Leading after Accomplishments

Rob Green May 20, 2018 Nehemiah 6:15-8:12
Outline

2 characteristics of godly leaders

I. Find Comfort in God when Life is Depressingly Empty

A. It can be depressing when you realize there is more work to be done even after a great accomplishment

1. The excitement of the completed wall

Nehemiah 6:15-16 - So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

2. The need for leaders and guards

Nehemiah 7:1-3 - Now when the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed, then I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. Then I said to them, “Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot, and while they are standing guard, let them shut and bolt the doors. Also appoint guards from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, each at his post, and each in front of his own house.”

3. The need to repopulate the city

Nehemiah 7:4 - Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few and the houses were not built.

B. God provides evidence that he is actively working

1. God raised up godly people despite the condition of the nation

Nehemiah 7:2 - …then I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.

2. God multiplied his children in emptiness to reestablish his nation

Jeremiah 29:4-7 - Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”

Jeremiah 52:28-30 - These are the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away into exile: in the seventh year 3,023 Jews; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar 832 persons from Jerusalem; in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile 745 Jewish people; there were 4,600 persons in all.

Nehemiah 7:5-6 - Then I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up first in which I found the following record: These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city.

Nehemiah 7:66 - The whole assembly together was 42,360

3. God established criteria to determine who belonged to the nation

II. Rejoice that God Fulfills His Promises

A. The reading and explaining of the Scripture reestablished God as their King and God’s word as their law

1. All the people were gathered to listen

Nehemiah 8:5-6 - Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”

2. The goal was not just reading, but understanding the law

B. The joy of the Lord is your strength

Nehemiah 8:9-12 - Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.”

Our annual theme is Being Careful How We Build. The theme applies at a ministry level because we are adding a third campus with the associated ministries. The theme applies personally because we need grow every year.

