This sermon is number 4 in a series of 15
Building For God - Part 4
"Great Works And Their Beginnings - Part 1"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
We're resuming our series again, and this I think is our fourth morning on the series entitled 'Building For God'. We're going to look this morning at our study of chapter 3 under the title 'Great Works And Their Beginnings' - great works and their beginnings, because right at the beginning of chapter 3 is the start of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Of course we saw, at the very beginning, the man, the man that God chose for the hour, who was Nehemiah. He was a man of burden, he was a man of prayer, he was a man of action, and in the next two studies we looked in chapter 2 and chapter 1 at Nehemiah's preparation for this work. It wasn't just a matter of him seeing the need, and then getting up and doing something about it, but there was spiritual preparation and practical preparation that were necessary before he actually went to Jerusalem to do God's work.
So now we're taking up, as it were, the sword and the trowel, we're about to begin God's work in chapter 3. Now we're not going to read all of chapter 3, because it's quite a long chapter full of very difficult names and so on, but what we are going to do is look at individual verses throughout this chapter that teach us how great works have their beginnings. So keep your Bible open at chapter 3, and we will move from verse to verse occasionally throughout this morning's message.
The workers are beginning to build, and over 40 times we have this word mentioned in the book 'repairing' - and as you read down chapter 3, for instance take verse 8 just as an example, you find this word over and over again: 'Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall' - but you have that word 'repaired, repaired, repaired' right throughout the chapter, and indeed it's the theme of this book. The children of Israel are fortifying the walls that have been broken down, they're rebuilding the walls and the gates of Jerusalem that were important for the protection of God's people.
Now if I could just cast your mind back a few weeks to the very beginning of this study, we saw the importance of a wall not just for a city in these days of the Old Testament, but also for homes. You remember we read that in Deuteronomy 22 verse 8 Moses laid down in the law that 'When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence'. So every new house, building that was built, had to have a battlement, or if you like a wall or a fence around its roof - the reason being protection. Not just primarily protection from invaders without, but those who would be on the roof - whether it be children, or young people, or elderly folk - who may fall over the edge because there is no boundary of protection.
Now there is the same thought, we saw, in the battlement that was put around the city - it was to protect from invasion from without, and also from infiltration within of false deities, religions and armies of other nations. We went through the Bible, I hope you can remember at least, and we saw that the roof was often a place of communion and a place of retirement. In 1 Samuel 9:25, Samuel communed with Saul on the rooftop. In the New Testament, in Acts 10, we read of the apostle Peter going up to the rooftop to pray. We read of the rooftop as being a place of testimony, a place of witness, for in Matthew's gospel 10 and verse 27 the Lord Jesus said: 'What ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops'. So this was a living area of protection for you and your family, but it was also a place of communion, a place you could pray and meditate upon God's word. The reason why there was this fence around it was to protect you from falling out of that place, and protect it from others coming in and destroying it on you. It offered a place of protection and security.
Now around the city a wall or a fence also made it possible to cultivate spiritual lives without outside interference. You will know that the people of God in the Old Testament were continually following other gods of other nations, other deities, bowing down to idols of stone and gold and jewels - but this wall around Jerusalem proved to be a protection, at least at some times, to the infiltration of false deities and philosophies of religion coming among the people of God. Now the awful news that gave Nehemiah his burden was that that wall of protection had been broken down, and the potential spiritual decline and erosion of God's people because of that. We read in chapter 2 and in verse 13 the awful scene that Nehemiah saw: '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'.
Now can I make an analogy, indeed I believe a valid application, of these truths in Nehemiah's prophecy to the state and predicament of the church of Jesus Christ in the West today. The walls are broken down, the walls of protection, the gates to keep the enemy out have been opened up - many would say they have been destroyed and are lying in rubble, and the world is now infiltrating the church, and the church is now infiltrating the world. Wasn't it Horatius Bonar who said: 'I looked for the church and I found it in the world, I looked for the world and I found it in the church' - the reason being that our spiritual walls of protection that have been given to us by God to keep us secure internally and externally have been broken down.
