2). The book of Nehemiah could be read as a sequel to the book of Ezra, and some scholars believe the two were originally one work. It is possible that Ezra compiled Nehemiah’s original accounts with other material to create the book of Nehemiah. However, most scholars believe Nehemiah himself wrote the book.
Series:Nehemiah
Duration:54 mins 1 sec

Nehemiah Commentary  

 

Who Wrote the Book?

 

Jewish tradition identifies Nehemiah himself as the primary author of this historical book. Much of the book is written from his first-person perspective. Nothing is known about his youth or background; we meet him as an adult serving in the Persian royal court as the personal cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1: 11– 2: 1). This prestigious position reveals something of Nehemiah’s upright character. Though he remained in Persia after the exiles had been allowed to go home, he was highly interested in the state of affairs in Judah (his brother Hanani had returned there earlier; Nehemiah 1: 2).

 

The book of Nehemiah could be read as a sequel to the book of Ezra, and some scholars believe the two were originally one work. It is possible that Ezra compiled Nehemiah’s original accounts with other material to create the book of   Nehemiah. However, most scholars believe Nehemiah himself wrote the book.

 

Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther… post exilic books.

 

Nehemiah as we will see isn’t just a talker – he is a doer. Nehemiah got off the bench and into the game. God called him to do a great work, and Nehemiah obeyed.

 

It has been well said that "there are three kinds of people in the world—those who don't know what's happening, those who watch what's happening, and those who make things happen."

 

Nehemiah was a man who made things happen. Whereas the book of Ezra deals with the temple and worship, Nehemiah deals with the walls and everyday work. The book of Nehemiah brings God into the everyday affairs of life.

 

You recall that Nehemiah led the third wave of Jews from their exile in Babylon back to Judah. Remember from our study in the book of Ezra

1. Zerubbabel rebuilt the Temple

2. Ezra rebuilt the people

3. Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem...

 

Rebuilding is always more difficult than starting from scratch…

 

Looking back over the time line of history all according to God’s plan for His people.

 

In the year 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, went down to Judah and carried Jews captive to Babylon.

 

18 years later, in 587 B.C., the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, wiped out the temple, tore down the wall, and carried even more Jews away captive.

 

70 years later, the prophecies of Jeremiah were fulfilled when the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild and restore the temple first and then the walls surrounding the city itself.

 

In around 538 B.C., Zerubbabel led the first contingency from Babylon to Jerusalem. Accompanying him were two prophets named Haggai and Zechariah who spurred the people on, exhorting them to continue continue the process of rebuilding the temple.

 

In 458 B.C. a second group, led by a priest and scribe named Ezra, returned. In the book before us, a third contingency is coming back.

 

The year is 445 B.C. and this third group is led by a man named Nehemiah. He is coming back to rebuild the walls around the city in order that the people can worship freely without being attacked by the enemy.

 

The book before us is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament.

1. It is an excellent book to study with regard to leadership, for Nehemiah is a godly example of what a leader should be.

2. It is also an excellent book regarding the subject of revival.

 

I appreciate Jon Courson’s perspective on Nehemiah.

 

3. But one of the most interesting ways to look at it is as a picture of the way the Holy Spirit rebuilds and restores the walls of the human personality.

 

You see, just as God is a triune Being, and because we are created in His image, we consist of three components as well: body, soul, and spirit. The body relates to the physical world around us. In a believer, the spirit lives forever and relates to the Lord within us. The soul—the personality—consists of mind and emotions and relates to the people around us. When we were saved, the temple that was in ruin, our spirit, was rebuilt and reborn when the Spirit came and dwelt within us. Yet even though that happened when I was born again, sometimes my soul—my emotions and mind—can still lie in ruins. That is, my mind doesn’t think the way it ought. My emotions aren’t as stable as they need to be. And as a result, I am vulnerable to attack unless and until the Spirit begins to rebuild the walls of my soul, how I think and how I feel. I think it’s not coincidental that Nehemiah means “Comforter from God”—for I suggest he paints a wonderful picture of the true Comforter (John 14:16), the Holy Spirit, who wants to rebuild and restore the walls that have been torn down by sin, the gates that have burned up by rebellion.

 

Many people say, “I’ve been born again. Why am I still struggling in this area emotionally or mentally?” I suggest it’s because the Holy Spirit needs to do a restorative, rebuilding work in the area of the soul. If you’re in that place, you’re at the right place today, for the book before us gives us some powerful lessons about what the Lord desires to do in us in order to free us to worship Him…

 

Why Is Nehemiah So Important?

