Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lessons from Nehemiah on doing God's work: Part 3

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13. God's people are to support the work financially
'And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priests' garments.' (Nehemiah 7:71-72)
How did Nehemiah meet the great cost of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem? In the same way that Moses was able to meet the cost of building the tabernacle; it was achieved by the sacrificial giving of the people. Both small and great gave to the work as the Lord had blessed them. Nehemiah did not have to organise a car boot sale or a cake sale in order to finance the work. Nor did he go out among the heathen and take up a street collection to support the work. The methods that may be appropriate for charities seeking to raise funds should not be copied by the church. The responsiblity and duty for supporting the financial requirements of God's work lies with the believer. 

14. God's work can be infiltrated by false teachers
'And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah' (Nehemiah 13:4)
Tobiah was of notorious reputation among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for he was one of the principal opponents of the work to rebuild the walls of the city. Yet within a short time, Nehemiah being temporarily absent from Jerusalem, Tobiah had formed an alliance with Eliashib the priest, and had even obtained lodging within the house of God. No matter how faithful a church may be to the gospel, it can still be infiltrated by those who teach another gospel, leading God's people astray. Every Christian must be on their guard against the subtle heresies of the devil, and where they are detected in the church they must be dealt with. Nehemiah on his return did not seek to negotiate with Tobiah, or tolerate his presence, but he immediately cast him out and had the chambers cleansed.

15. There will be those who refuse to help in the work
'And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.' (Nehemiah 3:5)
Although there is a work for everyone to do in the church, that does not mean that everyone will work. The reason that the nobles did not help with the rebuilding of the wall is not given, yet for whatever reason it may be they refused to help, even though others were toiling hard in the work. It is often said that 80% of the work in a church is done by 20% of the people; not because they monopolise it, but because so many are unwilling to help. Such an attitude is discouraging to those who willingly give of their time and effort. Often we will consider how much more could be done, if only there were more of God's people involved in the work. Yet even the few can do a great work for the Lord, 'for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few'.

16. The leaders of the work are to be an example
'Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.' (Nehemiah 4:22-23)
Nehemiah was a leader who led by example. He did not ask the people to do anything which he was not prepared to do himself, indeed he was the first to do whatever task there was to be done. No work can expect to prosper if the leaders do not set an example to the people in labouring for God. 'Do as I say but not as I do' will inspire no-one. The leaders should be found to be those who work the hardest; who are there before others arrive and after they leave.

17. The work is not ours but the Lords
'And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.' (Nehemiah 6:16)
The great assurance which we have in the Lord's work, is that it is his work. It is not our work, nor that of our church or denomination, but it is the Lord's. If the work were of man, then it would fail, yet because it is of God then it cannot fail. So evident was it that the building of the wall of Jerusalem was a work wrought of God, that even their enemies could do nothing but acknowledge that fact themselves. Let us never imagine that the work is about us, it is only about God, and the glorification of his name.

18. The work of the Lord is not about individualism
'And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.' (Nehemiah 3:4)
Everyone involved in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem had a place and a task given to them by Nehemiah. They worked together as part of the same team. There was no place for anyone to go and build their own little wall, but they worked together under the authority of the the leaders in Jerusalem. Whilst we all have individual responsibility, there is no biblical mandate for us to reject the leadership of the church and work without any authority over us. C.H. Spurgeon said that 'Christian labours, disconnected from the church, are like sowing and reaping without having any barn in which to store the fruits of the harvest; they are useful but incomplete.'

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