Posts Tagged ‘Nehemiah’

God’s Mercy: Day 3

Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.

OK, I promise that this will be the last day I write about God’s mercy for a while.  Probably.  Maybe.  Just kidding- I had my fingers crossed.  I know I have written about the great mercy of the Lord for the last two days, but this verse jumped out at me and took ahold of me.

The Israelites, as usual, were rebelling against the Lord.  The Lord had sent prophets and preachers to try to turn their hearts back to Himself.  But they didn’t listen.  Still they rebelled.  Finally, verse 30 tells us that He had to give them “into the hand of the people of the lands.”  They had, for generations, rejected Him. 

Still, He is a “gracious and merciful God.”  The Bible tells us that it was for His “great mercies’ sake” that He did “not utterly consume them” and He did not forsake them.  I think that there are a few parallels in this story between the Israelites and us, as Christians.

Did the Israelites deserve to be utterly consumed?  Yes.  Did we (and do we) deserve to be utterly consumed?  Yes.  Did they deserve for God to forsake them?  Yes.  Did we deserve for God to forsake us?  Yes.  Was God merciful and longsuffering to them? Yes.  Has God been merciful and longsuffering to us?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes. 

I am so thankful to serve a gracious and merciful God.  I hope and pray that I never get over that fact.

Manifold Mercy

Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.  Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.

Nehemiah 9:18-20

I know I just wrote about the Lord’s mercy yesterday, but it is a subject that I enjoy writing about.  It’s one of those subjects that I don’t know if you could ever write enough about.  You could write about the Lord’s mercy every day for your entire life and never even begin to scratch the surface.  I digress.

When God wrought miracle after miracle to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, they almost immediately made a golden calf to worship.  They even went so far as to say “This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt.”  We like to talk about terrible that was, but the truth is that we are no better.

“Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness.”  Not only did He not forsake them, He guided them with the pillar of the cloud and the pillar of fire.  He give them His Spirit to guide them and He took care of their physical needs with manna and water.  These truly do represent “manifold mercies.”

Another thing that represents “manifold mercies” is my life.  And I’m sure that, no matter who you are, if you know the Lord, you can say the same.  He is merciful.

Always Merciful

But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,  And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.

Nehemiah 9:16-17

It seems like every book of the Old Testament contains a record of God’s people rejecting His and somehow rebelling.  And it seems like every book of the Old Testament contains a record of God not forsaking His people and of Him having mercy on them.  Nehemiah is no different.

The book of Nehemiah begins with the sad story of the walls of the once-great city of Jerusalem being broken down.  It was a reproach to God’s name and God’s people.  And it was because God’s people had rebelled and had, according to verse 16 and 17, “hardened their necks.”  They rejected God and they rejected His attempts to reconcile them to Himself.  Over and over they rebelled and rejected Him.  And that is why the walls of the city were in ruins.  But God did not forget His people. 

Even in the midst of their rebellion, God did not forsake them (vs 17).  He is described here as a God “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”  Now, it is true that they paid for their rebellion.  They paid dearly.  They were taken captive and their city was destroyed.  But when they turned to the Lord, He had mercy.  He allowed them to rebuild the wall.  It is the same for us: when we find the walls of our lives broken down and in disrepair, we need only to turn to Him.  He is still ready to pardon.  He is still gracious.  He is still slow to anger.  He is still merciful.  And He will still not forsake us.

Building and Battling

They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.  For the builders, every on had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.  And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.

Nehemiah 4:17

Nehemiah and the men with him were doing a great work for the Lord.  They were rebuilding the broken down walls of Jerusalem.  Then, as now, not everyone was excited about this great work for the Lord.  These verses tell us that the opposition got so bad that they were forced to work with one hand and hold a weapon in the other hand; always ready to fend off an attack.  That must have been a difficult thing to do- I have all the problems I can handle when I try to build something with both hands, let alone one hand!

