Since last few weeks we’ve been doing this series on the Book of Nehemiah.
We looked through chapter 1 and now moving on to chapter 2
Here’s a short summary of Nehemiah’s story so far –
This story is from 445 BC, a story recorded in the Bible. The people of God disobeyed and rebelled against Him. In return, God turned them over to their enemies and they were expelled from their native country for almost 70 years. Nehemiah was one of those exiled people who ended up as a cup-bearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes and was stationed at his winter palace in Susa the citadel.
After 70 years of exile, the people of God were now coming back to their native country led by two other men called Zerubbabel & Ezra. Nehemiah is living a comfortable life as a cup-bearer to the King and after hearing the news of his people he is devastated and for almost 4 to 5 months he fasts, mourns and prays to God reflecting on His promises and asking him to show compassion in the eyes of the king so he can go to his people and rebuild the walls again.
Week 1 – We saw how the Book of Nehemiah was primarily the Story of God. It’s a story that gives us a glimpse of how God graciously worked among His people just after the great exile. We saw God as a Promise-making, covenant keeping, loving and gracious God. It ultimately points us to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross that rescued us from sin, shame, death and defeat. God kept his promise and displayed his love and grace by making a new covenant with us through his son.
Week 2 – We looked at Nehemiah’s reaction when he heard that his people were in great danger. In the light of Gods saving grace, we learned that it’s never too late to turn back to God, that Gods timing is always perfect and even through our failures and short-comings he is always Glorifying himself in and through us.
Week 3 – We saw Nehemiah’s response in prayer, a patient, heartfelt, long-suffering prayer. His prayer starts with God at the center, he owns his sins, he reflects on Gods promises and ultimately desires that God’s WILL would be fulfilled in all of it.
Last week I was personally convicted of two things 1) I felt that I never started on the right note before stepping into this ministry and that I hardly spend time seeking God the way I should be. 2) I felt at times I’ve been quite complacent and ignorant about the pain, suffering, needs of the people in this city to whom we want to reach out. And as I confessed and repented before the Lord last week I felt God’s peace and a newness in my spirit.
For this week, the passage we will look into is Nehemiah 2:1-8. We will learn about God’s Sovereignty, Graciousness and Provision and what should be our right response to all of it.
Let’s read through Nehemiah 2
One day after around 4-5 months, Nehemiah as usual goes to the King to serve him and unlike other days, Nehemiah was quite sad in the presence of the king. Interestingly the King notices his sorrowful countenance and asks him the reason for this .
Nehemiah’s reaction implies that he did not expect the King to ask him that question because he became afraid when the King questioned him. He firstly responds by saying “Let the king live forever” indicating that he means no harm to the king in anyway. He then personalizes the problem saying “the city where my father belonged to is in ruins, its gates are destroyed by fire.”
And when the king asks him for his request, he immediately makes a quick prayer to the Lord going on to say “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my father’s graves, that I may rebuild it”. When the king asked him about his return he immediately gave him a time and also added “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the prince beyond the river, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the Kings forest that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city and for the house that I shall occupy.
And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me”.
When I look at this passage the first thing that strikes me is God Sovereignty over the situation.
What seems like a casual interaction between Nehemiah & King Artexerxes was pre-ordained by God, He was in complete control from the beginning of the story. We can sometimes wrongly conclude by thinking that because Nehemiah prayed, God acted or else the walls of Jerusalem would have been in ruins forever.
But the truth is, it’s the other way around. God in His sovereignty prepared Nehemiah’s heart to fall on his knees in prayer so that He can act.
Psalms 135:6 says “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps“
Psalms 115:3 says “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases“
Isaiah 46:10 God declares “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my pleasure“
Imagine a chess game between a grand master and an inexperienced young player. No matter what strategy the new guy starts comes up with, the master ultimately find his way around to win the game.
In our story God is the grand master, his ultimate goal is His Glory. We are like the young player, no matter what wise orfoolish choices we make in our pursuit of fulfilling Gods purposes in our lives God ultimately finds His way around to bring us to a point where He is glorified in and through us. Isn’t that amazing!
God uses us and our circumstances ultimately to bring Glory to His name.
And that’s what he did in Nehemiah’s life and that’s what is does in our life.
God is the story writer, the cinematographer, the producer, the director and even the main character of a film that when released will shake the foundations of humans beliefs and change the course of human history forever.
We are the fortunate ones that God has chosen as instruments in his hand.
I look at my past and see God’s sovereignty over every aspect of my life. My failures, my successes, my disappointments, my anxieties, my hardships, my wrong choices, my right choices … all of it seems to be so much orchestrated by a sovereign God who desires His glory more than anything else.
Our God is a sovereign God.