  • We have learned that the gospel is the foundation of our building. No other foundation is solid enough to support our life and ministry.
  • We also concentrated on the things that the Lord is building like the church and our heavenly home.
  • Nehemiah learns that the nation is still a mess. The nation is not a nation with God as its king and his word as the law.
  • He appeals to Artaxerses for permission to go, for provisions for travel and building, and for letters to show that he has the king’s approval.
  • He scopes out the task and then carefully and skillfully assigns each person to the work.
  • Whether opposition and intimidation come from outside or whether it arises from within (in chapter 4 it comes from outside, in chapter 5 it comes from within, and in early part of chapter 6 it comes from both outside and inside) Nehemiah remains dedicated to the task.
  • Gates were rehung
  • 2.5 miles of wall has been rebuilt
  • The job has been accomplished.
  • Everyone around the entire project acknowledges God’s blessing and the book closes.
  • His position as a leader at the time is in danger of being lost. In fact, it will be lost a few chapters later.
  • So the Bible describes his family alliances through marriage and the fact that he is sending threatening letters.
  • For a student it can be doing really well on a test. You have this moment of joy over doing so well. You might even acknowledge that God blessed you by helping you study the right things.
    • Then you get up the next morning and realize that the semester or your educational program is far from over.
  • For a parent it can be seeing something really amazing happen in the life of your child. Then you realize that they are 7 years old and there is a lot more work to be done.
  • For a person serving in a ministry you can have a great ministry victory only to realize that you have a new level of stewardship responsibility.
  • You complete one house project only to realize that you have 6 more that need done and they are bigger than the one you just finished.
  • There is more to be done.
  • What lies ahead of you might actually be more important than what you have accomplished. That is certainly the case for Nehemiah. In fact, I tend to think that the first several chapters are the introduction to the real purposes God raises up Nehemiah.
  • Everyone realizes that the completion of the wall in 52 days was a remarkable accomplishment. They realize that God had to be involved. But they also realized that we have a long way to go.
  • Listen what God did in chapter 7
  • God worked anyway. God worked in some hearts and molded them even though the proper structures are not there.
  • Sometimes you hear that the person grew up in a Christian home and had every opportunity to learn Christ from the very beginning. Praise God that they are still walking with the Lord.
  • Sometimes you hear that a person grew up in total chaos. Their home was a disaster. Yet, God worked anyway.
    • Somehow he worked in the heart of a 10 year old girl to walk to church because her parents would not take her.
    • Somehow he worked in the heart of a 15 year old boy whose neighbor befriended him.
  • God raised up some men with construction skills to build VOH. It has many extras that were not paid for. Then God raised up Jocelyn Wallace to lead for several years.
    • Everyone would tell you that the building part was only the first part of the ministry. There was and is much work to be done.
  • Restoration ministry. We needed someone who would take that responsibility. Greg has been that person. He has done a fabulous job. Along with him have been many volunteers with just the right skill sets that have worked together like perfectly meshing gears.
    • But the success has led to more work to be done.
  • Brent and the seminary. The easy part was deciding to start a seminary. The hard part has been doing the work of the ministry. Today there are graduates all over the US and around the World. The vast majority of which are in full time ministry today.
    • In one of our accreditation meetings they were all wound up that the seminary was too dependent on one guy. We understood their point. But here is the reality.
    • The seminary was built and is dependent on one God … and that God knows how to grow, prepare, and provide leaders at a moment’s notice.
  • In chapter 3 we emphasized points like (1) every skill set was involved (even the perfumers) (2) Dividing the task into manageable pieces where Nehemiah divides the wall between some 40 sections and (3) honoring people by naming them.
  • Jeremiah explains that the nation of Israel will be destroyed. But in the midst of that time, there will also be hope. In vv. 10-11 which we considered earlier … there is a promise that the nation will be a nation and the covenant will be reestablished.
  • In 70 years they went from 4600 to 42000. Not bad in that timeframe given the fact that it takes about 20 years to grow a generation.
  • About 100 or so people decided to attend the West campus. You could ask, what happened at East then? Did we stop ministries because people went over to West?
  • If you traced the last 5 years you would find that God has been raising up people all along for both campuses.
  • But essentially the scenario was this … let’s say that a person claims to be a priest, but they cannot find his family line connected to the proper genealogy. Then what? They used the Urim and Thummim to see if he was mistaken or lying or whether he belonged to the priesthood.
  • Then, it is possible for the reality of the situation to set in. There is much more to do.
  • Rather than be discouraged by that, find comfort in the God who develops leader without perfect conditions and reminds you that he is providing the resources you need.
  • When is the last time you read your Bible in your favorite chair for 8 hours?
  • It motivates us to pray for our political leaders. If the president is supposed to uphold and protect the constitution then we can pray that our president knows the constitution. How else could he properly fulfill his office?
    • It would help us to remember that our political officials are not there to make us happy but to carry out the founding documents of our nation.
  • It motivates us to remember that we are a community of believers in Christ who are supposed to follow Christ as our king and his word as our law. Do we actually know what Christ desires?
    • Roles in marriage (1 Peter 3:1-7 connecting to 1 Peter 2:21-25)
    • Roles in family (Eph 6:1-4)
  • Their children grew up in this new language environment. We understand this today.
  • Sometimes families who move the US have children born in the US.
    • Some of those children are able to converse in their parent’s language, but they are more comfortable in English.
    • Then, their children are born and they may learn a little of their grandparent’s language but they do not have competence in it.
  • There is a difference between hearing and understanding.
  • But if God is going to be their king and his word is going to be their law then they have to both know the Word and they have to understand what it looks like to live it out.
  • In our roles … husbands we have to know what living with our wives according to knowledge looks like. We have to know it for sure, but we need more than that.
    • We need to understand (picture of half dome). One of the things I have understood about living according to knowledge … it has caused me to do things I would never otherwise do and experience blessings I would have never experienced.
  • The Bible tells me I need to take up my cross daily and follow Christ. (picture of camp counselor). This is after my junior year of college. Are those awesome shorts or what? I served as a camp counselor.
    • I learned that I never wanted to be in camp ministry. I also learned that I loved serving and teaching and discipling. It was self-denying service for Jesus.
  • It is true for the gospel message itself. There are people in churches, maybe even here this morning, that say that they believe the facts of the gospel. But you have never understood that you cannot earn your way to heaven. You have never understand that when you trust Christ you then live for Christ. If you are here this morning and you do not have a clear answer to the question of “If you died today and God should say to you Why should I let you into my heaven? What would you say?”
  • If you know Christ, but you are a baby with respect to his Word. I encourage you to get involved in an ABF (explain Ephesians study) … FCI
  • Maybe you would say I would benefit from mentoring or counseling in order to understand more about what it looks like to live this way. Now is the time.
  • But one of the steps was building a wall.
  • When they finished they all recognized that there was much more to do. We see their discouragement in chapter 8.
  • But there are many reasons to take comfort and rejoice when you are living according to the will of God.
    • He provides the necessary resources, even if you don’t see them right away, he gives us his word to read and ultimately to understand.

