This sermon is number 3 in a series of 15
Building For God - Part 3
"Preparation For The Work - Part 2"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Let's turn together in the word of God to the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah chapter 2. You remember we started this study 'Building For God' two weeks ago in chapter 1, and last week we only got really through the first point with regards to Nehemiah's preparation for the work. So this morning, after looking last week at his preparation in the royal palace, we'll be looking God willing at his preparation at the ruined walls, and also his preparation of the remnant people who were left in Jerusalem when he arrived there.
So we're going to take up our reading this morning from verse 9 of chapter 2 of Nehemiah. Nehemiah journeys from his palace in Shushan, and then he says: "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. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem" - and we end our reading at verse 20.
Let us just bow in a moment's prayer together: Our Father, we thank Thee for the lives of great men like Nehemiah, these great Bible biographies that encourage us, exhort us and enthuse us to follow their example. We remember the apostle Paul, who could say: 'Follow me, even as I follow Christ'. Lord, that is the ultimate goal that's in our hearts today - not to be like Nehemiah, but in the much that Nehemiah was like our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that we will be like him. As we come to look at the preparation for the work of God that all of us need to be engaged in if we are serving and labouring for the Master, we pray that our hearts may be challenged, our minds may be quickened, and our whole selves may be filled by the Holy Spirit of the Living God to go out after preparation, sufficient preparation, before our God, to make Him known to men and women effectually, for the salvation of the lost souls and to the exaltation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the furtherance of His kingdom. For it is in His name, and to that end we pray, Amen.
In verses 1 through to 8 you will remember, if you were with us last week - if not I'll just recap on a few of the thoughts - that Nehemiah was in the royal palace. He had heard the news of the awful desolation that was in his home city of Jerusalem from his brother, and his heart was moved as he realised the awful despair that God's people were in. It was in the palace, as the cupbearer to the king - Artaxerxes - that this man Nehemiah received a burden from God, a burden to go, a burden to minister to the people of God, a burden to build up the walls that were broken down. The walls of testimony, the walls of protection of God's people, the walls that kept out false gods, and kept the people from wandering into false lands.
So we saw in the royal palace that there Nehemiah received the burden from God, and it affected his countenance as we see in the second half of verse 1. Nehemiah, standing before the king and serving him, had never ever been sad - but he was sad in the king's presence. In fact the king said to him in verse 2: 'Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart'. We saw that it was a bad thing to be sad in the presence of the king - in fact, it really was saying that you weren't pleased and joyous to be in the presence of the monarch. He had a burden from God, you will recall, that was such a heavy burden that he couldn't mask it, he couldn't become hypocritical and pretend that it wasn't there even for the sake of the king, and even for the sake of his own life. It was written all over his face. In fact, his heart in this matter was worn on his sleeve.
We saw that because of this burden he had he was taking risks, because the king - as we looked at in the historical circumstances of King Artaxerxes and great monarchs and emperors of the day - that this king could have slew him there and then for being sad in his presence. He may have been sceptical of the fact that Nehemiah was tasting of his cup, and perhaps he was nervous because he himself had put something in the cup, or perhaps there was something in the cup that he tasted when he took of it. Nevertheless, it was a great risk to go into the presence of the King with a sad countenance. We saw last week that not only if we're preparing for God's work do we need to prepare to have a burden laid on us from God Himself, a burden that affects us in many ways, but we also need to be prepared to take risks for God in fulfilling that burden.
I read only this week the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, who said: 'No man is any use until he has dared everything' - no man is any use until he has dared everything. Nehemiah dared everything because of this burden. He continued in prayer when the king asked him in verse 4 what he could do for him. Nehemiah who had been praying now, you will remember, four months from the month of December through to the beginning of the month of April - there he was praying again! After four months of prayer and fasting and weeping and crying, night and day, it wasn't enough for Nehemiah - but when the King gave that request: 'What could I do for you Nehemiah?', he prays again to the God of heaven that his request would be answered.
He continued in prayer, and we saw last week great Hudson Taylor said: 'It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone', didn't we? Here is a great king, the great dictator, men's lives were in his hands - whom he would he would slay, and whom he would save he would save - but here this man Nehemiah raised a prayer to God, and God heard him and God turned the heart of the king. We saw that we need to continue in prayer in the preparation for God's work, and then we saw we need to discern the answers when they come. In verses 4 and 5 we see that Nehemiah saw this request from the king, that he would give him anything he wanted, as an answer to his prayer. Sometimes we don't see or perceive the answers that God gives us to our prayers. Then in verses 6 to 8 he accumulated all the possible resources, he got everything he could to build for this work of God. Then we saw finally in verse 8 that he was looking for and recognising God's hand of blessing, he was an optimistic faith-full man. He was looking for God to move, and he recognised when God moved! I wonder do we?
Now there's further preparation that we want to see today, and we're moving now from the scene of the royal palace to the ruins of the city. In between verses 8 and 9 three months have passed - you see, Nehemiah starts to journey across the river, and comes to the city of Jerusalem, that holy place that is in such degradation. We read in verse 9: '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'. He goes on this journey, and he finds the city and the walls that are so broken down. Then in verse 10 we find that the first thing that Nehemiah encountered in the city - if you like, he's got to the mission field, the rubber has hit the road, he's got to the place God wants him to be, the place where God wants him to do this great work, the place where he will be the man for the hour - and what is the first thing that he encounters in that place? Verse 10: 'When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel' - and we will find out as the weeks go on that these men, two of them and then the other man Geshem the Arabian that we read of later, these three men were the thorn in the flesh of Nehemiah. Immediately Nehemiah came to the field of work he faced opposition!
Now you listen this morning: if you're wanting to do any work for God, any work, it is inevitable, and you must anticipate opposition in that work. There is the first aspect of his preparation at the ruined walls - I wonder do we ever include this in any preparation in our minds? Do we anticipate opposition in what we're trying to do for God? You see, opposition in the work of God often causes some people to say: 'I wonder if I am in God's will?'. They question it, maybe they even turn their back on God's will - maybe they don't perceive it at the time, but they walk straight out of God's will because they're afraid of confrontations, they're afraid of opposition! The great irony, and I believe it's a dupe of Satan at times, is that the opposite is the truth. It is when we encounter opposition that we can almost know of a certainty at times that it is proof that we are in God's will - almost always, not always. Some people are always looking just for opposition and confrontation, that's not what I'm talking about, but I'm sure and certain that if a man or a woman is in God's will they will encounter opposition.
We have to ask the question: what does that say of those who run from it? Does it mean that they're not in God's will? Well, I'll leave that up to your estimation personally, but one thing I do know is that right throughout the word of God and right throughout the lives of great Christians whose biographies we read, we find that whenever a man gets a burden from God, and whenever he starts to pray through that burden, and he starts to take risks, and he starts to see answers, and he starts to accumulate all the possible resources, and looks for and recognises God's hand in it all, he will incur men's opposition! He will disturb the comfortable and complacent. We need look no further than the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ in John chapter 15. You know that like Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem, the Pharisees and the Scribes were always chipping away and biting at His heels everywhere He went. They were talking to Him about doctrine, talking to Him about His lifestyle, how He didn't always keep the law the way they thought it should be kept. The Lord Jesus, answering His accusers in John 15, says this: 'If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin'.
What does that mean? It means this: that the very life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ showed up the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees for what they really were! It exposed them, they saw the real thing and their hypocrisy wouldn't stand up to scrutiny. The Lord Jesus in John 16, the following chapter, said to His own disciples: 'My dear children, my disciples, those I have called from the world, in the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world'. Now listen: when a worldly spirit grips those within the church of Jesus Christ, you'll not only have persecution in the world, you'll have persecution in the church. When you try to do something for God you will anticipate facing opposition, and Nehemiah faced it!
He faced it through Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite. Now we don't have time to look in much detail at these two men just yet, but let me show you that one of them was a Moabite - Sanballat was the Moabite - and Tobiah was the Ammonite. Now if you don't know this, when you go to the book of Genesis the Moabites came from the son of Lot, and the Ammonites also of his other son - both sons who were born to him through the incest of his relationship on a drunken night with his own daughters - have you got that? From that day on, those two nations - the Moabites and the Ammonites - were the thorns in the flesh of the Jewish people. The Arabians also in the person of Geshem - still to this day the Arabs are a thorn in the flesh of the Israelites! Do you see it? But as you look at the typology in the Old Testament Scriptures, you will find that the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Arabians and the sons of Ishmael all speak of the flesh, don't they? They all speak of a people who are carnal. We know from the studies that we've been going through in the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians that you can be a Christian and be a carnal Christian - Paul said to them: 'I can't speak unto you as spiritual, but I must address you as carnal, you're still babes in Christ'.
What happens when you try to do the work for God is that there is opposition that comes even from within the ranks, from within the walls of the church of Jesus Christ, to those works, from those who are carnal. The more worldly the church the greater the persecution will be, but here is the greatness of this man Nehemiah - what did he do? Did he say: 'I can't take this, I'm packing it in'? No, he just pressed on regardless. He was like Ezekiel, you remember when we went through those studies, God gave him a hard forehead to take all the opposition that was coming his way - and, boy, did he face it! Can I ask you: are you ready for this? Oh, you want to go to serve the Lord, maybe to the mission field, or preaching in a pastorate position, or an evangelist, or something else, working with children or even working in the Hall here in whatever capacity God has called you - are you ready for opposition? Some people just can't handle it, but you're going to have to handle it because if you're going to be in God's will you're going to get it!
Here's the second thought that we see as Nehemiah stands around these ruins, verse 12, he had to contemplate sacrifice: 'And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon'. He contemplated sacrifice - now, what do I mean? Well, the first thing he sacrificed in verse 12 was his bed, and a few men went with him in that sacrifice. Now follow it with me just up to this point - four months we have seen Nehemiah has been in prayer, he has been weeping, he has been fasting, he has been afflicting himself for the God of heaven day and night for four solid months. Then in the palace in chapter 2 and the beginning verses we see that he risked his own life before the King. Now in between verses 8 and 9 of chapter 2 he has travelled a journey of about 700-800 miles, imagine that! Now we find in verse 12 that as he arrives there he doesn't say: 'I'll take a couple of weeks rest and vacation before I start', but he is up all hours surveying the situation! He's looking at the dereliction of the city, and he's losing sleep over the matter!
Do you know that loss of sleep is a sacrifice? I'll tell you, if you make that sacrifice like Nehemiah, there'll only be a few people that will make it with you. Nehemiah was awake when everybody else was sleeping, Nehemiah was concerned when everybody else was at ease, but he saw more of the reality of the situation of the city of God at night than others did during the daylight - because it was at night that God gave him a great vision! I wonder do you sacrifice? Do you sacrifice your bed? Do you run to work in the morning without consulting the King of kings and the Lord of lords about God's will for your day? Have you come to the place of worship this morning, and you haven't opened your Bible, and you haven't lifted your eyes heavenward to seek the blessing of God's face? This is where it really matters, if you're contemplating serving God. There's times I find myself in a place where I'm so unworthy of serving the Lord - we're all unworthy, but these things that we can make the difference in, are we paying the sacrifice? Because here's what happens: when he sacrificed this pleasure of sleep, God cultivated a secret dealing in his own heart - God moved in on Nehemiah.
Look at this verse 12: 'Neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem' - I didn't tell anybody what God did! Listen to this: he's three days now in Jerusalem, he's arrived there, and there's three days and there's not a word he speaks to anybody. He gets on a horse and he rides around for three days and nights, and there's no luncheons, there's no city officials coming to greet him, there's no press conferences, there's no guided tours of the believers around the wall, there's just silence! The only dignitary that Nehemiah consults with is the God of heaven! I'll tell you there's so many lessons in this book that it's going to take me an age getting through it, but I don't want to skip over this one quickly: do you practise the sacrifice of a time alone with God, where God can speak to you? A time in the silence, a time in the early hours, a time when God can put something in your heart that you cannot even express to anybody else?
Now only those that are practising this will know exactly what I'm talking about, but I think this is the reason for the demise within the church of Jesus Christ today - the people just don't have a sacrifice like this, and they don't cultivate God's secret dealings in their heart. Listen: if you're wanting to do something for God, you've got to be prepared for God to do something in you! A. W. Tozer, that great writer whose works I commend to you often, warns in these words: 'May not the inadequacy of much of our spiritual experience today be traced back to our habit of getting through the corridors of the kingdom like children through the marketplace, chattering about everything, but pausing to learn the true value of nothing'. Chattering about everything, but pausing to learn the true value of nothing!
Oh, I wish I had time to talk to you about Moses, 40 years in the palace, 40 years in the wilderness, and all of it was God preparing, God putting in his heart something that education, something that status in royalty couldn't do - only God could do it, and God had to take him into the desert to do it. What about the apostle Paul? We read of him in Galatians that he went into Arabia for three years, and he consulted not with flesh and blood or any of the other apostles - three solid years God was revealing to him His will and His word. Look at the Lord Jesus Christ! He's in Nazareth in a carpenter's shop in obscurity for 30 years before He begins His ministry of three years around the countryside of Galilee and further afield. My friends, do you see this? The Lord Jesus Christ, you see Him in the gospel writings, it says on many occasions that He withdrew Himself to pray and to seek God. Someone said to me not so long ago: 'You know, the Lord Jesus in His ministry didn't just make Himself available, there were many times He made Himself unavailable'. He went from the crowd, and He went to be before God, and we read on occasions that a great while before day He went into a desert place, into the wilderness, or He went up a mountain and He sought God - some nights all night!
Have you ever been in a desert, I mean a real desert? What's characteristic about a desert, apart from there being no water? One thing is you're usually alone, and that it is probably one of the most silent parts of God's creation - there is an eerie unnatural silence in a desert. But you see, that's where you need to be - you say: 'Why do you need to be in silence?'. I'm not just talking about literal silence, but you need to be in silence within your spirit before God, because God often speaks to us in a still small voice. If you're not still enough in your preparations before God, you'll not hear Him - but if you are still enough, do you know what will happen to you? God will lay further burdens on your heart, and God will take secret dealings in your heart that you cannot express to anybody else!
Let me give you an example if you think I'm making all this up. Luke chapter 2 and verse 19, you don't need to turn to it, but it talks about Mary and how the angel spoke to Mary of how the Saviour would come and redeem His people from their sin. The Bible says that all the angel told Mary, Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. These things were wrought when she was alone, and God's word was coming to her through the angel, and they were things that she couldn't express or even explain to anybody else - she could only understand it because it was from God, she got it alone but it was in her heart, God had dealt with her in her heart! Can you hear, as Elijah heard, the sound of the gentle whisper?
I love the poems of F. W. Faber, but without quoting any of the poems to you, let me quote you some of his words that he said with regards to this practice of silence and solitude before Almighty God. He says: 'Whenever the sounds of the world die out in a soul, then we hear the whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we don't always hear because of the noise, the hurry, and the distractions which life causes as it rushes on'. Is that not true? More so today than it has ever been! The alarm clock goes in the morning and you're up like a shot - or maybe after five minutes if you put the snooze on, you're up. Then you wash and get dressed, and you rush out to get the bus, or to get into work on time. You work to lunch, or your teabreak, however many you have, and then teatime - you're home, get your tea, maybe you're rushing even out to the meeting, or you're rushing to something else that is God's work - that doesn't make it right you know! Maybe you're just sitting in front of the TV, and I know the television and radio is company for some of you folk that live alone, and I don't fault that for one moment - but you know I think that most of us are frightened, in this world of technology in which we live, of silence, of being alone and being before God, of getting all the din and shutting it out, and allowing ourselves to hear the whisper of God!
Well, we'll move on. God cultivated secret dealings in his heart, and then in verses 13 to 15 if you're prepared for God's work you need to await a vision of the ruins. Verses 13 to 15: 'I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast' - grasp the import of this! The horse, some of you know what horses can do, the horse couldn't get over the rubble the place was in such an awful state. 'Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned' - he got a vision during the night of the ruin that the place was in.
The prophetic vision is something that is not sought after, as the pulpit and the limelight is sought after today in many regard to the Christian service - you want to be the preacher, you want to be the missionary, you want to be the one that's called 'pastor', or the one that stands up and everybody loves - the fact of the matter is this: if you're in the place that God wants you to be, and none of us are, not even me - don't be thinking I'm there, talking like this! If you're where God wants you to be, there will be a picture, a vision of ruin, that you'll get - you'll not be able to banish it from your thoughts, and it will drive you to a cross!
You've got to await a vision of ruin, and begin to see things the way God sees them. I'll give you one example: Hosea - have you ever read the book of Hosea? I remember reading someone who said, a lot of us will be embarrassed when we get to heaven - he might come up and say: 'Have you read my book?', and we'll have to say 'I'm sorry, I never got round to that one, I couldn't find it!'. Hosea, do you know what God told Hosea to do? 'Go and marry a prostitute' - what? How could God tell anybody to do that? Because God was wanting to give him a vision, and give the people a vision of their spiritual adulterous idolatry in His holy eyes. He felt just like Hosea felt marrying a woman who was loose. You see if it wasn't in the Bible, I'd have got the sack for saying something like that, wouldn't I? It's in the Bible, because God is saying: 'This is the way I feel, and I want my prophets to feel as I feel! So I have to get them out of the world, I have to get them in the stillness, I have to get them into a disposition where I start to work on their hearts, and I put a burden and a vision on our hearts that they can't explain to anybody else'.
You get a vision of the ruin of yourself, you get a vision of the ruin of the world, and you even get a vision of the ruin of the church! In verse 16 it says that in that preparation, and when we get that vision of the ruin, we need to expect to be alone. He says in verse 16 that the rulers knew nothing, where I was or what I did, 'neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work'. Those who are engrossed in their careers, in their domestic lives, in their leisures and their pleasures, will not have time for such an all-consuming passion as this. That's why you need to expect to be alone if you're going to follow God's voice in your heart.
The apostle Paul was alone, in 2 Timothy 1 verse 15: 'This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me...Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia'. He loved the word more than he loved God's will. Now notice, as a man pointed out to me recently, it doesn't say that he didn't love Christ, it doesn't say that he had backslidden into the world, it says that he loved the world more than Christ - probably because he realised that if he followed this apostle Paul any further his life would be at stake! Oh, we can fault Demas, can't we? Preach a sermon on him, castigate him, but how many of us love the world more to such an extent that we will not pay the final price in our devotion to the Saviour? Ultimately Demas had no time for the cross, but Paul has said: 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world'. Well, Nehemiah's preparation at the ruins comprised of anticipating opposition, contemplating sacrifice, cultivating God's secret dealings in his heart, awaiting a vision of ruin from Almighty God, expecting to be alone in his understanding of it all - where are you, where am I, in our preparation for God's work?
Let me leave you just in the last couple of moments with his preparation of the remnant people in verses 17 to 20. Here's a few things that he gave them - first he gave them a frank appraisal of the situation, he said: 'Ye see the distress that we are in...', and bam, bam, bam he went through it all. He didn't paper over the cracks, he told it like it was - and just in the same way that you like when you go to the doctor and there's bad news to be imparted, you want him to tell you the truth! Nehemiah didn't believe in a one-man ministry, that he should carry the can, but he encouraged all the other people to come that we be no more a reproach. I believe this, that whenever God starts to work He often starts to work in a small remnant of His people, just like here in Jerusalem. God gives a vision to a small group exercised of Himself - wasn't that the same with Elijah? Elijah was depressed, he was ready to die: 'Lord, take my life, I alone am left, I'm the only one fighting for the cause' - and God had to humble him and say: 'There are yet 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal'.
