Working For God

Photo by Madison Inouye:

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 2. 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the Cup Bearer or the Butler of the King Artaxerxes (a Persian King and conqueror of Judah). God has moved on the heart of Ezra and Zerubbabel to lead Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Some 12 years later some of these exiles return to King Artaxerxes palace and tell Nehemiah that the walls of Jerusalem are destroyed, and the gates burned with fire.

When the walls of the nation are fallen and the gates burned, the criminal element rule the nation. The walls must be rebuilt if righteousness will return!

Nehemiah seeks first God’s permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Receiving permission from God, Nehemiah asks King Artaxerxes for help – who willingly gives it! Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem, surveys the damage done, then gathers the refugees in exile to present the facts to them. 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.

What Are YOU Doing To Build God’s Kingdom?

Jesus told us “a house divided will not stand” (Mark 3:25). This is so very true. If the work of God will be done, then

God’s people must stand together for the glory of God, and work together for the Kingdom of God.

It has been my experience that people fall into various categories when it comes to doing the work of God:

  • There are COASTERS. These are people who coast around doing nothing, but they look like they are working.
  • There are COMPLAINERS and CRITICS who add nothing positive to the work, but drag the spirit of the workers down. Like the “murmurers” of wandering Israel, these people are like a cancer on the Body of Christ.
  • There are COMMISSIONERS who love to find work for people to do, but are unwilling to do the work themselves.
  • There are COUCH POTATOES who know what to do and know what they are called to do, but will not do it.
  • There are COMPROMISERS that believe that the light can make peace with the darkness.
  • Then there are COOPERATIVE CITIZENS of God’s Kingdom who, attentive to the call of God, move in unison with the Body to do the Lord’s work.

Nehemiah was very clear with the exiles. He said Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Nehemiah did not sugar coat the problem. The capital city of Judah is as helpless as a 3 year old girl in a snake pit. While the walls are down and the gates are destroyed, the Temple cannot be completed and God cannot be honored. Jerusalem cannot be fixed with good intentions. Though we are called to pray (for the Scripture commands us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19)), there must also be willing hands to work.

Nehemiah spoke constructively to the people. We read, 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. God had already worked to bring Nehemiah from the Palace of Shushan to Jerusalem. Nehemiah stepped out on faith. The Scripture tells us:

James 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Nehemiah stepped out on faith and did his part. He stepped outside his comfort zone – and God blessed him for it. Encouraging the people, the exiles united, saying:

Nehemiah 2:18 Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work

Sometimes the King James (which I love) adds words that are unnecessary. If you have a King James you’ll see the words this and work are italicized. What the text literally says is:

they strengthened their hands for good

How did they strengthened their hands for good? They started with Let us rise up and build. First of all, it is Let us. Who is US? US is first of all me and God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) … whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

If we are walking with God, doing the will of God, then nothing can stop us. “If God be for US, who can be against US?” (Romans 8:31). Let God be in the US. Doing as Nehemiah did,

  • The people sought God’s will in prayer. If the work is OUR work then it will fail. But if God is in the work it cannot possibly fail.

Psalm 127:1 Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

The work might be possible without God – but it will be much harder, and might be IMPOSSIBLE.

God must bless the work.
God must want the work.
God must be in the work.

God sent Judah into exile because Judah kept cutting Him out of their lives. God prophesied and promised His people, saying:

Ezekiel 36:33-36 Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. 34 And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. 35 And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. 36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

  • The people drew strength from God’s Word, and turned away from the wayward word of man. God promises us that …

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him.

The people held onto the promises of God and focused on the Lord Who led them. The Scripture says:

Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

The “Way” of God is not an easy way. It is a narrow way that few in this world want to walk. The world walks in darkness – but God’s people are to walk in LIGHT. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The people put away the “sin that so easily binds”. They put away unbelief, and doubt, and fear. They focused on the Lord Who saved them, and committed themselves to working together for His will.

  • The people committed to the US of fellowship. God’s work has always required more than one person. The Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV) I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

God will not operate in the midst of a people who have no respect for one another. Jesus told us to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). To serve God, all things must be “done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (ESV, 1 Corinthians 14:33)”. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 13:11 (ESV) Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

The Devil Will Always Stand Against God’s Work

Nehemiah 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

In the earlier part of this chapter we saw that:

Nehemiah 2:10 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.