But these men were doing nothing different than what we must do in our Christian lives: they were building and battling.  The building process we can apply to doing something for the Lord.  Whatever it is we might do for Him, we are “building.”  But another part of the Christian life is “battling.”  Our battles come in the form of fighting the world, the flesh and the devil.  It is a battle every day: a battle to resist sin, a battle to avoid “conforming to the world”, and a battle against the “wiles of the devil.”  Personally, I know that my own worst enemy is the guy that looks back at me in the mirror every morning.  I have more trouble out of that old buzzard than I do with everybody else put together!

Sometimes we want to build: we want to do something for the Lord.  But we don’t fight the battles and succumb to sin, failure, defeat and discouragement.  Other times, we fight and fight to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, but it ends there.  Our lives are all about ourselves. 

As Christians, we have to have the correct balance of “building and battling.”  Fortunately, Jesus is our strength for both!

Strengthen My Hands

For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.  Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

Nehemiah 6:9

In the process of building the wall of Jerusalem and doing a great work for the Lord, Nehemiah and his countrymen ran into some severe opposition.  There were men who didn’t want to see the wall rebuilt.  There were men who didn’t want to see anyone doing a great work for the Lord.  Then, as now, there were people who just didn’t have any desire to see anything done for the Lord.

Over time, this opposition grew from insults and mocking to vehement hatred and threats.  As they will do to the best and strongest among us, these threats “made us afraid.”  They said that “their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.”  Nehemiah and his builders had been working many days and, no doubt, were starting to feel some physical weakness creeping in.  The thought that their hands would be weakened and they would fail was likely a cause for fear. 

When our hands get weak (as they are going to do), there is but one real choice: turn to the Lord and His strength.  That is just what these men did.  They prayed a prayer that is just as good and relevant now as it was then: “O God, strengthen my hands.”  That is a wonderful and simple prayer that we probably need to pray more often than we realize. 

The Israelites’ hands were strengthened and they finished the work.  When we feel weakness creeping up on us (probably every day), it is the Lord who can give us strength!

I’m Not Coming Down

Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Gesham the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)  That Sanballat and Gesham sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono.  But they thought to do me mischief.  And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

Nehemiah 6:1-3

Nehemiah’s enemies had been stop the work of building the walls of Jerusalem since he started.  Here, they discover that Nehemiah had succeeded in building the wall, but wasn’t quite finished yet.  So they try to get him to come down off the wall to “meet together.”  Of course, they had no intention of helping Nehemiah; they simply wanted to slow down and hinder the work that was going on.

Nehemiah then made a great statement in verse 3: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…”  What a great thought and a great attitude.

There are so many things in life that beg for our attention.  There are, of course, many things that we have to do.  But so many things are superfluous and serve only to distract us from the things that really are important.  I have no idea how many hours and even days I have wasted in my life to things that are not important at all.  I have “come down off the wall”, so to speak.  When we spend time in the Word and in prayer, we are “doing a great work.”  When we lift Him up and tell others about Him, we are “doing a great work.”  There are many things in our Christian lives that would qualify as “great works.”  Let us make sure we don’t allow those great works to cease due to worldly distractions.

Just Keep Going

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.  And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews?  will they fortify themselves?  will they sacrifice?  will they make an end in a day?  will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

So built we the wall…

Nehemiah 4:1-2, 6a

This is a very simple thought for today.  In the book of Nehemiah, some of God’s people are trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Along the way, they get some people who were opposed to them.  Sanballat and Tobiah do not want to see these men of God succeed and so they do everything they can to stop the work and discourage the workers.  They mock them and jeer them every step of the way.

After some especially vicious jeering and mocking, we find an amazing statement in verse 6: “so built we the wall.”  They just kept going.  They could have gotten discouraged, but they just kept going.  They could have listened to the naysayers, but they just kept going.  They could have gotten tired from the work and from the relentless opposition, but they just kept going.  Despite the troubles and trials, they just kept going.

They built the wall.

So can we.

After all, we do serve the same God they served.

No matter what you are facing, just keep going.

Baruch and the Sons of Hassenaah

But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.

After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.

Nehemiah 3:3, 20

OK, if you have ever heard of Baruch, the son of Zabbai, or the sons of Hassenaah, raise your hand.  Any takers?  I’m sure I have read the names before, but they never stuck out to me.  As far as I know, this is the only time in the Bible they are mentioned.  So what is so special about them? 

