External Opposition to God’s Work and the Response of God’s People in Nehemiah 2

I’d like to look at the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah today and zero-in on a particular theme. And that theme is – the opposition to God’s work, and then the proper response that we as God’s people should have to that opposition. 

The theme of enemies who oppose the work that God was doing through Nehemiah is found often throughout this book – especially in chapters two, four, six, and thirteen. We’ll just focus on what’s revealed for us in Nehemiah 2 this morning. 

Opposition in Nehemiah 2:9-11 

So, let’s look at Nehemiah 2 and verses 9-11 in which we get the first hint of opposition to God’s work in this book. 

Neh 2:9 [After getting the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it…] Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters.  

Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. 

So, that’s a good thing! God was sending this godly leader to help his people to do the work he wanted them to do. Who wouldn’t rejoice about this? Verse 10… 

10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the {servant, the Ammonite,/Ammonite official} heard of {it/God sending Nehemiah to help God’s people and rebuild their city}, {it grieved them exceedingly/it was very displeasing to them/they were very much disturbed} that there was come a man to {seek/promote} the welfare of the children of Israel. 

11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 

The Opposition 

So, note the parties involved in opposing God’s work. We’re given two names. Sanballat and Tobiah. They are not Jews – they’re not God’s people. And interestingly, this list of opponents increases as we continue in this book. 

Now, how is this opposition expressed? The enemies of God’s people are grieved or displeased or disturbed. They’re happy when God’s work is hindered and God’s people are disadvantaged. But when it looks like God’s work is going to go forward,… not so much. So, these enemies start off with some negative emotion but they’re not really acting it out just yet. 

So, that’s the opposition.  

The Response of God’s People 

Now, how does Nehemiah – the godly servant of the Lord – react to this opposition? Verse 11 seems to indicate that he just ignores them completely. And that’s sometimes what we need to do with external opposition to our serving the Lord – just ignore it and get to work. There is a time for that. 

OK, so that’s the first hint we get that certain people are opposed to the work that Nehemiah is doing for the sake of God’s people.  

Opposition in Nehemiah 2:17-20 

From there Nehemiah goes on his now-famous midnight ride around the city to survey the damage that’s been done to the wall and what needs to be fixed. 

Then he speaks to his fellow-Jews in Nehemiah 2:17 

17 Then said I unto {them/Nehemiah’s fellow-Jews},  

Ye see the {distress/bad situation/problem/trouble} that we {are in/have},  

how Jerusalem {lieth waste/is desolate/lies in ruins},  

and the gates thereof are burned with fire:  

come, and let us {build up/rebuild} the wall of Jerusalem, {that/so that} we be no more {a reproach/in disgrace}. 

18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which {was good upon/had been favorable to/was gracious to} me;  

as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  

And they said,  

Let us {rise up and build/begin building right away!/start rebuilding}.  

So they {strengthened their hands for/put their hands to/readied themselves for} this good {work/project}. 

So, again, this is great. God’s people are encouraged and ready to start the work he wanted them to do! Right?  

Not so fast. Verse 19… 

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the {servant, the Ammonite,/Ammonite official} and Geshem the {Arabian/Arab}, heard {it/all this/about it}, they {laughed us to scorn/mocked us/derided us}, and {despised/expressed contempt toward/ridiculed} us, and said,  

What is this thing {that ye do/you are doing}?  

{will ye rebel/Are you rebelling} against the king? 

20 {Then/So} answered I them, and said unto them,  

The God of heaven, {he will prosper us/will give us success};  

therefore we his servants will {arise and build/start the rebuilding}:  

but {ye/as for you, you} have no {portion, nor right, nor memorial, in/just or ancient right in/claim or historic right to} Jerusalem. 

The Opposition 

So, what is the opposition doing now? They’re not just grieved or displeased emotionally. Now they’re scorning and laughing at God’s people and God’s work. They’re mocking with the intention of discouraging Nehemiah and his co-workers. And they’re even insinuating that what Nehemiah is doing is wrong – it’s rebellion against the king! 

And did you notice that the list of enemies has increased? We saw the familiar names Sanballat and Tobiah. But now there’s this new character – Geshem the Arab! So, the opposition is both intensifying in nature and increasing in number. 

The Response of God’s People 

Well, what’s Nehemiah’s response? Note that before the intimidation from the enemies, Nehemiah was communicating the great need that he and his fellow-Jews had. He put before their eyes the great danger they were in and how they were in a humiliating condition. 

But then he gave them a picture of what things could be like if they followed the Lord and did his will of rebuilding those walls. Nehemiah related to the people God’s providential support of their work – both directly and even as mediated through the ungodly human Persian king that Nehemiah served! And the result was that Nehemiah strengthened the hands of the workers. 

And even after the enemies tried to discourage him and his people, Nehemiah remained undaunted. He communicated his rock-solid faith that God would be with them to help them as they obediently and faithfully served him in this endeavor. 


So, may the Lord help us to face with an undaunted determination any opposition we might experience as we try to do God’s will. Let’s remember the ways in which the Lord’s hand has been so clearly displayed in our lives bringing us to this point. And let’s endeavor to strengthen each other to do the work that God has for us. 

Nehemiah 13 KJV Sermon, About, Explanation, Sunday School Lesson

This is our 16th lesson in our study through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And if you’re keeping track, today we’re on the last chapter of Nehemiah.

Next time I plan to have us overview the book of Esther. And then we’ll spend 5 more lessons studying through that book in its entirety. I’m excited about that study. I think we’ll learn a lot from a book that we might not know as well as we think we do.

Well, this study through Ezra and Nehemiah has been quite a ride, hasn’t it? We started back in Ezra chapter 1. There we saw the Persian King Cyrus issue a decree that allowed all Jews to return to their homeland. We saw a number of the Jews take advantage of Cyrus’ decree. And the descendants of the ones who didn’t return we’ll learn about next week when we study the book of Esther!

Once the people got to their homeland they gave a lot of money to the Lord’s work of restoring the Temple. But the people really seem to have lapsed in their dedication to see that work even start. In fact it appeared that God had to kind-of stir-up the hearts of the enemies around the Jews to frighten the Jews and thereby get them to start the work of rebuilding the Temple. So the Jews started rebuilding the Temple.

They rebuilt the altar and the foundation of the Temple – the ground upon which the Temple would rest. And when they had these two items completed they celebrated. They were so thankful for God’s mercy and providence in leading them back to the land and helping them start the work. They rejoiced so loud that others heard. These others certainly weren’t rejoicing that God’s work was being accomplished. And so these enemies opposed the work the Jews were doing. They hindered the rebuilding of the Temple. As a result, that work was stopped for over a decade.

The situation looked bleak. That is, until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah came and preached to the people. With renewed vigor, the leaders Zerubbabel and Jeshua led the people in rebuilding the Temple. Then they celebrated the completion of that Temple. They even celebrated the Passover there.

