God Is With His People

Photo by Anna Shvets: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-people-reaching-each-other-s-hands-4672717/

God Is With His People

Last Sunday we started in the Book of Nehemiah. To review, Nehemiah and Ezra were considered one book by Israel and by Judaism. Ezra tells the story of the first return of Israel from exile to Jerusalem. Ezra and Zerubbabel led a team to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, and to introduce Israel to the Law of God once more. After Ezra’s team had been in Jerusalem 12 years or so, some of the exiles returned to the winter palace of the Persian King Artaxerxes, and met the Cupbearer (the Butler) of the King named Nehemiah. These exiles told Nehemiah that the walls of Jerusalem were down, and its gates burned with fire.

So Nehemiah prayed.

If you want to be used of God, you cannot be in bondage. The reason God gave us who are Gentiles the Old Testament is to show us that God can only use a liberated people. When Israel was in bondage to Egypt, God raised up Moses to go to Pharaoh, demanding:

Exodus 5:1 (ESV) “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’”

God’s people are not to be bound to anyone or anything but the Lord Who loves them. God rescues us from the bondage of sin and death, the bondage of fear:

Romans 8:15 (ESV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

We are bound to God. When we were children (of Adam), we were in bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3). As Christ’s children we are no longer to be bound by the lost world. We are not to be bound by sin. The Bible asks –

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

God frees His people from the negatives of this world so that we can serve Him. We are:

1 Corinthians 6:20 … bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

God is the strength of my heart, and my Portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). “O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5).

Nehemiah Cannot Free Himself – But God Can

So Nehemiah prayed – asking God to make a way. Then Nehemiah did his job. We read:

Nehemiah 2:1-2 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been before time sad in his presence. 2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

Let’s look at it came to pass in the month Nisan. When we were in Nehemiah chapter one, we read:

Nehemiah 1:1 … And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

The month Chisleu(Hebrew Chislev) is equivalent to our November to December of our calendar. The messengers came to Nehemiah in the wintertime. But in chapter two we see we are in the month Nisan, which is equivalent to April in our calendar. We learn from this that Nehemiah not only prayed to God when he first met the messengers, but that he prayed for approximately five months before bringing up anything to the King. We are told in:

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please {God}: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

God wants a daily intimate relationship with those whom He has saved. He wants us to diligently seek him. Nehemiah sought out God in prayer daily, sharing his heart and his hurt, and waited on God. The Scripture says:

Psalm 37:9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

In America, we are conditioned to want things right away. This hurts the American Christian.

We want microwave foods, streaming service, and immediate gratification. But God wants us to wait upon Him, to seek His face, to glorify Him in all that we do. For five months Nehemiah served the King and waited on God. We read,I had not been before time sad in {the King’s} presence. Nehemiah played the hypocrite, masking his anguish while he waited on God. But today his mask slips. The King sees his sorrow, and says to Nehemiah:

Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart

Word Study: Why is your heart filled with sorrow? Nehemiah says, I was very sore afraid, rāḇâ yārē’ literally extremely afraid”. Nehemiah felt the cold grip of fear on his heart. If the King was unhappy with his cupbearer, he could easily get rid of him and get another. Nehemiah replies:

Nehemiah 2:3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever

Nehemiah wants to let the King know that his sorrow is not with his job. He is blessed to be working for the King. Nehemiah continues:

Nehemiah 2:3 … why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulcher, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?

Let’s consider these words, and realize how brave it is of Nehemiah to say these words to the King. The reason the city of Jerusalem is in such bad shape is because the Persian Army (and this is a Persian King) destroyed it. But Nehemiah will not be controlled with fear. God says:

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”,

When I was growing up my mama used to say, “Starve a cold, feed a fever”. You’ve probably heard this yourself. Here’s one we need to use as Christians.

Starve fear, feed your faith”

Fear has its proper place when it protects us from bad things. I think its fine to fear spiders, snakes, great heights, and excessive speed on the highway. I think we should “Fear the Lord” in the sense of respecting Him as our Lord (see Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10). But fear should never dictate your faith. Nehemiah tells the King what is bothering him. And the King replies:

Nehemiah 2:4 … Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request?

The King asks Nehemiah, “What do you want? What can I do for you?” Rather than reply immediately, we read:

Nehemiah 2:4 … So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah talked to the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14) before he talked to the King of Persia. Nehemiah has been in prayer to God for five months. Now he wants to speak as God would have him speak. The Bible says:

James 1:5-6 (ESV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting …

God guides Nehemiah in his request. Nehemiah says:

Nehemiah 2:5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulcher, that I may build it.

What is interesting about Nehemiah’s request is that he asks to go to Judah, not Jerusalem. Now Jerusalem is in Judah, but Jerusalem is the Capital City of Judah. Had Nehemiah requested to rebuild Jerusalem, the King might consider this to be a treasonous act. Instead, the King asks:

Nehemiah 2:6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

We don’t know how long Nehemiah asked to be away, but whatever his response was, the King was satisfied with it. The Soniclight Commentary notes:

Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes 12 years after the king had appointed him governor of Judah (5:14; 13:6). But he may have also gone back sooner than that (v. 6).”

