Blessed Builders: Nehemiah’s Burden For The Broken

Blessed Builders: Nehemiah’s Burden For The Broken

God Doesn’t Call The Qualified, He Qualifies The Called!

Background of Nehemiah:
Nehemiah (“Jehovah comforts”) is a famous cupbearer, who never appears in Scripture outside of this book. As with the books of Ezra and Esther, named after his contemporaries (see Introductions to Ezra and Esther), the book recounts selected events of his leadership and was titled after him. Both the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Latin Vulgate named this book “Second Ezra.” Even though the two books of Ezra and Nehemiah are separate in most English Bibles, they may have once been joined together in a single unit as currently in the Hebrew texts. New Testament writers do not quote Nehemiah.

Though much of this book was clearly drawn from Nehemiah’s personal diaries and written from his first person perspective (1:1–7:5; 12:27–43; 13:4–31), both Jewish and Christian traditions recognize Ezra as the author.

The events in Nehemiah 1 commence late in the year 446 B.C., the 20th year of the Persian king, Artaxerxes (464–423 B.C.). The book follows chronologically from Nehemiah’s first term as governor of Jerusalem ca. 445–433 B.C. (Neh. 1–12) to his second term, possibly beginning ca. 424 B.C. (Neh. 13). Nehemiah was written by Ezra sometime during or after Nehemiah’s second term, but no later than 400 B.C.

Nehemiah 2:1-8 ESV
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Follow Nehemiah’s Example!

Nehemiah’s Decency vs. 1 and 8
Nehemiah 2:1 and 8
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 

8 And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Point:
Last week we talked about the incredible burden that God had given to Nehemiah.  His city was in ruin. His people were destitute.  The city’s defenses were broken.  Naturally, after hearing the call of God on his life, Nehemiah responded.  It was time to go.  Or was it?

So, we come to chapter 2.  Guess what, Nehemiah is still serving in the King’s court.  He is still in Babylon.  Wait just a second, Nehemiah received a call of God to return back to his people.  Clearly God’s call trumps man’s earthly responsibilities.  No one would debate that.  However, Nehemiah does something unusual.  He receives a calling of God but hesitates to go in order that he might secure permission from a foreign pagan king.  In this one moment, we see why Nehemiah was the King’s food taster.  He was his cupbearer.  He made sure that the King’s food and drink were not poisonous.  He was dependable.  He was trustworthy. He was a man of deep character and conviction.  

Nehemiah could have just run off and said “Peace out King” and we would have all just applauded.  Wow, how brave of him.  After all, Nehemiah did not owe this King anything.  He owed God everything.  Yet, by his choice to stay, Nehemiah displays a sense of integrity and decency rarely seen these days.  In staying he showed respect for the authority in his life and he honored the one whom he served.  

Point:
So in verse 1 we see that Nehemiah is still in the service of the King.  Then we fast forward to verse 8 and see that the king granted to Nehemiah what he had asked for and look what happens, “the good hand of my God was upon me.”  Did you see what happened there?  Nehemiah showed character, integrity and decency to a man who he did not have to give it to and God put his hand on Nehemiah.  It was this one singular act of decency that compels God to bless Nehemiah.  

So, here’s the big question?  Can God call you and after you hear that call, can He withhold His good hand from your life?  I am not sure what the answer is to that question, but that was clearly the case for Nehemiah.  Imagine if Nehemiah would have just ran off.  Would he have been justified?  Sure.  Would he have been right? Nope.

Friends, there are days where it is more important to do the decent thing than the seemingly right thing.  I know that is hard to understand but it is nevertheless true.  Sometimes we must sacrifice our desires in order to fulfill God’s calling of decency on our lives.  

So, will you have bosses that you hate working for?  Yes!  How should you treat them?  Decently.

So, will you have managers that you can’t stand?  Yes!  How should you treat them? Decently.

So, will you run into people whose very existence you find morally representable? Yes! How should you treat them? Decently.

So, will you run into people who vote different than you, believe differently than you on critical issues and even say nasty things to you? Yes! How should you treat them? Decently!

So, will you have people in authority that you do not believe deserve that authority?  Yes!  How should you treat them? Decently.

Point:
I think that we as Christians have lost the ideal of being decent. We know what we believe.  We have read our Bibles.  We are not afraid to engage our culture and stand for what is “right”.  I see so many Christians doing the right thing but not doing it decently.  We have the right message but we share it in an indecent and unloving manner that divides and prevents people from truly coming to Jesus Christ.  

Article:
In his article “Why Does Jesus Turn Decent People Into Jackasses?” Matthew Paul Turner explores this idea of understanding what is Biblical and unbiblical, right and wrong, but not being loving like Jesus.  Listen to his words…

“A lot of us Christians, rather than being followers of Jesus, we’re defenders of religious certainty. And having certainty about what is and isn’t true, good, and holy is actually not faith, it’s just certainty. And certainty regarding matters of faith isn’t Christian.

