Nehemiah and Leadership


We have now reached Nehemiah’s final chapter where we have seen the restoration of the physical and spiritual life of the nation of Judah in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah was concerned about the health and welfare of the Jews that were languishing behind the broken walls and the burned gates.  We know that the restoration of Jerusalem began with the rebuilding of the Temple as seen in Ezra 6:14b - They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.”  Upon Nehemiah’s coming to Jerusalem, he mourned and fasted and inspected the walls and gates and then began the rebuilding process.  In fifty two days the work was completed by the people who overcame enemies and exhaustion.  As we have studied through the Book of Nehemiah there are several principles of leadership that we can glean.  We have already mentioned a number of them during the last few months.  Today I will highlight the main themes on leadership that I believe make Nehemiah a significant biblical leader…


Nehemiah had a vision to see the restoration of the City of Jerusalem.  When Nehemiah heard the report of the devastation in Judah and Jerusalem he too was devastated.  As a result of this great problem for his people he developed a vision in his mind.  I believe that as he fasted and prayed God gave him the courage to begin his journey towards Jerusalem.  Vision involves:

  • In Nehemiah’s care vision provided a solution for a problem.
  • Vision involves strategic planning; like when he approached the King or when he inspected the walls and gates.
  • Communication is paramount to the success of the vision.  In Neh 2:17 - 17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”


Nehemiah records 11 different prayers in the course of his Book.  Successful leadership is founded upon prayer…  Through the prayers of Nehemiah and the people they overcame their enemies and they found encouragement to carry on working.  I am sure many of us have heard the saying “a family that prays together stays together.”  This was true of those working on rebuilding the walls and gates.  They prayed together and worked together, side by side, they fought together for the fulfillment of Nehemiah’s vision.  Neh 9: 5-37 records the longest prayer in the book; they give praise and thanksgiving to God, they acknowledge their sin and God’s mercy, they thank God for the help to conquer the Promised Land, and again how they disobeyed God once in the Promised Land and that God is just in all his ways.

Obedience towards the Scriptures

Another principle of leadership is the reverence of the leaders and the people towards God and His Scripture.  Godly leadership must have a hunger for God’s Word.  We are told in Neh 8:1-12 that the leaders, especially Ezra and Nehemiah, open the Scriptures and explained them to the people.  The people spent a considerable period of time, from early morning till noon, standing and listening to the Law of Moses being read.  This tells me the leaders valued the Scriptures and so did the people of God. In the case of Nehemiah the people were convicted of their sins and exhorted to keep the Sabbath holy, stay away from mixed marriages and take care of God’s house.

Nehemiah 13

Vision, prayer and the love and obedience towards God and His Word are the positive sides of leadership. Howeverin the final chapter of Nehemiah he records some of the ongoing challenges of leadership that he faced in Jerusalem.  In Neh 13:6-7a -  Nehemiah tells us he was not in Jerusalem…  But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem.  

I will briefly list some of the ongoing challenges to his leadership and the fulfillment of his vision, the restoration of the physical safety and spiritual health of the people of God in Jerusalem. 

1.    As a result of mixed marriages with the Ammonites and Moabites, the Priest Eliashib (which means God restores) openly supported Tobiah an Ammonite.  This was forbidden “because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them” (Neh 13:2).  Tobiah was given a room in the Temple for personal storage.  Nehemiah “was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense Neh 13:8-9).  Nehemiah again raises these concerns in Neh 13:23-28.

2.    The second challenge Nehemiah faced upon his return to Jerusalem was a ongoing neglect to the house of God.  He addressed these concerns earlier in Neh 10 with regards to caring and providing for the Temple ministry including meeting the needs of the Levites.  Now “rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” (Neh 13:11).

3.    The third obstacle also related to a previous concern for Nehemiah regarding the Sabbath as seen in Neh 13:15-22.  The Sabbath was a significant aspect of the Jewish people being seen a holy and different from the surrounding pagan nations.  The Sabbath was a public demonstration to the world that they were God’s chosen people; to neglect this was to neglect God.  So Nehemiah brings correction to this.  

Interspersed in these challenges Nehemiah does not forget the importance of prayer and leadership.  Three times he prays to God “Remember me” (Neh 13:14,22b, 31b).  He also boldly prays “Remember them…” (Neh 13:29) with regards to those who defiled their priestly calling.  

In Conclusion

The Book of Nehemiah was a fantastic time in Jewish history.  Nehemiah was successful in seeing his vision come to fulfilment.  He knew he was called of God and had a vision to fulfill.  He depended deeply on God in prayer.  He submitted to authority and had a strategic plan in the rebuilding of the walls and gate of Jerusalem.  He worked hard and courageously while discerning the tactics of the enemy.  He was a great recruiter and enlisted the help of many people.  Nehemiah was determined to see the physical and spiritual health of Jerusalem restored.  All the while he lived a godly life and sought to bring glory to God alone.  

Nehemiah - People, Praise and Promises


Today we will continue on with our series on Nehemiah.  We have journeyed with Nehemiah and those returning to Jerusalem.  Ezra succeeded in rebuilding the Temple and Nehemiah was able to repair and rebuild the walls and gates surrounding the city.  They overcame their fears and their enemies, worked hard and cried out to God in prayer.  The work on the walls and gates was completed in 52 days followed by a time of renewing their covenant with God.  This was a time of weeping and joy and more weeping as the people confessed, prayed and came into agreement as to how they should follow God in light of their situation; marriage concerns, obeying the Sabbath and financially taking care of God’s work.  

It has been quite the journey for us as well.  I was very blessed when we were able as a church to write our gifts and talents on our very own “Nehemiah Wall.”

This morning we will look at chapters 11 and 12 of Nehemiah and discover how the people gave themselves to God, how the shout of praise was heard and how important are promises.  

Let our People Arise (Neh 11 - 12:26)
One of the main messages of Christianity is this - people are important.  In Gen 1-2 we see the significance of Adam and Eve above the rest of creation.  The Garden of Eden was for their lifelong enjoyment however their pleasure was cut short by their disobedience and rebellion.  However God made it very clear that he put people first in the sending of his Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of mankind.  

In Nehemiah’s situation, he also realized that people mattered.  Even though the temple was restored and the walls and gates of Jerusalem were made new, it was important that people live in the city of Jerusalem.  What is the point of all their hard work if people were not going to inhabit the city.  So by example, the Leaders along with Nehemiah were the first ones to settle in Jerusalem.  The rest of the communities surrounding Jerusalem cast lots to bring one family out of every ten to live in Jerusalem - Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns (Neh 11:1).

The remnant had returned to Jerusalem because God had a special purpose for them.  They were to dwell in the city and be part of reclaiming Israel’s destiny.  God needed living bodies to fill the homes, maintain the city and to be fruitful and multiply.  They were not simply taking up space but were an integral part of God’s plan and chosen by lot, in other words, chosen by God’s will.  Just being physically present is important to God, whether or not, you contribute in any significant way.  There were the people who were “drafted” so to speak and then there was the people who “volunteered” to help fill the city with future residents were serving God and the generations to come.  We are told they were commended, favoured, blessed by the people for their willingness to settle in Jerusalem - The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem (Neh 11:2).

Jerusalem had suffered from years of wars and opposition from their enemies.  God had sent them into captivity and now God was restoring their land.  However, as in any war of attrition, victory is fully seen when the people begin to resettle the cities and begin to enjoy a level of abundant life once again.  The remnant was now home in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah then goes onto record the list of those leaders and families who settled in Jerusalem.  

As we began our study in Nehemiah I mentioned the importance of all the people who served with their various gifts and talents.  All of the people now inhabiting Jerusalem brought their strengths to serve God and each other.  Rom 12:1 states, 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.  We know that Paul goes onto list various gifts of the Spirit present in the Body of Christ; prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leading and showing mercy.  God utilizes many different people with a variety of gifts to get his work done.  

In Nehemiah’s situation there were people needed in the service of the Temple.  There were people who could continue to rebuild the house within the city.  They needed watchmen on the walls and gatekeepers to direct traffic, so to speak.  There were those who were to guard the city, the Temple and its well-being.  It took many people, with unique individual skills, to help keep the city of Jerusalem safe and thriving.

