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Personalities Of The Old Testament
NEHEMIAH Ė Great Duty Cannot Be Shirked!
Nehemiah 6:11

 1. One of the great heroes of the Bible is Nehemiah. This man displays an extraordinary character. A study of Nehemiah reveals the practicality of the Bible. Although its beginning is ancient, the people described could be our contemporaries. The setting of their stage is different from our modern society, but the dramas of their lives resemble life today. Their problems are like our problems; their duties are like our duties. From their efforts and achievements comes encouragement for us to be steadfast in faith to God.

2. What do we know about this great hero named ďNehemiahĒ?

 Not many people are named Nehemiah in our current day. This is sad because the name envisions heroic courage and unwavering resolve. All would be much better for possessing the integrity which Nehemiah possessed. 

 The history surrounding Nehemiah begins with the capture of Judah and exile in Babylon. From the captives Nehemiah descended. The Persians broke the power of Babylon. Nehemiah was in Susa, the capitol of Persia. He was an official servant to the Persian King. Some of the exiles had returned under the leadership of Ezra. They had begun to repair the destroyed city of Jerusalem but had been stopped by jealous opponents. A group of Jews had come to Susa to see the King.  Nehemiah learns of the deplorable condition of the returned exiles and the capitol city, Jerusalem.  Nehemiah could have remained insensitive to the conditions. He could have reasoned that he was secure and safe and he could not do anything about the far away city. However he looked at the situation totally differently and the whole Book of Nehemiah is the record of what this one man did.

 The life of Nehemiah is well summarized by the question recorded in Nehemiah 6:11. He was a man of integrity, concern, courage, and, most important, faith in Jehovah God.

 Here is the story of a man who was gripped by a great purpose in life. He refused to be deterred from this purpose. He refused to be shaken, discouraged, or threatened. He refused to be intimidated. His was an absolute trust in Jehovahís power! He never thought of himself but always of God (there are 14 prayers in 13 chapters!). This is the key to his success.

3. The heroic ATTITUDES of Nehemiah.

 The Book of Nehemiah discusses how the walls surrounding Jerusalem were rebuilt and the ďremnantĒ of Israel was restored so the Messiah could appear. The book offers an interesting study on how Godís people are to work and what perils will confront them. Nehemiah faced discouraging sarcasm (4:1-6); personal attacks (4:7-23); slander (6:1-14); disunity (5:1-19). 

 There is one motivational force behind Nehemiahís heroic deeds.  He was committed to a great purpose in his life. The work of God was overwhelming to him. He could not but act as he did because he really saw no other alternative but to serve God with his whole heart. This realization produced these attitudes:

 a. CONCERN for Godís Cause (1:4).
  Nehemiah was concerned for God MORE than for himself. He never calculated his involvement for personal advantage; fears for his own safety were ignored; temptations to slide out from the obligation of his responsibility were forgotten.

  The book begins by describing Nehemiahís great concern for Godís Cause. He had a secure position in Persia, but he heard there was a need for his services in Jerusalem. His concern would not allow him to be blind to his duty! Because of his concern, he left security, riches, comfort, prestige, and power.

  All Christians ought to have this same concern today. Cain is remembered because he held no concern for his brother (Gn 4:9). This poses a personal question Ė How concerned am I about Godís Cause? (Cf Mt 9:36-37).  It is Godís desire that the lost be taught the Truth (Ac 17:30) but the lost are not being taught because too many are unconcerned. There are many who would become Christians but they will not because someone is not concerned enough about their soul to talk to them. As you look upon the lost condition of the world, are you ďconcernedĒ as Nehemiah was (1:4)?

  Nehemiah recognized that he was needed in order for Godís Cause to proceed. We are also desperately needed. Will we share this heroic attitude?

 b. CONFIDENCE in Godís Cause (1:5, 8).
  Nehemiahís confidence is seen in the way he acted. He went to a pagan King and pled for the right to rebuild Jerusalemís wall. This could have been viewed as an act of treason. Notice 1:8-11 and observe the prayerís confidence in God (cf Dt 4:25-27, 30-31b).

  This confidence is seldom seen in our day. We need to recommit ourselves to the fact that we can be confident in Godís power (Is 55:10-11; Ps 19:7-11; 2 Ti 3:15; Hb 4:12). This attitude of confidence is critical (2 Sa 22:31).

 c. COOPERATION in Godís Cause (1:11).
  Nehemiah did not put the entire responsibility upon God Ė he wanted to do whatever he could to help. His confidence in God is evidenced by his cooperation with God. He was not only confident that Godís Cause would triumph, but that Godís Cause would triumph because of his efforts!

  This is a key attitude if Godís Cause is to be victorious! Many people profess their belief in Godís Cause but they are unwilling to cooperate (Jas 2:17). We can pray all day for the salvation of the lost and believe the Bible has the power to save lost souls, BUT God cannot save them without our help (cf Mt 9:36-38).  We can wish for a stronger congregation but without the cooperation of each member a strong congregation will never materialize (cf Hb 12:14-17). If Godís Cause is to triumph then you and I must cooperate (1 Jn 2:14; Is 6:8). 

  If Nehemiah had remained in Susa, Jerusalemís wall would never have been completed. Should we remain uncooperative the Cause of God will never triumph!

 d. COURAGE in Godís Cause (6:11).
  The courage of Nehemiah is demonstrated over and over. Even though the book begins with his confession that he was ďvery much afraid,Ē he did not yield to his timidity. No matter how fearful and unattractive the course before him was, Nehemiah refused to be timid. He faced a situation that seemed impossibly hard; he faced discouragement; he was slandered by bitter people who were opposed to anything he sought to do; all his efforts were ridiculed and mocked; he finally faced lies. The situation he faced was difficult but he did not dodge the issue. He knew that Godís Cause demands his best service and so he courageously served in spite of all the difficulties. Nehemiah was immovable. He was pressing on to do Godís will. Finally his enemies hired someone from within Jerusalem to intimidate Nehemiah. They told this turncoat to do everything possible to discourage and dishearten Nehemiah so Godís Cause would not proceed. The saboteur went to Nehemiah and with feigning sincerity said he had discovered a plot to assassinate Nehemiah. He told Nehemiah that the only safety was hiding in the Temple. It was a lie but Nehemiah did not know it. Nehemiah brushed the threat aside and said the courageous words of 6:11.

  This same courage is always expected from those serving God (cf Josh 1:7; 23:6; 2 Chr 19:11; 32:7; 2 Sa 13:28; 1 Co 15:58; 2 Ti 1:7-9; Rv 21:8a; etc.). Even though we face difficult issues we cannot dodge them. Sometimes courage demands we take unpopular actions (Mt 10:34-39). It takes courage to stand against slander that is spread by bitter enemies of God. Everyone tried to get Nehemiah to quit. Everyone tried to scare Nehemiah. But Nehemiah would not quit! He had made up his mind to serve God!

  The courage of Nehemiah led him to be UNCOMPROMISING in his service to God (6:2-4). Nehemiah refused to compromise with the enemies of God who asked him to stop building the wall and meet with them. Nehemiah  refused to compromise with his own people who asked him to be more flexible in his attitude (6:17-18). He refused to compromise when a letter writing campaign was launched against him in an effort to smear his reputation (6:19). There is a tremendous lesson here that should bolster our courage Ė DO NOT be intimidated into compromising Godís will no matter the source! 

  When faced with alluring invitations to compromise, to cease the work for Godís Cause, Nehemiahís response was very clear Ė ďI am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down?Ē (6:3). What heroic courage and conviction!

