Nehemiah Week 7:
"Reviving the Stones"
Pastor Terry Inman
Nehemiah’s incredible re-building project began with hostile heckling. Sanballat, spouted off in front of his tribal warriors and their allies. He attempted to shut down the construction with five intimidating questions.
What are those feeble Jews doing? (bunch of weak refugees)
Will they restore their wall? (Will they strengthen & secure themselves)
Will they offer sacrifices? (Will they revive their worship practices)
Will they finish in a day? (Will they ever get this project done -150 years)
Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” (Can they resurrect dead dreams!)
Ezekiel prophesied to the wind and this bone yard of a nation rattled, reconnected, recovered and revived as a powerful effective nation!
I pay attention to encouraging prophets not pessimistic critics! (Ezk 37)
Last week in chapter six the opposition tried some last ditch efforts to derail the completion of the wall. They failed to pull Nehemiah off the job for negations in the valley of Ono. They paid priests and prophets to con him into hiding out in the Temple to save himself from the Kings wrath.
The adversaries were doing everything they could to discourage and demoralize Nehemiah and God’s re-emerging nation. “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” (Neh. 6.9 NIV) “Weak or “limp’ hands
is a Hebrew expression for demoralization and discouragement.
Nehemiah resists every attempt to shut down the rebuilding. He responds with prayer. [But I prayed,] “Now strengthen my hands.” (Neh. 6.9 NIV)
Isaiah the prophet says, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." (Isa 35.3-4 NIV)
The gaps are closed the gates are going up. The enemy now pulls out all the stops. God is rebuilding us. He is closing the gaps in our character. This is not the time to cave in. Don’t get distracted or discouraged.
The one who started rebuilding you will finish the job!
This story reminds me of the first three steps in Celebrate Recovery.
1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:1)
3. We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1)
If you would like to know and try all twelve steps visit Celebrate Recovery this Friday night at 7 PM in the Y Building. There’s up to 90 people there!
The Jewish exiles rebuilt their city wall in less than two months! I have no idea how they accomplished this. Some of these stones were the size of pick up trucks. It was all about hard work, warfare, and worship!
As I have said thought out this series this is a vivid illustration of how God rebuilds and restores our spiritual and emotional identify and security.
The intimidation now backfires. The enemies, “lost their self-confidence, they realized this work had been done with the help of God”. (Neh. 6.16) Self-confidence won’t rebuild our life—God-confidence will rebuild our life!
The trademark on Steph Curry’s basketball shoes: (Phil. 4.13)
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Nehemiah should sell T-Shirts--[But I prayed] “Now strengthen my hands.” (Neh. 6.9 NIV)
The walls are up, the gates are in and now Ezra the priest joins Nehemiah for a Jewish rock concert! Seriously they held a huge celebration of the completion of this incredible project with a worship festival.
We’ll talk about that next week. Will they restore their wall. YES Will they offer sacrifices? YES Will they really worship God again? YES This is Satan’s worst nightmare! Rebuilding Together and Worshiping Together!
We can rebuild our life; our family, our future and become very successful. But when we restore authentic worship of God we defeat the enemy!
The sacrificial system of worship at that time involved animal sacrifices. There was like a huge BBQ of choice livestock. The first and the best of the flock were offered at the temple for slaughter.
The smoke was like fragrant incense to God. Blood was poured over the high stone altar to cover the cost for cleansing and atonement for sin.
Jesus fulfilled all this ritual by giving his life-blood on the cross.
John makes it very simple. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
(1 John 1.6 NIV)
So how do we sacrifice now? What is acceptable worship? “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Rom. 12.1 NIV)
God is no longer impressed with dead sacrifices he is looking for a living sacrifice. Our whole life is an act of worship! Our worship, our work, our leisure, our values, our ideas, our relationships should all glorify God.