Let our Praise arise (Neh 12:27-43)
The story now picks up where Neh 11:2 left off, after Nehemiah completed to list all the people involved in the resettling of Jerusalem.  We have seen in previous chapters the great amount of work required in rebuilding Jerusalem.  The people were working on the walls and around the gates with a shovel in one hand and a sword in the other.  Now with the walls completed Nehemiah directs “worshipers” to station themselves on the walls, play their musical instruments and sing… 

At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The singers also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem (Neh 12:27-28).  This dedication probably takes place within a month or two of the completion of the wall.
Warren Wiersbe states, “The people had been dedicated (Neh 8–10); now it was time to dedicate the work that the people had done. This is the correct order, for what good are dedicated walls and gates without dedicated people?”
Nehemiah, cup-bearer, visionary leader, governor, warrior, now becomes the worship director.  I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks (Neh 12:31); Ezra led one of the choirs and Nehemiah the other.  It is most likely the choirs started out from the Valley Gate; Ezra heading towards the Dung Gate and Nehemiah the opposite direction.  Both groups would have ended at the East Gate which was the entrance towards the Temple.  In this passage the emphasis was on joyful praise; singing (8 times), thanksgiving (6 times), rejoicing (7 times) and musical instruments (3 times).
Why would Ezra and Nehemiah organize such an extraordinary time of praise?  A dedication involves a time of celebration and enthusiasm.  The walls and gates, now finished, were tangible and could literally be touched by the people; praise to God was an appropriate action.  As well, this dedication was testifying of God’s faithfulness and provision in his plans and purposes.  It was a joyous time of declaring the greatness of God before everyone including the enemies of Jerusalem. 
By following Nehemiah’s directions the people encircled Jerusalem seeing the outcome of their hard work.  They sang, gave thanks, rejoiced, played their instruments and step by step celebrated what God had accomplished.  They walked together side by side looking towards God for the greater vision concerning Jerusalem. 
When they finally came to the Temple - “they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away” (Neh 12:43).  The dedication was not a time for quiet worship but a time of declaring God’s praise loudly so that everyone could hear…  The dedication involved not just the “worship team”, so to speak, but everyone, men, women and the children. 
This reminds me of Hebrews 13:15 - Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.  We must never let the ministry of worship leaders to take the place of our praise to the Lord.  If we do, our gathering together simply becomes a concert whereby we are entertained in the “name of the Lord”.

Let our Promises Arise (Neh 12:44-47)
The Scriptures are full of promises that encourage and strengthen us as we follow the ways of the Lord.   Now we see in the Book of Nehemiah the people fulfilling their promises and vows to God.  Back in Chapter 10 the people covenanted to obey God in three ways:
Submission to God’s Word
Separation from the ways of the world in the area of Marriage and the Sabbath.
Support for the House of God.

On this day of dedication the people end their journey at the Temple.  This was a perfect reminder for them to remain true to the promises they had made earlier, especially towards the upkeep of the Temple Ministries.  

We are told at that time - men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites (Neh 12:44).  We discover here that Nehemiah made sure there was some order with regards to the contribution, tithes and offerings made towards the Temple.  We are told that the people fulfilled their promises because they were “pleased with the ministering priests and Levites”.  This tells me that the leaders within the Temple ministry were conducting themselves with integrity, not fulfilling their own dreams but seeking to bring true praise and glory to God.  Their Temple Worship was in obedience to the directions given by David and Solomon and Asaph (Neh 12:45-46).

As a result of the integrity of the leaders, the celebration and the dedication and their great joy, people brought ample supplies to sustain the work of ministry. 
In Conclusion
The Book of Nehemiah offers a combination of both practical and spiritual values to be put into action today.  We can never underestimate the importance of the gifts and talents of the people connected to Christian ministry.  For every upfront leader there are many support workers behind the scenes.  Our gifts and talents are really spiritual sacrifices to the Lord.  We must learn how to serve one another in the right spirit so as to be a sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God (Phil 4:18). 

The church can arise to a new level maturity when the people praise God.  People and praise open the doors to a greater ministry of the Holy Spirit in their midst.  We are reminded that “the  kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).  We see from Nehemiah that there was great praise resulting in great joy for the people.  

Lastly, Nehemiah’s people gave towards the musicians and singers as well as the Levites taking care of the Temple.  As we bring our material gifts to the Lord, we must also give ourselves to God.  In the New Testament, Paul commended the churches of Macedonia because they “they gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5), before they shared in the missionary offering he was receiving for the needy believers in Jerusalem.  Our financial gifts cannot be a substitute for ourselves.  

The people joining in this day of dedication celebrated with great joy and gave themselves towards the ministry of the Temple.  This was a day of revival, so to speak, and brought great encouragement to the people of Jerusalem.  

I believe there is a longing within the hearts of God’s people for a continual experience of God’s presence.  I would call this a lifestyle of revival. We need to value the people of God in our midst and arise with praise in our hearts and be committed in our generosity towards God’s work and his people.  

Let’s pray for God’s work to continue in our lives and congregation…

Nehemiah—The Power of Agreement

Nehemiah—Power of Agreement


Our study in Nehemiah has led us to Chapter 10 where they record the names of those singing the covenant to walk in God’s ways.  The people have had various experiences, since the reading of God’s Word in Nehemiah 8 - 9; they confessed but were then told to celebrate only to end the Feast of Tabernacles with more heart-felt confession.  In the beginning of Neh 10:1-27, we see the names of those who signed the document.  These are the people who were committing to walk in a new way with God and each other as they lived together in Jerusalem.  When I see these people in Nehemiah’s day signing this renewed covenant, I think of the phrase - “the power of agreement”.  There was a total of 84 specific names who signed on the dotted line along with others, mothers and children and those able to understand God’s Word (Neh 10:28). 

The Power of Agreement:

First of all I want to give some definition to the power of agreement and help us to understand that there are several words that compliment this word; harmony, accordance (similar in thought or feeling), unity, or an arrangement that is accepted by all parties.  There are numerous Biblical stories that reveal agreement in action, some bad and some good. 

  • The Tower of Babel… Gen 11:1 - Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  The agreement we see here is based on one language and common speech, in other words, they were able to be in agreement and understand each other.  God states that because of this agreement or unity nothing they plan will be impossible.  God sees through their plans and discerns the pride of their hearts and confuses their language. 
  • The Story of Gideon… Judges 6 - 8.  I am always amazed at the interaction between God and his people.  This story depicts Gideon coming into agreement with who he is - “a mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12).  The ongoing relationship between God and Gideon is all about growing in agreement and coming into destiny.  In the end Gideon does obey God, although not perfectly, and brings the people of God into great victory.  
  • Jesus and his Disciples…  Matt 18:19-20 - “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  Even though this passage is in the context of forgiveness, it highlights the power of agreement and the presence of God that follows.  

Let’s take a moment and consider the power of agreement in marriages, at the work-place, with family and friends and especially at church.  Agreement brings about a wonderful and harmonious experience of unity between God and each other.  So as we study Neh 10, we will seek to discover how was the power of agreement made practical.

Obedience to God’s Word:

The first 28 verses of chapter 10 in Nehemiah records the names of those who came to agreement after having read from the Law.  We see the people putting agreement into action is in relation towards the Word of God - Neh 10:29 - “All these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.”  Those listed in these verses came to the conclusion that obedience to God’s Law and Word was foundational.  The people were 100 % serious about the covenant they were signing, so much so, that they actually bound themselves to this with a curse.  They were living under the idea of retribution theology, “you get what you deserve”, a common form of pagan thinking.  Even within Jewish history and theology this idea is seen; choose life or death… do good and you will be blessed, do bad and you will be cursed…  As a result of this kind of thinking they wanted the people to make sure they were truly committed to fulfilling their agreement as a nation by taking a curse as motivation.  

