Outline of a sermon preached at the People’s Church in June 2022.
Introduction – It is said that Thomas Edison lost much of his work due to a severe fire in his lab. It happened at a time when money was in short supply and Edison was in his senior years. His son was worried as to how his father would handle the great loss. Edison’s response however was, “we will build bigger and better on the ruins!”
Background to the Book of Nehemiah:
Nehemiah (meaning – ‘The Lord comforts’) was cupbearer to the King of Persia. He received news that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken and in ruins, with the gates burned down (Nehemiah 1:3).
This meant that the city would most probably face insults and mocking from surrounding nations. Also, that Jerusalem would be in great danger, and vulnerable to enemy attacks. The people were living in disgrace.
Nehemiah immediately felt burdened to go to Jerusalem and do something about the sad situation; to rebuild the walls and repair the gates. This showed great bravery and commitment as Jerusalem at that time was probably a distant and unimportant city.
He thereafter received an opportunity to petition the king , when the king noticed that Nehemiah was troubled and asked him what was wrong (Nehemiah 2:2). As a result, He received great favor from the king for the long and arduous journey.
Nehemiah 2:5 – ” and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
Proposition: Nehemiah finished the task of rebuilding to perfection. We too can rebuild the ruined situations in our lives successfully with God’s help.
Here are 4 reasons why Nehemiah was successful in this very difficult endeavor.
I. Nehemiah was fervent in prayer
When he heard the news, Nehemiah prayed. He prayed in confession and intercession. The book mentions over 10 times that he prayed.
Nehemiah 1:4 – “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah 1:6- “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.”
These verses show that he wept – he mourned – he fasted – he prayed – and he prayed day and night. This was intense, fervent prayer.
Nehemiah 1:11 – “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
Here Nehemiah prayed for success and favor before the king. He also tells God about the prayers that others had been praying for Jerusalem.
In return, Nehemiah received great favor from the king. God also gave many effective strategies in leadership.
(To download a series of sermons on Nehemiah’s prayer life, click here.)
We too should seek God in fervent prayer and we will see His hand at work powerfully. Martin Luther said, “If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I will lose a great deal of the fire of faith”
I am reminded that in a letter, the Prophet Jeremiah asked the exiles in Babylon to pray for God’s prosperity to be upon the cities where they were exiled.
Jeremiah 29:7 – ” Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Like Nehemiah and Jeremiah, may God give us a heart of prayer for our cities and nation.
Action – Pray over the cities of our nation – over the farmlands, plantations, seas, industries, environment, governance, economy etc.
II. Nehemiah focused on God’s greatness and His promises
Nehemiah 1:5 – “Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments,..”
Nehemiah focused on God’s greatness as he prepared for the task ahead. He refers to God as the (a) God of heaven (b) Great (c) Awesome and (d) The keeper of His covenant of love.
When challenges and resistance came later, Nehemiah encouraged the people who were rebuilding with the same assurances of who God was.
Nehemiah 4:14 – “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
This assurance was important because Nehemiah and the workers, at different times, faced Intimidation, threats, persistent deceptions, threatening letters, traps, and even false prophecies! He not only trusted God through the challenges, but also always gave God glory for the victories.
Let’s ask God to open our eyes afresh today so that we may once again focus on His greatness through the brokenness we may be facing. I remember a sermon I once preached titled, ‘Keep your eyes on God through your tears’. You can read it here.
Let’s also trust the promises of His Word over all our fears, shortages, challenges, and even the future of our children in these difficult days.
Action – Pray for the anxieties people are battling.
III. Nehemiah motivated a strong and determined workforce
Nehemiah 2:17-18 – “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.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.”
Nehemiah gave a strong challenge to the people and motivated them to action. They too accepted the huge challenge and started the rebuilding process.
Nehemiah 4:6 – “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”
This scripture shows that the team worked with their whole heart. They worked tirelessly and in unity. As a result, the wall was now half completed.
It is interesting to note that around 40 men who were part of the team are named in chapter 3. Also, 40+ sections that were repaired are mentioned. Even the ladies helped out in the difficult task (Nehemiah 3:12). Among the workers mentioned are priests, goldsmiths, merchants, Levites, perfume makers, administrators, temple servants, gatekeepers, and those skilled in making bars, bolts, and doors. They were truly a motivated workforce!
Let’s always strive to bring glory to God in all we do. Let’s be motivated to do our best for Him. Let’s be salt and light in a dark world. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
“Every job you do is a self-portrait of who you are. Autograph your work therefore with excellence.” (Unknown)
Illustration – The story of a bus driver who turned a litter dump close to where he parked his bus into a flower garden.
Action – Pray for the work that everyone in the congregation is involved in.
IV. Nehemiah persevered till the work was completed
Nehemiah 6:1- “When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it – though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates.”
In spite of all the efforts of the enemies, the wall was now completed and the gaps closed. Only the gate doors remained to be set up. As a result, the surrounding nations also realized that God was truly helping Nehemiah and his workforce. The successful completion brought much respect from the surrounding nations
Nehemiah 6:16 – ” 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.”
Finally, the work was completed. Nehemiah 6:15 says, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.”
Mission Impossible had been accomplished!
“The walls that lay in ruins for nearly a century and a half, were rebuilt in less than two months, once the people were galvanized into action by Nehemiah’s leadership” – (NIV Study Bible).
In fact, it was done in just 52 days!
Nehemiah thereafter restored the temple worship, the reading of Scripture, prayer, godly reforms, and joy in the land. Nehemiah 12:43 says, ” The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.” What a powerful turn around from the depressive narrative of chapter1!
Action – Close with a hymn of National importance.