A. Imagine the following scenario:
A people have served as slaves in a distant land for two generations. They are finally freed from their servitude, and allowed to return home. Those who do return find there is a struggle to survive. They struggle to rebuild their relationship with God; they struggle to rebuild their fortifications against their enemies; they struggle to rebuild the nation into a strong and independent union. All the people of this nation, whether returned to their homeland, or still in the land of their former servitude, are later threatened with complete extermination
1. We would agree that such a scenario sounds dramatic, and has all the elements of a good novel.
a. But the scenario is much more than a good novel.
b. This scenario represents the line of thought behind the book of Nehemiah
B. But consider also, that this scenario is not limited to the condition of the Jewish people in Nehemiah’s day – it is strikingly similar to what happens to many of God’s people today
1. People freed from the bondage of sin struggle to rebuild their relationship back with God, they struggle to rebuild their fortification against the enemy, and have an ultimate death threat from the ultimate enemy.
2. Thus, we can learn valuable lessons from the book of Nehemiah.
C. Remember, our study of the Old Testament is important
1. Romans 15:4
2. 1 Corinthians 10:11
A. The Background to Nehemiah
1. The Historical books of the Old Testament gives us somewhat of a running commentary on the fickle nature of the people of God – but it was the job of the prophetic books to expose their hearts, and lay them bare for all to see.
a. Notice God’s view of Israel just before they went into captivity … Ezekiel 3:4-8
b. Notice Amos’ description of Israel … Amos 2:6-7; 3:10
c. A short time later Hosea said … Hosea 4:2
d. Isaiah gives them a scathing rebuke … Isaiah 1:4-6
2. Seventy years in Babylonian captivity caused Israel to do some real soul searching.
a. Notice their attitude in Ezra 9:6-7
1) At one time they had forgotten how to be ashamed
2) Jeremiah 8:12
b. Their shame is seen … Daniel 9:8-11
c. Now bitter tears flow down their cheeks and longing eyes toward Jerusalem
1) Daniel 9:15-19
2) Psalm 137:1
3. In 538 B.C. King Cyrus issued his decree of freedom; and despite dangers and hardships, Zerrubbabel and Joshua lead a faithful remnant back to the hill of Zion
a. Quickly the altar of burnt offerings was rebuilt, and the foundations of the Lord’s house were rebuilt (Ezra 3:2, 10).
b. But almost as quickly, opposition and apathy set in – revealing a serious under growth of an old problem – hearts bent on backsliding.
c. Haggai addressed the problem with his usual zeal … Haggai 1:2-6
d. The people then rallied behind Zerubbabel and Haggai – the temple was completed, and much of the ancient way of worship was restored
4. By the time Ezra arrived at Jerusalem in 465 B.C. he found a shocking state of affairs.
a. In almost total disregard to the law of God, both people and priest had taken foreign wives, and were doing according to their abomination (Ezra 9:1-2).
b. Notice Ezra’s reaction in Ezra 9:3
c. Ezra corrected the situation, even making the people take an oath that such abominable practices would cease in the land (Ezra 10:5)
5. Some 13 years later, when Nehemiah came on to the scene he found cause for rage – Israel’s backslidings had not been healed
a. Nehemiah 13:23-25
b. Her old patterns of disobedience were returning
6. However, let us not lose our perspective as we see the heart of Israel exposed.
a. There has always been a remnant in that nation who would not bow to Baal – the Elijahs, the Jeremiahs, the Ezras, and the Nehemiahs
b. These laid their lives on the line to keep faith active and hope alive … Romans 11:1-5
c. The world was not worthy of these great men of God (Hebrews 11:38)
d. O, how we need to learn not to be like the Israel of old
B. Jerusalem During the Time of Nehemiah
1. As we have already seen, the restoration, so often anticipated, and which set sails with such high hopes, soon floundered in apathy and heathen abominations.
a. Not only this, but the precious remnant of the faithful was in desperate straits.
b. The Samaritans apparently had gained both a political and physical advantage over Jerusalem.
c. Evidence also indicates that they had brought to a standstill any attempts to rebuild and fortify the walls of the city.
2. Commercialization had replaced religious dedication … Nehemiah 13:15-16
a. The holy lineage had been so polluted that it was in danger of becoming extinct … Nehemiah 13:23, 14
b. Even their own wealthy brethren oppressed the returning exiles, taking mortgages on grain needed for livelihood, and collecting such absorbent interest that the poor were having to sell their children into bondage to survive (5:1-5)
3. Some of Nehemiah’s brethren had recently come back from Jerusalem, and gave him word of what they had seen.
a. Notice their report and Nehemiah’s reaction …
b. Nehemiah 1:3-4
C. The Content of the Book of Nehemiah
1. The book of Nehemiah is simply an extension of the book of Ezra. In fact, in the Hebrew Bible they appear as one book
a. At the end of book Ezra there is enthusiasm and determination to do the will of the Lord.
b. But some 13 years later as the story of Nehemiah begins to unfold everything is different – they were reverting back into their old ways.
2. Nehemiah was apprised of this pitiful situation by his brother Hanani who had recently returned from Jerusalem, and this news brought him to bitter tears and depression.
a. Nehemiah determined to something about it.
b. After about three or four months of confession, fasting, and prayer, he approached King Artaxerxes and obtained permission to go to his people, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, set up it gates, and strengthen and encourage the city of his father’s graves (2:1-8).
3. This was not going to be an easy nor an unchallenged task
a. Sanballat, in all probability the governor of Samaria, did not like the idea of the ancient enemy of his country being restored, and set about to stop the work either by compromise, intimidation, or even force.
b. Sanballat, though, did not count on the indomitable spirit of Nehemiah as he rallied the children of the captivity.
A. What I want us to gain from this study of the life of times of Nehemiah is how he was able to over come many obstacles to get God’s people back to were they should be
B. We will consider the techniques and attitudes Nehemiah used in doing the work of the Lord
C. We can gain great strength as we implement the powerful attributes of Nehemiah in our lives today