The question arises, should Christians today, in the pursuit of unity and agreement bind themselves with such strong oaths or vows?  Is this a good way to be motivated in one’s Christian walk?  I don’t think so.  The goal is to come into “relational unity” with God and each other not “legalistic unity”.  Our Father in Heaven is seeking those who will love him shown by a demonstration of obedience to his Scriptures.  The motivation of our obedience is our love for God and the manifestation of our obedience is joy in bringing pleasure to God.  The message of the New Testament is simple - the grace of God and promises of God lead to a fulfilled life.  By the way, a fulfilled life does not mean one free from struggles, trials, temptations or persecutions.  The abundant fulfilled life is a joining to the Kingdom of God and walking with the King through the joys and struggles of life.  As well, let’s remember that our relationship with God and the abundant life we are to experience is not based on our making promises to God but believing on the promises of God contained within the Scriptures.  Our obedience plays a true role in seeing God’s purposes fulfilled in our lives, but the foundation of our unity with God is grace.  Once again at the risk of repeating myself - the Scriptures are the primary means of hearing God’s voice - thereby directing us towards greater maturity.  Therefore we must be people of the Word…


  • The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (hebrews 4:12). 


  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). 


  • For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Rom 15:4). 




Agreement as the people of God

In the times of Nehemiah the people of God were confronted by all kinds of social, business and religious practices of the Persian Empire.  While some of the interaction with this Empire would be good in that law and order was provided, other idolatrous effects of this pagan nation troubled the people of God.  After reading from the Law of God they realized that they could only be “good neighbours” or “good customers” to a point.  In Neh 10:28 they “separated themselves from the neighbouring peoples for the sake of the Law of God.”  They separated from certain people and united with each other in agreement with God’s Word.  

In other words, the people of God let the Word of God define their surrounding culture and not the other way around.  There were two specific areas that the Jewish people struggled against.  These issues were unique to their time and needed to be addressed according to God’s Word; marriage and the Sabbath.  

1.  Marriage concerns:  

The main concern of inter-marriage with Gentiles was the loss of pure devotion to God.  To coin a New Testament term - they would be “unequally yoked” (2 Cor 6:14).  The Jew or Gentile spouses would have different ideas of faith, dietary laws, or the celebration of the Jewish annual festivals.  The potential would be either conflict or compromise, both of which, would have a negative affect one’s marriage and faith.  

To put this into a more contemporary context, there are times when I have been asked to perform a wedding between a Christian and an unsaved person.  I challenge the Christian to consider the Biblical verses both Old and New Testament that warn of troubles in this type of marriage.  I often hear back, “But we love one another…” “We will make it work out…”  The answer I give back is “can this marriage enjoy God’s best blessing and fulfill God’s will?” when you are deliberately disobeying God’s Word.  Let’s remember that God’s Word and his Kingdom define culture not the other way around.  

2.  Sabbath concerns:

The Sabbath day was one of the expressions of Jewish culture in contrast to other nations. We know from Scripture that God rested on the seventh day making it a day of rest and reflection (Gen 2:2-3).  The Sabbath day was incorporated into the 10 Commandments (number 4) so that the people of God would personally rest, along with the land and animals etc, and reflect on their relationship with God.  However, in Nehemiah’s day the Gentiles surrounding Jerusalem would look upon the Sabbath as any other day; they would do business and socialize with no respect for the Jewish Sabbath.  Some of the Jewish businessmen interested in making money were falling into temptation and sin by buying and selling on the Sabbath.

Warren Wiersbe states “For the Jewish remnant to promise to commemorate the Sabbatical Year was a great step of faith, for many of the people were poor and the nation faced repeated agricultural and economic depression. Not to have extra produce for a whole year would certainly affect their business with the Gentiles around them. The people’s willingness to obey this law is a beautiful illustration of Matthew 6:33.”

The Jewish people agree to become “holy” and obey the Sabbath no matter the cost.  This kind of radical commitment in the midst of a pagan Empire was a demonstration of true devotion.

Commitment to the House of God

We have looked at the Jewish people’s obedience to God’s Word by their commitment to living holy lives in relation to marriage and the Sabbath.  In Neh 10:32-39 we discover their renewed commitment to the “house of God” which is repeated in this passage of Scripture.  The people were promising God that they would obey God’s laws and provide what was needed for the ministry at the temple. “We will not forsake the house of our God” (Neh 10:39).  How did they care for the house of God?  They supported God’s house in four distinct ways.

1.  Temple tax: 

The tax was a reminder to the people that God had redeemed them and paid a price to set them free, and that they should behave like people who belonged to God.   Nehemiah 10:33 describes how the money would be spent: to provide what was needed for the regular and special ministries at the temple, all of which were part of the “work of the house of our God.” 

2.  The wood offering (Neh. 10:34). 

The wood offering reminds me of the idea- “let’s keep the fire burning” since the fire on the brazen altar was to be kept burning constantly (Lev. 6:12–13).  Wood is common but it was also scarce in Nehemiah’s day.  Since the priests needed wood for the altar, the people set up a schedule so that there was a regular supply for the “house of our God.”

3.  The first-fruits (Neh. 10:35–37a).  

First-fruits is all about bringing your best to God.  “Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops” (Prov. 3:9, NIV).  Firstfruits also reminded the Jews that God saved the firstborn Jews from death in the land of Egypt.  

4.  The tithes (Neh. 10:37b–39)

The word tithe means “a tenth.”  The Jews were to bring a tenth of their produce to the Lord each year for the support of the Levites (Lev. 27:30–34).  The Levites then gave a “tithe of the tithe” to the priests (Num. 18:25–32).  Teaching on the tithe can go into greater detail yet the main point to highlight is that the Jews agreed to commit once again to tithes.  

In Conclusion:

The people of God agreed to several things in Neh 10…  They recommitted their lives to searching out God’s Word and seeking to put the Bible into action.  I cannot say enough about reading and studying the Holy Bible.  We must be people who seek out God through his Scriptures letting God speak to our lives and circumstances and culture.  The kingdom of God is meant to shape our lives and culture, not the other way around.  

The people put God’s Word into action by separating themselves from the pagan cultural influences in relation to marriage and the Sabbath.  They set their affection on God above their affection for their unbelieving spouses.  They did the same for the Sabbath thereby trusting in God as their provider, not their business pursuits.  

They also reaffirmed their commitment to the house of God by giving of their resources in four ways, the temple tax, the wood offering, firstfruits and the tithe.  There are different views relating to tithing in modern church; some say yes and some say no.  For me the discussion is not about tithing but about New Testament giving.  We are told that we are stewards of God’s resources and that we are to devote them towards the ministry of his church; proportional giving is certainly commended (1 Cor. 16:1–2).  People under Old Testament Law tithed, how much more ought we to give today who live under the New Covenant grace?  Sir Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

What do you and I need today to honour God?  

Lives that seek out God’s Word 

Lives that put God’s Word into obedience

Lives that are committed to providing for the house of the Lord


Let’s pray…

Nehemiah - The Joy of the Lord is your Strength


By Pastor Don Byrt (retired and fantastic)



Charles Swindoll, American author, pastor and evangelist


(Comments about attitude which I want to use at the beginning of this talk about joy)


[ The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company ...a church ...a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past ...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude ...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you ...we are in charge of our attitudes.



  1. About 50,000 people resettled Jerusalem and the towns in the countryside around Jerusalem. After the walls were rebuilt and the gates rebuilt and the area somewhat stabilized, they were all called to meet in Jerusalem to hear the reading of the Book of the Law of Moses. Nehemiah 8:2-8
  2. All the people wept as they heard the words of the Law being read. Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe and Levites who were teaching as the Book of the Law was read all said to the people, “This is a sacred day to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep. Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to or Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Nehemiah 8:9b-10
  3. The people wept because they felt condemned at their own failures and shortcomings as they realized how far from God’s ways they had fallen. Nehemiah could have agreed with their self-condemnation, but he instead spoke a true word from God. Nehemiah said to stop grieving because God’s word was not for condemning them, but for reconciling them to God. God’s word is for life and joy. This was a day to rejoice and party, to laugh and feast because God was acting again to assure them of his love. Indeed, repentance was to come, but repentance to life and joy, not condemnation.
  4. It is absolutely essential to understand who brings condemnation and death, and who brings salvation and life if we as Christians are to experience joy and victory in all circumstances of life.
  • The thief, that is Satan, is the one who is the source of sin, condemnation and death. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10a
  • The Lord Jesus, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity of one God comes to give life, and that is life in all its fullness, all its abundance. John 10:10b
  • Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour and condemn and destroy. 1 Peter 5:8
  • God so loved the world he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whosoever believes in him is not condemned … John3:16-18
  • See also 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Philippians 4:4-8, 3 John 2
  • For songs with each scripture: Rejoice Always … Rejoice in the Lord Always … and for The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength from Nehemiah 8:10, and for the encouragement in the line from 3 John 2.