Then we have several decades of silence between Ezra chapter 6 and Ezra chapter 7. In Ezra 7, we finally see the namesake of this book – Ezra. He was a priest and scribe. He knew God’s word very well. And King Artaxerxes sends him and a group of Jews with him back to Jerusalem to – get this – make sure that the Jews are keeping the Law of God. What a perfect job for Ezra.

After an extended exposition of how he got to Jerusalem, he finally gets there and takes a little break for a few days. What did Ezra find when he got to Jerusalem? The people had been intermarrying with pagans. That’s what was happening in those decades since Zerubbabel passed off the scene. So the rest of the book of Ezra details how he dealt with that issue of disobedience among God’s people.

That brings us to the book we’re finishing today – the book of Nehemiah. You recall that the book started out with Nehemiah hearing that the Jews were not well as a people and that their city was desolate. So Nehemiah got permission from King Artaxerxes who gave him leave to come to Jerusalem. We’ll find out today that Nehemiah was there in Jerusalem for 12 years. What’s amazing is that within the first few months of arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the Jews managed to fend-off fierce opposition and to rebuild the walls.

After that the people started re-inhabiting Jerusalem. They also entered the city and made a number of resolutions and promises. Do you remember the promises they made? What was the nature of those promises? You could boil them down to what they were promising not to forsake. The Jews promised God that they would not forsake his word or his place of worship. In particular they promised not to forsake the Temple, not to treat the 7th day of the week as common, and not to marry pagans. Remember those three particulars for the rest of this lesson – Temple, Sabbath, Intermarriage.

Then last week’s lesson. Having made their resolutions, the Jews celebrated the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem. There was great joy and rejoicing. Do you remember that? The people had separated themselves from the pagans like Sanballat and Tobiah. They were paying their ministers for their sacred services and rejoicing in those ministers. To summarize Ezra 1 to Nehemiah 12, verse 47 ends on this note: “And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.” Wonderful. The Jews did right when Zerubbabel was around and when Nehemiah was in charge.

Nehemiah 13:1-2

So with those very happy facts in mind, let’s enter into Nehemiah 13. We’ll start by reading the first 3 verses.

On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; 2 Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

So this section starts off on a good note. The people are reading in the law again. It’s always a good thing to be reading God’s word. And they find a particular passage that reminds them that Ammonites and Moabites must not be allowed to enter the congregation. Why? Because almost 1,000 years ago when Moses was bringing the people up into the Promised Land, these two groups hired that old false prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites. But the God of the Israelites back then who was still the same God of the Jews in Nehemiah’s day, he turned that curse into a blessing. But because of this action, God forbade Ammonites and Moabites from entering the assembly of God’s people. So the Israelites kick out the “mixed multitude.”

Nehemiah 13:4-7

Now, is this a good thing? You say, “Well of course it is! They’re obeying God.” You’re right. But here’s my point. How did this mixed multitude get back in amongst the Jews? Remember that during the Jews’ New Year’s observance (ch 9) they separated themselves from all foreigners. Let’s read verses 4-7 for some help in understanding this concerning situation.

And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: 5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests. 6 But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king: 7 And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

OK, let’s try to piece together what happened here. Nehemiah originally arrived in Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes. He returns to the king in the 32nd year. That would seem to indicate that Nehemiah was in Jerusalem for 12 years – maybe the whole time, maybe part of the time, I don’t know. But his presence was there for 12-some years. He left eventually. Maybe he thought his work was done. Who knows? We don’t know how long he was gone or why he returned. But some time had passed and Nehemiah, in Babylon, apparently wondered how the Jews were doing. So he came back. And what did he find? The obedient joy-filled rejoicers of Nehemiah chapter 12? No. He found a priest named Eliashib. He’s just a regular priest, not the high priest. We hear about the high priest at the end of this chapter. But Eliashib the priest did something really bad. He allowed an Ammonite to enter into the congregation of God. The name of that Ammonite? Yes, Tobiah, our old enemy. Why would Eliashib do such a thing? Note that the text says he was related to Tobiah. I wonder how that happened… The Jews haven’t intermarried with pagans again, have they?! We’ll see. But for now, the main issue Nehemiah discovered is that Tobiah, a most unholy and antagonistic enemy of God and his people, was given a room in the holiest building in the holiest place on the face of the world by a man who was supposed to be holy to the Lord – a priest. So does this situation give you an idea of the broader context? Does it make sense now why the people are needing to kick out the pagans all over again? Even a priest among the Jews let the pagans in. He gave him access to their most revered building.

Nehemiah 13:8-9

How do you think Nehemiah felt about this? How would you feel if you were him? Let’s read verses 8 and 9.

And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

Nehemiah wasn’t indifferent about Eliashib’s profaning of the Temple by giving a pagan a room in that very Temple. It grieved him sore! He took appropriate action based on his holy grief. So he threw all of Tobiah’s household stuff out of the Temple and had the rooms ritually purified. Then Nehemiah returned all the things that had been cleared away to make room for Tobiah.

Nehemiah 13:10

Now, of course we all understand that Tobiah was allowed to reside in the Temple. We’re probably all bothered by that. But have you gone any further than that? Has it occurred to you that the Temple is a pretty happening place most of the time? With all the sacrifices and the ministers to offer those sacrifices, the place must have been continually busy. How was it that Tobiah could have found any extra room in the Temple with all of this activity going on? Let’s read verse 10.

And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

So the Levites and singers were gone. Where did they go? To their fields. Why did they return to their fields? Because the people weren’t paying them to minister. So here’s how I think Eliashib’s mind worked: “Well, the people aren’t paying us ministers, to the point that most of us have left the ministry and gone to work secular jobs. So these days the Temple is pretty quiet. There’s a lot of room, now that the Levites and singers are all gone. And Uncle Tobiah or cousin Tobiah or whomever he was to Eliashib – this guy is wondering if I could put him up in Jerusalem. There’s room here in the Temple. Surely, no one would notice. It’s not like there’s anything going on in the Temple these days anyway…” And so Eliashib let Tobiah the pagan Ammonite into the Temple. I assume Tobiah is one of the foreigners whom the Jews kick out earlier in this passage.

Nehemiah 13:11

So the Levites had to return to a life of farming. Is that such a bad thing? Let’s see what Nehemiah thinks. Read verse 11.

Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.

So Nehemiah finds fault with the rulers. Apparently it was they who should have been ensuring that the ministers were getting their pay. And what does he ask them? “Why is the house of God forsaken?” How/in what manner do you think Nehemiah asks this question? Narrative is interesting because it leaves a number of things unsaid. But at the same time it gives us clues and draws us into the story line so that we should get a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I imagine Nehemiah a bit bewildered. I can imagine the meeting between him and the rulers. He’s standing there looking at each one of them. The rulers are silent. Nehemiah asserts his question to them – “Why?” No response… Why is it such a big deal that the house of God had been forsaken? I mean, beyond the fact that God’s things ought never to be forsaken, there’s something else. Do you remember two lessons ago when the Jews were making their New Year’s resolutions? They wrote a number of promises and had everyone sign their name to it. Do you remember the last promise they made? They uttered this promise — “we will not forsake the house of God.” And what had they done now? They forsook the house of God. They broke their promise to God. And in this light, Nehemiah’s bewilderment is understandable.