So we end up acting like jackasses, kicking and galloping and trolling around like we own the place. All the while bellowing scripture and unfounded statistics…

We can’t love people when we’re intoxicated with certainty. We can’t serve people with a pure heart if we’re burdened by certainty. We can’t be anything remotely close to “Christ-like” when we’re certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that we know what’s up regarding God. Why?

Because we’re too busy defending our rightness to be kind, thoughtful, and good.

So instead, we kick, stomp, and wake up the neighbors shouting. And then we blame Jesus for the messes we make.”

Point: 
Nehemiah handled his calling decently and the King blessed him.  Nehemiah handled his calling decently and the King of Kings blessed him.  

Sure, God is calling us to do something.  However, God is calling us to be decent before anything else.  He is calling us to be decent to those we dislike.  He is calling us to love those who do not deserve it and respect those who have not earned it.  

I Corinthians 14:40 ESV
But all things should be done decently…

I. Nehemiah’s Decency vs. 1 and 8
II. Nehemiah’s Transparency vs. 2
Nehemiah 2:2 ESV
2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 

Point:
So Nehemiah comes before the King.  Naturally Nehemiah is still reeling from the news of his people and his home.  

Have you ever been so depressed that you wear it on your face?

I have been there so many times in my life.  So was Nehemiah.  Nehemiah was so depressed about the state of his hometown that he wore it on his face.  

And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 

Scripture tells us that the King immediately recognized that Nehemiah was sad and then Nehemiah reveals that he was afraid. Why was Nehemiah afraid?  Well, you have to know something about Persia, specifically Persian Kings.  Persian Kings tried to surround themselves with people that would prop them up.  They loved sycophantic followers who would tell them only the good and never the bad.  To be in the King’s court meant that you better been a good mood.  If you were not in a good mood, then the King could have you executed right there on the spot.  No one would say a word.  

Nehemiah was depressed in front of the King.  Chances are he had even seen the King put others to death for the very same act.  

Yet, the King responds to Nehemiah very differently. Why? Well it could have been because of the King’s stepmother Esther.  Esther could have raised the King to feel compassion towards Jews and Nehemiah was certainly a Jew. It was probably because of Nehemiah’s faithful service and common decency, the King responds in kindness.  

Point:
Imagine if Nehemiah would have hidden his sorrow.  Imagine if Nehemiah would have pretended to be strong.  Imagine if the King told Nehemiah “Hey buddy, how are you today?” and Nehemiah responded “Fine, Fine, Thanks!”  Nehemiah would have missed the opportunity to take advantage of discussing his homeland.  Essentially, he would have missed out on fixing the problem. 

Point:
Nehemiah was not playing a game.  He was real.  He was human.  He was having a bad day and he owned it.  Our culture makes me laugh sometime.  Our church, the church, makes me laugh.  Why is it that so many of us play this game that we have it all together?  We are afraid to really show just how sad and broken we really are?  We are so afraid that other church people will judge us because our lives are so out of control.  So, out of fear, we wear a mask.  We smile.  We laugh.  We say “fine fine, thanks”.  All the while we are actually dying inside.  

You know what happens when we are not transparent about the struggles we have?  Nothing.  Nothing happens.  the problem perpetuates and usually grows over time.  Our lives continue to spiral out of control while we smile in the halls of the church.  

Point:
Not Nehemiah.  He was past the games.  He was past the mask.  He was totally transparent and real before the King.  Friend, maybe you are struggling today.  Maybe you have a burden that is weighing you down.  Share the load.  Tell someone.  Don’t let the Devil shame you into silence.  

Point:
Friend if we cannot start being transparent about the things that hurt here at church, then we have no hope.  God gave us the church for many reasons.  One of the reasons is to remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  We are here to support one another and to love one another through problems, flaws and shortcomings.  

Quote:
Have you ever heard it said that church is not a museum for good people but rather its a hospital for the broken people.

Brothers and sisters, we are all broken.  Not one of us is fixed or has it figured out.  Nehemiah was open and real before the King.  We can learn something there from him.  We need to be open with each other and open before the King of Kings.  Remember, we are the body.  

Romans 12:15 ESV
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

I. Nehemiah’s Decency vs. 1 and 8
II. Nehemiah’s Transparency vs. 2
III. Nehemiah’s Honesty vs. 3-5
Nehemiah 2:3-5
3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Point:
So the King cuts to the chase, “Nehemiah, what do you want?”  Nehemiah proceeds to tell the King exactly what he wants to do.  “Oh King, I want to leave your court, thus depriving you of your chief cupbearer. Then I want to go back to my homeland and return it to it’s former glory.  I want to see it rise from the ashes so that it can be a major player on the world scene once more.  I want to rebuild the walls, reinvigorate the culture and reestablish faith in the one true God to which you are not him. I also want to teach our people to protect themselves and unite the military.”

Now friends, this is not what I would have led with.  Essentially Nehemiah is going to rebuild a rival nation that has every reason to hate the Persians, specifically the King of Persia who keeps them enslaved.  