1.  If Christians are to experience the fullness of joy, that JOY OF THE LORD THAT IS OUR STRENGTH, in every situation of life, then we must confirm in our spirits, experience in our souls and live out in our bodies the reality that God is the source of life, reconciliation, love , power and every good thing we experience and have. We must learn to discern between the voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of Satan, and choose to live accepting the joy and life inherent in God for us, and choose to reject the life sapping, condemning lies that are all that Satan has to offer.


How to Discern Between the Voice of the Holy Spirit (JOY)


  1. You have a sense of God’s Holiness
  2. Makes you God-conscious (through the word/Word)
  3. Gives clarity (specifics)
  4. Deals with one thing at a time
  5. He corrects
  6. He brings conviction
  7. Causes you to deal with unconfessed sin
  8. Encourages to obedience (entreats hope)
  9. Peace confirmed
  10. Leads to balance


And the Voice of Satan (CONDEMNATION) 

  1. You have a sense of worthlessness
  2. Makes you self-conscious (through your feelings)
  3. Brings confusion (generalities)
  4. Throws the whole book at you
  5. He accuses
  6. He brings condemnation
  7. Accuses you of confessed sin and failure
  8. Discourages to despair and torments, (Helplessness)
  9. You are pressured, frustrated
  10. Leads to bondage


Which voice will you really listen to? How you experience your Christian life day by day, year by year actually tells you. No one else need to judge you; you already know. The good news is that if the condemnation of the second list describes how you experience life, you may choose today to reject that deceiving voice and you may choose to learn to hear the true voice leading to abundant life and truly life giving joy.


Submit yourself to God’s (voice). Resist the devil’s (voice) and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you (you will find He is already near). James 4:7-8 my bracket comments


2.  Listen to this story of fans of the Cleveland Browns football club. Taken from the daily Bible study devotional guide, Our Daily Bread of February 7, 2016. Arena nicknamed “The Factory of Sadness”

3.  The scripture covers our need for assurance that Jesus is with us and for us always, in every situation. It does not diminish or devalue our losses nor exalt our gains. It promises His presence in every experience we have, and offers us His peace, joy ultimate victory.

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace (includes joy). In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

4.  I do not want my life to be a factory of sadness. I want it to be a household of God’s joy, such that others seeing me are drawn to worship the living joy giving God.

5.  Two friends and their different reaction to life situations, good and bad.


  1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set us free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
  2. We enter God’s work with thanksgiving and joy, knowing that we will sometimes fall and struggle, but knowing also that our struggling, falling and failing are not the last word. God has the last word, and that word is Jesus. Jesus has set us free from condemnation and shame. We are called to grow in that experience of freedom, to announce it to others, and to live in the joy of the Lord.
  3. Rejoice always, and again I say rejoice. Philippians 4:4 
  4. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  5. Songs. Rejoice in the Lord Always Philippians 4:4, Rejoice Always 1 Thessalonians 5:16, The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah—Put on Love

Nehemiah—Put on Love


This morning we will be taking a look at the importance of love in the process of building, re-building and repairing those low places in our lives.  The story of Nehemiah highlights the broken down state of the city of Jerusalem and its broken walls and gates.  Initially he mourned and fasted for a few days and then over a period of four months he prayed and sought the Lord as to his involvement in this situation.  With the help of God, he secured the favour of the king of Persia, rallied the troops, so to speak, and began to rebuild, and he overcame the attacks of the enemy.  How was all this possible?  He prayed out to God and he continued working.  It is exciting to see how Nehemiah overcame such challenging circumstances and was able to complete the rebuilding process in 52 days.

This morning I want to take a more spiritual approach to the Book of Nehemiah.  One of the approaches we are taking to our study through Nehemiah relates to our lives being rebuilt and the discovery that everyone is a gift and has gifts and talents to share with each other.  


An allegory of Nehemiah:

An allegory is a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted with spiritual or hidden meanings; “the moral of the story is…”  Let’s apply this to the Book of Nehemiah. The Temple is one’s inner heart and spirituality (spirit).  The city of Jerusalem can be seen as a person’s life (soul); the walls broken down speak to the lack of boundaries and low places in one’s life, while the gates burned with fire relate to being defenceless against the enemy.  The areas surrounding the city speaks of production, farming and fruitfulness (body).  There are people who have your well-being in mind and look to see hope and a future.  They are committed to rebuilding process - spirit, soul and body.  There are others who seek the continually devastation of your life and are committed to your destruction.  

As we study the Book of Nehemiah I see parallels to our spiritual walk with Jesus.  Without a doubt we know that Jesus came to redeem and restore the lives of those on earth.  Everyone who truly calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13).  This salvation is a rescuing, a bringing into safety, a delivering from sin and satan, a healing from illness (spirit, soul and body), bringing into unity with God and the Christian church, a removing from threats or danger, a providing for the poor and needy, to be made well, to restore, to recover, to keep alive, and much more.  This is what God’s wants for everyone.  

However, we must all admit that there are areas in our lives where we find low places in our walls, so to speak.  There are certain gates or entrances that are not secured and allow easy access for temptation or the Tempter himself.  There is a possibility that our inner (temple) life does not have a stable foundation.  All of these challenges affect us spiritually, relationally, and financially and it is God desire to rebuild and repair.

The story of the jigsaw puzzle…


God is a Rebuilder:

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “I know that God is rebuilding my life, but why can’t he work faster?”  This is one of the questions that Pastor Jack Hayford, a well-known Foursquare pastor, asks in his study of Nehemiah.  All to often Christians can feel that their walk with Jesus is a struggle.  God does not want this.  We need to grow in our faith just as Nehemiah rebuilt and repaired the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

Here is a quick thought about Christian theology.  Jesus is our Saviour; his finished work on the cross secured salvation for all.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper and Comforter who puts salvation into action in our lives.  Jesus justifies and the Holy Spirit sanctifies; Jesus redeems and Holy Spirit rebuilds.  This rebuilding process requires prayer and work on our parts as we trust in Jesus as our Saviour and give our lives to Holy Spirit as our Helper.  We are challenged in this process to be patient and faithful just like Nehemiah.  

One of the questions Christians wrestle with is “what about holiness?”  The immature believer feels threatened by the thought of holiness; holiness is something unattainable or holiness makes me feel condemned.  I believe that holiness has two aspects to it. Firstly, we are holy because Jesus has secured before God, by his blood, our righteousness and position as sons and daughters (positionally holy).  Secondly, we are being made holy, we are learning how to practice holiness.  I see being made holy as being made whole.  Those low places in our lives are obviously unholy.  The broken gates that allow for temptation to overcome us are unholy. 

There are times we struggle with depressive thoughts.  Or maybe we are troubled by fears and anxieties.  Others of us are unable to resist certain temptations.  These challenges in life are those low places in our walls or the gates that have been burned with fire.  God desires to rebuild and repair those areas of need in our lives.  


How is rebuilding put into practice?

Over my years of pastoring I have wrestled with this question.  Obviously God has a significant part to play, after all he saves and sanctifies our lives.  As well, we have a part to play, we engage actively in all kinds of spiritual disciplines and the bottom line for believers is all about a lifestyle of obedience.  There are times in my life where it seemed like all I did was remove the rubble and broken bricks piled around me.  Other times all I could do was marvel at God’s glorious grace setting me free.  Sometimes the enemy would attack with condemnation.  Other times God would be very specific with conviction of sin.  

