Editors Note: This will begin a new series of blog post from the book of Nehemiah, in which I have titled the series, “Nehemiah: God’s Foreman.”
There may be few books of the Bible better than Nehemiah for where we are at today as a church, and a whole in this country. As we study this great book, we will be looking at the spiritual applications on rebuilding our families, churches, and country. Before we do this, I want to spend some time today looking at who Nehemiah is, and what characteristics made up this great man that was mightily used of God.
BACKGROUND/OVERVIEW of the Book
The book belongs in a grouping of three – Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ester. These 3 books together cover about 100 years, starting with the first of three remnants returning from captivity in Babylon as Jerusalem is rebuilt. These are the last, in chronological order, of the Historical Books, and Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are the prophets who prophesied during this time period. Nehemiah covers the time of approx. 457-432 BC, or 12-20 years after the end of Ezra. Nehemiah is widely considered the author of the book that bears his name. Most parts are a memoir, with chapter 7 being a historical documentation of the Jewish families, similar to the one found in the Book of Ezra.
SUMMARY of the BOOK
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king in the Persian palace, and leads the third and last return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. His concern for the welfare of Jerusalem and its inhabitants prompts him to take bold action. Granted permission to return to his homeland, Nehemiah challenges his countryman to arise and rebuild the shattered walls of Jerusalem. In spite of opposition from without and abuse within, the task is completed I only 52 days – a feat which even the enemies of Israel must attribute to God’s enabling. By contrast, the task of reviving and reforming the people of God within those rebuilt walls demands years of Nehemiah’s godly life and leadership. (Talk Thru the Bible pg 123)
BACKGROUND OF THE PERSON OF NEHEMIAH
He was born to Jewish parents in exile, and his name means “the comfort of Jehovah.” We can gather by his reaction to the poor state of walls and remnant of Jerusalem that he was raised in a godly home. We must always remember that Nehemiah’s don’t just happen – they are raised. At a young age he was appointed the responsibility of being the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. God would later use this position to secure the permission, protection, and provision Nehemiah needed for the task. He was a man of God, filled with the Spirit of God, and prayer was a natural and essential part of his life and his success. Nehemiah knew what work was, inspired others to work, and knew how to encourage those who became discouraged. He stood strong and tall in the face of opposition from without and within.
PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
The book of Nehemiah shows us what God can do through a remnant of believers who rise to God’s call through His servant to restore a focused and strengthen relationship with Him. This is where many of us are at today – a need to refocus and strengthen our faith and walk with God. What is needed today are some Nehemiah’s who will have a burden to rebuild what the enemy has destroyed. We have, for far too long, grown okay with the broken down walls of our faith. Are you willing to do something about the spiritual conditions around you? There are three characteristics that each of us should adopt in our lives so that we might begin to rebuild our walls.
He did not focus on what he could not do, what he had not been trained for, or what he never had accomplished before. Nehemiah was not one who saw the problems or complication, just the possibilities. Nehemiah was a dedicated layman willing to give up the luxuries of the palace to labor with the people of God. He was more concerned for the disrepair of God’s work than his own personal fame and fortune.
What is our focus today? When we look around and see no problems, it shows that we have a lack of spiritual focus. Too many of us are like the remnant of Jerusalem who see the disrepair of the walls, but we are unwilling to do anything about it. Our families are struggling in sin, and yet we turn a blind eye. Our churches are struggling to reach our communities and affect change with the Gospel, yet there is no tear I our eye as we sow the Gospel seed. Where is our focus?
J. B. Tidwell once said this about Nehemiah – He was cautious. His secret visit to the walls and his division and distribution of the laborers are good illustrations. He was courageous. He stood alone as leader of the enterprise and worked on, reusing to be frightened away by the enemies. He was uncompromising. He would neither compromise with outsiders, such as Sanballat, nor with those among his own people, such as the nobles. (pg 91, The Bible Book by Book)
It is sad how quickly the average Christians will just roll over and tuck tail and run when times are tough. There are some difficult times ahead for us as the Christian culture of our once great nation continues to erode – do you have the strength to see it through? The Bible still says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” The easiest thing to do is float down stream with everyone else…Blend in with the crows. It takes real spiritual fortitude to stand up and do something about what you see, about what needs to be done.
J. B. Tidwell continues on with some more insight about the person of Nehemiah – He had a concern for God’s cause. This is indicated by his earnest inquiry, by his deep sorrow for Jerusalem, etc. He had confidence in God’s cause and could pray for it and plead with heathen kings for it. He co-operated in God’s cause and actively fitted into the divine plan and works. (pg 91, The Bible Book by Book)
One of the many great lessons and topics we will cover while studying Nehemiah is his prayer life. His life also is a picture of the restoration ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ:
- Both left their high positions in order to identify with the plight of their people.
- Both came with a specific mission and fulfilled it.
- Both are characterized by prayerful dependence on God (Talk…pg. 126)
If we want to accomplish the work that Nehemiah accomplished, we must share the faith that Nehemiah possessed. And this faith is fortified in prayer.
Are you willing to be a Nehemiah? Your family needs a Nehemiah to spiritually lead them in building up the wall of separation and faith. The church is in need of some Nehemiah’s – men and women who will do their part to build a church – spiritually and physically.
Where are the Nehemiah’s today?