Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Man Like Nehemiah


Before my youth pastor preached on the book of Nehemiah, it was just another book that I breezed over. I never studied or appreciated it, but now I wonder how I missed it! After reading it, I fell in love with the book of Nehemiah and I think it's pure injustice that David and Jonah get all the bible story fame while Nehemiah is glossed over! Personally, I think Nehemiah was a godlier man than David or Jonah ever were. You didn't see Nehemiah murdering a man and stealing his wife or writhing on the ground begging to be killed because his plant died.

After much serious contemplation, I have decided that I want to marry a man just like Nehemiah. Allow me to share why...

First of all, Nehemiah is a man of passion who knows how to pray. In the very first chapter, we see the depth of his love for Israel when one of his friends brings him news of Jerusalem's fallen estate. When Nehemiah heard this, he "sat down and wept and mourned for many days...fasting and praying before the God of heaven." Then he prays a long intimate prayer of pleading and confession, reminding God of his promises to the children of Israel and asking for mercy.

Second he is bold and courageous. When the king notices Nehemiah's downcast expression and asks him, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." Nehemiah "became dreadfully afraid 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?" Even though he's 'dreadfully afraid,' he doesn't brush it off and say, "oh, it's nothing, king." He boldly states the cause of his sorrow with conviction and compassion for his people. Then the king asks him, "what do you request?" So Nehemiah eloquently informs the king of his desire to return to Jerusalem.

Third, he is a born leader. After the king grants his request, he goes back, surveys the city and tells the people, "Come let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach." He encourages the people by telling of the success God gave him with the king. So the people say, "Let us rise up and build," and they go to it! But I love this next part! When Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem (three very powerful officials) hear what the Israelites are doing they laugh at them and despise them. But Nehemiah answers them and says, "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." Ouch! He basically told them to get out of there--they didn't belong in Jerusalem!

Fourth, Nehemiah pays attention to detail. He spends several chapters describing the rebuilding of the walls and the gates, meticulously recording the building process, the dedications, and every man that helps. You gotta love a man that pays attention to detail! But then the bad guys (Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem) start causing trouble again.

Fifth, he is a brave warrior and a man of faith. When Sanballat and Tobiah stirred up dissension against the Jews, Nehemiah "positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings...with their swords, their spears, and their bows." Then Nehemiah gives a stirring speech: "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"! And all the people working on the wall "loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon." Nehemiah kept the man with the trumpet at his side, saying, "Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us." So they worked tirelessly, building up the wall and fighting their enemies off by day, and standing guard by night, not even taking their clothes off "except...for washing."

Sixth, he is a wise peacemaker. As if trying to build the wall and fight off enemies isn't enough to deal with, Nehemiah has to deal with a famine causing unrest among his own people. "There was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren...[saying] 'We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our lands and vineyards...indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves...It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards." So Nehemiah "became very angry" and "after serious thought...rebuked the nobles and rulers saying, 'Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.' Then they were silenced and found nothing to say." Nehemiah begs the men to restore their brethren's land and houses and a hundredth of everything they have taken. And the men agreed saying, "We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say."

Seventh, he has a generous heart. When the people appoint him governor, even though he has the right to governor's provisions, he "did not demand the governor's provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people." In fact, he "continued the work on this wall and...did not buy any land." In addition, all his servants were gathered to help work on the wall as well.

Eighth, he is wise. After the Israelites finally finish building the wall, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem still aren't satisfied with their trouble-making. They send Nehemiah word saying "'Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.'" But Nehemiah knew they were trying to kill him. So he tells them he's busy with a great work and can't leave. Four times they tried to get him to come but he answers them in the same manner. So when that doesn't work they try to blackmail him. Sanballat sends him yet another letter saying, "It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel...Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together." But Nehemiah answers, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart." So after everything they've tried doesn't work, they get an insider named Shemaiah to make Nehemiah break the Jewish law by going into the temple saying, "they are coming to kill you." But Nehemiah replies, "Should such a man as I flee?...I will not go in!"

Ninth, he finishes what he sets out to do. Finally, "the wall was fifty-two days...and when all our enemies heard of it...they perceived that this work was done by our God." But it was not truly finished for "the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few...Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers and the people that they might be registered by genealogy." So he does it. And "when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities."

Tenth, he keeps God's law. After sealing a covenant, dedicating the wall, delegating temple responsibilities, and creating several reforms, Nehemiah has to deal with merchants trying to come in and sell things on the sabbath. He rebukes the nobles of Judah for profaning the sabbath, then posts his servants at the gates to keep people from bringing their wares in on the sabbath. So the merchants simply camp outside Jerusalem until the sabbath is over. But Nehemiah warns them that if they don't clear out he'll lay hands on them. So "from that time on they came no more on the Sabbath."

Nehemiah was not perfect, but He sought to please the Lord in everything he did, and I believe he was truly a man after God's own heart. That is why I want to marry a man like Nehemiah...