In the context of Nehemiah, they kept their eyes on the vision before them, next they removed the rubble and then then began to rebuild.  

This reality in Nehemiah’s day reminds me of Col 3:1-17 which highlights this rebuilding process.  Paul places the vision of Christ before us, then he helps us to remove the rubble, so to speak, and then begin the rebuilding process.  

1.    Vision First

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  

We all understand the need for rebuilding in our lives but we must follow God’s order for a healthy experience.  I believe one of the foundational principles in this process of being made whole is perspective.  We need to think and act and live with a heavenly perspective.  We need to have a vision of Jesus our Saviour and begin to think about our reality from above.  

2.    Put off

Paul tells us there is to be a continual “putting to death” (to stop a reality with lethal determination) of those things that cause rubble in our lives.  We all have an earthly sinful nature and Christians are not to build their lives using these bricks.  

Col 3:5-9 - Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices…

Focusing on the rubble and ruin for extended periods of time takes our eyes off of our Redeemer.  However, we all have those places in our walls that are broken and those gates that offer little or no defence.  We need to take a moment to recognize and renounce them and let them go.  We need to throw them onto the rubbish pile (the Dung Gate) trusting in our Saviour for salvation and walk away with the Holy Spirit’s help. 

3.    Put on

The rebuilding process continues with Paul telling us to “put on the new self”.  Paul uses the imagery of taking off dirty clothes and putting on clean clothes; similar to Nehemiah and broken rubble verse new bricks.  Paul describes the unity we have in Christ and then lists the wholesome practices of a believer.  

Col 3:10-14 - and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Let’s refer back to Nehemiah for a moment.  The workers on the wall removed the rubble and repaired the wall by adding new bricks.  These new bricks are represented in Colossians as holiness, love, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love…

I see love as the mortar holding on the bricks in place.  We are told in 1 Cor 12:31 - But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.   We are all gifted in some form or fashion and this is what makes us special and unique.  Paul goes onto to say in1 Cor 13:13 - And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  These two passage simply tell us that love is paramount in the process of rebuilding.  One can be talented and gifted as they “work on the wall” but they don’t have love; this is not good.

In Conclusion:

We have seen in the study of Nehemiah the process for rebuilding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah gave leadership and oversight to the vision for establishing the Glory of God once again in Israel.  He prayed and put into action all that he needed to restore the walls and gates.  He overcame the challenges before him and the enemies that opposed him.  His hard work along with the families working alongside him allowed him to restore safety to Jerusalem in 52 days.  

The same can happen in our lives as we allow God to rebuild those areas in our lives that need it.  As we embrace Jesus as our Saviour, as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit unto “wholeness” we can find our lives becoming all that God has intended.  This is a process in which we are personally involved.  We can all choose to let go of the bricks in our lives that 

cause there to be rubble.  At the same time, everyone here is both gifted and talented and can offer great strengths as we build our walls and gates, so to speak, both individually and corporately as a congregation.  

In 1 Peter 2:4-5 we are told that we are living stones being built together into the house of God with Jesus himself being the Living Stone - As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”


In Application:

This morning we have had the opportunity to write some of our strengths and gifts on a “brick”.  We have already placed on our wall some of the temptations we all face on a regular basis.  I want you to go and place your brick on the wall and as you do so take off one of the “rubble bricks” and throw it into the garbage.  This little exercise will remind us to put off those things that contaminate our lives and at the same time to put on the wall our gifts and talents.  

We do this as individuals but we share in this as a community.  Talk to three other people about the gift and talent you are putting on the wall. 


Pray together…

Commit to working together for the Glory of God…







Nehemiah—Building and Battling

Nehemiah—Building & Battling


The Book of Nehemiah is full of significant lessons for us all to learn.  It offers us hope after times of captivity and oppression.  It gives us a new hope and future to look forward to.  Nehemiah teaches us about prayer and tears, confession and courage, and the leadership that is needed to facilitate the processes of rebuilding.  One of the lessons we discovered last week was the importance of team work; arm to arm workers dedicated to the rebuilding and repairing of the gates and walls surrounding Jerusalem.  We might think that once Nehemiah had carefully assigned everyone to a particular gate or section of the wall, that everything would go smoothly. However, God’s work seldom goes forward without opposition, whether from the outside and from within.  And yet, in all of this Nehemiah was committed to seeing the Glory of God restored over his land and the city of Jerusalem.  

As we begin to look at Nehemiah Chapters 4-6 we discover many instances of the enemy attacking the work of the people.  I believe that whenever you begin to step out in a visionary work that is divinely inspired you will encounter opposition.  As you begin to build you will find yourself battling against the schemes and strategies of Satan.  Today, let’s begin to gain some understanding about how to build and withstand the attacks of the enemies as we look at the Book of Nehemiah.  These chapters present several points highlighting the opposing of Nehemiah’s work.  As well, there are specific responses from God’s people that help them to become courageous and defeat the enemy.  We know that the battle is not against flesh and blood.  Referring to Satan, Paul wrote, “For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).  Let’s now discover how to build and battle together for God’s glory.

Neh 4-6 - Building and Battling

The people of God always have enemies.  This is most true in Nehemiah’s day as he rebuilt the gates and repaired the walls of Jerusalem.  We can learn important lessons to put into practice personally and as a church family as we seek to move forward in the good work God has placed before us.  As we seek to “Apprehend God’s Heart and Fulfill His Dreams” there will be opposition.  “Becominga grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom” will be resisted by the enemy of God.  We must be careful to make sure we are part of the solution and not the problem when opposition arises.  We must learn the lessons from Scripture and from history in order to become victorious followers of Christ.  

Here are the specific strategies used against Nehemiah and his work:

  • They attacked the Jewish people with insults (Neh 4:1–6

Nothing infuriates the enemies of God more than the people of God being busy with the work of the Kingdom of God.  In Nehemiah’s day the enemy was infuriated and throws all kinds of evil insults towards the Jewish people re-building the city.  Sanballat calls them names - feeble Jews, he questions their ability to work, he blasphemes by insinuating they will not be able to sacrifice in the Temple.  He sees the rubble from which the city was being rebuilt and implies it is an impossible task.  Tobiah pokes even more insult towards the workers by saying a fox walking on the wall would break it down…  We must remember that the enemy does not play fair.  His insults and ridicules are very real and can have devastating effects on our lives.  

So how does Nehemiah respond to this ridicule? He prays and asks God to fight against the enemy for him.  This is the third time you find Nehemiah praying and it will not be the last time. Nehemiah did not give the insults of the enemy any attention but he did pray a very strong prayer against their enemies as seen in Neh 4:4-5.  As a result of patiently enduring the insults of the enemy and coming into agreement in prayer they “rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart” (Neh 4:6). 

  • Threats of war (Neh 4:7–9). 

God’s people sometimes have difficulty working together in unity, but the enemies of God have no problem uniting in opposition to the work of the Lord.  We now see the enemies of God angry and conspiring to attack the city.  One of the weapons the enemy uses against God’s people is intimidation.  Threats, fear and intimidation are the fingerprints of the enemy.  

Nehemiah suspects something is wrong and engages in another prayer to God.  However, he does not stop with prayer this time but sets up a guard day and night to watch over the city.  Prayer is good but it must be followed up in obedience to God’s direction and wisdom.  

Let’s read on further - Neh 4:10-23.  It is under this threat of war that the people continued to work, but we also see the effects of the strategy of the enemy.  Neh 4:10 -  “The strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

Nehemiah has cause to be concerned about all the intimidation of the enemy, but now we see the people getting tired of work and becoming discouraged.  How does Nehemiah respond?  

Nehemiah shows great wisdom.  He places people in front of their homes and arms them to fight.  He gives them words of encouragement forcing the enemy to turn away discouraged.  Finally, Nehemiah gets the people back to work, this time with a weapon in one hand and a shovel in the other.  

We are told to “watch and pray” (Mark 13:33; Mark14:38).  The enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour - therefore we must be alert at all times.  We must not give in to fear but be filled with the Spirit of power, love and a sound mind.