Nehemiah 13:12-13

But Nehemiah doesn’t remain incredulous and bewildered at God’s sinning people. He acts to correct the wrong that had been done. Let’s read the details in verses 12 and 13.

Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries. 13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.

So Nehemiah influenced all of Judah to start bringing the ministers’ salary to the Temple once more. Then he put some people in charge of distributing this pay to their brothers. I think it’s interesting that Nehemiah assigns one person from each ministerial group – a priest, a Levite, and a scribe. They had a reputation of faithfulness. So they could be trusted to carry out their office.

Nehemiah 13:14

This was apparently a fairly big burden for Nehemiah. The Jews had broken their promise to God. They indeed did forsake the Temple. Nehemiah had put his name to that document they all signed. I sense that he’s concerned about that – that a promise that he had signed on to had been broken. And so he talks to God about it. Read verse 14.

Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.

Nehemiah was one of the ones who promised not to forsake God’s house. So he’s concerned that God remember his best efforts at getting the people to take care of God’s place of worship.

I haven’t given the message a title yet. This is kind of becoming my custom. But one reason I haven’t done so is really because I’m not quite sure what this last chapter intends to communicate to us. Is the message focusing on Nehemiah and his faithfulness? Should we be focused on the Jews who broke their covenant yet again with their God? Are we supposed to be yearning for a ruler of the Jews – perhaps a King of the Jews – who would take his people’s best intentions of not forsaking God and make these intentions an internal matter so that God’s people wouldn’t stray anymore? By the end of this chapter, God still has not forsaken his people, despite their awful forsaking of him. Are we supposed to be encouraged that God won’t forsake those with whom he’s entered into a covenant? The fact is that all of these ideas are probably in view here. Now, this is a jarring chapter. It’s one that starts on a very high and positive note. But then Nehemiah pulls the rug out from under the reader with the harsh reality of sin among God’s people. So what’s the message of this chapter?

Whatever else the passage may be aiming to communicate, I do know what I see here. I see a godly leader – Nehemiah. I see him correcting God’s sinning people. And so I think I can’t go wrong by pointing out that the activity of this chapter – and subsequently the title of this message – is “A godly leader corrects God’s sinning people.” Again, I’m guessing that there’s something deeper in view. But on the surface at least, this is what’s happening in this chapter. So, we’re seeing a godly leader correct God’s sinning people. Nehemiah did this when the people sinned by forsaking God’s house. Without even consulting Eliashib or Tobiah he threw the latter’s stuff out of the Temple. Nehemiah reprimanded the rulers for neglecting to ensure that the ministers were paid. Then he got God’s people to start doing right in that area and appointed those who could perpetuate that pattern of obedience.

Sometimes as a godly leader in a home or in the church or anywhere else, you’re going to need to make decisions that are unpopular. This fact probably doesn’t surprise you. When you know something is right to do and you have the authority to make sure it’s happening, sometimes you don’t need to form a committee to make sure everyone’s OK with you doing it. You just need to do it. And sometimes you need to confront those who should know better and should be doing right. But for whatever reason they’re not doing it. And in those cases a bewildered question like “why are you forsaking God?” is all you’ll be able to utter in your dismay.

Nehemiah 13:15

Well, I’m sure glad Nehemiah corrected God’s sinning people. But if you think his work is over, you need to keep reading. Nehemiah saw a few more things that were very disturbing. Let’s read verse 15.

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals.

Nehemiah 13:16

The people were doing secular common work on the 7th day of the week. And what is Nehemiah’s response? He testified against them. This term has somewhat of a range of possible meanings. It can mean testify. It can mean admonish. It can mean warn. It can mean to bear witness. So what Nehemiah did was to verbally address these people and call attention to their sin. Now, who were the people who did wrong in verse 15? All we know is that these were some people in Judah. And they were breaking the Jewish Sabbath ordinance. But did you know that it wasn’t just the Jews who were involved in this? There were some Gentiles involved as well. Read verse 16.

There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 13:17-18

These men from Tyre were selling on the 7th day of the week – even in the holy city Jerusalem. How does Nehemiah deal with these folks? He actually addressed not the men of Tyre but the men of Jerusalem. Let’s read verses 17 and 18.

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.

Nehemiah takes his complaint to those in charge. He again asks a question to God’s sinning people – “What is this that you’re doing? You’re treating the Sabbath day as common!” The reasoning Nehemiah gives next is really thought-provoking. He appeals to them to do right on the basis of their fathers’ sins. One of the major reasons God sent Judah into Exile is that they would not observe his Sabbath days as he prescribed in the Law. God let the people return to their homeland only after the land had enjoyed some Sabbath rest. The last statement in Nehemiah’s confrontation of the people indicates that at least in his mind God’s wrath had already been kindled against the Jews. By sinning in this way they were adding to that wrath.

As a godly leader when you try to correct God’s sinning people, it is appropriate to point out to them their sin. Its right to point out what that sin has done to others in times-past. God’s wrath was spent on Christ, ultimately. But his wrath is still revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness.  It’s upon the sons who are characterized by disobedience. “Why”, you can ask God’s sinning people, “why are you acting like one of those toward whom God is wrathful?”

Nehemiah 13:19-22

But a godly leader doesn’t just admonish people to do right. He actually helps them along in doing right. Let’s read verses 19-22.

And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. 20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath. 22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.

So when it started getting dark before the 7th day of the week Nehemiah would have the gates shut. When the 7th day ended the gates could be opened. This should have settled the issue. And yet the merchants didn’t get the hint. So Nehemiah needed to be pretty direct with them. He was going to lay hands on those people if they spent the night outside the wall again! And I love the follow-up that Nehemiah states – “from that time forth they didn’t come again on the Sabbath.” Then Nehemiah had some of those Levites come who recently came back from their career as farmers. He made them gate keepers, so that Nehemiah wouldn’t need to be continually involved in this process of making sure that the Sabbath was observed to the specifications of the Mosaic law.

So as a godly leader, it’s appropriate to put up barriers that would help those who are under you to obey God and walk in his ways. As godly leaders an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you know that a certain friend or activity is a bad influence on those who are under your care then it’s appropriate to change their situation to avoid these things.

Now what was the big deal with keeping the Sabbath, you wonder? Well of course the Lord commanded the children of Israel to keep it in the Law. But also do you remember that this too was a promise that the Jews made to God along with their promise to nor forsake the Temple? Yes, the people in their New Year’s resolution promised to observe the Sabbath and not buy any wares on that day. But just like their promise regarding the Temple, they broke this promise as well. And Nehemiah doesn’t want to be associated with the rebellion. So he prays to God as we saw at the end of verse 22.

Nehemiah 13:23-24

So when Nehemiah was away the people did play. They forsook the Temple. They broke the Sabbath. What else could they possibly have done? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the same sin that Ezra confronted almost 30 years ago. Read verses 23 and 24.