Building, whether corporately or individually, requires work and leadership. Therefore, we have turned to the book of Nehemiah.

God exiled his people in Babylon because they continually rebelled against him. However, he also promised in Jeremiah 29:10-11

Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

After 70 years, around 536 BC, God began to restore the nation of Israel. Nehemiah occurs about 90 years later. The nation is not yet a nation nor is the covenant fully reestablished.

Therefore, around 440 BC God raises up Nehemiah to help the nation become a nation with God as their king and his Word as their law.

As we read Nehemiah we should be thinking about the following truths:

  1. We are watching the plan of God unfold and his promises being fulfilled. The freeing of the nation by Cyrus, the change in policy from Artaxerses, the provision of material, and the spirit of unity among those in Israel are small pictures of God’s work in their life to accomplish his will.
    1. Along the way we are continuing to gain confidence in God’s plan for our lives rather than doubt God’s existence or God’s working in our lives.
  2. We are rejoicing at the restoration and reconciliation that God provides even after grievous sin by the nation. Despite the fact that the nation rebelled against God by seeking other gods, through immorality, and through lack of honesty and humility, there was a willingness on God’s part to bring them back, to heal their land, and to reconcile with them.
    1. That is a great reminder to us that reconciliation with God is always possible even if we have done some awful things.
  3. We have also been thinking about how to lead toward the accomplishment of God’s will and his plan. Nehemiah, as a person chosen by God, carriers out his task in a dedicated way. Even though God is not asking us to help the nation be a nation with God as their king and his Word as their law, God is still asking us to accomplish his will and purpose in our life.
    1. Thus, we have been thinking about what we can learn about Being a Godly leader.

With that in mind I ask that you turn in your Bible to Nehemiah 6:15. That is on page 352 of the front section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

Do you remember that long list of names that I had last time in Nehemiah 3? Maybe I should, but I don’t often look at all the passages I need to preach in advance. When it was time for Nehemiah 3 I opened my Bible and got to work. When I opened my Bible to Nehemiah 6-8 I started laughing. 73 verses of names. Seriously? Apparently 32 verses was not nearly enough.

So, here is what I am going to do. I have a really long passage of text this week from 6:15 all the way to 8:12. Instead of reading it all up front I am going to read enough to get the basic story line and then work my way through the text in more detail as I go.

We need a quick review of Nehemiah to pick up where we are …

Read 6:15-19 … the wall and gates are up … 7:1-4, 73 … despite the awesome wall and the gates no one actually lives here … 8:2, 9-10 … the beginnings of reestablishing the nation as a nation with God as the king and his word as their law. We have a very exciting passage historically and a helpful one practically.

In our passage, we are going to consider Leading After Accomplishments.  More specifically we are going to consider two characteristics of Godly leaders who lead after a major accomplishment.

I. Find Comfort in God when life is depressingly empty (6:15-7:73)

Victories are awesome. It is fun to celebrate the victories. But one of the possible challenges is that shortly after a victory …

A.     It can be depressing when you realize there is more work to be done (6:15-7:4)

Chapter 6:15-7:4 described a series of important events and realizations.