  • Selfishness as a result of the battle Neh 5:1-19.

Up to this point the attacks of the enemy had not been successful to stop the works of God.  As a result of the opposition and threats the Jewish people became more and more self-preserving. Selfishness is a strategy of the enemy to take our attention off of the things of God and to get us thinking only about ourselves and what we want.  Selfishness means putting myself first at the expense of others, it is exploiting others so I can be happy, it is pursing my ambitions first thereby taking advantage of others.  Sadly there is no record of the rebuilding process in Neh 5.

Unfortunately that is what happens to the Jewish people in Neh 5.  As a result of the challenges money became scarce and people were buying and selling for personal selfish reasons.  Common people were hungry, the landowners were selling their land just to survive, and others complained about taxes paid to the King of Persia. Lastly, there were wealthy Jews who were exploiting their own people for selfish reasons.  

How does Nehemiah respond?  At first he was angry because of their selfishness and being so spiritually backslidden. He saw it not as an economic problem, but as a spiritual problem. Nehemiah took some time to think about the circumstances and then he brought rebuke to the people (Neh 5: 7–11), reminding them of their freedom from captivity only to put each other into financial bondage.  The enemy must have enjoyed seeing the Jews so selfish towards one another.   

Nehemiah then exhorts them to walk in the fear of the Lord and to follow his unselfish example as a leader.  In the end the people committed to obey both God’s Word and Nehemiah’s.  This would have been a troubling and sacrificial time for Nehemiah.  Here we see his people prayer offered to the Lord - Remember me with favour, O my God, for all I have done for these people (Neh 5:19).

  • They tried compromise (Neh 6:1–4)

In this passage we discover that the walls were repaired so that there were no gaps.  The enemies of Nehemiah try a new strategy - they try to get Nehemiah to compromise by inviting him to a friendly meeting.  We are told we are not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1:1).  The enemies strategy was subtle - “if I can’t beat them, then join them” and then take over from the inside.

How does Nehemiah respond?  He does not meet with them or enter into conversation.  Why?  He knew they were lying and would try to kill him.  Secondly, Nehemiah was more focused on the greatness of God than the distractions of the enemy.  Lastly, these enemies had nothing in common with God’s people.  

  • Slander (Neh 6:5–9)

This is the fifth time Nehemiah’s enemies directly approach him, this time with a letter of accusation and slander.  They accuse him of planning a rebellion against King Artaxerxes and placing a new king on the throne in Jerusalem.  

How does Nehemiah respond?  By telling them that their report is false.  And by praying once again - Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands (Neh 6:9).

  • Deception (Neh 6:10–14; 17-19

Deception is one of the greatest schemes of the enemy.  Discernment is one of the most important gifts of the Spirit.  Shemaiah had shut himself up in his house, pretending to be afraid of the enemy, but in reality he was a secret informer working with the enemy.  Shemaiah lied to Nehemiah and tried to frighten him but Nehemiah perceived this scheme and openly refuted Shemaiah’s lies. 

As well, in Neh 6:17-19 we see the noble of Judah continuing in their friendship with Tobiah a known enemy of Nehemiah.  They sent letters back and forth furthering the intrigue behind Nehemiah’s back.  The end result was to try to frighten Nehemiah and get him to stop the rebuilding and repairing work.  

How does Nehemiah respond?  Again, he prayed for God’s help and then went right back to work.  There are times we need to be cautious around so-called Christians who always have advice, their own agenda or maybe they lie behind your back and they never seem to really help the work of God in the moment.  Paul tells of his challenges and warned about false brethren in 2 Cor. 11:26.


In conclusion:

First and foremost - the work was completed.  We see how these various attacks of the enemy caused the people to become discouraged, fearful and selfish.  Despite these struggles they learned how to build and battle side by side.  None of the enemy’s tactics worked, from the outside or within, and Nehemiah was able to finish the work - So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God (Neh 6:15-16). 

God is in the business of building his church and he tells us in Scripture that the “gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt 16:18).  Yes we will encounter various schemes and strategies of the enemy to keep us from God’s glorious work.  However we have seen that the enemy can be overcome and that God’s people can rise up with their gifts and talents fulfilling his dreams.  Nehemiah overcame the enemy by “directed prayer” and continuing the work.  He didn't become distracted by the attacks of the enemy, he simply prayed and worked even more.

This work was completed with the help of God, with all the hard work of the people, and after all the battling side by side against the enemy - “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).  Nehemiah began in prayer “So I prayed” (Neh. 2:4).  Then we read of his arrival in Jerusalem where he strengthens the hands of the people to build and battle together.  Now we reach the end of this part of the story; the gates and walls have been rebuilt.  This is now a new beginning.  In the chapters ahead we see Nehemiah protecting what the people have accomplished with God’s help.

This reminds me of the life of church.  One vision is fulfilled only to have another placed before us.  This is the old and the new working side-by-side seeking to accomplish God’s dreams.  We continue to work together side by side.  We continue to battle against the enemy by drawing near to God in prayer.  God is faithful and he will continue to lead us on.  


In Application

As we consider how to apply these chapters from Nehemiah to our lives personally and as a church community, several things come to mind.  It is without question that we need to be yielded and walking in obedience with God.  The Lord has a desire for his church to walk together as we seek to “Apprehend God Heart and Fulfill His Dreams”.  The title of the message today was Building and Battling…  We all have a work to accomplish here at Courts of Praise.  And we have an enemy who wants to disrupt and stop God’s purpose and vision here.  

Let’s remember:

  • We must stand our ground together, united, arm to arm, as we stand against the threats, fear, mocking and accusation from the enemy.  
  • Our gifts and talents are to be used for the common good of everyone and not held selfishly.  In other words, when things get tough don’t withdraw or don't withhold.  Give of your time, gifts and money for the sake of God’s work.  
  • The battle is not against flesh and blood.  We must pray to our Great God as we stand against the enemy and stand with God and each other.

Let’s pray…

Nehemiah—What is it you want?

Nehemiah—What is it you want? Spiritual Gifts


Several weeks ago we began a series on Spiritual Gifts using the Book of Nehemiah as a starting point.  I gave a brief introduction to Nehemiah and its relation to the Book of Ezra.  In 538 BC about 50,000 Jewish people were giving permission to return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel’s leadership and begin rebuilding the Temple which was finished around 515 BC.  In 458 BC Ezra returns and begins to bring reform to the remnant.  13 years later in 444 BC Nehemiah begins his journey towards Jerusalem and the rebuilding of its broken walls and the gates burned with fire.  Upon hearing about the state of Jerusalem Nehemiah showed he cared, he shed tears, he fasted, prayed and confessed to God about the state of his people.  

Nehemiah gives us a great picture of a man on an assignment by God.  The foundation of his godly character, his humility and his determination are excellent attributes to bring into a study on Spiritual Gifts.  We briefly looked at motivational gifts found in Rom 12:6-8, manifestations of the gifts in 1 Cor 12:7-10, 28 and ministry gifts found in Eph 4:11.  While these passages are not exclusive with regards to spiritual gifts they form a solid foundation for us to begin our study.  



After this brief review let us turn to Nehemiah 2 and take another look at his journey towards Jerusalem.  Nehemiah begins his journey “one step at a time”.  This reminds me of our journey of discovery as we consider spiritual gifts; we too begin with baby steps.  Everyone receives the gifts of the Spirit in embryonic form; in other words, our callings and gifting begin in an immature state and we must grow up into fulness.  As we shall see in Nehemiah’s story there was a lot to consider as he moved forward in his calling.  After a period of four months and considering the state of Jerusalem he gains the courage to approach the King of Persia.  In those days one did not approach the king unless summoned.  As well, the kings were protected from anything that may cause them grief or sadness.  Happiness was one of the chief goals of life for kings not unlike the day and age in which so many hedonistically pursue pleasure.  

The problem for Nehemiah was significant - he was very sad.  This Hebrew word could be translated bad or evil which maybe interpreted by King Artaxerxes as treasonous.  So after months of fasting and prayer and concern he cautiously approaches the king.  In the course of their conversation King Artaxerxes notices Nehemiah’s sadness and inquires about it.  Nehemiah gives a brief explanation of the devastation to the city of his fore fathers and then awaits the king’s response.  The king responds with this line “What is it you want?”  This one statement changes the course of history and we will take a closer look at its implications for us.


