Nehemiah 11 - God Still Uses Willing Volunteers

Dr. Steve Viars December 28, 1996 Nehemiah 11:

- Remember that the last time we studied Nehemiah (on December 15th - the first Nativity weekend where we had joint SS), we found God's people making a signed covenant with the Lord.
- The details of the covenant are recorded in chapter 10.
- some of the highlights include the fact that they were promising to follow the Scriptures (verse 29)
- they were promising to raise their children in a way that pleased the Lord (especially regarding the person they allowed their child to marry)
- they spoke about the way they were going to conduct business, especially with reference to not working on the Sabbath day
- and then the majority of the covenant had to do with their promises to support the temple, both financially and with their labor.
- the chapter ends with the words "Thus we will not neglect the house of our God."

- now the next chapter discusses a major problem the people faced, and how this problem was solved.

- READ 11:1-2

- We're talking this morning about how "God Still Uses Willing Volunteers."

I. The Challenge - An Underpopulated City

- The issue we're reading about in chapter eleven had actually been:

A. Alluded to in chapter 7

- please look at 7:1-4 - READ

- So Nehemiah was aware that this problem had to be faced, and he had been concerned about it ever since the wall had been completed (and perhaps before).

- Its important to note that the problem wasn't solved until after the "spiritual work" occurred in chapters 8-10.
- When we see the way the problem of underpopulation was solved, it will become more obvious why the spiritual work of chapters 8-10 was an important prerequisite to the problem being solved in chapter 11.

B. Why this "challenge" occurred.

- The city of Jerusalem had been without a wall for 142 years.
- This was very important in ancient times because it was impossible to defend a city that did not have a strong and well fortified outer wall.

- You may remember back to the first chapter where it was reported that the people of God had become a reproach because the city had no wall.
- There was a direct relationship between a city's wall and the way that city was viewed by the enemies around.
- In this case, the lack of a wall gave the enemies of a God a reason to laugh and scorn.

- Now that so much time had passed, moving back into the city was going to require sacrifice.
- Imagine moving back into a city that had been unoccupied (or sparsely occupied) for that long a time.

- cf. Sirloin Stockade -- after only a few months the building starts looking run down, weeds start growing up in the asphalt, etc.

- perhaps you've visited a ghost town on one of your family vacations --- imagine moving your family into such a place to live.

C. Why this was important to solve.

INPUT - Why do you believe this would have been an important issue for the Israelites to handle?

1. people needed to protect the city.

- Even now that the wall was in place, the city still needed a host of people to defend it from attack.

2. People needed to work in the temple.

- the temple had been completed previously by the group led by Ezra, but now the temple had to be staffed.

3. To complete the work God had called them to do.

- there would have been no point to finishing the wall and finishing the temple and then leaving.
- the wall and the temple were not ends in themselves, but means to the end of God being glorified by a vibrant, unique people living and worshipping in Jerusalem.

- So the overall point is --- This problem had been alluded to back in chapter 7, and now (after the spiritual gains made in chapters 8-10), its time to tackle this problem and get it solved.

- let's talk now about:

II. Those Who Stepped Up To Meet The Challenge

- We're not going to read each verse in chapter 11 this morning, but I would like us to focus in on 5 groups that are especially noted.

A. Those who volunteered.

- verse 1 speaks about how the people cast lots so that 1/10th of the people would live in the city.
- It's interesting that the people had promised to tithe from their possessions in the previous chapter to support the they are tithing a tenth of themselves to support the city.

- Verse 2 goes on to talk about those who volunteered, and how they were especially praised by the people.
- There are different opinions on the relationship between those in verse 1 and those in verse 2.
- It seems to me that it is best to view those in verse 2 as an additional group of people who volunteered either before or after the lots were cast.
- Some writers think the people in verse one and the people in verse two are the same---the problem with that view is ---- being chosen by lot is hardly volunteering!

- the bottom line is --- there is a group of people who loved God, and loved God's city so much that they VOLUNTEERED to move themselves and their families into the city the city walls and take up residence there.

- As you read that verse, you can't help but being struck by the fact that God uses similar methods to accomplish His work regardless of the time period in question.
- that’s why we named the lesson, "God still uses willing volunteers."
- that’s exactly what was happening in Nehemiah's day, and that exactly what happens in Christ's church today.

- When I read these verses, one of the groups I thought about was our missionaries.

- Also, as I read these verses I thought of our upcoming SS realignment.
- Undoubtedly, there will be those who would have preferred to be in a different group for some reason. (not saying we wouldn't honor some of those requests)

- Change is often difficult...but focusing on what these men and women were willing to do because of their love for God should encourage us to willing change as well.

B. Those who worked willingly within the temple.

- read 11:10-12

- Here's a group of people who cared for the sacrifices, and prepared for worship, and handled all the details that went along with the expression of their faith and obedience to OT law.
- there was a need for people to live inside the city walls and perform these tasks, and these people were willing.

C. Those who willingly worked outside the temple.

- read 11:15-16

- There's differences of opinion on exactly what the outside work involved.

- Some emphasize the care of the temple building and the grounds.
- others speak about the spiritual work that was done outside the temple building, like settling disputes, etc.

- Regardless of what was exactly in focus in this passage, here's another group of people who saw the need and were willing to step up to the plate and get the job done.

D. Those who led by praying.

- read 11:17

- Isn't it interesting that of all the things that could have been mentioned, Nehemiah spoke of the importance of having "prayer warriors" in place.

- We've seen throughout this book that Nehemiah was a man of the Scriptures and a man of prayer.
- We saw that early on in the period of time between when he received the news from his brother and when he spoke to the king.

- We've seen in repeatedly as Nehemiah has spoken a quick "telegraph prayer" at a special time of need.

- Now he speaks about a special group of people who were willing to minister to the people in prayer.

E. Those who sang in the services at the house of God.

- read 11:22

- Again, isn't it interesting, that of all those who could be mentioned, those who sang are singled out?

- the overall point is --- there was a need for people to move back into the city so the worship and daily life of God's holy city (cf. 11:1) could be restored...and God used volunteers to get that job done.

- let's spend the rest of our time thinking about:

III. Lessons From This Chapter For Today

A. Much of God's work is done through willing volunteers

- I Cor. 16:15

- II Cor. 8:5

- Judges 5:2

- All through the Scripture we see the importance of cultivating a willing heart.

- INPUT - Perhaps you've heard the statement, "In many churches, 90% of the work is done by 10% of the people." While I don't think that statistic would hold true here, what is wrong with a church to whatever degree that is true? Please give as many biblical reasons as you can.

- Of course the obvious question that flows out of all of this is, are you a willing volunteer? Are you a willing servant?

(could develop -- characteristics? what does one look like?)

B. Volunteers often abide in the ranks of the "willing unknowns."

- Swindoll's term

- An interesting thing about this chapter is that on one hand, many names are mentioned (like chapters 3, 7, 8, 10), on the other hand....many names are not mentioned.

- cf. poem -- "In Flander's Field"

- go through some of the names involved in our church history --- hasn't been that long ago, but many of their names are unknown.

C. Every labor done in love is remembered by God.

- cf. Hebrews 6:10

D. Our final rewards will be determined by faithfulness, not public applause.

I Cor. 4:2

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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