Sanballat” was a Moabite, and “Tobiah” was an Ammonite. These are cousins to the people of Judah, from the lineage of Lot (not Abraham). Neither Sanballat nor Tobiah wanted Judah released from exile in Persia. But now we see another person, “Geshem the Arab”, has joined the battle against God’s people. The Arabs are the children of Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham. Ishmael was not the promised child that God would give to Abraham – Isaac was. Nonetheless God blessed the Arabs, just as He blessed the Jews. Yet the Arabs retained a hatred for their cousins the Jews.

Word Study: These three unbelievers come together to stand against the work of God. They “jeered at us and despised us”. In the Hebrew we see that they “jeered”, the Hebrewלָעַג lâʻag, (pronounced law-ag’) or “mocked them, held them in derision”. They also “despised”, the Hebrew בָּזָה bâzâh, (pronounced baw-zaw), said they were worthless. Jesus warned us against attacking others, saying:

Matthew 5:22 (ESV) … I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

People are not to be mocked, but loved and encouraged. We are commanded,

Matthew 7:12 (ESV) … whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus was quoting Leviticus 19:18 (you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord) as well as Zechariah 8:16-17 (do not devise evil in your hearts against one another).

When the devil wants to destroy a work of God, he always tries to make us feel worthless, and unloved of God.

What did the devil say to Adam and Eve?

Genesis 3:4-5 … Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

You are worthless. You are no good. God is depriving you. God does not love you. These are tactics the devil uses to stop the work of God. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem also throw in this:

Nehemiah 2:19 … “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

To rebel against the King is to court death. The intent of these three men is to plant fear in the hearts of the people so that they would do nothing. Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:10-11 (ESV)… Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The darkness will always accuse the light of evil. Pastor David Mathis wrote:

Unbelievers “are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery” — so what do they do? “They malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). After all, should we not expect the world, under the power of the devil (1 John 5:19; Ephesians 2:2), to lie about us? The Greek for devil (diabolos) actually means slanderer (1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:3). As Jesus said to his revilers in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. . . . When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The world will do its best to hinder the work of God. “Homophobe”, “Hater”, “Holy Roller”. Please notice that Nehemiah did not attack these men back. We read:

Nehemiah 2:20 Then answered I them {Sanballat, Tobiah & Geshem}, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

This is exactly what the Bible tells us to do. We are not to wrestle with pigs. If you wrestle with a pig, you’ll just get muddy … and lose in the end. Or as I heard someone say once,

If you waste time arguing with a fool,
they’ll end up beating you with experience”

Nehemiah kept his eyes on the promise of God. We are not to be part of the problem, but part of the solution. The Scripture says:

1 Peter 2:12 (ESV) Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Titus 3:2 (ESV) … speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

We are to “entrust ourselves to our God, Who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). This is what our Lord Jesus did. “When Jesus was reviled, He did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23). Nehemiah, like Jesus, focused on the project. The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build. Nehemiah told these three enemies:

Nehemiah 2:20 … ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah is not arguing with these men, but stating the facts for the people to hear. These men are unsaved. They care nothing for the work or the glory of God. Sanballat, Tobiah & Geshem have no portion(חֵלֶק chêleq, pronounced khay’lek, a “share”). As the neither the land nor God is theirs, they have no right” (צְדָקָה tsᵉdâqâh, pronounced tsed-aw-kaw’), no “righteousness” or “moral standing” in the matter. They also have no memorial (זִכְרוֹן zikrôwn, pronounced zik-rone’). They are living their lives without God, and when they are gone they will have accomplished nothing for the Lord.

What about you? When you leave this life, will you leave a legacy, other than a tombstone? Oh, I pray you will! If Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, when you leave this life you will leave a legacy in the lives that God has changed through your life. But if not, then you will have no memorial. Let us give our lives to Jesus as both Lord and Savior, and let us work – together – to grow His Kingdom on this earth. May God the Holy Spirit drive this Word deep into your hearts. 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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