Nehemiah Week 3:
"Rebuilding & Resistance"
Pastor Terry Inman
Mr. Carson was my favorite Downton Abbey character. We even named our robotic vacuum cleaner Mr. Carson. As the butler of the Crawley Estate, Mr. Carson was in charge of the pantry, wine cellar, dining room and the staff. He is a lot like Nehemiah the “cupbearer” to the King.
Nehemiah is no celebrity, he’s just a very loyal no nonsense servant. God selected him to fulfill a promise and rebuild His homeland. “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls” (Is. 58.12 NIV)
Nehemiah’s first two chapters journal his “outcry” over the rubble and ruin his people were experiencing. He mourns for days, weeping, praying, fasting, confessing and interceding for God’s mercy and intervention. Rebuilding begins with desperate and passionate prayer.
Nehemiah then appealed to the occupying Persian King. He asked for a commission, materials and security for rebuilding is shattered homeland. Then he told the remnant of Jewish survivors that “the gracious hand of God” was on him. They were inspired to join in rebuilding their walls.
The rebuilding project begins in (Neh. 3-4) but so does the resistance. The High Priest is the first to lead the list of volunteers.
We won’t read all the verses here but let me share some highlights.
Forty-one families restored forty-two, football field sized sections of the wall. Farmers, fishermen, merchants, goldsmiths and even perfumers shouldered the task in their own subdivisions of the city.
This has some implications for how to restore our city one neighborhood or workplace at time. Who needs rebuilding in your sphere of influence?
Another application is more personal. Spiritual upgrading is piecework!
It takes all your attention and it doesn’t happen all at once. How’s your personal rebuild going? What needs attention in your life right now?
Verses (8 & 31) mention women rebuilding the wall. Construction was not considered women’s work in those days. Now they do most of the work!
I really don’t know why but women seem to the first to realize that we need to remodel something in our lives? Us guys do get into the action! This story takes me back to the 4th grade in San Jose. My father was the co-pastor of a small church on Race Street just off 280 called, “Friendly Bible Tabernacle”. Everyday after school we headed off to the church to work until dark constructing new classrooms and a fellowship hall. No one was paid. People just volunteered a few days a week after their day job.
After our departure 58 years ago, two thriving churches were birthed from these humble beginnings…Gateway City church with Pastor David Cannistraci and Cathedral of Faith with Pastor Ken Foreman.
It’s incredible what God can do when a few faithful people catch a vision and pitch in with all their heart and soul. There is an interesting reference here in chapter three to the people of the “Tekoa” district.
Nehemiah reports the common folks of “Tekoa” did twice as much as everyone else but “their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors”. (v.5) I don’t know if the work was below their pay grade or they just didn’t like being supervised—but not very noble!
“Nobles” actually means “exalted ones or majestic ones”. The Hebrew for “shoulders” refers to the back of the neck. The expression comes from the imagery of oxen that refuse to yield to the yoke. Hosea 4:16 (NLT)
uses this expression. “Israel is stubborn, (backslidden) like a stubborn heifer.So should the Lord feed herlike a lamb in a lush pasture?”
Rebuilding is hard work. Nehemiah says, “We rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart” (Neh. 4.6 NIV)
Rebuilding begins with an “outcry” over our condition—a humble confession—a cry for God’s intervention and a heart for restoration. Jesus says, “Work with me, walk along side me. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11.29-30 NIV)
One of the construction volunteers in this story is Rephaiah
(refa-i-ah) son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, (v.9) He may be a descendent of the Ben Hur mentioned in (1 Kings 4) He was the District Governor under King Solomon of Ephraim in the hill country.
A remake of the 1959 “Ben Hur” movie is now showing in Theaters. Downey and Burnett, who produced "The Bible," and "Son of God," are reviving this 1880 classic fiction that reflects on the time of Christ.
Speaking of the Ben Hur legacy. Every generation has some spiritual rebuilding to do! God does not have grand children we are his children!
Ten gates were reconstructed between sections of the walls. The progression has some personal and prophetic significance. We could do a message on each one but we will just make some brief comments.
