23 April 2016

Stone 16 - Nehemiah

Last week we looked at Ezra who returned to the land of Judah after many had already returned from exile. This week we will look at Nehemiah and his return a bit later.

Side Note
Up to this point, all of the books we have covered have been for the most part in chronological order. The exception being 1 and 2 Chronicles which overlapped with 1 and 2 Samuel as well as 1 and 2 Kings. After Nehemiah, we will move on to books that contain events along the timeline and history we have established between Genesis and Nehemiah - at this point we are brought up to a bit before 400 B.C.

Responding to a Burden
During what migh seem as a casual conversation, Nehemiah learns of the plight of those who had returned to Jerusalem from exile (Neh 1:3). **It is worth noting here that Nehemiah probably already knew the wall had been destroyed since it happened well over 100 years prior to this conversation. Perhaps Nehemiah was most troubled by the fact that it had not been repaired and that the people were struggling.

Nehemiah's response was to weep, fast, and pray (Neh 1:4). He was clearly burdened by this news and was compelled to help. Part of Nehemiah's prayer was related to appearing before the king (Neh 1:11). We also see here that Nehemiah states his profession - he was the king's cupbearer - an extremely honorable and influential position. The king trusted Nehemiah.

Some time later, the king notices that Nehemiah is not himself and inquires about it (Neh 2:2). Nehemiah says he was overwhelmed with fear. My understanding is that you don't dare be anything other than happy in front of the king - that could mean bad news. Recall that we have some trust here between men - which is helpful - had Nehemiah been a nobody, it may not have went well. Nehemiah asks to return to Jerusalem and help rebuild and the king agrees (Neh 2:4-6).

After getting to Jerusalem, Nehemiah does a little recon and recruiting in order to get the project of working on the wall moving (Neh 2:15-18). Several groups of people took different sections of the wall as described in chapter 3.

Abundant Adversity
This project was not without critics (Neh 4:1-3). Much like today, they were mocked for their efforts by those who did not approve. However, this did not deter them and they continued to build the wall (Neh 4:6). This made the adversaries even more angry and the mocking turned physical (Neh 4:11). Again, this did not stop them from rebuilding but they fortified themselves (Neh 4:18).

In the middle of all these attacks - Nehemiah has to deal with some internal conflicts as well (Neh 5:1). Ugh!

The enemy was not going to give up easily. This time they came in the form of deceptive means by seeking a peace meeting (Neh 6:2). Several times they tried and were denied. The tactics then changed to intimidation and trickery. They tried to get Nehemiah to run and hide in the temple (Neh 6:10). It would have been a sin for Nehemiah to enter the temple because he was not one of the priests and was not likely ritually pure at the time. Likewise, the enemy would have used the sin and fear to give Nehemiah a bad rep as he was aware (Neh 6:13).

The walls were completed in an amazing 52 days despite all the adversity that the people faced. Ironically, this caused the enemy to feel intimidated and lose confidence since they recognized that God was in on it all (Neh 6:15-16).

Remember Your God
The people ask Ezra to come with the Book of the Law (Neh 8:1). He read from it for all the people and they celebrated the Festival of Booths and had a time of confession as a nation. Afterwards the Israelites renew their vow with the Lord (Neh 9:38).

Okay - so can you guess what happens next? What has been the recurring theme in several previous books?

Yup - you guessed right. After Israel renews their vow - they eventually slip into their old habits.

Nehemiah had went back to his old job as cupbearer (Neh 13:6) but later returned to find how much the people had let slip the vows they had renewed earlier. Nehemiah doesn't mind giving them a thorough rebuking (Neh 13:25) for some of it.

**As bad as some of this might sound as we read it - Nehemiah is really concerned with their spiritual well-being. This is not about love and marriage but about joining with those who will bring the nation of Israel into idolatry. Nehemiah appeals to the past and how this all happened before and where that got them.

Being a good leader, Nehemiah, confronts them with the truth of the matter regardless of what they might think of it at the time. He tries to guide them with truth.

Just like Nehemiah's adversaries - the enemy likes to camouflage truth and lies to entice us into sin and discredit us.

Lord, I pray that you would give us the wisdom to see through the camouflage that the world puts up in front of us.

Next week we will take a look at Esther.

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