Hebrews unpacks these religious rituals that prefigure Christ. “Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name. That’s verbal worship. He adds something more:
“Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.”(Heb. 13.15-16 MSG)
Next week we will talk more about authentic worship. Did you ever wonder why we raise our hands when we worship. Do you know why we stand, bow or take a knee? Do you know why we say AMEN? Do you know where preaching and teaching comes from? It all restarted after the rebuilding of the walls in chapter eight.
Now let me pick up on one more threat mentioned here in Chapter 7. Most of the chapter is a tribal roll call, to insure that only families with authentic Jewish roots re-settle Jerusalem.
It’s kind of like Ansestry.com. God doesn’t play favorites. They were chosen not because they were special but because He is special. He wanted to demonstrate to all the nations of the earth His love and mercy.
God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors. (Deut. 7.7 MSG)
God chooses us with all our faults and failures.
Right at the beginning Nehemiah had to deal with some family issues.
Chapter 6 mentions that Tobiah married into an influential Jewish family.
He was sending secret emails to the nobles who weren’t all that noble. All along he pulled on these family strings to obstruct the rebuilding project.
Also half way down the list of re-settlers is a few of Sanballat’s shirttail relatives. Walls don’t keep every one out! Just when we think we have dealt with the external and internal threats to rebuilding our life, we discover difficult relatives! Some of them can even be very religious.
The high priest’s grandson married Sanballat’s daughter. This high priest leased temple storerooms to Sanballat’s sidekick Tobiah. (just follow the money) This priest influenced a lot of family money matters. Later he was kicked out of Jerusalem for defiling the priesthood! (Neh. 13.28 NIV)
In my 45 years of ministry it is my observation that Satan loves to stir up family feuds in churches. Our dysfunctional relationships at home go to church with us. It shows up typically as some kind of power play.
The church of Jesus Christ needs walls or healthy boundaries that keep people safe. We want Harbor Light to be a safe place to grow!
The first thing Nehemiah did to resettle the newly fortified city was to establish local leadership. He appointed gatekeepers, singers, and Levites. Gatekeepers were security guards. Singers and Levites were like the worship team and deacon board. They were in charge of temple service.
It’s one thing to be a member of the resettled community but leadership required a whole new level of loyalty and integrity!
Nehemiah put his brother Hanani and Hananiah in charge of the city. Nehemiah’s brother was the first to report to him the deplorable conditions in Jerusalem. Hananiah was his head security officer.
He says, “I put in charge of Jerusalem my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel, because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.” (Neh. 7. 2 NIV)
Wouldn’t be great have a President that fears God more than anyone!
Next week on Sunday night we are going to elect new members to our school and church boards. We will be selecting God-fearing people of integrity. Integrity comes from the same root as the mathematical term integer, which is a whole number, not a fraction. People of integrity are, complete, whole, undivided, uncut and intact—not perfect but genuine.
The bible calls church leaders deacons or servants and lists twelve qualifications in
(1 Tim. 3.8-13)
1. Respected Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect,
2. Sincere (real)
3. Not indulgent in much wine
4. Humble not pursuing dishonest gain (not in it to win it or get it)
5. Faithful 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
6. Provern 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
Qualification for the women either wives or deaconess:
7. Respectful 11 “their wives are to be women worthy of respect”
8. Not slanderers “not malicious talkers” (Gr: Diabolos) Devil, accuser
It is criticizing or speaking disparagingly of something or someone.
9. Temperate (modest and self-controlled)
10. Trustworthy “in everything”
11. Faithful spouse 12 A deacon must be the husband of but one wife
12. Good parent must manage his children and his household well.
Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. (v. 13) Literally they take a step up in the church and gain greater confidence and trust in Christ.
I always like to say to new leaders that my goal for them is that their service will contribute to greater spiritual growth. Now it’s easy to think we are talking about special super-Christians here.
Actually this is what it means to be rebuilding our lives together as people of integrity! We could all use this as a checklist for spiritual maturity.
There is always relational issues and brokenness in God’s family. God didn’t make any perfect people. He doesn’t need the competition. But He loves us so much that he is rebuilding us into the image of His Son Jesus!