Point:
I would have told the King that I wanted to go back to Jerusalem, reestablish the city and open discussions so that Israel and Persia could trade together.  Perhaps they could be allies with Persia.  That is not at all what Nehemiah said.  He actually said the complete opposite.  Make no mistake, Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem to rebuild it.  To restore it.  It was his desire to take was was broken and repair it.  

He wanted to make Jerusalem and Israel for that matter a new creation.  

Point:
How many of you have read your Bibles cover to cover?  That’s Genesis to Revelation?  I have several times over the course of my life.  Chances are that I will read it many more times as my life marches on.  There is one thing that seems to always jump out at me about the Bible.  

God loves repairing broken things.  

You could read every book and you can see God fixing something.  He repairs broken walls and broken people.  This is not a mystery or something that God is trying to hide.  

Listen to some of these verses and see if you discover a common thread:

Revelation 21:5 NLT
And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making everything new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true."

Psalm 147:3 ESV
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Jeremiah 18:1-23 ESV
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Point:
The list goes on an on.  Here we have a man that wants to travel to a broken people from a great distance.  He wants to restore them, create in them a new and sincere faith in God, and provide protection for them.  Sounds like a familiar story doesn’t it.  

Song:
One of my favorite songs is written by Steven Curtis Chapman.  It is called All Things New.  One of the lyrics reads like this:

Then the world was broken
Fallen and battered and scarred
You took the hopeless
The life wasted, ruined and marred and made it new

You make all things new
You make all things new
You redeem and You transform
You renew and You restore

Point:
Friend, God is in the rebuilding business.  He rebuilds walls and people.  He restores.  He rejuvenates.  He reinvigorates what was once dead.  

I. Nehemiah’s Decency vs. 1 and 8
II. Nehemiah’s Transparency vs. 2
III. Nehemiah’s Honesty vs. 3-5
IV. Nehemiah’s Urgency vs. 6-8
Nehemiah 2:6-8 ESV
6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Point:
I love Nehemiah for several reasons.  One reason that I so respect him is that he understood time.  When it was time to work, it was time to work.  When it was time to go, it was time to go.  Time is very important.  Time is the most precious resource we have as humans.  It is limited.  It is valuable.  We should consider how we use our time and the best ways to maximize our time for God’s Kingdom.  

Notice that Nehemiah didn’t have to pause and think about what he needed.  When the King said “what do you want”, Nehemiah was ready to give and answer.  

He needed letters to governors.  

He needed a letter to Asaph.

He needed timber to rebuild the walls.

Nehemiah understood that this calling was urgent and that no one else was going to complete the task if it were not for him.  

Nehemiah chose to be a light in the darkness.

Friends, it is not easy to be a light in the darkness.  It would be easy to dismiss the urgency of the situation and let people around us stay broken.  Today I want to close with a story about a man named Al.  Al’s situation was urgent and Al chose to be a light in the darkness as well.  

Illustration:
On the morning of September 11, Jeannie Braca switched on the television to check the weather report, only to hear that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.

Jeannie’s husband, Al, worked as a corporate bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. His office was on the 105th floor of Tower One.

Al had survived the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and had even helped a woman with asthma escape from the building.

Jeannie knew that Al would do the same thing this time, “I knew he would stop to help and minister to people,” she said, “but I never thought for a minute that he wouldn’t be coming home!”

A week later, like so many others who were in that building, Al’s body was found in the rubble. Al’s wife, Jeannie, and his son Christopher were devastated!



Then the reports began to trickle in from friends and acquaintances. Some people on the 105th floor had made a last call or sent a final e-mail to loved ones saying that a man was leading people in prayer.

A few referred to Al by name.

Al’s family learned that Al had indeed been ministering to people during the attack! When Al realized that they were all trapped in the building and would not be able to escape, Al shared the gospel with a group of 50 co-workers and led them in prayer.

This news came as no surprise to Al’s wife, Jeannie.

For years, she and Al had been praying for the salvation of these men and women. According to Jeannie, Al hated his job and couldn’t stand the environment. It was a world so out of touch with his Christian values, but he wouldn’t quit.

Al was convinced that God wanted him to stay there, to be a light in the darkness, and although Al would not have put it this way, to be a hero!

Al was not ashamed of Christ and Christ’s words…and he paid the price of taking up his cross daily. Al shared his faith with his co-workers….many of whom sarcastically nicknamed him “The Rev.”

And on that fateful day…on September 11, in the midst of the chaos, Al’s co-workers looked to him—-and Al delivered!

At the same time, Al too tried to get a phone call through to his family. He asked an MCI operator to contact his family.

“Tell them that I love them,” he said.

It took the operator more than a month to reach the Braca’s, but the message brought them much-needed comfort.

“The last thing my dad did involved the two things most important to him—God and his family,” his son Christopher told a writer for Focus on The Family. 

“He loved to lead people to Christ. That takes away a lot of the hurt and the pain.”

John 9:4 NLT
4 We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.


Follow Nehemiah’s Example, Rebuild The Broken!

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