Nehemiah Prepares to Fulfill the Vision - Nehemiah 2:9-20
Nehemiah Prepares to Fulfill the Vision
9 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.
Introduction: Here's one positive story about how a church got creative to minister to the needs of its community. After purchasing an abandoned, run-down pool hall in Chicago's South Side, Living Hope Church began massive renovations, engaging a range of help, including church members, volunteer construction workers, generous donations, and random passersby.
Pastor Brad Beier explained that neighborhood residents would often stop by the project looking for money or some kind of material assistance. There were also a string of break-ins and burglaries, during which expensive tools and lighting fixtures were stolen.
In light of the neighborhood's 23 percent unemployment rate, the church decided to reach out. They started hiring local people. The church hired 50 people off the street, giving them a paycheck and teaching them new skills. Beier said, "Our primary way of trying to help without hurting those in need was to invite anyone who came looking for help to learn new skills or to put their existing experience to work on this old building. Along the way, we realized that completing a day's work together seemed to release a shared, God-instilled purpose and created a natural context for forming relationships."
The church helped spearhead Hope Works, "a community development ministry" that has helped 74 people find jobs.
Purpose: Every Christ follower must be a team player in carrying out God’s vision for themselves, the church family and God’s kingdom.
Transition: If you can’t beat them, join them or have them join you. Make a ministry out of those who impoverished and leading a life of crime. Give them purpose and meaning by working in a mentoring relationship as a team.
Nehemiah surveys the work
- In verse 9 we get the context of Nehemiah traveling to Jerusalem
Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.
- If Nehemiah took the most direct route, it would have taken him two months to travel to Jerusalem
- He was allowed safe passage through the territories due to the strength and respect of the letters written by King Artaxerxes
- Nehemiah traveled with a military escort
- I am sure as he arrived in Jerusalem, he attracted a lot of attention by the Jewish people settled there
- A great leader identifies the vision for himself – 2:11-12,16
Nehemiah 2:11 – 12; 16
11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.
16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.
- Nehemiah took three days to think, prepare, get acquainted with the people settled there, and rest.
- Great leaders always take care of themselves in preparation for a great work.
Quote: “As Parker Palmer said, “Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ― Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ
- In verse 12, we see that Nehemiah gathered a small group of men he found he could trust.
- Nehemiah had a vision from God, permission from King Artaxerxes to fulfill the vision
- He was going to tackle a project that others for one hundred years had been unable to complete
- Nehemiah knew that before he could reveal God’s plan to the Jewish community, he would have to survey the work and understand the expanse of the project first
- So, he goes out at night on a horse or a mule to survey the damage.
- He goes undercover of night, by himself, not to raise suspicion among those who may oppose the work or those who would not believe it could be done by his own people
- Nehemiah saw more at night than the people did during the day
- Nehemiah saw potential where those who had settled there saw only devastation and shame.
- Great leaders can see the finished product in their minds eye. That is what keeps the vision alive in the leader even through the most difficult of times
- A great leader sees the immensity of the vision - 2:13 – 15
13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. 15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned.
- Reference the map of Jerusalem in the program
- He first went to the southwest wall of Jerusalem
- Then east to the Jackal Wall which does not appear on the map but is an unknown site
- Then to the southeast part of the city – Dung Gate or known also as the Potsherd Gate according to the prophet Jeremiah
And go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you.
- Then he travels to the Fountain Gate which is found north of the Dung Gate along the eastern wall
- Then to the King’s Pool which maybe the same as the Pool of Siloam near the King’s Garden (Nehemiah 3:15).
- The rubble in verse 14 prevented him from going up to the mount so either he went completely around the wall or retraced his steps from the eastern wall.
- Regardless of his route, Nehemiah ended his evening journey where he stared back at the Valley Gate
- In verse 16, as said previously, Nehemiah emphasizes he was all alone on his detail as he was surveying and planning his work
- I am sure that Nehemiah at first was overwhelmed with the enormity of the destruction and the amount of work it would take to restore the walls of protection to the God’s Holy City!
- As you and I look at some of the things God wants us to achieve, do we see how large a vision God has for us. Do you see how tall the mountains are, how vast the work that God has set before us?
Quote: “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, OR what's a heaven for?” ― Robert Browning- poet
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV).
- No matter how great or small in the world’s eyes, the vision God gives to you is vitally important for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.
Application: Do you sense at times the impossibility to fulfill what God is telling you to do?
Transition: That is the time to surrender your task to the Lord on a daily basis. One step at a time
Illustration: A recent issue of Men's Health spotlights the recovery of J. J. Watt. In his 8th season, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has started the season "a stronger, tougher, more vulnerable, and more loved man."
In 2016, Watt played only three games before suffering a herniated disc. In 2017, he was out by Week 5 with a fractured shinbone. Plagued by injuries, one might think that Watt would understandably be concerned about another injury in 2018. Here is how he approaches his return:
I’m excited. People ask, “Are you going to play the whole year?” he says. All I care about is having a good practice tomorrow. That’s it. I’ve learned that the best way to attack things is one day at a time. When you start thinking too far ahead or behind, that’s when you hit trouble.
Nehemiah shares the vision for the work – Nehemiah 2:17-18
Quote: "Whenever God has a great task, God raises up a man of equal greatness for that task."- Jerry Falwell
- Nehemiah was that man that God raised up for His work
- Is God raising up some young people who can make a difference in their vocation after college? Is he using people today to impact others that in turn will do great things for God?