In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: 24 And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people.

So in opposition to God’s command that no Ammonite or Moabite should enter God’s congregation, some of the men had married these pagan women. And the product of these marriages was not wholesome. None of the offspring from these relationships held to a Jewish identity. They didn’t identify with God’s people. The Jews weren’t being an influence on the pagans. It was exactly the opposite. The pagans were influencing the Jews – and even how they raised their children.

Nehemiah 13:25-27

This was very troubling to this godly leader. I think it’s in this last section that we see the extent of Nehemiah’s desperation. Let’s read verses 25 through 27.

And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. 27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?

How is this for conflict management? What book out there is going to counsel you in your disagreements with others to strike them and pull out their hair? Stop and think about this. What did Nehemiah do? What was the content of his cursing? I doubt it consisted of vulgarity like we think when we speak of cursing. Was he calling down God’s judgment against them? Was it something a little less harsh? What about the striking? He got close enough to hit some of these people. Did he strike with an open hand – kind of like a slap? Or did he ball-up his fist and let it fly? Did he use a rod? Where was he aiming? For the face? The shoulder? The mid-section? And as for this pulling out hair, did the person whose hair was being pulled stand still? Was the person running as Nehemiah yanked some hair out of his head or beard? Really, this can be somewhat humorous to think about. But it certainly wasn’t a laughing matter with Nehemiah or those who married the pagan women.

I think that it goes without saying, but I’ll say it any way. I wouldn’t advocate this kind of action to us today. Nehemiah was in a different position than we are. But can we agree about something? It’s OK as a godly leader to get heated. If not, then what do we make of Jesus making a whip and driving people from the Temple? The zeal of the Lord can consume us. But be careful that it is the Lord’s zeal and not your own selfish zeal.

Nehemiah also makes the people swear that they won’t marry pagans again. And if you’ve followed the plot line in Ezra and Nehemiah this can be almost amusing. The people didn’t follow their first vow to not intermarry with pagans. They didn’t follow their second vow. What’s to say this new oath would be any more effective in stopping this aberrant sinful practice? Well, Nehemiah makes them swear anyway. What else can he do? Then Nehemiah reminds the people of a great king of old – Solomon. How does he fit with this situation? Well, remember that Solomon was one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history. God set his love on him even as a child. Do you remember that? In 2 Samuel 12 God sent Nathan the prophet to Solomon’s parents – David and Bathsheba. He let them know that God loved this child. So they actually gave him a second name – Jedidiah, which means beloved by the Lord. He’s the only one to whom that name was given. And God as you know gave Solomon great possessions and great wisdom. God even personally appeared to this man and let Solomon ask him for whatever he wanted. Solomon was a man who was loved by God. And yet how do we see his life end? He married pagan women. And what did they do to him? They turned his heart from the Lord. Nehemiah’s argument is: “If someone as favored by God as Solomon was caused to stumble by these foreign women, are you really going to fare any better?”

Nehemiah 13:28-29

The most irksome part for Nehemiah was that this transgression wasn’t limited to the lay people. The ministers were involved in it as well. Let’s read verses 28 and 29.

And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.

We saw an Eliashib at the beginning of this chapter. He was just a priest. This Eliashib that we just read about is actually the high priest. The former Eliashib was related to Tobiah. Who is this Eliashib related to? Sanballat. And actually it wasn’t Eliashib the high priest himself who did the wrong. It was his grandson. Nehemiah drove this man away. Why? Because, as Nehemiah states in his prayer, this young man had defiled the priesthood. Leviticus 21 tells us that the high priest needed to marry a virgin among the daughters of his people. Any one of the sons of the high priest could potentially become the high priest himself. So by marrying a pagan, this son of Joiada had defiled the priesthood and broken the rules concerning whom the high priest must marry.

There’s a time for godly leaders to separate from those who are doing wrong. But beyond that, Nehemiah made it a matter of prayer. This situation was so concerning to him that he turned from praying for himself to praying regarding these priests who defiled their covenant. His is not really a prayer for restoration. It’s a prayer that God would remember them for the evil they’ve done.

Nehemiah 13:30-31

Nehemiah ends this exhausting chapter with verses 30 and 31. Let’s read those.

Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; 31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

Nehemiah catalogs what he did for God’s sinning people. He got rid of the foreigners. He appointed people to take care of the ministers. He arranged for those ministers to get the materials they needed to minister. And then he ends this entire book. I don’t know how to describe this statement he makes. How do we take it? It sounds – and I mean no disrespect to this godly leader – but it sounds pathetic. After mentioning all these mundane things he did – and knowing that his actions aren’t going to solve all the problems — he manages to utter “remember me, O my God, for good.” As a godly leader, there are times when the sins of God’s people will bewilder you. They will test your patience and sanity. They will bring you very low and humble you deeply. But however strong or weak is our cry, we can still take recourse to our God and trust that he truly knows our hearts and will remember us.

So, we’ve seen in this chapter that a godly leader corrects God’s sinning people.

You know, even after all of this sin and failure, the Jews were still God’s covenant people. They were in the land. They had the Temple. They had ministers and sacrifices, when Nehemiah was around, at least. And I think this was a question that was on the minds of the Jews after the Exile: “Are we still God’s covenant people? We broke the covenant. Has God abandoned us?” I think throughout the book of Nehemiah we’ve seen that God indeed had not abandoned his people. In particular, he hadn’t abandoned the people who returned to Israel. But what about those Jews who never returned to Israel? Were they still God’s covenant people? We’ll see if we can figure that out next week when we start studying the book of Esther.

Nehemiah 12, KJV Sermon, About, Explained, Sunday School Lesson

OK, now on to Nehemiah 12. And what do we have but more lists!

Nehemiah 12:1-11

So, what are these lists enumerating? Read 12:1.

Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua…

So we’re going back to the time covered at the beginning of the book of Ezra. But now we’re not talking about all the people – just the ministers – the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel. The priests themselves are mentioned from the end of verse 1 to verse 7. Then the Levites who came originally are mentioned in verses 8 and 9. And verses 10 and 11 serve as a transition to the next list.

Nehemiah 12:10-11

Let’s read 12:10-11.

And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada, 11 And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua.

How is this a transition, you ask? This short list details the succession of high priests that lived from the days of Zerubbabel to the days of Nehemiah. And this list serves as a chronological guidepost so that as we read through the next two lists in this chapter we’ll kind of have an idea of where we stand chronologically.

Nehemiah 12:12-21

So for instance verses 12 through 21 comprise another list. It’s a list of the heads of fathers’ households among the priests. But from what time period? Ah, it says from the days of Joiakim. When was that? Well remember from verses 10 and 11 – he was the son of Jeshua. Remember Jeshua? The one who came with Zerubbabel at the beginning of the book of Ezra? OK. So I trust we see how verses 10-11 help us get a sense of where we are in the time line of history.