  • The excitement of the completed wall (6:15-19)
  • The need for leaders and guards (7:1-3)
  • The need to repopulate the city (7:4)

The Bible says that the wall was done in 52 days. This is an amazing accomplishment. Nehemiah, by God’s grace, had rallied people from all over in order to accomplish the rebuilding of the wall.

All the opponents had to acknowledge that this feat was so amazing that only God could have been behind it.

If the book of Nehemiah were about a wall then the book would end right here.

But a wall is not what they were building. Nehemiah is there to help establish the nation as a nation with God as their king and his word as their law.

His enemies understood that. You see Tobiah was very well connected. Verses 17-19 explain some of the family relationships he has.

These letters lead to what we find next.

The job is not finished. Yes, building the wall was an accomplishment and yes it was clear that this could only be done by the blessing of the Lord. But this fight is not over. We still have threatening letters coming.

So Nehemiah selects a few other leaders and gives some specific responsibilities in order to secure the city.

But then … they started looking around at each other.

Do you see what is happening? The wall is rebuilt. There is a great victory of establishing the capital city in 52 days. We even have a few leaders with instructions on how to provide security to the nation.

But then everyone looks around and sees that the city is not very populated. They see that the good news is that we have a wall. The bad news is that very few people live inside it.

We still do not have the nation as a nation with God as their king and his word as their law. That is one of the reasons that victories can often be followed by times of discouragement. The discouragement comes from the fact that there is so much more work to accomplish.

I think that these moments can be a bit discouraging because you know you cannot simply rest on what you have accomplished. The Lord’s will is bigger than the task you completed.

But here is where you can find comfort.

B.      God provides evidence that he is actively working (7:3-73)

Maybe I should have labeled this point that God provides evidence that he is not finished working.

  • God raised up godly people in spite of the condition of the nation (7:2)
  • God multiplied his children in emptiness to reestablish the nation (7:5-73)
  • God established criteria to determine who properly belonged to the nation (7:64-65)

I glossed over it earlier, but this time, I want us to see how Hanani and Hananiah were described. The Bible says that they “feared God more than many.” Even though the nation is still struggling. Even through the covenant has not been reestablished. Even though there is not proper worship occurring.

Friends, one of the things that we do in the YC ABF is have several testimonies a year where we learn about what God has done in people’s lives.

God raised up some leaders. They were evidence that God was still working.

As you think about the ministry we have seen lots of great victories through the years.

That is not all that God did.

Remember in chapter 3 where I had to read all those names? There were lots of them. There are more this time, but the purpose of the names in chapter 3 is not the same as the purpose in chapter 7.

Nehemiah 7’s list of names is different. To fully appreciate the purpose we need to remind ourselves of a couple other passages.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5              ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7 ‘Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’

Jeremiah 29 is essentially good news in a book about bad news. Jeremiah is writing to the nation telling them they are going into exile.

In vv. 4-7 there is a promise that while in exile God promises to increase the size of the nation.

So you might ask, well, how many left.

Jeremiah 52:28-30 - 28 These are the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away into exile: in the seventh year 3,023 Jews; 29 in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar 832 persons from Jerusalem; 30 in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile 745 Jewish people; there were 4,600 persons in all.

Wow. The nation was destroyed. I am not suggesting that only 4,600 people survived the war. I am suggesting that many were killed and the remaining important people were taken.

How does this relate to Jeremiah 7?

Nehemiah 7:5-6 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogies. Then I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up first in which I found the following record: 6 These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city

Nehemiah 7:66 The whole assembly together was 42,360

Here is what happened. In Nehemiah 7:4 they realized that the city was still in danger. The walls were up, but who was there to defend them? In the midst of that discouraged state notice what happens.

God gives Nehemiah an idea. Go find the record of those who returned from Babylon years ago. So we get 60 some verses of names of those who returned from Babylon.