 

Nehemiah was a layman, not a priest like Ezra. He served the Persian king in a secular position before leading a group of Jews to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the city walls. His familiarity with politics proved to be very important in leading the Jewish community during their rebuilding efforts.

 

Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the Jews withstood opposition and came together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah led by example, giving up a respected position in a palace for hard labor in a politically insignificant district. He partnered with Ezra, who also appears in this book, to solidify the political and spiritual foundations of the people. Nehemiah’s humility before God (see his moving intercessory prayers in Nehemiah 1 and  9) provided an example for the people. He did not claim glory for himself but always gave God the credit for his successes.




Nehemiah 1

 

1  The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel,

2  that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

3  And they said to me, "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire."

4  So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

 

FIGHTING FROM THE KNEES   In Nehemiah 1: 5-11, Nehemiah was a man who fought on his knees. At major junctures in his life, when our normal tendency would have been to fight back or trust in our own abilities for defense or try to will our way through the opposition, Nehemiah man fell to his knees in prayer. Nehemiah loved his people, spoke his mind, stood alone, and did a difficult job that no one else was willing to do. And he did it all without fanfare, for the purpose of sustaining his beloved nation, Israel. He did it in the strength that he gained from time spent in prayer before God on his knees.

 

We never stand taller when we are on our knees.

 

5  And I said: "I pray, LORD God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments,

6  please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned.

7  We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

8  Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations;

9  but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.'

10  Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand.

11  O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king's cupbearer.




“I was the king’s cupbearer.” This final sentence of chapter 1 gives us an indication of Nehemiah’s great humility. You see, being the king’s cupbearer was a tremendous honor. Originally, the cupbearer sat next to the king and would sample the food and drink brought before him to determine if it had been poisoned.

 

But as time progressed, the office of cupbearer became one of close adviser. In Nehemiah’s day, the cupbearer was no longer sampling food, but a “chief of staff.” Thus, Nehemiah was in a place of prominence and power. If I were Nehemiah, I would have mentioned my position at the beginning of the book. Nehemiah, however, mentions it at the end of the chapter and only as it relates to the story about to unfold. Concerning the Spirit, Jesus said that when He came, He wouldn’t speak of Himself (John 16:13,14). The work of the Spirit is to exalt the Son. Where is the Son most exalted? At the Table of Communion, for when I hold the cup of the King at the Table of the Lord, it is then that the Spirit so often begins to advise, correct, and comfort me. As he was in a position of power, word came back from Jerusalem nine hundred miles away that the walls were still destroyed, the gates still burned, and things were still a mess.

 

Yet, rather than criticize, Nehemiah agonized. He not only confessed sin, but also quoted Scripture. Referring to Deuteronomy 28, he prayed, “Lord, You promised that if we sinned, we would be scattered. But You also promised that if we returned again to You, You would gather us from wherever we’ve been.” I’m convinced that God loves to hear His children quote Scripture in prayer, as if to say, “Lord, I understand what You said. I’m placing my faith on what You have spoken.” And Nehemiah does just that.

 

How Do I Apply This?

 

Worship while you work, wherever you work!

 

Nehemiah shows us the kind of significant impact one individual can have on a nation. Nehemiah served in secular offices, using his position to bring order, stability, and proper focus on God back to the Jews. God uses all manner of people in all manner of places doing all manner of work. Do you feel you must be “in ministry” in order to serve God? Be encouraged; He is not limited by your vocation. Have this attitude about your work: “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3: 17).

 

Nehemiah 2

 

THE TIMING OF GOD’S ANSWERS   Nehemiah 2: 1-6   It took four months for Nehemiah’s prayer to be answered. God never panics, but we often do. We pray today and expect a change to occur at once. But if we look at Scripture and think about our own personal experience, we might agree that four months is actually a short time frame for God to work. He knows what He is doing, and He knows the right time to do it. Sometimes He is teaching us patience. Other times He is dealing with our stubbornness. Sometimes we just don’t know why we have to wait. But the lack of an immediate answer does not mean that a good answer is not coming. Like Nehemiah, we may have to wait, continuing in prayer and trusting fully in God.

 

Ask, Seek, Knock…

Yes, No, Wait are the Lord’s answers.

 

God’s delays are not His denials.



1  And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.

2  Therefore the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." So I became dreadfully afraid,

3  and said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?"

4  Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven.

5  And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it."

6  Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), "How long will your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

7  Furthermore I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah,

8  and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy." And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.

9  Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

10  When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.

11  So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days.

12  Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode.

13  And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire.

14  Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass.

15  So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.

16  And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.

17  Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach."

18  And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.

19  But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?"

20  So I answered them, and said to them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."









 

 

 

 

 

 

 










Powered by: Preachitsuite