Talking about Gods sovereignty, once Abraham Lincoln was sitting with his ministers and while addressing a problem one of his ministers turned to him and said “we should pray that God is on our side” to which Abraham Lincoln said “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
The second thing I see in this passage is God’s gracious heart towards his people. I love the portion in Ezra’s prayer in
Ezra 9:8-9 he says “Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. Though we we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings“
Ezra 9:13 – “Our God have punished us less than our sins deserved and have allowed us to survive“
We see God’s graciousness evident even in Nehemiah’s situation. In verse 8 Nehemiah says “And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me“.
The third thing we see is God’s provision for his people. God not only moved the king’s heart to release Nehemiah from his duty but also to provide timber to make beams for the gates and for the walls.
When God Calls, He also Equips. When God Calls, He Enables. When God Calls you, He qualifies you. When God Calls, He Provides, Equips, Enables, Qualifies & Provides.
God provided Nehemiah everything he desired to re-build the walls of Jerusalem for the protection of his people.
When Jane & I decided to move to this new church plant in mumbai we did not anticipate anything, we had no clue where we will be heading to. All we wanted to do was to follow the Lords leading and here we are enjoying God’s blessing and favor.
He gave us a family to encourage us, build us, cover us, pray for us, Love us, care for us. Just the last week the owner of this hall where we meet called us into his office and brought down our rent money to less than half. Isn’t that God’s favor?
Matthew 6:33 – When we seek Gods kingdom and his righteousness he promises to provide everything that we need.
Remember he is a promise making and covenant keeping God.
Hers’s how Nehemiah responded to Gods sovereignty, graciousness & provision.
- Because he knew that God will extend His grace as He did in the past Nehemiah trusted in him –He knew God will show up and did not lose hope.
You see Nehemiah saw God changing the Assyrian king’s attitude toward them in Ezra 6:22 “For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.”
On the other hand he also knew that it was King Artaxerxes who had in the past decreed that work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem should stop. (Ezra 4:23).
There was hope as well as uncertainty & risk but Nehemiah knew God will act and show grace.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how are we doing in the aspect of trusting in him?
When things get rough do we believe God to be the grand weaver who is at work and is making everything beautiful in his perfect time?
When our hearts are driven towards sin and temptation, do we believe and constantly remind ourselves of the power of the Gospel that is constantly at work in our lives?
Or do we lose hope and give up on God?
Nehemiah trusted in God.
As a church, God has called us to be a blessing to the city of Mumbai. Are we willing to trust God and put our hope in him for growth and fruitfulness?
Man says,‘Show me and I’ll trust in you’. God says, ‘Trust in me and I will show you’.
We can’t always see where the road leads but God promises there’s something better up ahead, we just have to trust him.
- Because Nehemiah knew God is sovereign, He waited on the Lord– He not only trusted but waited on the Lord till he showed up. Almost for 4-5 months he continued fasting and praying until one day God showed up at the Kings palace.
Waiting is one of the hardest things to do, isn’t it? Especially for our generation who are used to instant gratification.
Psalms 37:34 Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land.
Lamentations 3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
How are we doing with WAITING? I’m sure everyone here has been holding on to some promises of God over your life. How long are you willing to wait? It could be 5 days, 5 months, 5 years or even more.
Most often when we don’t see an answer from the Lord, our tendency is to work things out on our strength and wisdom. We can get carried away with the need so badly that we can fail to allow God to do his work in his time.and by doing that we make a mess of our lives.
Even though we know the scripture in Proverbs 3:5 that says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” we still go back to working out things on our own.
Nehemiah could have done a 100 things on his own but he waited on the Lord and continued fasting, weeping and praying till God answered.
As a church lets continue to be in the posture of prayer as the Lord reminded us last Sunday, faithfully serving him; even sharing and witnessing to our friends, colleagues and the people God brings in our life.
At the right time God will show up and cause us to inherit His land for His glory. Amen.
- Because Nehemiah knew God will provide, He was well prepared– Even before God showed up, Nehemiah had already prepared his heart to step out in faith. He had done the planning, he had counted the days because when the king asked him to give a definite date of his return he was prepared with an answer. He knew exactly what resources he would need for the building of the walls.
Our prepared heart is the evidence of our faith.
There were two farmers who prayed for rain while there was a drought in the land, but only one of them would get up in the morning and plough his field. Tell me which farmer trusted the Lord more?
God wants us to have a prepared heart just like Nehemiah so that when the opportunity comes we are ready to step up.
All you young men and ladies prepare yourselves in the Lord. Let’s not remain as infants feeding on milk. Soak yourselves in the Word of God, grow in your faith. Pray unceasingly, so that when the harvest is ready we will have enough laborers to gather the crops. You know what I am talking about.
God is doing a great work among us. He is building his Kingdom in the city of Mumbai. Either we are in or out. Today you will have to decide for yourself whether you want to trust in Him, wait for his perfect timing and stay prepared when the call comes.
God bless you!