Now chapter 3 is teaching us today, if it teaches us anything, that the ministry that we need in a day of dereliction like our day, is a ministry of building up for God again. We need to be a people who are willing to build up the church of Jesus Christ once more. We will see today how that is done, but before we go on any further can I ask you: are you a builder for God? We saw in the studies that we're doing on a Monday evening in 1 Corinthians, that the word 'edify' that Paul keeps telling these Corinthian believers to do for one another, simply means 'to build up'. Are we edifying people? Believers in Christ, are we building one another up? Are we building the church of God collectively through soul-winning and through encouraging and enthusing those believers in Christ and seeing them matured into the full man, the perfect man in Christ?
Warren Weirsbe said: 'Some people in the church are constructionalists, they're helping to get the job done. Others are destructionalists, they are busy tearing things down. The third group are obstructionalists, they create problems for the people who are trying to do the work'. You need not necessarily be someone who pulls things down, but all you need to do is just sit in the way lazily, lethargically with an inertia that cannot be from the Spirit of God, and prevent God working in the hearts of those whom He's using in this day and age. Which are you? Are you a constructionalist, a destructionalist, or an obstructionalist?
A constructionalist not only in the church, but can I ask you: are you a constructionalist in your own heart? Because the symptom of the walls of protection and security being broken down in the church is only a sign that those walls of protection and security, spiritually in our own hearts, have been broken down long ago. You see there are walls of protection in our own souls that we need to guard, that we need to cultivate, that we need to build up, and they will have a ramification and effect on the church of Jesus Christ if we are not looking after our hearts. In fact in Proverbs 25:28 Solomon said: 'He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls'. How is your spirit today? How are the walls of protection? We are instructed by Jude's little epistle that we as believers, he was praying for them in verse 20 at the end of his epistle: 'But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith'.
Now you're saved, perhaps, today - can I ask you: are you building yourself up? Are you moving on? Are you one step further this year with Christ than you were last year? Or have you got stuck somewhere along the way? Jude says we ought to be continually building ourselves up, look at how he goes on: 'praying in the Holy Ghost'. You might be praying, maybe you're not praying, but perhaps you are - but are you praying in the Holy Ghost? Are you seeing your prayers answered? Are you being guided by God as to what to pray for? He goes on: 'Keep yourselves in the love of God', meditating upon it, reading God's word, feeding your soul with the Scriptures, and then he finishes, 'looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life'. Looking for the coming, and living for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - not going to be ashamed if He should come today or this hour!
He talks about soul winning: 'Of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh'. Trying to win others from false doctrine and from pagan sinfulness, and winning people for Christ - boys and girls, mums and dads, and older people for the Saviour! This is my question today: where are you? Where are we as an assembly? But effectively, what will determine where we are as an assembly, is where you are in your own heart - have the walls of protection and security been broken down?
Well, if they are, hopefully this morning we can start rebuilding them again. Let me start exhorting you to do such under this first heading that I want you to see in chapter 3, the pattern for the work - the pattern for the work. Nehemiah had a pattern that he set these people to work by, and I believe there are definite spiritual lessons in this pattern. It was the pattern of the gates that you have mentioned throughout this passage of Scripture, there are spiritual lessons for us to glean here I believe. If you look at verse 1 you'll read that: 'Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel'.
Now, if you have been in Jerusalem, you may know that the sheep gate is just about on the North. If you can think of Jerusalem in a square sort of shape, well at the North - this is the old city I'm talking about - at the North there is the sheep gate. The sheep gate was the gate sheep destined for temple sacrifice were led as lambs to the slaughter through. Now I don't want to read too much into Scripture, but I want to show you the lessons that I believe are here for us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a pattern for the work of God always, and the first thing that we have to see is that the work must start at the sheep gate. The work must start at the place of sacrifice, that place where the Lord Jesus Christ bled for us and bore our sins. You cannot do a work for God or for Christ, unless you have first been to Calvary and been cleansed in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus.
In John chapter 10 the Saviour Himself said: 'I am the great shepherd: and the great shepherd giveth His life for the sheep', and the Lord Jesus entered through that sheep gate, metaphorically speaking, to go to His death on Calvary, to carry away our sins. Now listen: if you've never been to that place, and went through the sheep gate yourself, you cannot serve God. Maybe you've been wondering why trying to be a Christian has failed for you, and all your efforts to be a Sunday School teacher or a preacher, or going on evangelistic summer teams, has not worked for you, and you haven't got the buzz that everybody else seems to get, and you have never matured in your Christian life. Can I ask you: could the reason perhaps be that you have never entered through the sheep gate, you have never repaired the gate of the altar where you come by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance for salvation?
Can I ask some of you young people that have grown up in Christian homes, maybe your mother or your father or your grandfather or your grandmother have entered through that gate, but you have never built it up in your own heart, you've never been saved. Is that the reason why you're nowhere this morning? There's a lesson for us all in that. It was the only gate that was sanctified. There's a lovely truth about this gate: there were no bars or locks on the door, and isn't that a wonderful truth about the door of salvation? There's no locks or bars, you just come in by faith from the invitation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That was the first gate, now if you'll travel with me anticlockwise - you should know what that is after this morning - anticlockwise, that direction, and go round each of these gates, there's a lesson for us all in each of them. The next gate after the sheep gate, after you've been to Calvary, is the fish gate - verse 3: 'But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof'. The fish gate - do you remember the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples: 'Follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men'? I wonder are you going on with God, are you building for God, are you a fisher of men? Sometimes we reach an obstacle in our Christian lives, and we wonder why we're not going on - but if asked the question, 'Are you witnessing for Christ in the workplace? Are you talking to your family and friends about the Saviour who has died for them?', the answer would have to be 'No, I'm not', or 'I'm afraid to', or 'That's not my gift'. But the fact of the matter is that this fish gate needed to be rebuilt, as the church we need to ask the question: does the fish gate need to be rebuilt in our assembly? I mean, the effort that we make, the tangible literal effort to reach other people in this district for the Saviour, who are lost in their sins and on their way to hell.
How is the fish gate in your life? In verse 6 we read: 'Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof', of the old gate. There are in the Scriptures what are called 'the old paths', Jeremiah said: 'Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, Where is the good way?; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein'. 'The old paths' is simply a metaphor for the old truths of the word of God that have been handed down through centuries in the apostle's doctrine, the Bible.
We need to ask the question as the church, and as individuals: is the reason for the desolation in our day because the old gate has been broken down, and we are rejecting the old truths of God's word that generations past have seen fit to accept, and have lived in the good of them, because we feel in our human wisdom 'Well, we've got better ideas of how to God's work'. We saw last Monday night that the world is forever looking for some new thing, that's what the Athenians were striving after. One thing is common about the world and about worldly carnal Christians, and it is this: they harbour after the world's methods in rejection of God's basic truth which really works - and they refuse to go back to the old paths! I'm not talking about tradition here, I'm talking about God's word.
How are we when it comes to the old paths? There's the sheep gate, the fish gate, the old gate, and now look at verse 13 - we're still travelling around here anticlockwise round Jerusalem - verse 13: 'The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate'. First of all the valley gate - now valleys in the Scriptures often describe a place of humiliation, going through the valley. Of course, there's no greater example of that than in Philippians chapter 2, where the Lord Jesus, we see Him coming from heaven and being humbled to become a man and a servant; and being found in fashion as a man, humbling himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Well, in our Christian lives, we not only need to get to Calvary, we not only need right away after salvation to tell others that we're Christians and to try and win souls for the Lord Jesus, and follow the old paths of God's word that we have revealed to us in scripture; but we need to come to a place of humility, where we lower ourselves before God and submit ourselves and see ourselves as crucified with Christ - abase ourselves!
'Lord, bend that stiffnecked I,
Help me to bow the head and die,
Beholding Him on Calvary
Who bowed His head for me'.
