January 25, 2023
Thank you for praying for our prodigals and for revival among us. Thank you for building into your family, your local church, and ultimately the kingdom of God.
Every true and lasting work of God on earth is built and maintained by prayer!
The book of Nehemiah highlights the important continuation of God’s work in Jerusalem after the exile into Babylon. Nehemiah was the third great leader in the Jewish restoration. The first leader was Zerubbabel, who brought the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem in 538-537 BC (Ezra 2) and supervised the building of the temple.
Almost 80 years later, Ezra, the teacher of the Law came with a second group of Jews, bringing widespread change through his teaching of God's Word. About 13 years after Ezra's expedition, Nehemiah heard about the sad condition of things (Nehemiah 1:3) and God burdened Him to lead in the rebuilding of Jerusalem walls.
Among other things, this book highlights the necessary elements of successful leadership in God’s work.
At the opening of the book, Nehemiah was hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem in the citadel of Susa, as cup-bearer under the rule of King Artaxerxes I of Persia. When Nehemiah learned about broken walls and burnt gates of Jerusalem, the first thing he did was turn to God.
“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
Nehemiah had a heart for the things of God. He deeply cared about God’s people, God’s city, and God’s honor. His prayer to God in chapter 1 is worth reading as he gives God His rightful place, humbly confesses his and Israel’s sin, reminds God of His promises, and implores Him for help.
One night, having returned to Jerusalem, Nehemiah assessed the situation alone with his God (Nehemiah 2:12). It was a huge task and yet he brought God into the difficulty and conveyed that to the officials who would be helping. He reassured them that God would bring success. “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build” (Nehemiah 2:20).
Nehemiah was imparting his vision to them and reminding them that they were involved in a work far greater than themselves. This was the work of God.
As with any great work, it cannot be done alone. Nehemiah was a team player. He was aware that he needed God, but he was equally aware that he needed fellow builders. Chapter 3 highlights the various workers employed to repair the walls and gates of the city.
While each of them were doing work in their own areas of the city, they were working together for a common goal. This is how true unity works. It is not everyone doing the same thing, or working in the same place, or thinking exactly the same way.
Unity is diversity working toward a common outcome.
Promoting unity is essential for success, because things will get difficult. Nehemiah found that there were enemies. There was opposition. There were those who did not want to see God’s people prospering. In his case, there were 2 men, Sanballat and Tobiah, who did their best to bring the building to a halt. Chapter 4 gives the whole account.
First, they ridiculed the workers by calling them feeble. Second, they tried to fight against them, but the people of God continued their work with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. Lastly, they tried to join them, but Nehemiah was wise to their tactics and would not allow it (Nehemiah 6:2). Dealing rightly with opposition takes a lot of courage. While fear was present, Nehemiah put his faith in his God.
Endurance is the quality of not giving up. Nehemiah was a man of endurance. Coming to the New Testament, one of the Greek words for endurance is hupomenō, meaning to stay under, to remain, to persevere, to hold fast. This is what Nehemiah did for the 52 days it took to complete the project God had given him to do (Nehemiah 6:15).
In talking about Jesus, the Hebrew writer exhorts us by saying, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:3).
As you labor in the kingdom of God where you are, may the qualities of Nehemiah be a source of encouragement to you.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel