Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lessons from Nehemiah on doing God's work: Part 1

When Nehemiah set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem he faced a monumental task; the report which he received from Hanani was not an encouraging one. The report was one of a city in ruins and of a people in great affliction and reproach. Yet in the remarkably short time of fifty two days Nehemiah oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of that great city, an achievement that caused even their enemies to perceive that the work was of the Lord. Throughout the book of Nehemiah there are many great principles and lessons which we can glean for ourselves as we engage in the work of the Lord. Although our work is not to build the walls of the physical Jerusalem, but the spiritual, the lessons of Nehemiah are most beneficial to us.

1. There is a great need in the Lord's work
'And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.' (Nehemiah 1:3)
The message which Hanani and the men of Judah brought to Nehemiah was one of a drastic situation in Jerusalem. The people themselves were greatly afflicted, and the city was in ruins. Their need was great. So it is the same today in the work of the Lord. There is a great need for labourers in every aspect of God's work and in every part of the world. Millions in far off lands are still without the gospel yet in out own congregations there is also a great need for those who will labour in the work. So many still need to be reached in our own land for the walls have been broken down here too. Truly the need in the Lord's work is great.

2. The Lord's work requires much prayer
'I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.' (Nehemiah 1:4)
'O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant.' (Nehemiah 1:11)
'So I prayed to the God of heaven.' (Nehemiah 2:4)
Nehemiah's response was not to immediately journey to Jerusalem, but first to pray. Before he did anything, even before he sought permission of the king, he prayed. We cannot carry out the work on our own strength, but must look to the Lord for help. We must pray about what we plan to do for the Lord and we must pray over it when it is done. The level of prayer will determine the level of blessing that we receive from the Lord in his work. We cannot hope to be successful in serving God where we have not prayed for the work, for it is through prayer that we see God's blessing.

3. The Lord's work is done with the authority of the king
'And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me. Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.' (Nehemiah 2:8-9)
The potential difficulties which Nehemiah would face in returning to Jerusalem were significant for none of the governors of the lands would take kindly to the rebuilding of the city. Yet Nehemiah possessed letters of authority from the king himself, and was accompanied by the captains of the army. None could prevent Nehemiah and go against the word of the king. Likewise were have the authority of the king of kings, and 'if God be for us, who can be against us?' We can engage in the Lord's work in the confidence that he who has all authority, has given us that commission to preach his word to all nations.

4. God's work requires planning
'So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.' (Nehemiah 2:6)
'And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city' (Nehemiah 2:8)
Whilst it is the Lord that gives the increase and we can do nothing without his blessing, this does not taken away from the necessity to plan and organise the Lord's work. Nehemiah had thought things through to the extent that he could advise the king how long the work would take him. He had also considered what materials he would need and so requested timber from the king's forest. When he arrived in Jerusalem he surveyed the walls before any work was begun. For God's work to be done effectively we should not neglect the rightful places of planning and organisation.
5. God's work will attract opposition
'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.' (Nehemiah 4:1)
As soon as we begin to do a work for the Lord, we can be sure that we will attract the opposition of Satan. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, as soon as they heard that Nehemiah was to rebuild the wall, were full of scorn and mocking. Their attempts to hinder the work, although they were more pronounced at some times than others, never truly ceased. Satan will leave us alone so long as do not seek to disrupt his work, but once we seek to tear down his strongholds and build up the church of God, we can be sure that he will be an active foe, and will set people in place to oppose us. Yet 'greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world'.

6. God's work is to be carried out by God's people alone
'we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.' (Nehemiah 2:20)
Nehemiah did not deal with the opposition of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem by offering them a part in the work, but rebuked them, reminding them they had no part in the city of Jerusalem. This was not their work, but the Lord's, and it was his servants who would do the work. Had he offered them some portion and reached a compromise, they would likely have accepted it, yet what right had the heathen to be involved in the rebuilding of the city of God? There is no place for the unconverted in God's work; not in pulpits, nor as Sunday School teachers, youth workers, musicians or anything else. That those who would do the Lord's work must be born again would seem to be an obvious statement, yet it must be stated. The unsaved person cannot be given a position within the church to make them feel more welcome; the Lord's work is for his people alone.

Next: Lessons 7 - 12

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