How is that stiffnecked 'I' in your life? Me, mine, I. I've been reading recently the biography of Roy Hession, who is the man who wrote the book 'The Calvary Road'. He's just writing, and telling us how we are to humble ourselves at the feet of the cross and experience the filling of God's Spirit in our lives. But this book is called 'My Calvary Road', where he outlines how he saw this happen in his own life - and he says these words, I quote to you: 'In January 1947, I had a long-distance call to Dr Joe Church who was just returned to England from East Africa having experienced a deep and continuing revival in Rwanda. During our talk he said these words', listen carefully this is tremendous, ''The Christians of England, Roy, seem to have the strangest ideas of what revival is. They think it is the roof blowing off, when really it is the bottom falling out''. What a description of revival! 'They think it is the roof blowing off, when really it is the bottom falling out'. The bottom has to fall out before the roof blows off, you have to get to that point of humility before God, where you are totally and absolutely surrendered to Jesus Christ!
Now don't tell me all of you here today are totally and absolutely surrendered to Jesus Christ, because you're only making a liar of yourself! The top would blow off this church if that was the case! Where are you with regard to the valley gate? Does it need to be rebuilt in your life? We go on, we saw in verse 14 the dung gate: 'the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part...' - and we saw that the dung gate had to be repaired. Now what was the dung gate? Well, we believe that the dung gate was the gate of the city where all the waste and all the refuse was taken out of to cleanse the city. This is so important, yes we have been cleansed in salvation by the blood of Christ, and John tells us that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us, and goes on cleansing us from all sin - we don't need a second Calvary experience. What we do need is fresh cleansing every day before God in confession. We need to come before God - and listen, if you're in the valley and asking: 'Lord, touch me, and show me, search me O God', as we sang this morning, 'See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting' - if God shows you: 'Here, David, here's something in your life that needs to be put right', you need to put it out the dung gate! You need to cleanse yourself of that thing, it's really talking of repentance.
Did Paul not say in 2 Corinthians 7:1: 'Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God'. Where are you with regard to the dung gate, my friends? What is in your life that ought to be carried out that gate? You're asking why God maybe isn't blessing you, I'm asking you: has God not put His finger on something that's not right in your testimony, and you have done nothing about it, when you should be carrying it out that dung gate, and cleansing yourself and perfecting yourself in the holiness and fear of Almighty God?
In verse 15 we have the gate of the fountain: 'But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun', he built up again the gate of the fountain. Now water in the Scriptures often referred to the Holy Spirit of God, and I hope that you remember that our Lord Jesus Christ in John's gospel chapter 7 and verse 37 said: 'In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)' - but Jesus is glorified today! He is in heaven, a glorified Man at the right-hand of the Father, and therefore we can enter through the fountain gate. Oh, but there are a few gates to get in through before the fountain gate - you've got to come to Calvary. I believe you've got to confess Christ in witness, you've got to come to the place where before God you debase yourself in humility at the valley gate, the dung gate, you need to cast out all that sin that's in your life - and then you will know the filling of the Spirit of God at the fountain gate!
Can I ask you where you're stuck today? Can you ask yourself why you're stuck there today? I think many Christians, could I say most - I don't know, maybe I'm wrong - most are stuck at the sheep gate. They've got through and that's about it, and they haven't gone any further!
Then we find the water gate in verse 26, that's nothing to do with Richard Nixon! Verse 26: 'Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out'. Now we're told in Ephesians 5:26, Paul prayed that the Lord would sanctify and cleanse the church of Jesus Christ of all the filthiness by the water of the word of God. I believe that this signifies, the water gate, the word of God - and it's interesting that it's the seventh gate mentioned in chapter 3, and the word of God is perfect. Psalm 119 says: 'Thy word, O God, is settled in heaven', and the interesting thing about this gate here is that there were no repairs needed, no repairs necessary! Isn't that remarkable? You don't need to add to God's word, you don't need to take it away to be perfect - all you need to do is accept God's word and go through that gate!