That was a great reminder that God indeed keeps his promises. He told them that they would multiply even in exile and here is proof that God knew that in order for the nation to be a nation with God as their king and his word as their law there would need to be some people. He had it covered.

Again, we can look around. When we started Faith Church West we needed to populate it.

Is there an initial shock after accomplishing something and realizing there is much more to do? Of course. But there is also a God who demonstrates that he is actively working.

There is something else that God was doing…

There are several reasons why this is important. I will highlight just a couple of them. First, because there were certain positions that required a national Israelite. God cared about all the nations for sure. But his chosen people also had certain roles that required a natural born Israelite. For example, priests needed to come not only from Levi, but from Aaron.

Nehemiah 7:64-65 These searched among their ancestral registration, but it could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood. 65 The governor said to them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest arose with Urim and Thummim.

This last note about the Urim and Thummim is that this was something God provided to discern his will. It is not something we have today.

Second, there was a constant question of who is really on your side and who is not.

Nehemiah 6:10-13 When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” 12 Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me.

This point is important because Nehemiah did not want to populate Jerusalem with a bunch of traitors or those who could be easily persuaded by a bribe.

Sometimes we have victories. Sometimes there is a portion of God’s will for our life that is completed.

That may sound like the prosperity gospel there. Just have hope that God will make all your dreams come true. But just as we have been emphasizing the fact that the wall was not the crucial issue… it is establishing the nation as a nation with God as their king and his word as their law. Look what happens next.

II. Rejoice that God fulfills his promises (8:1-12)

This is not just a put your mind to it and God will give it to you. We are still in the process of watching God fulfill his own promises.

From chapter 8:1 to the end of Nehemiah there is a focus on the establishment of the nation. Thus, the promise of Jeremiah 29:10-11 and the establishment of the nation will take the next 5 chapters to define. There are a number of parts that go into that process. What we find are several of those parts in chapter 8.

A.     The reading and explaining of Scripture reestablish God as their king and his Word as their law (8:1-8)

First on the list is the reading and explaining of Scripture.

  • All the people were gathered to listen (8:1-3)
  • The goal was not just reading but understanding the law (8:4-8)

I can only imagine the joy the people had to listen that day as the law of God was read by Ezra the scribe. Did you notice how long he read the text? He started in the morning and finished about mid-day. The man read the Bible for like 8 hours.

If you are going to establish the nation as a nation with God as their king and his word as their law then they need to know what it says. There can be no compromise.

Friends, this provides applications at so many levels.

In chapter 8 we see that the purpose was not just to read, it was to understand. In fact, according to v. 8 we even have some translating taking place.

When the people went into exile they had to learn a new language.

That is what we have. Some people would have learned Hebrew and could have understood. But there were others who needed it in Aramaic to understand properly.

So part of the task was to be sure that people could hear the Word, but they were also interested in understanding!

Again, I move to today. We are a people chosen by God to live his glory and his plan. We have to know God’s word and how we are supposed to function for him. But we need something more. We need understanding. We need to know what it looks like.

We need this understanding.

The passage concludes by reminding us …

B.      The Joy of the Lord is your strength (8:9-12)

Everyone understands that the job is not done and the danger is not gone. But Nehemiah, Ezra, the teachers of the law explain that today is a day of rejoicing.

If God is happy you need to be …. God preserved you in exile, he brought you back in numbers, he helped you build the wall, he raised up godly leaders, and now has reestablished the covenant. God is happy about that … you are all depressed and bummed out. What more does God need to do to make you happy?

At the end of v. 10 it says the joy of the Lord is your strength. When you are moving in the direction that God wants you to move, when you are living according to his will for your life, there is joy.

There is an old hymn that said, There is joy, joy, Joy in serving Jesus; Joy that throbs within my heart; Every moment, every hour; As I draw upon His power; There is joy, joy, Joy that never shall depart.

Friends, Nehemiah is not about a wall. It is about the nation being a nation with God as their king and his word as their law.

Then, our relationship with Jesus provides the strength for life.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.