Nehemiah 2:7-8 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; {8} And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

When an empire conquered other nations it always set governors to oversee the conquered people. Nehemiah asks the King for letters for the governors beyond the river. Without those letters the rescue mission that Nehemiah was going to lead might be interpreted to be a guerrilla force or slaves escaping from Persia. Nehemiah didn’t want to die before he reached his objective. Furthermore we see that Nehemiah asks for a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the King’s forest. The King owned the trees and, without trees (lumber), the gates of the city could not be rebuilt. We read:

Nehemiah 2:9 Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

Nehemiah was given an armed escort by the King. This was because God was in the planning. If we do not honor God in our plans, God will not bless us. But if we wait upon the Lord, God will bless us richly.

Illustrate: I remember being on mission in Belize when our team was going to go into a village known for drug abuse and Voodoo practices. As our bus traveled toward the village we saw a hitchhiker, and picked him up. He asked where we were going. When we told him, he smiled, and said he was a policeman in that village. When we arrived, this man stayed with us as an “armed escort”. When we serve God, God will pave the way.

The Scripture declares:

Isaiah 30:18 And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that he may have mercy

God waits for us to wait on Him. God wants to bless us, but we must look to Him. Did not Jesus say, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. (Matthew 6:33). We are to wait on our God. He saves us to walk with Him. The Prophet said:

Isaiah 40:28-29 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. {29} He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

When we are in a helpless and hopeless situation, we are in the best place we can be if we are “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (John 1:12; Romans 8:16; Philippians 2:15).

When You Work For God,
You Will Always Get Resistance

Nehemiah 2:10-11 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. 11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.

It amazes me that Christians don’t grasp this concept. If Jesus had His enemies – and He did – we will have our enemies while we are working for the Lord. We are told in

Ephesians 6:12 … we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The devil and this fallen world has its minions who forever stand against the work of God. The two who who stood against Nehemiah and against the work of God were Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Sanballat was called a Horonite, that is, he was from the Moabite town of Horonaim. Tobiah is an Ammonite. The Ammonites and Moabites are cousins to the Israelis, but are also great enemies of Israel. When Lot fled from Sodom with his daughters, and went to a cave, his daughters enticed their father into committing incest. Their children became the fathers of the Ammonites and the Moabites.

Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, the Capital City of Northern Israel, and was completely against Jerusalem’s restoration.

This unholy trinity came together to plot and plan against Nehemiah. All three were totally against the rebuilding of Jerusalem, for it was in their best interests that Israel remain broken and in captivity. Notice that Nehemiah was only in Jerusalem three days until these enemies attacked. Notice what Nehemiah does:

Nehemiah 2:12 And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.

Nehemiah knew the enemy was watching. So he patiently waited three days. After the third day, Nehemiah arose in the night, taking just a few trusted men with him. Nehemiah told no one but GOD as to what he was planning to do, and took no supplies with him when he went out.

Nehemiah didn’t want the devil’s men to know what he was doing! Nehemiah was doing exactly what Jesus said do. Our Lord told us in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. A “serpent” doesn’t tell you where it is – it hides in the background until the time is right. Nehemiah hid in the background until the time was right.

Illustrate: Columnist John Kass, writing about the July 4, 2022 shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, wrote:

I thought I could hear the devil laughing.

Are there any serious doubts that as a culture we’ve turned our faces from God?

We infantilize our young people. We demand the right to kill the innocent unborn. We raise our young in a culture of death. There are elementary school teachers who are regularly depicted on social media as being excited about exploring sexual themes and gender identity with young children.

Ours is a culture that fills kids with pharmaceutical drugs to manage their mood swings, a culture that offers them video games to live out their most violent, murderous fantasies. We push our political anxieties and pathologies down the throats of our children, telling young men for example, that masculinity is “toxic.” And if they happen to be white and male, they’re led to believe they’re they cause of almost everything that is wrong in the world.”

The devil and his crew will always show up when God’s people are at work. Anytime righteousness and the Kingdom of God shines, the darkness does all it can to smother it. Nehemiah used the darkness against the darkness. He did no one wrong, but surveyed the situation. He prayerfully rode his mule along the perimeter of the wall, surveying the damage. I can almost hear Nehemiah praying as he rides alone – a few good men with him – and keeping his counsel between himself and God.

We Must Have Unity To Do God’s Work

Nehemiah 2:13-16 And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. 14 Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. 15 Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. 16 And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.

Nehemiah had been given a job to do by God. He went out by night, seeking God’s direction. For you see, the work was not Nehemiah’s to do. It was for God to do. God must do the work. Nehemiah will be available. He will be the hands and feet of Christ, but it will require a unified effort by the refugees if Jerusalem is to be restored. Nehemiah did not tell what he had planned to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. He waited until he had clear direction from God. Then and only then Nehemiah gathered the Jews (the people), the priests (the Levites), the Nobles (the princes of the tribes), the rulers (the bureaucracy), and the workers. We read:

Nehemiah 2:17-18 Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. 18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah outlined the problem to all of the people, letting them know how God had miraculously secured his release as the King’s cupbearer. The people agreed TOGETHER, saying Let us rise up and build. God can use a unified people to do His will. But “a house divided will not stand” (Mark 3:25). Let us pray for the unity of our Church, and for the unity of Christ’s Church in America. For Christ’s 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!
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