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Nehemiah's First Phase of the Vision Completion

Posted on March 17, 2019

Nehemiah’s First Phase of the Vision Completion

Nehemiah 6:15-19; 7:1-73

Scripture Reading

Nehemiah 6:15 – 19

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah's letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

Introduction: The parable is told of an old dog that fell into a farmer's well. After assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the dog but decided that neither the dog nor the well were worth the trouble of saving. Instead he planned to bury the old dog in the well and put him out of his misery.

When the farmer began shoveling, initially the old dog was hysterical. But as the farmer continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back he should shake it off and step up. This he did blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself.

No matter how painful the blows or how distressing the situation seemed, the old dog fought panic and just kept shaking it off and stepping up! It was not long before the dog, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What seemed as though it would bury him actually benefited him—all because of the way he handled his adversity.

If we face our problems and respond to them positively, refusing to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to bless us! Forgiveness, faith, prayer, praise, and hope are some of the biblical ways to shake it off and step up out of the wells in which we find ourselves.

  • Nehemiah faced so much adversity but the key was he never quit.
  • He would shake off whatever the opposition sent his way.
  • As this passage shows us, Nehemiah triumphed against the odds and led his people into victory.

Purpose: Every Christ follower can silence their critics eventually due to their obedience to God and His Word.

Transition: We begin today by looking at completion of the first phase of God’s vision. The Jews complete the rebuilding of the wall of the Holy City.

The Completion of the Wall – Nehemiah 6:15 – 19

  • The enemies were awestruck with what God had done – 6:15 – 16

Nehemiah 6:15 – 16

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.

  • On about or on September 20th, the walls were completed.
  • The final doors to the gates were installed and the project was finished in an amazing 52 days (7:3). The process of rebuilding the wall began in late July
  •  Here is the timeline
    • November / December of our calendar, Nehemiah heard about the problem - Nehemiah 1:1
    • March / April – Nehemiah presented the plan and vision that God gave him to King Artaxerxes – Nehemiah 2:1
    • Nehemiah and his entourage left Babylonia in either April and traveled until May or May and traveled until June. Regardless, the trip took longer to make than it did to complete the rebuilding of the wall.
  • Notice that the enemy’s confidence was destroyed by the completion of the wall.

Quote: “The best way to silence your critics is to finish the job.” – Andy Stanley

  • One of the best ways to defeat an enemy is to prove them wrong!!
  • The enemies were fighting a losing battle because who were they to oppose God?

Acts 5:38 – 42

38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

  • Just remember that what God sets out to do, He completes it!! Nothing will stop His sovereign will

Nehemiah 6:16

16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

  • The enemies were awestruck at what Nehemiah and in their mind a rag tag team of people were able to accomplish by finishing the wall in fifty-two days
  • Their confidence fell greatly of overtaking the city for themselves
  • They admitted, as hard as it must have been that God was the one who helped the Jewish people finish the wall. This was very disheartening for them who worshiped pagan gods as well
  • The attempt to strike fear in the heart of Nehemiah – 6:17-19

Nehemiah 6:17-19

17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah's letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

  • Tobiah the enemy was shrewd and strategic
    • He had made inroads to the Jewish people
    • He wanted to erode their morale and undermine Nehemiah’s authority
      • One reason Tobiah was able to spread his tangled web of defeat was that he was related to the Jews in two ways
  1. Shecaniah – son of Arah – Ezra 2:5 – was Tobiah’s father-in-law
  2. Tobiah’s had a daughter – in – law who was the daughter of Meshullan who was the son of Berechiah
  • Many Jews were loyal to Tobiah.
  • They had business dealings and contracts with him
  • Because of that, they were traitors. They were more loyal to Tobiah than they were to their fellow Jews and some of their blood relatives.
  • Even more loyal to Tobiah than doing and supporting what God was doing through the leadership of Nehemiah
  • They even went so far as to tell Nehemiah, what a wonderful man Tobiah was and shared how wonderful he was with the other Jews working on the walls
  • All the while, Tobiah is sending threatening letters to Nehemiah in order to cause him fear
  • Remember that Satan never quits and won’t until he is placed in the abyss for the final time. Hell was created for Satan and his demons
  • Many a careless Christian has won the war but afterward lost the victory. Satan is always looking for “an opportune time” (Luke 4:13, NIV) to attack the victors and turn them into victims. We need to heed the counsel of that saintly Scottish minister Andrew A. Bonar, who said, “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”
  • If you can’t see Satan working, it’s probably because he has gone underground. Actually, we are safer when we can see him at work than when his agents are concealed. Open opposition is good for God’s work and God’s workers because it keeps us alert and trusting the Lord. “Watch and pray!” was certainly one of Nehemiah’s chief admonitions to his people (Neh. 4:9).

Quote: “If God’s people don’t protect what they have accomplished for the Lord, the enemy will come in and take it over.” – Warren Wiersbe

  • God is looking for faithful, God-fearing men and women who will have the courage and conviction to serve Him, come what may.

Application: There is something about success that silences the critics.

  • The story began with “So I prayed” (Neh. 2:4). Then we read, “So I came to Jerusalem” (v. 11). “So they strengthened their hands for this good work” is the next link in the chain (v. 18), followed by, “So built we the wall” (4:6) and, “So we labored” (v. 21).
  • Now we reach the end of this part of the story: “So the wall was finished” (6:15). But this marks a new beginning, for now Nehemiah must protect what he has accomplished. How he does this is the theme of the rest of the book. – Warren Wiersbe

Transition: Nehemiah wasn’t ready just yet to have a big celebration. He wanted to incorporate community and worship back into the growing population of Jerusalem.

The Development of Community – Nehemiah 7:1-73

  • The enlisting of leadership – 7:1-3

Nehemiah 7:1- 3

Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”

  • Nehemiah delegates authority and responsibility
  • He gives the leadership of Jerusalem over to his brother and Hananiah who was in charge of the castle.
    • Notice how Nehemiah describes Hananiah
    • Faithful and God fearing

Proverbs 29:25

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

  • What was the castle for?
  • The castle was the tall fortress built on the NW side of the temple to guard the temple and the people around the temple
  • Nehemiah made it a rule or a decree to not open the gates as was customary in that part of the world but wait until the heat of the day. Why?
    • In those days people would open the gates to the city at sunrise and close them at sunset for commerce reasons.
    • Nehemiah, wanting to add extra protection against the avowed enemies decided to wait until late morning to have them open because more people would be up and moving around the city thus to add to the security of Jerusalem
    • Many of the people who repaired the walls became the guards at night even after the gates and doors to the city were closed.
    • Compared to other villages and cities around Jerusalem, very few people lived in Jerusalem proper before the walls were rebuilt.
    • The establishing of citizenship – 7:4 – 65

Nehemiah 7:4

4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

  • Nehemiah had a heart to see the community of Jerusalem rebuilt. He wanted to populate the land with Jewish people who were of pure descent. See Nehemiah 11:1-24. We will talk about that detail later in the book
  • Nehemiah developed security, he developed infrastructure, norms and rhythms of civilization and spiritual worship and development by reestablishing the Levites as priests and focusing on the feasts and celebrations of the Jews.
  • So we see in verses 5- 7 and following, Nehemiah began to register and list the people who had arrived from being set free from captivity in Babylon.
    • Ezra has a similar list in his book, (Ezra 2) and it is a list of those who registered as they left Babylon.
    • Comparing the two lists though, there is no distinction as to why the lists are apparently different
    • In Nehemiah 7:8 – 25, you see a list of eighteen families or clans of people
    • In 7:26 – 38, we see a list of twenty towns and villages and their inhabitants
    • In 7:39 – 42 we see listed 4, 289 priests and 360 Levites who are singers and gatekeepers according to verses 43-45
    • Listed in 7:46- 56 are the temple servants
    • And in 7:57-59 are listed Solomon’s descendants
    • In verses 7:61-62, listed are the 642 refugees who cannot prove their Jewish descendant as pure since they have no record of their genealogy
    • The governor would not let them eat the sacred food until a priest with the Urim and Thummin was ministering in the temple

Nehemiah 7:65

The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.

