Nehemiah Week 2:
Pastor Terry Inman
Last week we began a new series based on the book of Nehemiah. My son David and his family from Tracy were here. He’s an Old Testament scholar and a product developer at Fremont Bank.
He told me the message was great but that I need to refer to the Old Testament as the “First Testament”, because the word “old” suggests that it may not be as relevant as the New Testament. He has a point. I get that. I’m getting older and working at staying relevant myself.
This book records dramatic events that happened nearly 2500 years ago in the ancient mid-east. However it is very relevant to rebuilding our nation, our community, our church, our families and our personal lives.
Last week, we introduced Nehemiah’s “OUTCRY” over the deplorable conditions in his ancestral home, the city of Jerusalem. It was lying in ruin. The city walls were rubble and its gates were burned.
These were big stones not Legos. They could be the size of a truck. Just one of the gates was 90 ft. high cedar and bronze. They were now toast!
When Nehemiah got news from a visiting “brother” that his surviving countrymen were living in this “disgrace” he sat down, wept, prayed and fasted for days appealing to God for mercy.
We don’t cry over rock piles but these walls and gates defined Jerusalem as the center of the ancient Jewish culture and nation. Walls were for security and identity. As I mentioned last week this was like their 9/11.
Without major fortifications Jerusalem was a defenseless ghost town. Israel had fallen from being a leading world power under Solomon to near extinction. God used Babylon (modern Iran) as His agent of judgment against Israel for their sins of idolatry and rebellion against Him.
When we fail to love and serve God the consequences don’t always show up all at once. Sometimes were not even aware of the ruin and rubble.
God allows us to experience the consequences of our sin but he is a loving forgiving Father who waits to embrace our return and rebuild our lives.
Nehemiah wasn’t a priest or a prophet he was a government employee. He was a cupbearer in the Persian King’s Court. It was an influential role but he could have his head severed if the King wasn’t in a good mood.
Last week an Iranian scientist lost his head because the Ayatollah didn’t think it was a good idea to talk to Americans about their nuclear program.
Nehemiah mourned, prayed, and fasted and waited about four months to work up enough courage to ask the Persian King for a risky favor.
He asked the King of Heaven for a favor first. Talk to God before you talk to your boss. In heart-rending humility he opened his prayer with adoration and confession. He appealed to God’s character. He exalted the “great and awesome” covenant keeping God. He pleaded for attention—that His “ear” be attentive and that His “eyes” be open to his prayers.
Some call his confession, “identificational repentance”. He took the sins of his people on himself. He acknowledged his failures, the sins of his ancestors and the sins of his nation.
“I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” (Neh. 1: 6-7 NIV)
We are very concerned about our nation especially in this election cycle. It’s so easy to blame everyone else. What should we be confessing? There is brokenness in our personal lives. What should we humbly acknowledge?
Nehemiah reminds God of his previous promises to Moses. If they were faithless they would be scattered, if they returned they would be re-gathered. (Neh. 1.8-9 NIV) Nehemiah was about to get an assignment.
Nehemiah asked to be the answer to his own prayer. “Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” (Neh. 1.11 NIV) Nehemiah closes chapter one by inserting. “I was cupbearer to the king”. Nehemiah prayed to be successful. To him success was carrying out God’s purposes. If our prayers are only for our selves and our needs they are way too small. God responded to Nehemiah’s passion.
God moved the heart of this Persian King Artaxerxes. He sent Nehemiah on to rebuild the city he had previously captured. God hears the prayers of people that really care. Let me summarize what we have learned so far.
Spiritual rebuilding in a nation, community, church, family or individual begins with an “OUTCRY” of deep felt concern over the ruin.
An “OUTCRY” is initiated with adoration and recollection of God’s character and faithfulness. An “OUTCRY” is heard and seen when accompanied by humble contrition and personal confession. An “OUTCRY” gets answered when we are asking to accomplish God’s purposes.
Nehemiah’s first covert mission is to gather intelligence. He needed to access the destruction before beginning construction. Before we go there--I mentioned earlier the relevance of this story to our nation.
After the first message last Sunday we got and email from Vanitha Henry. She serves our Church board and prayer team. She forwarded an urgent three-day call to prayer issued by Mike and Cindy Jacobs. They are authors, speakers, and respected global leaders in prophetic intercession.
Listen to Cindy’s call to prayer. “As the Spirit of God leads, let’s repent of our national sin, renounce it, and revoke the enemy's power over the nation. Let’s rededicate America to God,"
Here’s her list of prayer bullets that confirm what the Lord is saying through our study of Nehemiah. “Identificationally repent for the worship of any false gods or participation in any false religious activities.”
