Oh, How God Loves You And Me!

Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/belief-bible-book-business-267559/

Turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah Chapter One.

Let me help you find it. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah. It is the 16th book in your Bible, right after the Book of Ezra.

Nehemiah and Ezra are two books that go together. In the Jewish Canon of Scripture (the Scrolls), Ezra & Nehemiah are one book. When Israel entered the Promised Land the Lord told them:

Deuteronomy 28:15-20 (ESV) But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all His commandments and His statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20 “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.

If Israel – God’s people – had stayed close to God, then they could rest in His provision. But if God’s people depart from God, they brought upon themselves FOUR CURSES:

  1. The CURSE of a impoverished and crime filled cities and rural areas
  2. The CURSE of hunger and deprivation
  3. The CURSE of decreased prosperity and growth
  4. The CURSE of personal loss

To forsake God is to enjoy curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish. Kind of sounds like America today, doesn’t it? Israel wandered away from the Word of God, and God kept calling them – but Israel refused to hear. So God withdrew His protecting hand, and allowed first Babylon, then Assyria to overthrow Judah and the Holy City Jerusalem. And yet, God only allowed this for 70 years before redeeming His people.

Ezra and Nehemiah Are REDEMPTIVE BOOKS

As the 70 years of punishment winds down, God moves on the hearts of the Gentile Kings to allow the Jewish believers to return to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the Temple so they could worship there. The Psalmist said of God:

Psalm 103:8-10 (ESV) The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

Though God upholds His standards of righteousness, He does not punish His children with the intent of destroying them – but with the intent of REDEEMING them. An overview of these redemptive two books is:

  • Ezra 1-6: God moves on the heart of the Persian King Cyrus II (a.k.a. Cyrus The Great) to allow a man named Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua to lead over 42,000 Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel’s mission is to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Ezra 7-10: God moves on the heart of the Persian King Artaxerxes to send Ezra the Priest to Jerusalem to teach the Law of God to the people. Finding that Israel had violated God’s Law by intermarrying with unbelievers, Ezra dissolves these sinful marriages. Even today, God does not want His children by faith marrying unbelievers:

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (ESV) Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God

Now we come to Nehemiah chapter 1. Ezra covers events that occurred 13 or 14 years before this moment. We read:

Nehemiah 1:1-2 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, 2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

The story begins in the month Chisleu, which would be equivalent to our late November to early December. The man Nehemiah is the “Cupbearer” for the Persian King Artaxerxes, the same King who sent Ezra to Jerusalem to teach the people the Law of God. The “Cupbearer” is a respected, high ranking official who was in charge of what the King ate and drank. The Cupbearer tasted the King’s food and drink to insure that it was not poisoned. This man put his life on the line daily to protect his master. It was a Cupbearer that told Pharaoh about Joseph when he was imprisoned (Genesis 41). Based on the Cupbearer’s endorsement, Joseph was given an audience with Pharaoh – and eventually became right hand man to the King.

Nehemiah was serving the King in Shushan the palace – the winter palace of the Kings – when several Jews from Judah came visiting. Nehemiah knew that the Persian Kings Cyrus and Artaxerxes had allowed remnants of Israel to return to Jerusalem some 14 years before. Nehemiah “asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. After 14 years Nehemiah expected a good report – or at least, some progress in the restoration of Jerusalem. The delegation replied:

Nehemiah 1:3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

Rather than hear good news, Nehemiah was told that the remnant were רַע חֶרְפָּה , raʿḥerpâ – under great distress, scorn, disgrace.

Nehemiah’s countrymen were in a terrible shape. Further, the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down. Ancient cities were surrounded by high protective walls that kept the criminal element and the hoards from overwhelming the city. There were huge gates that were opened at daybreak to allow travelers and merchants access to the city. Jerusalem’s walls are broken down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire. Jerusalem is at the mercy of any invading force that comes its way.

Nehemiah 1:4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

What Can One Person Do?

In the face of such utter destruction and suffering, what can one person do? What can I do?

One determined person can destroy the world if surrendered to Satan. Who can forget the names Hitler or Stalin? Who remembers the terrible massacre the Jim Jones brought to his followers. And one name that brought a universal curse on us all, Adam left a legacy: “By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12).

What can one person do?

Noah obeyed God, and saved humanity from utter destruction.

Abraham – a Gentile believer in God – followed the Lord and brought about the nation Israel, and all nations being blessed by his obedience.

– One man Moses stood up to the Pharaoh, and led Israel out of Egypt.

– Another man Joshua led Israel in taking the Promised Land from the unbelieving Canaanites.

– A man after God’s own heart, David, killed the giant Goliath, and impressed the Lord so much that God promised him an unending Throne.

Elijah stood up to evil Ahaz and Jezebel, and brought a revival in Israel.

– A woman named Esther stood up against the Persian King Xerxes I, and saved Israel from certain annihilation.

– And God used a young virgin named Mary to be the vessel that would bring God into the world, our Lord Jesus Christ.

What can one person do? One person submitted to God can change the world for the better. Pastor Jon Bloom wrote:

Every life God creates is good and has a purpose, and therefore possesses a certain sacredness (Genesis 1:31). As stewards of the earth, we humans should approach all life with appropriate reverence (Genesis 1:26), especially other human lives (Exodus 20:13; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 5:44). This is one reason why abortion and euthanasia are such evils. Every life aborted at its beginning, middle, or end also alters the course of history. … Live Prayerfully and Carefully with the Kingdom in View”.

Whenever Nehemiah heard the bad news that Zerubbabel and Ezra’s mission was not as far along as it could have been, we read:

Nehemiah 1:4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days…

Israel was in a horrible place. Jerusalem was at the mercy of every thief and vandalizing hoard that passed by. Ezra and Zerubbabel had been working diligently in Jerusalem for 14 years, but it was still in a horrible place. If Jerusalem – the Capital City of Judah – cannot be restored, then Judah cannot be restored.