Then we find after the water gate there is the horse gate in verse 28: 'From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house'. The horses would have come in because of warfare - the armies of the people of Israel would have went in and out that gate on horseback. You know, we as Christians, as 2 Timothy 2 tells us in verses 3 and 4 are to be soldiers of Christ, enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ - and Paul said to Timothy: 'No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier'. Now listen my friend: you're saved, you may have witnessed now and again in your lifetime, have you gone to the valley where you've submitted yourself before God and surrendered to Him, cast out of your life all the filth and sin, and allowed the Holy Spirit to enter in in all of His fullness? Are you reading God's word and being sanctified in it day by day? And are you a soldier, are you fighting for the Lord Jesus Christ? If you're not in a battle today, I question whether you're a soldier, at least whether you're truly following after the Lord! You should be in some battle somewhere if you're going to be a good soldier!
Then in verse 29 we see the East gate: 'After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate'. Now in scripture the East gate signifies the coming, the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ - in Matthew 24:27 the Lord Himself said: 'For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be'. He will come from the east - are you looking, are you waiting, and are you watching for the coming of the Lord Jesus? Maybe the reason why your walls are broken down in your heart is that the reality of the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ is not a reality in your life? In fact, if Jesus were to come back again today, you would be disappointed. You wouldn't be able to execute your plans and get up to the things you have wanted to do in your life. Are you watching, are you waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus? Is the truth of the second coming of the Saviour prevalent within the church of the living God today? Is that why the walls are derelict and broken down?
Then the last gate in this chapter is verse 31: 'After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad', note that word, 'and to the going up of the corner'. 'Miphkad' is in Hebrew word for 'judgment', Miphkad. This is the judgment gate, signifying 'appointment' is the literal meaning, 'a count or census'. It's the idea of troop coming before the Commander for review and for criticism. What you have here is the full picture of the Christian experience - follow round with me as we tour round it. The sheep gate where we're saved; the fish gate where we confess Christ and share Him; the old gate where we take up the truths of God's word and follow in them; the valley gate where we surrender ourselves totally and completely to the will of God; the dung gate where we repent continually of anything in our lives that is displeasing to God; the fountain gate where He fills us full of His Holy Spirit; the water gate where day by day we sanctify ourselves, as it were, continually washing ourselves in God's word; the horse gate as we fight these battles of temptation and witness; and the East gate as we look for the coming of the Lord Jesus; and the judgment gate as we, as believers, await the judgment seat of the Lord Jesus Christ - and then we come back to the sheep gate, full circle.
There are two other gates mentioned in this book, the gate of Ephriam and the prison gate, which bring the number of these gates up to 12 - which we know in Revelation 21 is the number of the gates in the new Jerusalem that one day we will inhabit. My question I'm asking you this morning - this was only my first point - but the question is this: there is a pattern for doing the work of God in the life of the believer - you can't just get saved and say: 'Well, I'm just going to have God use me, and I'm going to go into this work or that work or the other work, or I want this position in the church, or that position - there is a pattern whereby God works! You can fill that role or that office, whatever it may be, but if you want God to bless, if you want the Spirit of Almighty God to come into your life, into your home, into your church, and really see a work done for the Saviour, you need to follow God's pattern! You need to start at Calvary:
'It was down at the feet of Jesus,
O that happy, happy day'
The burdens are lifted at Calvary! Are you saved? Are you witnessing? Are you submitting yourselves, daily taking up your cross and following Him? Are you abasing yourself? Are you continually repenting of the sins in your life? Are you filled - that's a question not for charismatics or pentecostals, but Bible-believing Christians! Has the bottom of your world fallen out, so that the top of your head may blow off with the blessings of Christ? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you experiencing the blessings of God's word in the water gate? Are you fighting God's battles with Him from the horse gate? Are you looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus from the East gate? Are you living in the light of that judgment gate, where one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and every man's work shall be manifest, for the day shall declare it because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work according to what it is?
My friend, are we doing God's work according to God's pattern? You see if we're not: we need to, like Nehemiah, go on a tour round all those gates, and rebuild them one by one - and then, maybe, we'll begin to know the blessing of God personally and corporately as God's people.
That's only my first point, come back next week and you'll get the next two on great works and their beginnings.
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 fourth tape in his 'Building For God' series, entitled "Great Works And Their Beginnings Part 1" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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