Repent for any covenant breaking that has occurred on a national, governmental, marital, and individual level. Repent for broken promises made to God that have gone unfulfilled. Include those who committed their lives to Christ who are now prodigals.
Repent for the sin of abortion. Ask the Lord to forgive our nation for embracing abortion as acceptable and to reverse Roe v Wade. Ask the Lord to heal to those who have made that choice and for the church to extend love and grace to them.
Repent of any injustice and corruption in our city, region and state. This may include former slavery and other racist activities. Include the recent conflicts between the African-American community and the police.
Repent of rampant sexual sin: pornography, sex trafficking, government mandated acceptance of alternate sexuality and immorality in general.
Renounce, break and cancel every curse that may result. Revoke demonic footholds and strongholds in America and rededicate our country to God.
This call listed several bible verses to pray over our nation and ourselves for rebuilding and revival! Next Sunday night I am going to lead and all church family prayer gathering guided by this urgent call to prayer.
Now let’s follow Nehemiah on his strategic mission to rebuild walls. After four months, he took wine to the king. It was probably a special occasion like a birthday bash. That was a good time to ask for favors! Everyone was in a party mood except Nehemiah. The king noticed!
In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (Neh. 2.1-2 NIV) Nehemiah was depressed!
This sounds like the King was sympathetic but there were all kinds of rules about approaching the King. If the King didn’t like your demeanor or your request you may not make it out alive.
Nehemiah says, “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
(Neh. 2.3-4 NIV) Most people want something from politicians but Nehemiah served. He had built some personal capital with the King.
Before making his request on earth he again addressed the real KINGDOM. “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…
“If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” (Neh. 2.5 NIV) Don’t you love favor? I always pray for an upgrade when I board an airplane. I’m not sure this is spiritual favor?
Nehemiah was simply asking for favor to accomplish a Kingdom purpose.You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4.3-4 NIV)
If you want answers to prayer find out what God cares about then ask for the right reasons.
Now the next question from the King sounds like something a passport office would ask. “Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.”
(Neh. 2.6 NIV)
He was willing to grant a visa for a visit but he wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to his cupbearer. Nehemiah took it to another level. He asked for letters to the governors of the region for armed security. He also asked for building materials from the King’s forests for the main gate, the citadel, the walls and his personal residence. (Neh. 2.7-8 NIV)
When God makes provision for the task he has called you too, He also takes good care of you! Nehemiah says, “it was God’s gracious hand”
Because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. (Neh. 2.9 NIV) God’s hand (provision) is on us!
Now anytime you get that much favor you can also expect resistance. Nehemiah introduces us to his adversaries, the local turf Lords, Sanballat, a Samaritan official. Sanballat means “berry-bush” or enemy in secret. Berry bushes are prickly! Tobiah was a threatened Ammonite leader.
The minute you agree with God that you need some spiritual rebuilding you will get His attention and intervention. You will need it because you will also get resistance from entrenched spiritual darkness.
These walls had been laying in ruin and disgrace for 130 years and nobody rose to occasion to change the deplorable situation until Nehemiah.
When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. (Neh. 2.10 NIV)
Satan typically uses disturbed people whose power or possessions are threatened to resist God’s plans for our welfare. Satan also manipulates turf wars of the flesh in our personal lives to resist spiritual rebuilding.
Nehemiah’s first three-day tour was to gather intelligence. His plans were secret and his movements were stealth. He was the only one on horseback in the moonlight. He didn’t even tell the local Jewish officials, priests, or nobles until he was ready to start rebuilding.
Nehemiah details his route through the Valley Gate, by the Jackal Well, and the Dung Gate. Getting a first hand look at the broken walls and burned gates, he moved on to the Fountain Gate and the Kings Pool where the devastation was so bad that he couldn’t get through.
He went up the valley at night viewing the hillside avalanche of stones. He didn’t make it all the way around. He turned back and reentered through the Valley gate. I’m sure it appeared overwhelming if not impossible.
He then challenged the local leaders, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. (Neh. 2.17-18 NIV)
They responded, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work!
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab heard about the plan and began mocking and ridiculing. They accused them of treason. What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” (Neh. 2.19 NIV)
Nehemiah responded, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Neh. 2.20 NIV)
Let’s take an inventory with the Holy Spirit. Lets gather some spiritual intelligence. What’s broken or burned? Where does he want to rebuild?