I always find it interesting to see the lists of seemingly random people in the Bible.  The truth is, I picked these two verses at random out of this chapter.  Nehemiah chapter 3 gives us a fairly detailed list of people and groups of people who worked on different parts of the wall and different gates in the effort to rebuild Jerusalem. 

In verse 3, we have the “sons of Hassenaah” building the fish gate, with its beams, doors, locks and bars.  I don’t know exactly what the fish gate was all about, but I do know that these sons of Hassenaah were the ones to rebuild it.

In verse 20, we see a man named Baruch, the son of Zabbai, “earnestly repairing” part of the wall by the armoury.  I don’t know anything about this Baruch other than the fact that he was one of the builders of the wall.

The point of this post is simply this:  these men were not famous.  They were not kings.  They were not mighty prophets or thundering preachers of righteousness  (that we know of).  But they did something so important that God put their names in His Holy Word for us to read thousands of years later.  They built the wall.  Now, they didn’t build the whole wall.  They each worked on their part of the wall.  But they worked. The work they did was probably hard work.  They probably didn’t get much credit at the time.  They probably weren’t hailed as heroes.  In fact, we know that men taunted them and mocked them while they worked.  At the time, they were probably just another body working on the wall.  We may not be great and famous pastors or teachers.  But every single one of us can go to work “building the wall” that God has given us.  And that is something great.

Helping Or Hindering?

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  And they said, Let us rise up and build.  So they strengthened their hands for this good work.  But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Gesham the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do?  will ye rebel against the king?

Nehemiah 2: 18-19

Nehemiah had a great vision of rebuilding Jerusalem.  He shared this vision with others, and we looked at their response yesterday.  They said that they would “rise up and build.”  That should be our response.  But there were others who didn’t quite respond in that way.  Any time we try to do something for the Lord, we are going to run into some people who fall into this second category.

Sanballat, Tobiah and Gershem did not help Nehemiah “rise up and build.”  They did not “strengthen their hands for this good work.”  They “laughed them to scorn”, they “despised them”, and they mocked them.  It’s easy to look back at a story in the Bible and think that Nehemiah was some super-Christian who wasn’t bothered in the least by these idiots.  But I’m sure it didn’t feel good to him.  Fortunately, with the Lord’s help, he was able to overcome these people, but they did pose a serious obstacle in his road.

The question is, which group do we belong to?  Are we in the group that encourages and helps others in their “good work?”  Or are we in the group that laughs, despises and scorns?  Encouragement and discouragement are the types of things that we will probably never know about in this life.  You never know how the Lord will use the least encouragement to propel someone on to do something great for Him.  You never know when a small amount of help or a kind word will bring someone back from the brink of quitting.  On the other side, you never know when a harsh or critical word might be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”  But God knows all of these things.

Let us always be on the side of the helpers and the encouragers!

Rise Up and Build

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  And they said, Let us rise up and build.  So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

Nehemiah 2:18

In the first chapter of the book, Nehemiah finds out that the city of Jerusalem is in ruins.  “The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3)  Of course, being a Jew, this broke his heart.  God then put something in his heart and the king allowed him to follow what the Lord had put in his heart.  He was going to lead in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

In the second chapter, we find Nehemiah sharing his vision with others.  After hearing this, they said “Let us rise up and build.”  What a great attitude!  To often, when we hear someone talk about wanting to do something for the Lord, we want to point out all of the flaws of the plan.  Our cynical minds like to think up reasons it won’t work.  Sometimes we just sit back and expect whatever venture it is to fail.  That shouldn’t be our attitude as Christians.  We should always be willing to “rise up and build.” 

The verse then says that they “strengthened their hands for this good work.”  That is what we need to do:  find a work that needs done, prepare ourselves for it, and do it!  Every one of us can “rise up and build” something.  We obviously can’t all build the same thing or do the same thing, but we can build something.  If nothing else, we can be an encouragement to others who are building something for our Lord.  Our time on this earth is short; we need to “rise up and build!”