Nehemiah 12:22-25

Now, as we’ve said, verses 12 through 21 detailed some priests. And of course you can’t have priests without Levites. So verses 22 through 25 talk about Levites.

Nehemiah 12:22-23

And chronologically what time are we talking about here? Read verses 22 and 23.

The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 The sons of Levi, the chief of the fathers, were written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.

So, under the 4 most recent high priests, the chief of the fathers of the Levites were recorded. And that’s just like the priests, from verses 12-21, were recorded in the days of Darius the Persian. And further, the Levites were recorded in a book of chronicles until Johanan. So at some point either during or after Johanan’s high priesthood this practice of recording the Levites in a book of chronicles ended.

Nehemiah 12:24-25

And then those Levites who had been recorded are listed in verses 24 and 25.

Nehemiah 12:26

And here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – verse 26 – the end of the lists in these two chapters! Let’s read it.

These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe.

I think this is just saying that some of the previous ministers he listed were active when Jeshua’s son was around and the others were active during Ezra’s tenure in Jerusalem.

So now I hope you have a better grasp on what these lists mean. We’ve gone through each one, not in great detail, but in as much detail as I think we need in order to be able to explain what each list covers. So we know the content of each list. But there’s a deeper question that we’d like to have answered, I think. Yes, we know the content of the lists, but… why are those lists there? Why did Nehemiah decided to include these lists? Well, there are a few reasons. One we kind of already saw. Nehemiah was interested in telling us who lived in Jerusalem. Remember? He stated that there were few people there. And then God put it into his heart to reckon the people by genealogy. And so he wanted to state the result of that reckoning and who exactly lived in Jerusalem after it was over. So that’s one reason for these lists. But there’s another reason. Did you notice the subtle shift in the contents of those lists? It went from just lay-folks to then enumerating the priests and Levites and gatekeepers, etc. What class would you group priests and Levites into in the Old Testament? They were ministers. So the focus of the lists shifts to ministers exclusively. Why?

Nehemiah 12:27

Let’s move on from the lists to a section of narrative and read verse 27.

And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.

So, there’s been all this building anticipation for ministers in those lists of chapters 11 and 12 all for this moment. We’re talking about ministers, ministers, ministers, they did this, they’re the sons of this great man in Israel’s history, they were appointed by that great Israelite king, etc. And now – the crescendo! Here’s why these people are so important. The people are finally dedicating the wall. You haven’t forgotten about the wall, have you? The Jews completed it in 52 days. Remember all the opposition? It was intense. But they got it done. Do you sense some parallels to how the Jews in the book of Ezra completed the Temple in the midst of intense opposition? So the people seek the Levites from wherever they’re living to come to the dedication. And the people are happy about this. They’re rejoicing. They want to celebrate with gladness, thanksgivings, singing, and all sorts of musical instruments. They want skilled musicians. And that’s just what they get.

Nehemiah 12:28-29

Read verses 28 and 29.

And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi; 29 Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem.

So the singers come from all over the place – wherever they happened to be living.

Nehemiah 12:30

Well, that’s just the singers. What about all the priests and Levites we’ve been talking about? Read verse 30.

And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.

So, there are the priests and Levites. By the way, the singers probably would have been classified as Levites. But anyway, now we see the whole group of ministers there. And they’re engaged in some ministerial activity, as ministers tend to do. They’re purifying themselves and the people. And they’re purifying the gates and the wall that they’re about to dedicate. This is something only those priests and Levites could do. The non-ministerial folks couldn’t engage in this kind of ceremonial activity.

Nehemiah 12:31

Well, what do they do next? Let’s read verse 31.

Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:

Nehemiah brings some people up on the wall. Take that, Tobiah! Right? Do you remember Tobiah’s mocking earlier in this book? What kind of animal did he think would knock down the wall if it jumped up on it? A fox. A tiny little fox. Tobiah said that if such a creature were to jump up onto the wall it would break down the Jews’ stone wall. He had a great laugh about that. Well, who’s laughing now? There’s no fox up on that wall now. Rather, all the leaders of Judah are up on that wall. And it’s holding them pretty well. And notice who’s actually up there. The princes of Judah. I’m not sure if this is Judah to the exclusion of Benjamin. I think more likely Judah refers to the nation as a whole. So, all the leaders from both Judah and Benjamin are up on the wall.

Further, Nehemiah appoints two great companies that gave thanks. A number of translations take this to mean “choirs.” And that’s reasonable. So, let’s talk about the first large company. Where do they go once they’re up on the wall? They move toward the Dung Gate. Remember that that gate is on the city’s south side.

Nehemiah 12:32-36

Then verses 32 through 36 tell us a little bit about the composition of this first group. Half of the leaders of Judah were in this group. Additionally, there were some priests with trumpets. There was also a son of Asaph, the renowned singer of old. They even had musical instruments from David the man of God. And they had Ezra leading them on the wall.

Nehemiah 12:37

And lastly according to verse 37 this group went from the Dung Gate on the south north-east to the Water Gate. And we’ll see in just a few moments that they kept going north.

Nehemiah 12:38

So that’s the first group. What about the second group? Let’s read verse 38.

And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall;

Where did this group go? Our English translation here says this group went “over against them.” This phrase can also be translated as “opposite them.” Let me just say a word about how someone who doesn’t know Hebrew could get to the bottom of this matter. First, consult other good translations. I trust that this suggestion isn’t controversial in this assembly. You don’t have to agree with every translational decision that other good versions make. But you can respect their honest effort and perhaps gain from their labors. So that’s my first suggestion. And then, second, of course context is so crucial to helping us understand the Bible. Let’s consider the context of this passage. Remember, we’re talking about two large groups going up on the wall. One of the groups starts walking on the wall in a northeastern direction. The other group also starts walking. And they go in some direction, which is still a mystery to us. Then eventually – you don’t know this yet but – both of these groups end up in the same place. So picture the wall as a circle. The two groups start at the bottom of the circle. One group goes to the right and waits for the other group. So that other group would have to go what direction to meet that first group? The opposite direction. OK, I hope that’s helpful. So this second group starts on the south part of the wall and travels northwest.

Nehemiah 12:40

I mentioned that these two groups meet eventually. Where do they meet? Let’s read verse 40.

So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me:

Ah, so the two groups meet in the Temple. Nehemiah is there. The leaders are there. There are priests with trumpets. There are singers doing what they do best.

Nehemiah 12:43

What’s the result? Verse 43.

Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

The ministers and leaders – really, I think all the people – offered great sacrifices that day. Everyone was rejoicing. Did you catch how many times the word joy or rejoice is in this verse? I count 5 times out of 36 English words in that verse. Even the wives and little children rejoiced. And the result of that is that their joy was heard from afar. Now, remember back to the dedication we saw in the book of Ezra. The people rejoiced greatly on that occasion as well. At that point they were simply dedicating the foundation of the Temple. Perhaps their joy was a little premature at that time. Because what happened after they rejoiced at that dedication? The enemy immediately started opposing and discouraging the people and the work stopped for over a decade. So, having read Ezra, I’m inclined to wonder if some enemy is going to start opposing again. But you know what I discover? The enemy isn’t opposing anymore. They’ve been beaten back. The Jews don’t have to fear opposition from the enemy anymore. They have walls to protect their holy city. They have a Temple. They have a godly leader in Nehemiah and godly ministers to lead them in worshiping their great God. These are all causes for great unhindered joy and rejoicing!

Now, I haven’t given a title for the message yet. And we’re almost done with the lesson so I better give one soon here. The title of the message and I believe the message of the passage is twofold. The first part of the title is “Rejoice in the Lord.” That’s what the Jews were doing. Have you experienced some great deliverance in the last 365 days? Have you experienced some improvement in your situation? Has the Lord helped you to persevere through some trial? And you’re still among us. Has he been good to you in any way? Then, rejoice in the Lord. That’s the first part of this lesson’s title. Let’s move on to the last scene in our text for the second part.

Nehemiah 12:44-47

At first I actually wondered if verses 44 through 47 happened at the same time as the dedication of the walls. Now I’m pretty sure that they did. So if you have notes from our overview of Nehemiah you might have a note that says that Nehemiah was gone for 12 years. Cross that out and put in its place, “Paul made a mistake.” That happens when finite humans are trying their best to interpret God’s perfect word. At any rate, I think verses 44 through 47 happen very closely in time to the dedication of the Temple.

Nehemiah 12:44

Well, what happens in these verses? Read verse 44.

And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited.

The Jews appoint people to supervise the places where the ministers’ pay would have been stored. Why were they now concerned that the ministers receive their just wages? The last phrase of verse 44 says that Judah rejoiced in their ministers. There’s that concept of joy again. The people rejoiced in the Lord and in their ministers.

Nehemiah 12:45

Why did they rejoice in their ministers? Verse 45.

And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son.

The people rejoiced in their ministers – like the Levitical singers and the porters or the gatekeepers – because these ministers “kept the ward” or in modern English they served their God and they purified what needed to be purified. And they did this according to the biblical command of David and of Solomon in the Scripture.

Nehemiah 12:46

And verse 46 tells us this is the way it had been done for centuries, according to God’s command. So Israel rejoiced in their ministers. And that’s the second part of the message title – “Rejoice in the Lord and in his ministers.”

It’s often easier to rejoice in the Lord than to rejoice in his ministers. After all, his ministers are frail and weak. God is almighty. Ministers are subject to error. God is not. Ministers have the flesh and can fall and fail in really any number of areas to one degree or another. God never fails. There’s no darkness at all in him. He’s not tempted with evil. And so it’s easier to rejoice in the Lord than in his ministers. And yet we see here the Jews rejoicing in the Lord and in his ministers. Why the ministers? Not because they were perfect. Not because they were people persons. But because they were doing the best they could to carry out what God commanded to ministers just like them in his word so very long ago. Catch that. That’s why the Jews are rejoicing in their ministers. Because these ministers were trying their best to be biblical in carrying out their ministries.

You know, it’s possible to claim to be rejoicing in the Lord and yet to despise the ministers he’s given you. Whether we’re talking about situations at church, at home, or at school, in a Christian environment there are ministers of God all over the place – people who are serving you for God’s sake and because of what God has commanded them in his word. And you and I can far too easily act as if the minister is nothing. After all, God is all that matters. And in a sense that’s true. But God uses ministers as ones who deliver help and benefits to his people. Don’t shun the minister. Don’t despise him. Support him. Recognize that — where you are being served by someone who loves God and is trying to do his will as best he knows how — you are a recipient of grace through that individual. And rejoice in that minister and make every attempt to honor and encourage him.

Nehemiah 12:47

And that leads us to the last verse of this section. Let’s finally read verse 47.

And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.

This is wonderful. The people are giving what’s due to their ministers – to the singers, and porters, to the Levites, and to the priests, the sons of Aaron. This is how it should work — God’s people rejoicing in the Lord and in his ministers. And this necessarily takes the form of providing a living for these full-time ministers. What a happy ending. Jerusalem is completely rebuilt. The people have no fear of the enemies surrounding them. They have ministers who are serving according to God’s word. And they have a godly leader in Nehemiah to ensure all of this happens. Just one second. Look at the first clause of verse 47. When did all of these wonderful things happen? Back in the days of Zerubbabel, who was by that time gone for several decades. And in the days of Nehemiah. When those two were around things were good. You know, I wonder. Just like Zerubbabel, Nehemiah is going to have to leave his position of leadership in Jerusalem at some point. It’s inevitable. Remember, Nehemiah is still an employee, if you will, of king Artaxerxes. And remember back in the beginning of this book how Artaxerxes asked how long Nehemiah would be away? Nehemiah gave him a certain time frame. That means he’s going to need to leave Jerusalem at some point. I wonder what happens when he’s gone. Lord-willing that’s what we’ll see next Sunday when we study the last chapter of this book.

But until then, with God’s help, let’s make every effort to Rejoice in the Lord and in his ministers.

Nehemiah 11 KJV Sermon, Meaning, Commentary, Bible Study

Alright, now let’s get into our lesson for today. We’ll be studying Nehemiah chapters 11 and 12. That means we’re in the 2nd major act of the 2nd major section of the book of Nehemiah.

The 1st major section (chapters 1 through 6) dealt with Nehemiah coming to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And that’s all I’ll say about it.

So, once he finished rebuilding the walls, we’re told that not many people lived in the city itself at the time. And for one reason or another this is a problem. What’s the solution?

Nehemiah has the people enroll by genealogies. Now, we’re not specifically told how taking a census of the people would really help fill Jerusalem with people. Perhaps it would remind the people of their lineage and heritage and create a mass movement to Jerusalem. And we did see the people come to Jerusalem last week in our lesson.

And when they were there they made some New Year’s resolutions – specifically, they vowed not to forsake God’s word or God’s place of worship.

Nehemiah 11:1-2

So… the question is: did this fill Jerusalem with people? Let’s read 11:1-2.

And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities. 2 And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.

So we’re told in verse 1 that the rulers of the people lived in Jerusalem. That would indicate that up to that point, it was only the rulers who lived there. But then things changed. 1 out of 10 people moved to Jerusalem to join the leaders. So, did taking a census help fill Jerusalem with people? Well, yes I think so. How? Now the Jews knew who was officially among them. They could select a certain proportion of the people from their midst to live in Jerusalem. How else could they know that they were selecting 1 tenth of the people? I think the census helped with this process.

Now, only some of the people went to live in Jerusalem. And apparently that was sufficient. The text seems to speak only positively about this situation. The people who ended up living in cities outside Jerusalem blessed those who got to live in Jerusalem. And the ones who ended up moving to Jerusalem did so willingly, the text says. So there’s no ill-will. This is a fine arrangement. Not everyone needed to live in the holy city.