Ezra 2:63

The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.

  • What was the Urim and the Thummin? They were instruments priests used to discern God’s will.

Exodus 28:30 - Picture

30 And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.

  • How did the Urim and Thummin work?
    • Two sticks or stones, one white or one black
    • Toss them and see which one comes up and how it came up determined God’s will?
    • Not sure what the ones were to do that are pictured as stones of different colors on a breastplate.
    • The encouraging of worship – 7:66 – 73

Nehemiah 7:66 – 73

66 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 67 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337. And they had 245 singers, male and female. 68 Their horses were 736, their mules 245, 69 their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720. 70 Now some of the heads of fathers' houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests' garments and 500 minas of silver. 71 And some of the heads of fathers' houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. 72 And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests' garments. 73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns. And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns.

  • We could have a fun discussion about these final numbers and there are reasons why Nehemiah and Ezra’s numbers don’t match up but scholars have given reasons to justify the differences but for the sake of time, I will pass over them. I did study them and it was quite interesting how they established the numbers but you are all doing your taxes at this time and you don’t need more intricate details to numbers. If you do, I can give you great resources that you can read in your bed that will prepare you to go to sleep.
  • Notice in verse 70, the heads of families, the governor, the priests, and the people at large gave great offerings of money for the care and work of temple
  • Nehemiah is reestablishing worship and the first act is to take an offering, a significant offering.
  • Lastly, we see the people settling into their houses and making their houses a home.
    • The work is completed. Normalcy can be established
    • Civilized life can begin. Business and Agriculture and selling outside of Jerusalem can begin again.
    • Worship can be reestablished with its music, sacrifices, atoning for sin, feast days, Sabbaths, and celebrations.
    • The Holy City is on the mend and being rebuilt and God’s people can enjoy communal relationships with joy once again
    • They can thrive instead of just surviving.
  • Nehemiah knew that the leadership over God’s people was established by God and that the only way for the people of Judah to not face destruction and captivity again was to be sure there were godly people in charge of all levels of society
  • That is true for our country as well. Our founding fathers knew that if the principles of the Bible were not obeyed by its people, this thing we call a republic and an experiment in freedom and democracy will not last.
  • Thomas Jefferson made the reading of George Washington’s Farewell Address required reading of the students of the University of Virginia

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

“Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” – George Washington in his Farewell Address

“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Gallantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other – John Adams October 11th, 1798 to the Massachusetts militia

  • Focus on handout
  • The government and the church are institutions created by God. They have unique roles that must remain distinct, but must work together under God
  • The Government is ordained by God to protect its people and to work in harmony with the church to meet the needs of the people of the state.
  • The church is to be the moral compass, the conscience of the country who raise up godly leaders to serve in the government
  • That is the balance I believe God has established and has worked best here in our system of government despite our flaws and sin.
  • Nehemiah wanted to establish a godly nation to be able to perpetuate the gospel for years to come.
  • That should be our goal as citizens of heaven and citizens of America here and now.

Application: A nation is only as good in its leadership and citizenry as its commitment to live godly lives.

Key Thought: The leaders of a nation are established by God but it is the church that provides the moral compass of its leaders and citizens.

Questions to Ponder this Week

  1. In this Lent season, are you asking God to fill you with awe and wonder in a fresh way as you think about who God is and His sacrifice on Good Friday?
  2. Are you seeking to develop deeper community in the relationships you have?
  3. Are you representing God by being an engaged citizen in our country?