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Nehemiah 11-12: Faithful Perseverance Print E-mail
Sunday, 12 June 2016

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I have recently decided to start swimming in the mornings at the YMCA. Everybody says it is a great way to exercise and I actually enjoy going, I even look forward to it on most days. Granted, I have only been doing it for a couple of months. And even this past week, I began to notice a little grumbling in my spirit. A little voice that was whispering as I swam my laps and fought for air: ‘Do you really enjoy this? Do you really want to keep doing this in the mornings? Are you really going to stay faithful?’ Do you ever feel that way about exercise? Do you ever feel that way about spiritual exercise? Do you ever just find yourself reading the Bible in the morning or getting ready for Church on Sunday wondering: ‘Am I really going to keep doing this?’ Beginning an exercise regimen is not difficult. Even doing it for a season is not that hard. But continuing to do it day in and day out is challenging. And the same is true of our spiritual lives.

So what do we do? How do we faithfully persevere? Although much has been said on this topic, I think we can learn some good lessons from the people in Jerusalem during the days of Nehemiah. The great work of building the wall to protect the city has been completed. We actually see them dedicate it in our passage this morning. God put it in Nehemiah’s heart to finish the wall and with the people’s help he was able to do it. Since the physical work has finished, Nehemiah has been leading the people in some necessary spiritual reforms. They are following the Law (through Ezra’s help). They are keeping the Sabbath’s and celebrating the feasts.  They have confessed their sin and owned up to their failures. But the work of worshiping God and building the Kingdom is never over. It goes on among God’s people until the last day. So what are some lessons that we can learn from these people to persevere in the work of God? Here’s what we should do:

We faithfully go where the Lord leads (11:1-12:26)

The first chapter and a half of our passage is another long list of names. Exciting stuff! There are several lists of names in Ezra and Nehemiah. So why keep giving us all of these names? The original readers of these books would have been able to identify and make connections with many of these names, so these lists serve to make a connection for them. For us, these names teach us that what we are reading really took place. There were real people building that wall and real people moving to Jerusalem to help protect the city. We even have their names. Finally, another reason is to honor those who faithfully served. Not all of the lists are honoring (the list in Ezra 10 is made up of those who were guilty of intermarriage). But the one in our passage this morning honors the families they represent.

For what are they being honored? Look at 11:1-2. Jerusalem had the temple and had the wall, but it was still not a safe place to live. In fact, the temple and the wall essentially painted a target on the city for the surrounding nations who might come looking for wealth and power. Also, very few homes had been completed at this point (see 7:4). It was not a great place to live. But those whose names were chosen by lot went and lived there. And it seems that some were willing to go without being chosen by lot. These men willingly offered to live in Jerusalem and the people blessed them. They were men from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin (v.3-9). They were priests and Levites and gatekeepers (v. 10-19), while the rest lived in villages surrounding the city (v. 20-36). We are even told of those who served as priests and Levites from the time the people returned from Persia (12:1-26). These men were being honored for serving the Lord by living and serving in the city of Jerusalem. They went where He told them to go. They were valiant men (v. 6) and mighty men of valor  (v. 7, 14). In order for the work of the Lord to continue, these men were willing to live in the city of Jerusalem.

Would you be willing to live in a different city for the work of the Lord? All of us have heard of missionary families who have rooted up their lives and moved to other countries for the glory of God. Perhaps the Lord is leading you to do that. There are many today who are moving to cities in North America to help plant churches in cities like New York or Cleveland or Salt Lake City. They are willing to follow God’s lead to continue His work. They aren’t pastors or professional missionaries or even super Christians. They are just normal believers who are willing to live sacrificially for the glory of God in the work of His Kingdom. Perhaps God is calling you do that. Are you willing to faithfully go wherever the Lord leads you?