4. The Troublers of Nehemiah.
 One of the most amazing lessons from Nehemiahís life is that his experiences tell us how to identify the troublemakers. In every place where Godís Cause is being worked, the Devil has his troublers at work to dishearten. This happened to Nehemiah. The troublemakers did their best to get him to stop, but he refused to shirk his duty. Consider the account and observe the process by which Godís Cause is hindered by Satanís troublemakers.

  a. Step One Ė Sow seeds of doubt regarding oneís sincerity.
  There is an attempt to mock or ridicule Godís worker so s/he will not be taken seriously (2:19). The mockery will try to sow seeds of doubt as to the purpose and intent of your efforts (19b). 

  How do you respond to such? Do as Nehemiah did. Respond in a courageous, confident way (2:20).

  b. Step Two Ė Hurl barbs that cause suspicion to arise.
  There will be an increase of the mockery but it will soon turn to ridicule (4:1-3). 

  How do you respond? Do as Nehemiah did. Respond in a courageous, confident way (4:4-5). There is no mercy for those who treat Godís Cause with such contempt.

  c. Step Three Ė Begin active interference; increase verbal attacks.
  When the ridicule fails to intimidate you to stop, the next step will be to threaten you (4:8). The Devil leads his evil followers to increase their threats, even to the point of violence.

  How do you respond? Do as Nehemiah did. Respond in a courageous, confident way (4:9). Take action to protect yourself; defend yourself. Recognize that some of your brethren may be fearful and you need to assure them with your courage (4:13-23). 

  d. Step Four Ė Offer compromise as a way of stopping hostilities 
  When threats do not deter you, Satanís forces will recognize that outward actions are useless Ė your defenses are up and you are vigilant for attacks. Satan then attacks where you least suspect him Ė by issuing an invitation to compromise! The VERY ONES WHO SLANDERED YOU, WHO RIDICULED YOU, WHO THREATENED YOU, now plead with you to talk! (6:1-2).

  And this sounds so-o-o wonderful! So-o-o welcomed! No more fighting! No more slander! No more cursing! All can be ďworked out.Ē All you need to do is go to the plains of Ono and meet with the Devilís followers. It sounds so tempting, especially when you are exhausted by the first three steps!

  How do you respond? Do as Nehemiah did. Respond in a courageous, confident way (6:3-4). Recognize that you cannot negotiate a peace treaty with Satan. The Truth is nonnegotiable. Refuse to meet! Refuse to compromise! Refuse to go to Ono!

  e. Step Five Ė Renew and strengthen attacks.
  When you refuse to compromise and cease working in Godís Cause, Satanís forces once again launch an offensive. They begin a new round of slander but this time broaden the scope.  They send out letters with lies and false accusations (6:6-7). The letters are false but some will believe them. 

  How do you respond? Do as Nehemiah did. Respond in a courageous, confident way (6:8). You are doing a good work. You are following Godís will. The slanderous letters may be believed but you know they are ďinventedĒ by those working for Satan seeking to destroy Godís work. You must trust in God to reveal to others the lies and evil hearts of those sending out the poisoned letters (6:9).

  f. Step Six Ė Enlist sympathizers to undermine support.
  When slanderous lies cease to stop you and you continue to hold fast to Godís Truth and work in His Cause, the Devil will enlist support from within the congregation (6:10-13). Nehemiah faced opposition from without the congregation.  This was understandable. But when he discovered that there were those within who were sympathetic  to the Devilís forces, it was discouraging. Incredible to find that some were inside Godís congregation but supportive of Satanís efforts to wreck Godís Cause (6:19). 

  How do you respond? Do as Nehemiah did. Respond in a courageous, confident way (6:14). Understand that Satanís army will infiltrate and seek to divide and destroy (2 Co 11:13-15). The Devil has always sought to stop Godís Cause by gossip and backbiting. Satan has always had ďspiesĒ who were happier in ruining Godís Cause than supporting it (6:19).

  NOTE: These six steps are repeated even in our time. This is one example of how practical the Bible really is!

 5. Nehemiah is indeed a great hero of the Old Testament! There is an urgent need today for Christians to imitate his attitudes. We are faced with great opportunities and obligated with great duties. Let us not shirk them. We serve a mighty God and our service ought to be just as Nehemiahís was. 
 

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


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