1. Sheep Gate (v.1) Sacrificial lambs were brought through this gate.
2. Fish Gate (v.3) Galilean fishermen brought their catch in here.
3. Old Gate (v.6) This is the first built and most direct to the Temple.
4. Valley Gate (v.13) This opens out to a long valley.
5. Dung Gate (v.14) This is the exit to a burning dump. (Remove refuge)
6. Fountain Gate (v.15) Near the Pool of Siloah used for cleaning rites.
7. Water Gate (v.26) Near the Gihon spring. (The word and the Spirit)
8. Horse Gate (v.28) Soldiers on horseback used this gate for battle.
9. Eastern Gate (v.29) Mt Olives- sealed golden gate. (Ezk 44.1-3 )
10. Inspection Gate (v.31) Troops were reviewed here. Second coming.
It is now apparent that Israel is rising out of the ash heap and coming back to life as a nation. So now the resistance awakens! Sanballat the tribal chief of Samaria throws a tantrum with a war of words.
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry (hot nose) and was greatly incensed. (irate) He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
(Neh. 4.1-2 NIV)
Anytime you attempt to rebuild you are going to get resistance! Satan came to kill steal and destroy. God always build us up. Satan always tears us down. Resistance begins with ridicule. Mockery is the lowest form of flattery. The resistance begins with voices of doubt and disbelief.
Sanballat who is insecure stages his heckling campaign in front of his warriors. There are five derisive taunts. Jesus answered with the word!
(1.) “What are those feeble Jews doing?” (You are powerless!) “Army of Samaria” mentioned here means Samaria’s strength. It’s like a military parade. He is showing off while calling the Jews “feeble” or powerless.
What are you being told you are powerless to do right now? Quote Stephan Curry’s favorite scripture, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4.13 NIV)
(2.) “Will they restore their wall?” (It will never happen) The word translated “restore” here usually means “to abandon.” You will give in and give up. “I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1.6 NIV)
(3.) “Will they offer sacrifices?” (Will you ever get God’s approval?) My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 NIV)
(4.) “Will they finish in a day?” (I will take forever) Cal Trans? 54 days
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. (Psa 37.7 NIV)
(5.) “Can they bring the stones back to life ... burned as they are?” (Your too broken and burned out—it’s hopeless) Limestone cracks and disintegrates under heat. Dis-integration is the lack of integrity or un-wholeness. Satan wants you to believe that you can’t fix your brokenness.
God promised Israel a supernatural resurgence. Ezekiel saw the nation as a graveyard that came to life like a mighty Army. "Prophesy to these bones… “Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! …I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (Ezk. 37.4-7 NIV)
Let me give you a fresh translation of the ancient Hebrew. Ezekiel says he saw dead dry bones that rattled, recovered, reconnected and then resurrected as an effective force! Israel was back from the crypt!
Answer the derisive noise in your head with a visionary word from God!
Sorry, Sin-ballat, God is at work rebuilding my life. I’m coming alive!
Now misery loves company. Negative people can always find pessimistic company. “Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (Neh. 4.3 NIV)
Actually this is a concession. Tobiah, Sanballat’s paranoid sidekick realizes that God’s people are rebuilding something. He hopes it will be a half-hearted—so flimsy that a fox could topple a pile of unreinforced stones.
It is pretty important to rebuild with the right materials. Paul warns that we need to be careful how we build. Our foundation is Jesus Christ. “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” (1 Cor. 3.11-12 NIV)
Building on Jesus Christ and living out His life is the only thing that will stand up to eternity. Like Ford trucks, we are built to last!
Finally Nehemiah talks to God about the resistance before he responds. “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” (Neh. 4.4-5 NIV)
Again Nehemiah is asking for a hearing in heaven. The broken walls were a disgrace now their efforts to rebuild are being despised. He is asking God to send the insults back where they came from.
These are work-stopping treats. He wants them taken captive. “Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.” Don’t tolerate Satan’s war of words. Capture your negative thoughts, your fears, your shame and send them where they came from. Hell!
Paul says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10.4-5-6 NIV) Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to expose the “resistance”. What war of words is playing in your head? What are you going to do with it?