What is it you want?

“What is it you want?”  What an opportunity for Nehemiah!  All the power and wealth of the kingdom were wrapped up in that question.  In this moment of questioning Nehemiah sent up one of those “Hail Mary” prayers.  He must not answer too quickly or the king may think there was some sort of pre-planned conspiracy, but also he must not wait to long and miss this wonderful opportunity.  The Book of Nehemiah records these “short and sweet” prayers to God - Neh 4:4; 5:9; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31.  Let’s keep in mind that these quick prayers were supported by a lifestyle of prayer and the previous four months of prayer and fasting.  Nehemiah was in tune to the Spirit of God and able to receive quick wisdom and insight from God.  

I am reminded of several passages of Scripture that relate to this concept of coming before a king.  Isn't it wonderful to know that we serve the King of Heaven and Earth.  Can you imagine for a moment God Almighty saying to you “What is it you want?”  The Scriptures tell us:

  • Psalm 37:4 - Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  • Jesus said to the blind man “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).
  • Matt 6:8 - Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Nehemiah approached his king with sadness on his face, but our God sees the sadness and stress of our inner hearts.  We are told to “approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebr 4:16).

Jesus himself gave us the invitation to “ask him for anything in his name and he will do it” (John 14:14.  We understand that we must meet certain conditions for this statement to be true.  God is not giving us a “blank check” to selfishly spend on our own pleasures.  He is giving us an opportunity to partner with him in history, to make a difference in our family and friends for the glory of God.  

In the case of Nehemiah not only did he quickly pray in response to the king’s question, but he had also planned for it during those four months of fasting, prayer and waiting.  To be sure he had considered the situation throughly and knew exactly how he would approach the king.  His response to the king can be summarized in two requests: 

  • “Send me!” (Neh. 2:4–6)
  • “Give me!” (Neh. 7–10)

Nehemiah would need permission to go and provision for the task.  Many sermons have been written along this theme, “Where God Guides, He Provides.”  This was coming into fulfillment for Nehemiah and the people of God.  Tell the story of YWAM Switzerland…


Nehemiah’s Journey of Faith

I am sure Nehemiah was greatly relieved by the king’s gracious response to him.  After months of prayer and fasting over the broken walls and burnt gates of Jerusalem there was light at the end of the tunnel.  This would have been a wonderfully fulfilling moment for Nehemiah.  This kind of moment reminds of being “born again”, or being “filled with the Spirit” or “leading someone to Christ”.  How marvellous is our God.  

Nehemiah’s journey of faith has several things to help us on our personal journeys. 

  • Nehemiah’s faith showed great patience.  There were months of prayer and fasting and weeping.  During these times of awkward waiting he poured out his concerns to God.  Patience is not an easy part of the journey.  It confronts our own selfishness.  It exposes our own personal agendas. It reveals our independence from God; I can do it myself.  On Wednesday night at prayers we meditated and then prayed over our circumstances personally and corporately.  We highlighted three Scriptures; Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord (Ex 14:13), Still still until you know how the matter will turn out (Ruth 3:18) and Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).  We prayed “Our God is Great” over our circumstances and over the enemy.  Sometimes we need these kind of Scriptures to encourage us in our journey of patient faith.
  • Nehemiah’s faith overcame opposition (Neh 2:10, 19).  Nehemiah had secured all that he needed for his journey left for Jerusalem. However, there are times in our journey with God that individuals will oppose us.  In the case of Nehemiah there were three men in particular that caused the Jewish people great grief; Sanballat was a leader and warrior, Tobiah was a friend to some of the Jews and Geshem was an Arabian.  Nehemiah endured their ridicule and mocking and strategies to stop the work of rebuilding the walls and gates.  He would soon understand that the real problem was not the enemy on the outside but the compromisers on the inside.  This is still a problem in the church today.
  • Nehemiah’s faith was investigative (Neh 2:11-12).  Nehemiah’s journey required patience and overcoming initial opposition.  But that was just the beginning.  He also scouted of the land just like the 12 spies without making his enemies aware.  He didn’t rush in but checked out the broken wall around Jerusalem and its burnt gates.  He didn't let the Israelites know for fear of the news getting back to Tobiah, a friend to some of the Jews.  
  • Nehemiah’s faith was active (Neh 2:17-18).  On the one hand Nehemiah was patient in his faith.  On the other hand, at some point, faith must become active.  There can be various experiences in between these two bookends, like opposition and investigation, but eventually one must act on one’s faith.  Nehemiah did so.  How?  By focusing on the greatness of God.  He spoke in terms of unity - we and us - not about - us and them.  He recognized the grace of God was working on their behalf.  He prayerful secured provision for his journey and for the rebuilding of the walls and gates. 


What is it you want?

There are so many lessons that we can learn from the Book of Nehemiah; prayer, leadership, renewal, team work to name a few.  King Artaxerxes ask this question of Nehemiah at he end of four months of prayer and fasting.  This open ended question is what gave Nehemiah the opportunity to proceed to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the walls and gates.  

I want to take a moment and to reconnect this question in our thoughts to the mandate of spiritual gifts.  Have you ever imagined the Almighty God asking you this kind of question?  What is it you want?  With God there is no lack of wisdom or strength.  His love always provides for his children.  We know that God genuinely cares for us and desires the best future for us.  

In the context of spiritual gifts this is an incredible opportunity to utilize the divine gifts of heaven for life and ministry here on earth.  The Scriptures tell us to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” - 1 Cor 12:31.  Firstly, this verse is in the form of a command, it is a verb that is active and present in context.  In other words, we are to put this into action daily, moment by moment.  We are to set our hearts towards, to be zealous for spiritual gifts.  Secondly, Paul makes a distinction between lessor and greater gifts.  For sure we are to desire and pursue all the divine gifting God has made available for his church.  Yet we must remember that there are greater gifts that will have greater effect in the world in which we live.  We will look more closely at our spiritual gifts in the weeks coming.  

The way I think is like this - “What is it you want?” is being asked of the church today.  What are the spiritual gifts we need to fulfill God’s dreams?  What do you need in order to be successful at work?  What gifts do you need to reach your neighbours with the message of salvation?  What do you need to see your family blessed?  

The Bible tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3).  Another way to look at this verse is such - everything that we need to please and glorify God has been given to us in the context of our personal relationship with him.  I don’t know about you but this kind of divine partnership with his earthly children is so exciting; it is not about fulfilling religious duty but about an intimate interaction.  In this life of promise, God asks us the question, “What is it you want?”  For many of us we answer this question according to what we think we need.  We tend to think in the context of needs not wants.  In other words, I need to pay the bills therefore I need money.  I not feeling well therefore I need to be healed.  These thoughts are not wrong, but I believe God wants us to go deeper into spiritual intimacy with him.  What is it you want is a much more personal question.    


In Conclusion

I believe God is placing this incredible question before us both personally and corporately as a church community.  What is it you want?  We must make sure that the answer to this question comes from a place of fasting and prayer and confession of sin, just like in Nehemiah’s situation.  We must make sure that we are not answering this question selfishly for person gain.  We must make sure that our answer in not some misguided personal agenda.  

When God asks the question “what is it you want?” we need to make sure our answer aligns with his will and purpose.


In Application

Today and during the week let’s take some time to consider “what is it you want?”  God has tremendous love and care for his children and church.  He tells us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well… (Matt 6:33).  All these things refer to the daily needs we all experience; food, clothing shelter, the daily necessities of life.  

Let’s try to separate our needs from our wants.

Let’s take some time to consider what your wants really look like.  

What is it you want? is a wonderful opportunity for us to apprehend God’s heart and fulfill His dreams.  