- The awareness of the need to rebuild – 2:17a
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned.”
- After Nehemiah had completed his survey and developed a workable plan, it was time to share that plan and why he had come to Jerusalem
- He says to his assembled audience, how deplorable the conditions both physically and spiritually
- The ask to rebuild – 2:17b
“Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.”
- He challenges the people to move away from the trouble and the shame of their past. It is time to rise up and build.
- It’s time to break the cycle of victimhood and of apathy
- Let us build the wall of Jerusalem and bring the glory of God back to God’s Holy City
- The affirmation to rebuild – 2:18
18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
- He shared his testimony of God’s faithfulness to him personally
- How God has blessed him with the relationship with King Artaxerxes who has made it possible to rebuild
- Nehemiah shared the burden of his heart with his people
- Notice in verses 17 and 18, Nehemiah uses the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ not ‘you’ and ‘them’. You will see throughout the book of Nehemiah, that he identified with his people. He got down and dirty with them.
- Notice also at the end of verse 18 that Nehemiah’s speech of inspiration and confidence gave the people a vision of hope moving from despair and most of the people embraced the vision
- Let us rise up and build the people said and so the Bible says they strengthened their hands for the good work
- They could have given up like they had been forced to do in the past. They could have been negative like ten of the twelve spies were who went into the land or the Israelites forty days before Goliath until David came along
- Notice they did not say, we tried this once before and it did not work so we will not try again
- They did not say we are content with the way things are
- They did not say we haven’t done it this way before
- They rolled up their sleeves and took on the vision God had for them through Nehemiah
- They worked as a team. That is how the church family should view working to carry out the vision of PVBC. Each one doing their part to Connect – Grow - Serve
Application: How can you or are you currently joining in with the Body of Christ to fulfill the vision of the church?
Transition: You can be sure that anytime God has a great work He wants to do, you will face opposition. If you don’t face opposition at some point, you need to wonder if God is leading and is in it. Satan is never happy when God’s kingdom work progresses. We see how Nehemiah deals with opposition right from the beginning.
Nehemiah saw opposition to the work – Nehemiah 2: 9-10, 19 – 20
- The fear of the success of the vision – 2:9-10
10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.
- Who was Sanballat the Horonite?
- He was probably from Beth-Horon which was fifteen miles from Jerusalem and we know from documents from that time he was the Governor of Samaria for a while. He was a chief enemy of the Jews.
- Tobiah was an Ammonite and he was a government official.
- Tobiah was related in marriage to some of Nehemiah’s co-laborers and was getting inside information to help with the opposition (Nehemiah 6:17-19). Tobiah was a near relative to Eliashib the priest (Nehemiah 13:4-7).
- The Ammonites did not get along with the Israelites
3“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.
- The false accusations against the vision – 2:19
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?”
- Geshem is added to the list of outside opposition here.
- They are jeering and mocking Nehemiah and accusing him of rebellion for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and setting up his own separate kingdom. Note: this tact had been tried before successfully – Ezra 4
- It may have been jealousy that prompted them to oppose Nehemiah. It may have been they thought they would take over the territory of Judah for themselves one day.
- Regardless, the three leaders were joining forces against Nehemiah
- Sanballat may have been the commanding officer of the group, Tobiah may have been the director of intelligence – getting information from inside the Jewish camp and Geshem was a willing accomplice
- The forceful response to the skeptics – 2:20
20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
- Nehemiah was undeterred by the opposition. See here how he confronts it.
- He affirmed the God of heaven is supreme and will make the Jews successful in their endeavors
- The Jews who are God’s servants will rebuild the walls (present)
- The opponents had not share, no claim, no historic right to the city (past)
- We will see later that not all of the Jewish people were willing to follow Nehemiah’s leadership. He will have some internal opposition and struggles
- Nehemiah brought the task into clear focus for the Jews and their enemies
- He shared that the Jews would have to depend on Yahweh alone in order to prosper. Not their talents or intellectual genius, not their personal resources
- In the end, Nehemiah was committed to never giving up.
Quote: Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
Winston Churchill - Harrow School on October 29, 1941
I Corinthians 15:58
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Application: How well do you handle opposition in the face of being confident you are doing God’s will?
Transition: The character traits of Nehemiah the leader.
“Nehemiah: Man in Charge”
Donald K. Campbell’s twenty-one leadership factors from his book
1. He established a reasonable and attainable goal.
2. He had a sense of mission.
3. He was willing to get involved.
4. He rearranged his priorities in order to accomplish his goal.
5. He patiently waited for God’s timing.
6. He showed respect to his superior.
7. He prayed at crucial times.
8. He made his request with tact and graciousness.
9. He was well prepared and thought of his needs in advance.
10. He went through proper channels.
11. He took time (three days) to rest, pray, and plan.
12. He investigated the situation firsthand.
13. He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem.
14. He identified himself as one with the people.
15. He set before them a reasonable and attainable goal.
16. He assured them God was in the project.
17. He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles.
18. He displayed God’s confidence in facing obstacles.
19. He did not argue with opponents.
20. He was not discouraged by opposition.
21. He courageously used the authority of his position.
Key Thought: The vision God gives us is meant to be put in writing and shared with others?
Questions to ponder this week?
- Do you have clarity for 2019 of what God wants you to do for Him and for others?
- Do you have a written plan that helps you to carry out God’s desire for you in 2019 step by step?
- Are you anticipating the opposition in order to fulfill what God wants you to do in 2019?