Will you give yourself, your own soul, a frank appraisal and assessment of its spiritual condition? Do you ever have a spiritual MOT, where you take time to sit before God and analyse your life, your motives, your practices, your habits? Do you tell it like it is, or do you try to explain it away? When you feel convicted do you stifle, and muzzle, and muffle that still small voice that says: 'That's not right, you should be there, you should be doing this'? Well, the fact of the matter is that what we need today is a frank appraisal of the situation, because that is what will matter when we get to the judgment seat of Christ. When Christ's fiery laser beam eyes scrutinise everything that we've ever done, said and thought, we'll wish we had done it before Him and sorted it out.
Here's the second way he prepared them, not only giving them a frank appraisal that was necessary, but in verse 18 he gave them a motivating exhortation: 'Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me, the hand of God can bless you'. 'I told them of the hand of God that was upon me', he gave them a motivating exhortation. 'God has put His hand on my life', Nehemiah says, 'and He can do the same for you if you'll give your life over to Him'. I love Christian biography, I know some men that don't like it because they feel - and this tells me a story or two - they feel that it sets standards too high, and it makes fairytales out of men that are impossible. Now I know sometimes it doesn't give you all of their faults, and the stories aren't warts and all, but I'll tell you this: they give you a fair motivating exhortation to a holy and a godly life.
We think of these Bible characters like Nehemiah as something out of Lewis Carroll's writings, something beyond us, that somehow these men were special, they were different than you or me. But when we read biographies, Christian biographies of even the 20th century, we see men of like passions as we are - yet they prevailed with God! Do you read Christian biography? Do you know what's brilliant about doing it? The Psalmist says in Psalm 42: 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him', and when I read these stories about Hudson Taylor, and D. L. Moody, and C. H. Spurgeon and all the rest of them, it encourages my soul because I can hope in God that I shall yet praise Him for His wonderful work in my life if I give myself over to Him. Is that not a motivating exhortation? Nehemiah is saying: 'I want to tell you about the good hand of God that's been upon me, it can be upon you!'.
Then in verse 18, the second part and the last part, there was an encouraging response from the people: 'And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work'. 'Let us rise up and build', we're not interested in building an empire for the Iron Hall, we're interested in furthering the name and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and getting people more into this building and winning them for Jesus on their level! Who will go with us? Who will say 'Let us arise and build'? Who will strengthen their hand to do the work? How are you strengthening your hand for the work of the Lord that you're involved in?
Oh, there are many ways we could talk about how you do that, through times alone with God as we've already spoken about, but are you doing it? - that's the question. The predictable persecution came too in verse 19, which is very telling - the devil, when he faces us, doesn't just give up after the first attempt: 'When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king'. Their first opposition in verse 10 was maybe only in their thoughts, they were grieved that someone had come to look after the Jews, now they're being outspoken about it: 'Who do you think you are?'. They're laughing at them! But the fact of the matter is, when you go up a gear spiritually so does the devil! But remember, remember John's words: 'Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world'.
Finally, after that predictable persecution, there was confidence in God - and if you want all these headings I can give you them afterwards. Verse 20: 'Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem'. He had confidence in God: 'God will prosper us' - Hallelujah! He would not be discouraged by those who had no part in spiritual blessing! It's always the same, isn't it? The people who want to tell you what night of the week to pray on are the ones that never come to the prayer meeting, isn't that right? They'll tell you what you're doing wrong, but they're never there with you, they never strengthen their hand for the work! They're not sacrificially giving, they're not moving, they're not praying, they're not agonising, they're not encouraging, they're not supporting! But praise God for men and women who have confidence in God, because they know God has blessed them and they have proved God, and when men like that take a lead the people will say: 'Let us arise and build!'.
Where are you? Do you anticipate opposition? Are you contemplating sacrifice? Are you cultivating God's dealings secretly in your heart? Are you aware that you may have to await a vision of spiritual ruin? Are you prepared to be alone? Will you give people a frank appraisal of the situation, and even yourself? But will you be motivated by the encouragements in God's word, and will you take confidence in God? Does He have all of you? Are you completely surrendered to Him? Oh, I pray that today - we're all involved in the work in one way or another I hope - that we will be prepared, prepared for the work.
Father, help us, help us to surrender, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third tape in his 'Building For God' series, entitled "Preparation For The Work - Part 2" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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