THE STORY OF NEHEMIAH
by Wayne S. Walker
We face a number of crises in the world and in the church today. Some of these involve drug abuse, atheism, immorality, false religion, etc. But the one which I believe is causing the most problem in the Lord’s body is lethargy, carelessness, indifference, and negligence. And I believe the answer to the problem can be found in the story of Nehemiah. The people of Israel had been led by God out of Egyptian slavery into the promised land of Canaan. However, over a period of many years, they rebelled against God and were finally allowed by Him to be taken into captivity. When they repented, after seventy years they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Not all of them went; many like Nehemiah stayed in the places where they were sent when taken captive. But even though Nehemiah was not among those who had gone back, he was still a part of God’s nation. What does Nehemiah’s example teach us?
I. He was concerned. Hanani and certain men of Judah came to Shushan in Persia where Nehemiah lived. Nehemiah asked them how things were in Jerusalem. He could have said, "They took that restoration business on themselves — let them worry about it. I’m the king’s cupbearer, I attend synagogue once a week. I’m a pretty good fellow. So I don’t need to get involved." But he was concerned enough about the situation to ask. The report was that things were in a mess. Again, Nehemiah could have said, "You knew there would be problems and hard times. So don’t come crying to me. I’ve got my own duties here in Shushan to worry about so don’t bother me." But Nehemiah was concerned enough to weep.
Nehemiah could have been very complacent, but he was concerned. How many of us are truly concerned with the work of the Lord. We are commanded to preach everywhere (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:47). One example of this is Paul’s response to the Macedonian call (Acts 16:9-10). We cannot all go like this, but we should be concerned with those that do. And most of all, we need to be concerned about lost souls wherever they are (Matt. 9:36-38). "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
II. He was prayerful. When Nehemiah heard this report, a conflict arose in his mind. He didn’t know what to do. So he asked God about it. In his prayer, he recognized the sins of his people and sought wisdom and guidance in making his decision. What about us today? Do we pray when we have troubles and conflicts (Phil. 4:6-7; Heb. 4:15-16; Jas. 5:13)? "Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear; All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer." Do we pray in humility, confessing our sins (Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9)? "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1 Pet. 3:12). Do we ask God for wisdom and guidance (Jas. 1:5)? Solomon did in I Kings 3:9-14.
III. He was bold. Nehemiah needed something to do God’s will, he asked for it (with God’s help), and he received it. Another example of such boldness is Esther. Read the story in Esther 4-5. She knew the plight of her people. Mordecai convinced her that she needed to act. She did, and was instrumental in saving God’s chosen race. We also need to be bold. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:19-22). Why can we be so bold? It is because God has promised to hear and answer our prayers (Matt. 7:7-11; 1 Jn. 5:24-25).
IV. He counted the cost. Nehemiah was so zealous to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that he got up in the middle of the night, viewed the dilapidation of the city, and surveyed what needed to be done. We need to "count the cost" (Lk. 14:28-30). No man should attempt to become a Christian or do the work of Christ unless he first has some understanding of what is involved. Christianity involves many things. We must make a full-sacrifice (Matt. 16:24). We must not conform to the world (Rom. 12:1-2). We must observe strict obedience to Christ’s commands (Jn. 14:15). For those who really love the Lord, these things will make for a happy life. But if one does not want to do these things, he had better count the cost of being a Christian lest he involve himself in something he really does not want.
V. He was willing to work. Nehemiah had seen what needed to be done and he decided to do it. He said, "Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem." In fact, he was so enthusiastic that he aroused the people and thus encouraged them to say, "Let us rise up and build." Christianity is a working religion. Why should we work? First, we work to express our faith (Jas. 2:17-26). Next, we work to serve and please God (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 2:14). Then, we work to follow the example of Christ (Jn. 9:4). One who thus works can take great comfort in the promise of Paul, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).
VI. He trusted in God. Nehemiah did not allow the scorn and mocking of his enemies to discourage him. He knew that God would prosper the work he was doing. David trusted in God throughout his life. He said, "The Lord is my shepherd" (Psa. 23). Jesus exhorted us to trust in God and not be anxious about the problems and cares of this life (Matt. 6:25-34). Yea, Christians need to put their trust in God. "For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe" (1 Tim. 4:10). As Christians, if we are truly concerned about the Lord’s cause, come before Him in prayer with boldness, count the cost of working for the Lord, and put our trust solely in Him, He promises to help, bless, and prosper us just as He did Nehemiah.
(—taken from Guardian of Truth; February 16, 1984; Vol. XXVIII, No. 4; p. 113-114)