Nehemiah Did Three Things Right

  • I sat down”: Nehemiah sat down. When we hear about horrible things happening – especially to those we love – our first thought is “I’ve got to do something – anything!”

Illustrate: When David the Shepherd went to battle Goliath, King Saul tried to give him his armor. David refused it. “David said to Saul, “I can’t walk in these things, for I’m not used to them” (1 Samuel 17:39, NET). David instead trusted the Lord, and faced Goliath with a sling and five smooth stones. He kept his eyes on God. A few years later David is running from the enemy when he comes to the Tabernacle at Nob. David told the priests that he wanted Goliath’s sword for protection. “There is none like it – give it to me” (1 Samuel 21:8-10). David couldn’t defend himself with Goliath’s sword. And David couldn’t kill a giant with a sling and a stone. But God can.

Nehemiah resisted the urge to “do something”
in his own power. He sat down.

  • I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days. The word WEPT is the Hebrewבָּכָה bâkâh, {pronounced baw-kaw’}, which means to wail, to grieve loudly. When Abraham’s wife Sarah died (Genesis 23:2), Abraham bâkâh for her. When Joseph was reunited with his brothers after years in Egypt, he embraced them and bâkâh (Genesis 45:14-15). Nehemiah also MOURNED, the Hebrew אָבַל ʼâbal, {pronounced aw-bal’}, which means to suffer as one who has lost a close relative.

I suspect that Nehemiah did as Job did when he lost his family (Job 1:20), “Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped {the Lord}. Nehemiah cried, and mourned, but limited his mourning to CERTAIN DAYS. It is good to grieve, to suffer with those who suffer. Pastor Adrian Rogers once said:

What is wrong with us today is that society has forgotten how to blush, and the Church has forgotten how to weep!”

Nehemiah can do nothing in his own power to fix what has happened to Jerusalem. He grieves. “When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). But Nehemiah doesn’t just stop with grieving and groaning. Nehemiah …

Nehemiah 1:4 … fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

  • I … fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven”. God honors sincere fasting and prayer. Though few American Christians fast today, Jesus made it clear that as believers we should have periodic times when we go without food while seeking God’s will for our lives. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:16-17 (ESV) when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

God calls on His people to pray, to fast and pray, that He can bless us, and give us power to go through the impossible valleys that the world drags us through. God told His wandering Israel:

Joel 2:12-13 (ESV) “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.

Nehemiah did not blame God for Jerusalem’s suffering. Too often when trials come our way, we want to blame God, or insinuate that God was somehow unfaithful. Too often I hear people say, “Where was God in all this”. After Terrorists attacked America on September 11, 2001, the daughter of Billy Graham, Anne Graham Lotz was interviewed by Jane Clayson. Clayson said,

I’ve heard people say, those who are religious, those who are not, if God is good, how could God less this happen? To that, you say?”

Anne replied:

I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, God, we’re sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you.”

This is what Nehemiah did. He did not attack God. He did not ask, “Why God?” Nehemiah repented. We read:

Nehemiah 1:6-7 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

Nehemiah blamed not just the Jews, but himself as well. He said, We have dealt very corruptly against thee. The word translated corruptly is the Hebrewחָבַל châbal, {pronounced khaw-bal’}, which means “to bind as with a rope, to pervert, to twist so as to entrap”. The sense of Nehemiah’s prayer is that God wants to do good to His people, but our sins and our faithlessness has bound God’s hands. When our Lord Jesus Christ – raised in Nazareth – went back home, the Bible says:

Matthew 13:58 (ESV) {Jesus} did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (see also Mark 6:5).

The Prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. Israel is in a bad state because God’s people stopped acting like God’s people, and began to act like the world.

The Promises Of God

When we repent of our sins, confessing them to God, we have His promise that, {God is} is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Nehemiah repents. But Nehemiah also leans into the promises of God. Nehemiah says to God, REMEMBER. He reminds God of His promise:

Nehemiah 1:8-9 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Nehemiah quotes the Word of God back to God! When Nehemiah quotes the Word of God to God, he is not reminding a feeble minded God of what He previously said. Reminding God of what He said helped Nehemiah to remember the faithfulness of God. It also helps Nehemiah to fight off the fear that he is probably feeling, as well as the frustration. Reminding God is like a child reminds a parent of a promise. God wants us to remind Him of His promises, as a way of remembering Who He is.

Nehemiah 1:10-11 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. 11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cup bearer.

Nehemiah repented. Nehemiah remembered the promises o God. Now Nehemiah prays specifically, and asks God to prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. As the right hand man of King Artaxerxes, as the cup bearer, Nehemiah is going to stand before the King and ask for help for Jerusalem. He wants God to intervene on His behalf.

Nehemiah humbles himself before God. He prays, O Lord, I beseech thee. He is not commanding God, but asking God. He prays, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant. The Bible commands us to:

James 4:10 (ESV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Always remembering that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. When we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, our Lord will – at the proper time – bless or exalt us (1 Peter 5:5-6). What I find very interesting about this prayer is that it is not only heartfelt – but it is not particularly long. I read this prayer slowly, as if I were myself praying it to God. The entire prayer can be said – very slowly – in under 2 minutes. The next time we meet we will see if this brief prayer was effective or not!

Oh, that God would move on us all to grieve over our Jerusalem, and pray that God move in the hearts of the leadership of our nation. May God touch our hearts with His Word, and draw us to commit ourselves to His glory. Amen and Amen!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
This entry was posted in General, Nehemiah, Sermons Preached and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.