We are staring with a new series on the Book of Nehemiah. The approach is to do an Expository study of Nehemiah and understand God’s heart and His purposes for our lives as His children.
Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose — the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.
In case you’re wondering why we’ve taken this route, here are 5 reasons why we think it’s Significant.
1. Exposition magnifies the Scripture which therefore leads the preachers to discover the original intent and meaning of the text before drawing out any conclusions.
2. Expository preaching is one of the best ways to preach the Bible because if every word of God is pure and true, then every word needs to be dealt with.
3. Expository preaching familiarizes people with the scripture itself instead of simply giving them a speech. It also encourages them to study the Bible on their own.
4. In Expository preaching, the Scripture clearly stands out as the ultimate Authority no matter how powerful and gifted the preacher is.
5. Last but not the least and my personal favorite – Expository preaching drives us to see the Gospel at work in every text of the Bible because the ultimate goal of every word of the Bible is to point us to Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Let’s Read Nehemiah 1
Personally, I love the story of Nehemiah. I’ve always been drawn to the courage of this guy called Nehemiah who took up the challenge to build the broken walls of Jerusalem at any cost.
This time though when I read through the story of Nehemiah, I realized that Nehemiah is not just a story of a man and the Rebuilding of the wall. The story of Nehemiah is an amazing story that gives us a glimpse of how God graciously worked among His people just after the great exile. It is primarily the story of God.
Rebuilding the wall was least critical in the rebuilding of a nation dedicated to God’s purposes. The wall is important only because what was restored at the same time behind the wall.
– The more special the watch case, the more expensive the watch.
– The more guards around a home, the more valuable the goods and people within are esteemed.
So the wall was rebuilt to protect and maintain a work within the people of God.
What made the walls of Jerusalem so valuable are not the walls themselves but what the walls could protect: the heart of the nation of Israel or later as we discover, the heart of God’s people, the Jews.
So, as we open the series on Nehemiah, the goal for today is to see God as a covenant making, promise keeping, loving and gracious God. That’s the goal for today.
The story of Nehemiah goes back in history when God’s people sinned against him and God turned them over to their enemies.
2 Kings 17:7 – “And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods”
Psalms 78 gives us a descriptive explanation of how Israel rebelled against God and refused to obey Him and acknowledge Him even after all the wonders He did for them.
God eventually turned them over to the enemies because it was God’s Glory that was at stake.
2 Kings 24 – Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) came up to Jerusalem, and the city was attacked.
70 years of exile is what they went through.
At the end of these 70 years, we see a number of Jewish exiles returning back to Jerusalem.
Ezra 1-6: Zerubbabel led the first wave of Jewish exiles to return in 536 BC
Ezra 7-10: Ezra led the second in 445 BC
Nehemiah 1 -3: Nehemiah led the third in 445 BC
The book of Nehemiah opens up with an account where Hanani, one of the brothers come to meet him and when asked by Nehemiah about the people who returned from exile, he replies by saying “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
A closer look at the man Nehemiah will tell you that he wasn’t different than anyone of us who live in the city of Mumbai. He had a full-time job as the cup bearer to the King and possibly lived a routine life, though a luxurious one because to be a cupbearer to the King was not a low esteem job. But what amazes me is his heart for God and for his people.
Even though he was far away from his country and people, living a comfortable routine life, he obviously seemed to be a devoted person because his first and immediate response when he heard the dreadful news was to go to God in prayer. The other aspect in his opening statement reveals that he knew his God and revered Him unceasingly.
“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments”
Nehemiah calls on God by mentioning His character & His nature. ‘A God who is a covenant making, promise keeping, loving and gracious God.’
His people are in trouble, life seems to be unfair to them, and they are falling prey to their enemies because of the broken walls but Nehemiah goes to God and calls out to Him as a covenant making, promise keeping loving and gracious God.
Our generation almost live in similar circumstances where pain and suffering are part of life for many around us. Wars, deaths, calamities, destruction, poverty, hunger are headlines in our newspapers. It is easy for people to look around and say God does not exist because if God exists this wouldn’t be the state of our world.
The truth is not that God doesn’t exist but that we constantly fail to go to Him and give Him the Glory He deserves.
In a situation like this it is important how we as children of God respond back to Him. Do we join the majority and question God and his sovereignty? Or do we go to Him in a humble posture of worship just like Nehemiah and remember Him as the covenant making, promise keeping, loving and gracious God?
“He is and will ever be the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.”
In the light of Nehemiah’s beginning statements I want us to remember 3 things about God that which if we hold close to our hearts will change us more as a person and will take us on an unbelievable journey just like Nehemiah in building the Kingdom of God.
1. God’s Promises are bigger than our circumstances
Yes, the circumstances of the people of God who came out of exile was devastating. They were in great trouble and shame because of their enemies who had access to the city due to broken walls.
But Nehemiah was falling back on the promises of God because he knew God’s promises are bigger than any circumstances his people are facing.
In a similar way even though Sarah was barren and couldn’t bear children for Abraham, he still believed in the promises of God that his children will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. The bible says in Genesis 15:6
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness”
Abraham believed that God’s promises were bigger than his present circumstances.
What is our response when we look at our present circumstances? Do we get disappointed and heart broken or do we chose to fall back on God’s promises instead? Let’s search our hearts.
2. God’s faithfulness is bigger than our rebellion
As we read through the book of Nehemiah you will learn that these people even after returning from the exile had the same issues of rebelliousness and disobedience.
They ridiculed Nehemiah, spoke lies, behaved Lazy, entertained ungodly fear and even continued having strife among themselves.
Before we judge these people let’s be honest, don’t we behave like them at certain times? We quite often disobey and hurt God in indulging in our sins, we pretend and perform to cover our wrong doings, behave lazily and even entertain ungodly fear while proclaiming the gospel to our friends and colleagues.
What is God’s response to all of this?
2 Timothy 2:13 – “Even though we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself”
Deuteronomy 7:9 – “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations”
Let’s remember this – God’s faithfulness is bigger than our rebellion and our response should be Repentance just like Nehemiah.
3. The cycle of failing to keep the law is always broken/overcome by the grace and mercy and provision of God.
After Nehemiah repented of his and his forefathers sins, he took on the task of obeying God by rebuilding of the walls. And as we read on the story we will learn that eventually the cycle of failing to keep the law was broken and overcome by the grace, mercy and the provision of God.
What is our greatest need today?
Deliverance from sin and slavery and a healthy relationship with our heavenly father. Isn’t it?
Did God already make provision for our need?
Yes, he did.
Can we achieve it on our own?
Never. The Bible says Even our righteousness are like filthy rags before a Holy God.
The fact is we can receive forgiveness & freedom from our sins only by believing in God’s son Jesus Christ who came and died for us 2000 years ago. He lived a sinless life yet paid the penalty that our sins deserved by dying a horrific death on the cross, conquered death and rose again in victory on the third day.
There is absolutely nothing more that we can do other than believe in Jesus and accept His Grace, Mercy and Provision which he bestowed upon us in full measure.
Just like the days of Nehemiah, God is building His Kingdom and our response to Him is what will matter the most. And remember the end goal of all of this is GLORY, GLORY, GLORY to the Lord Almighty.
Related Sermons from the Nehemiah series:
- Nehemiah: It’s Never Too Late to Turn Back (11.04.2016)
- Nehemiah: A Patient, Heart-felt, Long-suffering Prayer (17.04.2016)