My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called by our Creator to be a holy priesthood and His ambassadors in this world. The book of Nehemiah is full of strong and profound spiritual messages. It is a book written for those whose hearts are passionate for God’s work. We live today in difficult times, times of spiritual wilderness and the Lord is calling His faithful, godly people to make a difference.
In the book of Nehemiah we read about the shameful physical and spiritual state of Israel after their return from the Babylonian slavery. This was a consequence of their choice of serving and worshipping other gods. The book is showing the condition in which people find themselves when they turn their hearts from God. We read in the book about shame, ruins, disgrace, miserable lives, deception, spiritual and moral compromises, broken walls and burned gates. It is a very sad image but it is practically the same tragic image that we see in the world today.
I was assigned to share with you today the first chapter of this extraordinary book. It is a chapter that reflects some of the necessary qualities of a spiritual man that can and will be used by God for amazing works in His Kingdom.
Let’s start reading the first 2 verses. If we desire to be used by God in any spiritual matter we first need to show that we are interested in His work.
The action of this book begins in the month of December according to our calendar in the city of Susa. Susa was the most important city of those times. It was the place were the king of the Babilon empire, Artaxerxes lived.
Nehemiah was at that time the cupbearer of the king. He was living a comfortable life. He was tasting from the best wine in the world and eating the most delicious dishes even before the king did.
Nehemiah was at that time a part of what we call secret services today. His job was to protect the king. There were not bombs or guns at that time but there was plenty of poison that could kill anyone. So we can certainly say that Nehemiah was an important man in the Babilon empire.
But even if he was serving the babilonian king, and he was living according to their culture, he never forgot where his roots are. He was a Jew. So when Hanani and other Hebrews came from Judah to see him the first question he asked was: how is the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and how is Jerusalem?
People are often asking us how are we doing or how is our family doing but many of them don’t really care that much. Because if we want to get into details we realize that they just wanted to be nice and make conversation.
It is not the case of Nehemiah. He was truly and sincerely interested about the condition of Israelites and the state of Jerusalem. He wasn’t just making conversation. He was worried and concerned.
He could just say: I’ll be praying for you and God bless you like so many Christians today often do. And that is a great thing to do, but it’s not enough. He knew he could do a lot more for them so he decided to act. He decided to care.
Indifference is one of the worst sins in the church today. Many churches today focus only on themselves and too many Christians care only about their needs. But the church of Christ needs to show it is worthy to be called the bride of Jesus Christ in this world. The church of Christ needs to be concerned about the spiritual condition of the world. The church of Christ has to be always there to support those that are in need: to feed the hunger, to cloth the naked, visit the sick and encourage those without hope. “I will pray for you and God bless you” it’s a wonderful think to say and do. But is that enough to help the lost today? We truly need to care and be interested about how we can serve in God’s Kingdom.
Let’s continue and read verse 3. Nehemiah didn’t just show interest in God’s work but he also proved he is a motivated man. The disgrace in which his people lived and the desolation image of Jerusalem broke his heart. But you see, this situation was not something new. The things were like that in Jerusalem for almost 100 years and nobody did anything. Evil is something that came into the world when man felt to obey God. From that time people were aware of the presence of evil. The problem comes when people get used with evil and they don’t react to evil. This is what was happening in Jerusalem at that time. The Jews got used to live in shame and disgrace. It didn’t bothered them anymore. It was ok.
This is a dangerous situation in which the church can find herself today. To stop reacting against evil. Sin needs to be rebuked and revealed by the church. The purpose of the church is to shine the holiness of God into the world. Christians need to be careful about this. It is not enough to take evil out of our lives God. We also need to fight against sin.
In times of spiritual disgrace and trouble God is calling to serve Him, those people that are motivated. People whose hearts are broken because of what sin is doing into this world. People who are ready to fight the good fight.
Let’s read now verse 4. We’ve seen so far that Nehemiah was interested in serving God and his people and he was also motivated. But to be used by God he had to be more than that. He had to be willing to get involved.
When he found about the condition of Israelites and that Jerusalem is broken down, he reacted. He didn’t just say a prayer, or gave some money to Hanani, and then went back to his business and enjoyed his great life in the king’s palace. He was so affected of what he heard that he had to sit down. He wept, fasted and preyed to God for several days.
He knew he had to do something. He could not sit back and continue to enjoy his good life in Susa while his people and the Holy city of God, Jerusalem were in that horrible condition.
Nehemiah was ready to give up his comfortable life, the luxury and wealth in which he was living and go to Jerusalem and serve the Lord. He was ready to leave the palace and live under the open sky. To leave behind the good food and wine and eat whatever he could find. To change his royal cloth for construction uniform. He was ready to sacrifice.
To be a Christian is not an easy life to live. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This are the words of Paul from 2 Timothy 3:12.
Christians need to be willing to sacrifice and suffer to do what God is calling them to do. When was the last time when we wept, fasted and preyed fervently for those that are lost? What are the things that we Christians weep for, these days?
The last seven verses of chapter one from vs.5-vs.11 reveal another beautiful and necessary quality of a faithful man. And that is a prayer life.
Nehemiah understood that before he could do anything to help his people, he had to talk to his Heavenly Father. Prayer was essential for all that Nehemiah had to accomplish. The rest of the book is practically God’s answer to Nehemiah prayer. He prayed for about four months before he dared to stay in front of king Artaxerxes and ask to allow him to go help his people and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah had to be patient and allow God to work and soften the king’s heart. Without the intervention of God such a request could bring him death.
No one would dare to bother the king with a request like that. No matter what his job was at the palace.Nehemiah waited for God to do His part.
It is also important to notice how Nehemiah prayed. Before he asked God what he needed in vs.11, he gives first glory and praise to the Lord vs.5, confess his sins and the sins of the Israelites vs.6-7, and in vs.8-10 he tells God that he has faith in His promises. What a wonderful example of how we all should pray.
Brothers and sisters if indeed the most fervent desire of our hearts is to serve our Lord and Master Jesus Christ then He needs to see in each one of us the same things that God the Father saw in Nehemiah. This world is in ruins and the people live in shame and disgrace. I pray to God that as His holy nation in the 21st century we will be people truly interested in His work, people with a strong motivation, a powerful will to step in and get involved and people with passion for prayer.
God has set ahead of us amazing works. He called us to be his living sacrifices and testimonies of His amazing grace and power of transformation for the people in this world.
Israel needed a miracle to come out from the darkness in which they were. And that miracle was Nehemiah. Le us be today the miracles of God that this world so desperately needs.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all who love Him with an undying love. Amin!