We faithfully remember what the Lord has done (12:27-43)

After the list of names, we are told of the dedication of the wall. They had finished the work on the wall in chapter 6. Here we see how they celebrated its completion. Look at verses 27-30. They assembled the Levites to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing. The people had been mocked for this work. They had risked their lives for this work. Some had become poor because of this work. But the Lord gave them the strength to finish it. And they wanted to celebrate that with thanksgiving and gladness. In verses 31-42 we are told that Nehemiah gathered together two choirs to stand on both sides of the wall. Remember when they were mocked by Tobiah who said: ‘Yes, what they are building--if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall’ (4:3). Now the wall is holding up two huge choirs of men who are singing praise to their God for overcoming the opposition and finishing the wall. Who’s laughing now, Tobiah? Those who mocked are now put to shame by what God has accomplished through His people. And listen to how they celebrate. Look at verse 43. This was a holy party in the holy city. They laughed and they sang to the top of their lungs. And the sound of their rejoicing could be heard for miles around. Why? The author tells us: for God had made them rejoice with great joy! They celebrated all that the Lord had done for them.

Maybe you are thinking to yourself: ‘Sure, they celebrated the completion of the wall, but what has the Lord done for me that I should celebrate?’ Let me help you with that. You were dead in your sins and rightfully on your way to Hell. You were so blinded by your desires that you didn’t even know that you needed help, needed to be set free. If left to yourself, you would have wasted your life and never even known it until it was too late. But the Lord intervened. He opened your eyes to see what Christ had done for you at the cross. You got a glimpse of His perfect life, sacrificial, and victorious resurrection, and you could not turn away. He took away your desire for sin and rebellion and replaced them with a desire for that which brings true joy and satisfaction, namely Himself. And He has promised to One Day return and take you home to be with Him forever. So let me ask you: do you have something to celebrate? Brothers and sisters, may we never fail to remember the cross and all that God has done for us. It will not just bring us joy in the moment, but it will give us strength to faithfully persevere. Even this morning, as we come to the table to remember Christ’s sacrifice, may we celebrate and find strength to persevere.

We faithfully give what the Lord has commanded (12:44-47)

What about those whose names were not chosen by lot and did not live in the city of Jerusalem. What did they do to support the work of the Lord? Look at verses 44-47. As we have noted, the foreign kings gave most of the money that built the temple and the wall. They even gave money and resources for the worship at the temple to continue. But it would not be enough. And even if it would have been, the Lord had commanded His people in the Law to give to support the work of the priests and the Levites. So what did these people living outside of the city do? They gave. They gave of their fields and their produce just as the Lord had commanded them to give. They made sure that the servants of God had what they needed to minister at the temple. And they did not do it begrudgingly. We are told that they rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.

Reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). Perhaps the hardest part about giving is the command to do it with joy. We can give out of guilt, but the Lord commands to give out of joy. We delight to support the work of the ministry, whether that means the work of our local Church or local association, or the work of missionaries around the world. We rejoice over the men and women who are giving their lives taking the gospel to hard places. And we delight in supporting them. This year the IMB collected $165.8 million dollars through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It was the most that has even been given in the 127 year history of the offering (topping the previous record by more than $10 million dollars). As a Church, we were able to give and be a part of funding missionaries all over the world. What a joy! What a delight! May we continue to persevere in God’s work by faithfully giving as the Lord has commanded.

There will be many days as followers of Christ when we are tempted to not follow through with our commitments. We will want to stop reading the Bible and stop praying for that lost family member and stop going to church all the time. We will want to give in to our fight with sin and ignore the call to holiness. We will hear that voice in our head: ‘Do you really want to keep doing this?’ I pray that in those moments we will remember passages like Nehemiah 11-12 and the resolve of God’s people to faithfully persevere. They will not be perfect. In fact, we will once again see them struggling in chapter 13. But we can learn from their faithfulness here. We can learn to go wherever the Lord leads us, just as Jesus came to earth to pay for our sins. We can learn to remember what God has done for us, especially the work of Christ for our salvation. And we can learn to give as God has commanded because Jesus has given so much for us and millions are desperate to hear the good news. In these ways and more, may we faithfully persevere in the work of the Lord. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 04 July 2016 )

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