• Stan Stringer

Moments With Pastor Week 3 Nehemiah


DAY ONE

And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven

Nehemiah 1:4

REACTION / NO REACTION

Nehemiah had a reaction to the bad news.  A good reaction is always appreciated.  However, I’d rather have a bad reaction than no reaction at all.  Every Sunday, people gather in churches all across America.  They hear a sermon from the Bible.  Sometimes, it is good news that they hear.  Sometimes, it is bad news.  The Bible contains both kinds.  As people listen to the sermon, some may have a good reaction—they are rejoicing in the promises of God.  Others may have a bad reaction—they are being convicted by the Holy Spirit about sin in their lives.  Most people, however, simply sit through another sermon.  They have done so for years past, and they will continue to do so for years future—unmoved.  No reaction.  Even a bad reaction is better than no reaction!  Even when a person gets angry at the message—if the message has been the truth, and you have endeavored to present it by the leadership of the Spirit.  There is reason to rejoice even when a person’s reaction is bad.  But a ‘no reaction’ is never a reason to rejoice!

Nehemiah’s reaction was extensive.  ‘Certain days’ turned into 4 months!  Mourning, weeping, fasting and praying for 4 months.  Why so long?  Why not get into immediate action.  Call the elders together, raise money, start an online fund, boycott the kingdom.  Get things done—right now!  That is rarely God’s way.  God multi-tasks.  There is a need to get the walls built, but there is also a need to get Nehemiah ‘built’.  Nehemiah is not a wall builder—he is a cupbearer.  He is not ready to build a wall.  Yes, he has a heart for God, but he also needs a head trained in wall building.  Four months—time to visit some walls, read some books, meet with some good wall builders, learn about the walls in Jerusalem.  Yes, 4 months to prepare to do the work God has for him to do.



DAY TWO

And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven

Nehemiah 1:4

PREPARING TO BUILD THE WALL

When God called Ezra to leave home and go to Jerusalem to build a wall, it was like how a person feels when God calls him to be a missionary.  How exciting it is when we realize that God is calling us into His special service!

A call to the mission field sets a new direction for our life.  We no longer can afford to climb a corporate ladder, search for a nice neighborhood where we can build our house and raise our family, pursue an education that will land us into the best employment—we have been given a higher goal.  We are now employed by the Creator of the universe!

The first thing we must do is to earnestly seek the will of God.  We must positively know that God is leading us into missionary service.  During those 4 months of prayer, Nehemiah was seeking a clear understanding of the will of God.

It is also important to seek God’s guidance for immediate, short-term decisions.  For me, it was simple.  I was already in Bible college on my way to the mission field when God began directing my steps toward Native Americans.  It was the era when Christian Education was barely taking root.  I saw a need for Christian schools on the mission field.  God led me through a bulletin board which said, ‘Go ye therefore and teach…’  I changed my major from Bible to Education, which meant an extra 2 years in college.

So, it is important to know how God is going to use you on the mission field, and begin preparing yourself.  You’ve probably noticed that a man, though he may be a good Christian, is not necessarily a good mechanic, or plumber, or whatever.  Being good at something requires preparation.  Preparation may include specialized schooling, learning a language, raising support, etc.  

Nehemiah was called, and then he prepared himself for the task.



DAY THREE

And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:    Nehemiah 1:5

A PRAYERFUL ATTITUDE

We all want to have our prayers answered.  After all, what is the point of praying if we never get the answer we desire?  Very unhappy must be the person who cannot point to prayers he has prayed that have not been answered.  Truly blessed is the person who has learned how to pray the kind of prayer that gets answered.  

First, notice the word ‘beseech’.  This has the idea of begging, of earnestly asking for something.  It implies humility.  That is probably the first attitude for successful prayer.  God respects a broken, contrite heart.  God answered the prayer of the publican who would not even lift up his face, but smote upon his chest begging for mercy.  A demanding attitude is not the way to approach God in prayer.

Notice also the words, ‘Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God’.  A successful prayer life will include Adoration.  Before we began giving God our shopping list, we may want to spend time just adoring Him.  In fact, it would be a good habit to devote some prayers totally to adoration.  Learn to include songs in your prayers, such as ‘My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine’, or ‘I am Thine, o Lord, I have heard Thy voice…’.  If you awake during the night, spend that time just adoring your Savior.

Notice also the word ‘covenant’.  This is a contract between me and God.  God promises to be to me all that a God should be to His man, and I promise to be all that a man should be to his God.  I have to shamefully admit that I haven’t always kept my part of the contract.  But, God has never failed on His part.  He keeps His covenant with an abundant supply of mercy.

Successful prayers are more often found among people who Love the Lord.  And, love is an action verb.  Love for God in action keeps His commandments.  Living a life that is pleasing to God, showing Him our love, adoring Him in our prayers with an humble, submitted heart—that’s an attitude that can get a prayer answered!