Nehemiah and Spiritual Gifts

Nehemiah and Spiritual Gifts


The first sermon series I preached in Courts of Praise was from the Book of Nehemiah.  I had been asking God as to what to share with this new-to-me congregation.  The Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures from Nehemiah highlighted several aspects of Christian maturity that I believe God was speaking over us.  Firstly, prayer, then leadership with both it’s opportunities and obstacles and then vision.  Over the next month or so we will be learning about "spiritual gifts" using the Book of Nehemiah as our Scriptural text.  I am grateful for the book by Warren Wiersbe - Be Determined in this study. Here is a little background as we begin…

The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah go hand in hand and have been seen by some scholars as one book.  Both books record the events during the end of the Babylonian exile when the Jewish people begin to revive in hope.  The kingdom of Media-Persia was now the controlling force in the world.  The book of Ezra highlights the return to Jerusalem from captivity in two stages, first in 538 BC and then when Ezra returns in 457 BC.  Ezra was committed to rebuilding the temple while Nehemiah, who returned 12 years after Ezra, was tasked with rebuilding the city’s walls and gates.  In Ezra’s ministry hope begins to stir and with Nehemiah’s rebuilding their hope was secured.

For the Jewish people who heard and understood the prophetic ‘word of the Lord’ there was a stirring of hope.  Before the exile into captivity, both the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned of coming judgment but they also declared the faithfulness of God to his covenant people.  Jeremiah’s writings point out that their captivity would last for only 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10-14).  Isaiah foretold over a century and a half before the captivity, the very name of the ruler who would initiate the return: Cyrus. Isaiah 44:28 - [It is I] who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundation be laid.’ ”The prophetic word of the Lord is such a positive experience.  The Israelites were seeing the hand of God direct their lives once again after years of captivity and were encouraged by his favour.   

In a similar way, I believe that for 2016 the Lord wants to stir hope in our hearts that he is good and has a great plan for this year, both personally and corporately as a church.  I also trust the Lord to secure this hope in our lives by rebuilding those areas in our lives that our low and or broken.  The rebuilding process always involves people.  This is why spiritual gifts are so important as we move forward as a congregation.  1 Peter 4:10 tells us “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  Nehemiah will help us with the discovery of our spiritual gifts…

Spiritual Gifts

I have met many people in my years of Christian ministry who are very gifted.  There are those who have correctly handled their gifts or talents and have brought great blessing to God and his people.  This is so wonderful to see.  Some have served the Body of Christ faithfully while others have served themselves.  I have seen various levels of spiritual maturity as believers have engaged with their Spiritual Gifts and or Ministries.  Many Bible scholars divide them into distinct sections of Scripture while others divide them into categories of “natural gifts” such as speaking, serving others and showing mercy, and “supernatural gifts” such as doing miracles, prophesy and speaking in tongues.  Some denominations believe that the supernatural gifts were limited to the Apostolic age, and when the Scriptures were completed the need for these gifts lessened and ultimately disappeared.  This is not true.  I personally believe that we can receive multiple gifts as the Holy Spirit determines in a given time and situation.  This following list is not exhaustive of the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible but gives a great introduction…

The Body of Christ has been divinely “gifted by God” is to equip the church unto maturity, to serve others and to testify of Jesus Christ.  Each follower of Christ is “talented” and has been created for a wonderful adventure with God and his Church…

Nehemiah the person

Now lets return to the Book of Nehemiah and discover how he relates to spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ.  Nehemiah, which means “The Lord has comforted,” was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes who ruled Persia.  He was much more than a modern day butler.  A cupbearer was an occupation of significant responsibility and privilege.  Nehemiah’s occupation as cupbearer demonstrates that he was already a person of impeccable character and wise administrative skill.  The cupbearer was often beside the king and served as his personal aide.  

He was responsible for keeping the king’s signet ring and testing each meal and the king’s wine to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.  The king wanted to be surrounded by the best of his kingdom, in appearance, in intelligence and in strength. If asked upon the cupbearer was to be able to answer and join into the conversation with appropriate knowledge.

How does this relate to us as followers of Christ?  We too are to minister before a King, the King of Heaven.  This is a place of intimacy and great privilege.  God is looking not for the best but to bring the best out of everyone.  In other words, whatever we do or say should be for the glory of our King, just as Nehemiah did for King Artaxerxes.  Nehemiah brought his strengths and talents into play as her served before his king.  So should we.  As we shall see, we must be people who ask and inquire of the Lord, we must be people who care, who weep, who pray and who willingly volunteer for God’s work.  

He showed care and concern…

Let’s look at Neh 1:1-3 - The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.  3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Simply put, Nehemiah cared enough to really ask about the circumstances of the Jewish remnant who were in Jerusalem. Nehemiah asked questions so as to be informed.  It has been said that “knowledge is power” however in this case knowledge was used to bring to light some very disturbing news - the walls are broken and the gates have been burned.  Nehemiah asked his friends because he cared about his people.  He wasn't directly at fault for any of the circumstances, none-the-less, he cared…  With the walls broken and the gates burned with fire the people of God were open to blatant attacks of their enemies. 

How does this apply to us?  Do we care about people?  Are we willing to hear the truth whether good or bad?  Are we genuinely concerned or just a bit curious?  

Nehemiah was caring and his caring led him to tears.  

Neh. 1:4 - When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.  Some people see crying as a sign of weakness.  In our “macho” society real men don’t cry, we tough it our or we try to fix it.  But is Nehemiah’s case it was a sign of care and strength. He was burdened and did not try to run from it but took time to cry and weep because of the great affliction of his people in Jerusalem.  Last week I mentioned General William Booth saying, “Try tears.”

Nehemiah’s caring and tears led him to fast and pray

Neh. 1:5–10 highlights the first of 12 passages of prayer in Nehemiah.  The book opens with prayer and closes with prayer.  The prayer bookends tell us a lot about Nehemiah.  He depended on God in the midst of very difficult circumstances.  There are several key points of this first prayer of Nehemiah:

  • This prayer begins with ascription of praise to the “God of heaven, the great and awesome God”…  Nehemiah began his prayer as we should begin our prayers: “Our Father in heaven, holy is your name” (Matt. 6:9).
  • He is also a God who keeps His Word.  The Lord covenanted with his people Israel, promising them blessing or cursing, depending on their obedience.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, and the nation was feeble because the people had sinned against the Lord.
  • The state of Jerusalem led Nehemiah to confess the sin of his people.  It is interesting to note that Nehemiah identifies their sin and his sin because they were his people…  This is a sign of great integrity of a leader, to identify with the sins of others… 
  • Nehemiah then reminds God about His Word to restore the people of God as they repent and turn back to him.    
  • This humble prayer closed with an expression of confidence.  At the start of the prayer, he had confidence in God’s power.  Now he expresses his confidence in God’s favour to work in the heart of Artaxerxes and secure all that was needed to rebuild the walls and gates.  “Give your servant success today by granting him favour in the presence of this man” (Neh 1:11b).

Nehemiah cared enough to serve or volunteer

There comes a time to act.  Nehemiah showed great care, lots of tears and was committed to pray.  However, that was not enough.  His burden for Jerusalem grew as he cried through bleary eyes and yet his vision became clearer.  He must act.  As we pray, God tells us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  And then God supplies the means to move forward.  Nehemiah would set aside the comfort of palace life and begin a new journey of faith. 

In Conclusion

Does Anybody Really Care?  This question confronted the people of Nehemiah’s day.  Thankfully, Nehemiah was the kind of person who cared, cried, confessed and found new a confidence in God.  This just begins our journey in the Book of Nehemiah.  In the weeks ahead I desire to help us see the many opportunities with regards to using our spiritual gifts.  As well, there are obstacles to overcome.  Let’s suffice it to say that having a humble and a dependant- upon-God heart is a fantastic place to begin our study into spiritual gifts.  Foundations are important and I see in Nehemiah as man who laid a solid basis for us to approach our spiritual giftedness and divinely given talents.  

Let’s be a people who care enough about others to ask questions and get involved in their lives.  

Let’s be a people who can understand and share with the feelings of others.  

Let’s be a people who are quick to confess… 

  • Confess that we serve a great God
  • Confess that we fall short of his glory

Let’s be a people who are dependant upon God and confident in his greatness

Let’s pray…