Jesus in Nehemiah: Reconstructing dreams
Nehemiah was a common believer, not a priest like Ezra nor a prophet like Micah. Ezra was a priestly scholar and teacher. Nehemiah was a government worker in a secular system. God used him mightily just like God desires to use us mightily!
Nehemiah was comfortable and living in a palace. There was no position held closer to the king than the cup bearer. To be the cup bearer to the king you had to be able to discuss politics, understand the legal system and you had to be handsome. Nehemiah was secure for life!
Neh 1:3-4 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. NIV
The state of the church was deteriorated and held no kind of influence in the real world at that time.
A lot of people knew about the city in ruins but Nehemiah took personal responsibility for his city.
1. Sat down – Will we slow down & pay attention to what God sees?
2. Wept – Are we touched by what touches God’s heart?
3. Mourned - Do we feel what God feels about our world around us?
4. Fasted & Prayed – Are you willing to be part of the solution?
If life is only about being comfortable and secure Nehemiah would have never given up his position.
Your life is about something bigger than you! When you come to this realization you begin reaching beyond yourself to explore more meaningful expressions of sacrificial life.
Nehemiah shows us how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Neh 5 references how Nehemiah invited Jews and those from surrounding nations to eat at his table.
This is important because Nehemiah is seeking to transform a city. He determines that one of the most effective ways to do this is through the dinner table.
The function of preaching is to empower the church to perform the work of the ministry.
Our city will be transformed by our hospitality long before it will be transformed by pastors preaching.
Nehemiah opened his home, his life and his table to host parties and invite strangers over to become friends.
The Doctrine of Christian hospitality. It’s something that is required of pastors in places like 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. It’s something that is also required of all Christians in places like Romans 16 where Paul commands the whole church there to practice hospitality. Hospitality is welcoming people into your home and your life, sitting them at your table, treating them in a gracious way, having a meal with them that they might become your friend.
GP4RL: “Dinner For Six” this week. Invite two households who don’t know each other to eat so you can introduce them.
Jerusalem had been in ruins since its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
Nehemiah traveled to Israel, leading the third of three returns by the Jewish people following their 70 years of exile in Babylon. Ezra describes the two earlier returns.
Nehemiah gave up significant comfort and success because he was broken for the irrelevant and uninfluential posture of the church of his day.
Grand canyon, niagra falls, rain forest, ski slopes in beautiful mountains – invigorating! We are designed by God to live expressing the image of that which is bigger than everything.
When the question hit his heart, “Who cares” if the church is in this broken state he responded with great sacrifice.
You & I were born for this hour! Many people are waiting for you to know who you are!
Who cares about the state of our city? We do! We respond with great sacrifice to live for something bigger than our lives.
1 Pet 4:10 God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God's many kinds of blessings. (TLB)
We live in a day when hospitality does not exist as it should. People are isolated and lonely. Bowling Alone is a book that reveals sociologically and statistically the decline in hospitality in the last few decades. Here are some of his findings. The number of people playing cards together is down 25 percent. The number of bars, nightclubs, and taverns where people used to congregate is down 40 percent. Full service restaurants where people walk in, sit down, and have a meal are down 25 percent, but the number of fast Food restaurants are up 100 percent because so many people eat so many of their meals alone in their car.
Also, having a social evening with a neighbor is down 33 percent. Family dinners are down 33 percent. Having friends over to your home is down 45 percent. From 1985 to 1999, the readiness of Americans to make friends has decreased by 33%.
The Bible says we are to love our neighbor and practice hospitality. Many of us don’t even know our neighbor.
One of the things that you and I can do to help to see the forward progress of the gospel and justice in our city is to love our neighbors. And part of that is inviting them into our homes and seating them at our table.
Going into “the ministry” is settling for less if you’re called by God in another direction.
We are all called to personal ministry and this is simply making a difference in the lives of people around you every single day.
God has placed you where you are for a purpose.
Col 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. NIV
Eph 2:10 It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. (TLB)
Nehemiah 5:14-19 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year--twelve years--neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors--those preceding me--placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land. 17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people. 19 Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people. NIV
Nehemiah is willing to set aside what is in his best interest and live without an income, a salary, and to service voluntarily even though his life was in danger. Furthermore, he tell us in Verse 15, “The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and had took from them for their daily ration, 40 shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded over the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of God.”
He then goes on with the next principle. Verse 16, “I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land; and all my servants were gathered there for the work.” The people there were in very dire straits financially because it was a very devastated economy.
What that means is, Nehemiah could’ve moved into town. He could have imposed a high tax burden on all the citizens bankrupting them. He then could have purchased all of their land at very discounted rates and then rebuilt the city and the church making a great fortune. He would have been taking advantage of people who were members of his own church, who were facing bankruptcy, and who themselves were giving a lot of their time, energy, prayer and money to build their church as the city within the city, and to build the city and make it a great city.
Nehemiah decided, “I cannot do that. It may be legal. It’s not ethical.” It is a way for me to benefit myself, but it does not serve the whole city, and it does not serve God’s people. And so he did not do that. So rather than taking economic advantage of people, what he does do, rather, is he, quote, preservers in the work. “Me and all my servants were gathered for the work.”
Verse 18, “Now what was prepared” – at whose expense? “My expense.” He is a man who is throwing big parties, and having people over for dinner. “Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because of the service was too heavy on these people.” What’s he’s saying is, “It wouldn’t have been wrong to expense this and get a reimbursement. But that would have come out of the taxation of the poor. They’re already broke. Nehemiah had the means so he went the extra mile beyond the call of the duty and paid for 150 people for dinner.” This is a massive expense.
But this is the doctrine of Christian hospitality. It’s something that is required of pastors in places like 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. It’s something that is also required of all Christians in places like Romans 16 where Paul commands the whole church there to practice hospitality. Hospitality is welcoming people into your home and your life, sitting them at your table, treating them in a gracious way, having a meal with them that they might become your friend.