DAY FOUR

Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.      Nehemiah 1:6

PRAYER INCLUDES CONFESSION

The closer we come to God in prayer, the more aware we are of our sinfulness.  If we have not arrived at a place where we see the sinfulness of our heart, then our prayer must be utterly shallow.  God is holy.  I am a sinner.  I have no right to approach Him outside the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.  Before I come to the point of interceding for someone else, or asking for something I need, I need to settle any outstanding accounts on my sins.  That means confession

Here is a prayer that is less than useless:  “Lord, forgive me if I have sinned against you.’  Also, while we confess the fact that we are sinful, we need to confess the individual ‘sins’.  A sin that cannot be named is probably not confessed.  In a private prayer between me and God, I need to enumerate my sins to Him, thank Him for His blood shed for me, thank Him for His forgiveness, and ask for His victory and restoration.

Get out of the habit of referring to sins as ‘mistakes’, or ‘weaknesses’, or ‘alternate lifestyle’.  Name the sin.  God already knows all about it.  Confess to Him what He already knows—that you’ve been drinking beer, or using tobacco, or vaping, or looking at pornography, or gossiping, criticizing, complaining, hanging out with the wrong people—you know what it is in your own life.  These sins will stand in the way of having a successful prayer life. ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’

Notice the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘I’.  Nehemiah does not hesitate to include himself as part of the reason they are in the mess they are in.  It was because of sin that the walls were broken down in the first place.  And it is because of sin that they are still broken down.  Before you pray that someone else will get things right, make sure you bend your own knees in confession to God.



DAY FIVE

We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.      Nehemiah 1:7

CORRUPTION AND POLLUTION

There is a fundamental difference between corruption and pollution.  Corruption is a rottenness on the inside.  Pollution is an uncleanness on the outside.  If something is merely polluted, it can be washed.  If something is corrupt, it is worthless.  Some people think their sin has only polluted them.  They can make things right by just washing off themselves:  turn over a new leaf, determine to stop bad habits and take on good ones, get religious, go to church, make a donation.  They refuse to face the fact that sin has corrupted them, that they have made themselves worthless.  Nothing will take care of that short of a New Birth.  The ‘old man’ of sin is depraved.  They need a new man, only to be found in Christ.

Nehemiah confesses his sin, and the sin of his nation.  He says they have dealt VERY CORRUPTLY against God.  Although God had given them the commandments, they had chosen not to keep them.  God had given those commandments to Moses generations before, and they were still in effect.

Sometimes, we are prone to blame God for the bad things that happen to us.  We accuse God of not doing His part of shielding us from all the bad things of life.  But, if we would stop and analyze the situation, we would realize that we are the ones who got ourselves in a bad spot.  God laid out a beautiful path for us, but we chose to wander out into our own path.  

Sin has a corrupting influence on us.  Though once we are saved, we are saved eternally, sin can enter our life and destroy our reputation, our influence, and our character.  Sin can destroy a marriage, or a home.  It can rob us of our property, our health, and our freedom.  There are absolutely NO good benefits from sin.

Confession means seeing sin for what it is, and acknowledging what it has done.  Ultimately, it sent Jesus to the cross!

DAY SIX

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:          Nehemiah 1:8

THE RELATIONSHIP OF PRAYER TO THE BIBLE

What is the attitude for prayer that will get answered?  It is one of HUMILITY, it includes ADORATION, it must also include CONFESSION.  Successful prayer must also be SCRIPTURAL.  Be sure of one thing—If you pray for something that is outside the boundaries of the Bible, you’re not going to get it!  If this is true—and it is—then it is wise for us to be well acquainted with the Bible.  

Nehemiah reminds God of what He said, and preserved in His Word, many generations before.  God’s Word had not gotten obsolete.  It had not been revised to match the current culture.  Rather, current culture was expected to revise itself and come in line with God’s unchanging Word.

Notice that God did not give ‘suggestions’ to Moses.   He gave commandments.  He expected people to learn and obey.  God gave you and me a brain that is capable of reading and understanding the Bible.  Then, he flooded our world with Bibles.  He filled our world with preachers, missionaries, evangelists, churches, Christian radio, t.v., books, magazines, Gospel tracts.  We have godly songs galore.  We have to purposely ignore God in order not to know how He demands that we live.  When we do ignore Him and His Word, we find ourselves in a pitiful spot to pray and get answers.

By the way, God did not have to be reminded of what the Bible says.  He was well aware.  But, Nehemiah knew there was a relationship between successful prayer and the Bible.  Practice quoting the Scripture in your prayers.


DAY SEVEN

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:      But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Nehemiah 1:8-9

THE BIG ‘IF’

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  For example, in order to step forward with one foot, the other foot must push backward with an equal pressure.  We can also say that every action carries with it a consequence.  A good act will ultimately have a good consequence;  a bad act will ultimately have a bad consequence.  This is the process of sowing and reaping.  Whatever you sow, that’s what you’re going to reap.  How much you sow, that’s how much you’re going to reap.

God had said that if His people transgressed His law, they would bring upon themselves bad consequences.  That happened.  They transgressed.  They went into Babylonian captivity for 70 years.  But, there is another ‘if’.  If they return to the Lord, He will return to them.  Nehemiah wants to do just that, and he seems to believe there are many others who also want to return to the Lord.  In fact, God has already brought a great number of His people out of captivity, and into their land.

Consider this word, ‘if’.  It carries the idea that we have a choice.  We can choose to disobey God, or to obey Him.  Even when we are paying a debt for our sin, we have a choice—we can return to God, or we can continue in our rebellion.  There is nothing noble in just ‘buckling down’ and bearing the result of our sin.  God desires our confession and restoration.

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