Now, we need to be prepared for a lot of lists in these two chapters. I admit that at first, lists in the Bible can seem to be a bit uninteresting. But I think they’re only uninteresting when you don’t know why God placed them where he did. I think if you actually understand the whys and wherefores of how those lists are placed, they can be very interesting. So with God’s help we’ll try to figure out why these lists are where they are.

Nehemiah 11:3

We’ll start with the list that spans from 11:3-36. What is this list and why is it here? Let’s read 11:3.

Now these are the chief of the province that dwelt in Jerusalem: but in the cities of Judah dwelt every one in his possession in their cities, to wit, Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants.

Nehemiah 11:4

So here we have those rulers that we saw in the first 2 verses of this chapter. You know – the ones who were living in Jerusalem. “The chief of the province.” And the rest of the people are still in their cities – even a good number of the ministers. Now, Nehemiah wants to enumerate the rulers who lived in Jerusalem. What portion of these leaders does he start with? Look at verse 4. Who are we talking about?

And at Jerusalem dwelt certain of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin. Of the children of Judah; […]

Nehemiah states that some of the people from the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem. And he’ll get to Benjamin. But for now he’s going to list the leaders of Judah. Now, in this section Nehemiah gives the names of some people. I think these are the leaders. Then he gives the number of people who were with each of those leaders. Thus, though he’s mentioning the leaders by name, he’s also including the tenth of the people who lived in Jerusalem. And he enumerates the rulers from the tribe of Judah first starting in verse 4. In verses 4 through 6 Nehemiah mentions two men who were the sons of Perez, who was Judah’s son. There were 468 of these folks.

Nehemiah 11:7-9

Then verses 7-9 cover what group?

And these are the sons of Benjamin…

— Benjamin. We have the names of three leaders of Benjamin. And then there were 928 of people with them. So that’s a list of Benjamites who lived in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 11:10-14

Moving on, verses 10-14 give us the names of the priests who lived in Jerusalem. I’ll just pull out a few facts about these folks – in this list we have the name of a man who was the leader of the Temple, we have others who performed the work of the temple, and we even have some valiant warriors! There were almost 1200 of these priests. And that’s all for the priests in Jerusalem. After the priests we have a list of the Levites. Remember, priests were a narrower group of folks who were descended from Aaron. The Levites were everyone who was descended from Levi’s other sons.

Nehemiah 11:15-18

Verses 15-18 tell us about the 284 Levites living in Jerusalem. What did they do? Well, the text tells us that some of them were in charge of the work outside the Temple. They were basically groundskeepers and maintenance men. One of the leaders led the giving of thanks during prayer. That’s the Levites living in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 11:19

Next, according to verse 19 there were 172 gatekeepers.

Nehemiah 11:20

Verse 20 tells us that the rest of the ministers were dispersed throughout Judah and Benjamin.

Nehemiah 11:21

Except, according to verse 21, the Temple servants were living in Ophel. That makes sense. Ophel is the area just south of the Temple Mount. So if they lived there in that part of the city of Jerusalem, they’d be very close to the Temple. In fact the old entrance to the Temple Mount – which is now walled-up – faced the south toward Ophel.

Nehemiah 11:22-24

And finally, verses 22-24 end this list by telling us of certain leading Levites. One of them was a son of Asaph, the famous singer. Another one of them represented the king. So, the total number of people living in Jerusalem was over 3,000 at that time – leaders and the tenth of the people. Well, now we know a good deal about the various people who lived in Jerusalem. Do we know anything about where the other Jews lived?

Nehemiah 11:25-35

Yes. In verses 25-35 we have another list! This one describes the locations where Judah and Benjamin lived outside of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 11:25-30

The first section of that list consists of verses 25-30 where we’re given the names of the cities and towns around Jerusalem where the tribe of Judah dwelt. So it starts with Judah. Well, where do they live? In verse 30 we’re told that Judah lived as far south as Beer-Sheba. Where is that? Well, if you think of a map of modern Israel you might be able to think of where Israel’s western boundary with the Mediterranean Sea reaches its southern-most point. Just go due East from there to the middle of the nation of Israel and you’ll arrive at Beer Sheba. So that’s as far south as the Jews lived. Then we’re given their northern boundary. Judah lived as far north as the valley of Hinnom which marks the southwestern boundary of Jerusalem. So that’s the part of the list that gives us which cities Judah lived in.

Nehemiah 11:31-35

Well, what about Benjamin? Verses 31-35 tell us where they lived. And that brings us to the end of chapter 11.

Nehemiah 10 KJV, Sermon, Devotional, Explained

And that brings us into chapter 10. This chapter consists entirely of the Jews’ promise to God in light of their disturbing cycle of disobedience. Verses 1 through 27 give the names of each leader who was signing his name to this resolution. And here’s what they agree to. Verse 29 – they would keep the Law of Moses. What does that look like? Verse 30 – they won’t intermarry with pagans. Verse 31 – they won’t buy wares from pagans on holy days. Neither will they harvest their crops on the 7th year or collect on debts from their Jewish brothers. Verse 32 – they’d give 1/3 of a shekel for the Temple service. Verse 34 – they’d bring wood to the Temple for the sacrifices. Verse 35 – they’d bring the firstfruits of their produce to the Temple. And verse 36 – they’d bring the firstborn of their sons and animals to the Temple. They say more in verses 37 through 39. But the gist of it is at the end of verse 39. They would not forsake God’s house, the Temple. And that’s actually what the promises from verse 32 to the end of the chapter aim at – not forsaking the Temple. So in summary, the people promise to not forsake God’s word or his place of worship. That was the Jews’ New Year’s resolution.

So how can we apply this last scene to making God-Honoring New Year’s resolutions? If you’ve been following whole-heartedly this message then you’ve already resolved to understand God’s word and then live it out, even in the seeming insignificant or inconvenient parts. And I think this is kind of reflected again in the Jews’ promise to not forsake God’s word. They were going to understand it and live it. So what’s the new emphasis in this section that we haven’t seen thus far? How about the part about the Temple, God’s place of worship? It’s excellent to be seeking and practicing God’s word. But remembed that in God’s word he specifies that we should gather with his people and not forsake that assembly. But it’s not as if we should just file into the building and leave without being an influence on our brethren for good. We’re supposed to provoke one another. No, we’re not supposed to be provoking each other to anger, but to love and good works. So would you resolve to not take our assembling together lightly? Would you resolve to appropriately and tastefully be more involved in the lives of your brethren? To be more attentive to their needs? To encourage and up-lift? To pray for one another? And to live your life in such a way that we could all come together and truly worship our great God together in a spirit of unity and harmony?

So would you think this is an appropriate and God-honoring News Year’s resolution? I resolve this year to make every attempt to understand and live God’s word, even when it seems insignificant or inconvenient, and to not forsake God’s people or our assembling together.

Nehemiah 9 KJV, Summary, Sermon, Analysis, Commentary

This last scene takes up two whole chapters. Let’s start by reading 9:1-3.

Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. 2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Nehemiah 9:1-3

So this last scene starts on the 24th day of the 7th month. We’re still in the month of the Jewish New Year. And the Feast of Booths would have started on the 15th and ran 8 days to the 22nd. Then the people take a break maybe to convert their temporary booths into firewood or something else. And the day after that they’re all together again back in Jerusalem ready to do spiritual business. I’m going to again just express my surprise. I didn’t know these people were so inclined toward biblical spirituality. This really seems to be something of a genuine revival wherein the people are just delighting in God alone. And what caused this? Well, the wall around Jerusalem was just rebuilt. The fact that these people are now separated from the bad influence of the world outside may have something to do with it. Besides that, I do really wonder if the fact that it’s a new year has anything to do with it.

So the people are still on the crest of a New Year’s spiritual wave. They gather to Jerusalem after having separated themselves from all foreigners. Apparently the foreigners – the evil ones, not the ones who converted – these foreigners were still among God’s people until this time… Beyond this spiritual step in the right direction, the people are confessing their sin. They’re not apologizing. Allow me to advocate for you never saying, “sorry” and thinking that’s a true confession – whether its directed toward God or toward your fellow man. “I’m sorry” describes how you’re feeling. It tells no one that you’re owning up to the fact that what you did was wrong. Love means never having to say you’re sorry. On the other hand, it means having to say, “I’ve sinned and done evil in God’s sight. Will you forgive me for sinning against you?” OK, I’ve been waiting to be able to address that in one of our times here. So, these Jews confessed their sins and their fathers’ sins and also worshipped for a 4th of the day. They also read the word for a 4th of the day.

Then the Levites start praying out loud. What do they say? Let’s read verses 5-7 to find out.

Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 ¶ Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. 7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham.

Nehemiah 9:5-7

These Levites begin their confession and worship by acknowledging how perfect and excellent God is. He made everything. He’s all-powerful and all-wise. But despite being a high and lofty Creator, they recall in verse 7 that he stooped in order to know man, namely, he chose Abraham, the Jews’ forebearer. The Levites go on to tell of how God promised to give Abraham the land in which the Jews were currently living once more at that very time. Watch for that theme of “the land” in this prayer.

Then the Levites basically start rehearsing Israel’s history where the book of Exodus begins. The Jews were being oppressed in Egypt. And God delivered them through the plagues he sent on Egpyt. And when the army of Egypt followed the Jews they were drowned in the Red Sea. God then led the Jews with a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day. The Levites recall God coming to the Jews at Sinai and giving them righteous ordinances. They remember that God provided bread for them. How good God was to the Jews! He is high and lifted up and yet he chose Abraham and was merciful to his descendants. How did the Jews respond to this wondeful love? Verse 16.

But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments.

The next few verses flesh this out. The people built the golden calf and wanted to return to their bondage in Egypt. The Levites remind us that although God needed to deal with this rebellious generation by letting them wander 40 years in the wilderness, yet during that whole time most of his blessings he didn’t revoke – the cloud, the fire, the water, the manna, none of these things did God withold from these rebels… The prayer goes on to state that God gave these people a few kingdoms and lands of their enemies. God is so good.

He was good to Abraham. He was good to those who came out of Egypt led by Moses. And he was good to the sons of this latter group. He was so good to them – that like cattle, they ate and grew fat. They reveled in God’s goodness. But the Levites’ prayer goes on to tell us that even these sons rebelled against God and wouldn’t obey his word. Then we’re reminded of the time of the judges, where the people would sin against God, he would give them over to their enemies, they would cry out to him, and he would deliver them through a judge. That cycle continued for decades. After that the Lord needed to seriously deal with the people. God patiently endured the sins of the Jews. But finally he had to send them into exile. And yet God didn’t utterly forsake them even there. How did they know that God hadn’t forsaken the Jews? Well, they were back in the land, weren’t they? They are back in the land. But the picture isn’t rosey. Let’s read verses 36-37.

Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: 37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.

The Jews were in quite a predicament. Again they mention the land. The Jews were back in their land, yes. But they were back as slaves who were subservient to a foreign king.

And because of this discouraging and alarming situation, they don’t want to continue the sins of their fathers. Read verse 38.

And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.

They’re making a New Year’s resolution, so-to-speak. Now, the resolutions we might make – like to eat healthier or to read the Bible or whatever – usually we don’t do anything more than just keep those in our minds. Not so with the Jews here. They’re going to write this resolution down and have their leaders all sign it, swearing to keep it. They need to. They don’t want to experience any more of God’s opposition to them.

Nehemiah 8 Summary, Sermons, KJV, Analysis

We have 3 main scenes in chapters 8 through 10. The 1st scene begins in 8:1 and ends in 8:12. The 2nd scene spans from 8:13 to the end of the chapter. And the 3rd and longest scene covers all of chapters 9 and 10.

Now, what’s the 1st scene about? The people ask Ezra to come and explain God’s word to them. What happens from there? Let’s read 8:2-3.

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

There’s a word I want to point out. It’s found once in each of these verses. It’s the word “understand(ing).” These people gathered together and wanted to understand God’s word… Later Ezra stands at an elevated podium to read aloud to the people. And when he opens the word – he doesn’t read it yet, he simply opens it – the people rise out of reverence. Ezra blesses God and all the people respond in approval and bow to the ground to worship the Lord.

Next, a number of Levites assist Ezra in teaching the people individually. They were explaining God’s word to the people. And let’s read verse 8 to see what exactly they were doing. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. The Levites were helping the people to what? Understand the reading. The Levites gave the sense of what they were reading. It wasn’t enough for them to mindlessly, liturgically chant God’s word. They explained it. They read it distinctly. They translated or interpreted the word. They were exegeting and expositing God’s word… I was reading a preaching magazine at the library the other day. And my eye caught an article about expository preaching. The author points to the apparent anemia in the worship of the evangelical church. He then asserts that the reason for this anemia is because of a dearth of expository preaching – the kind of reading of God’s word and explaining it that we see in Nehemiah here. The author even references this portion of Nehemiah as a model for our teaching and preaching! And I think the author is right. What in the world are we doing gathering together every Sunday if it’s not to read and understand God’s word? There’s more to our gatherings, of course. But preaching is and ought to be central. God’s word needs to have a preeminent place in our lives both corporately and individually.

Now something interesting happens next. All the leaders, including Ezra and Nehemiah, suddenly feel that they need to tell the people to not be grieved. Why? Because the day was holy. It was the Feast of Trumpets, after all. But why were the people grieved? You understand how that could be the case, I’m sure. God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword and it cuts us sometimes. And these Jews were cut when they read the Law. And this is a good response on their part. Only, not today. You wouldn’t know it, but today was a day on which God wanted the Jews to be happy, not grieved. So the leaders already helped the people understand God’s word. This in turn made the people weep. So the leaders then needed to explain the word a little bit more – “according to God’s word you shouldn’t be sad today. Today’s a day for celebration.” The joy of the Lord was to be their strength.

And how does this scene end? The people go away to celebrate with all their heart. Why could they celebrate? Because – look at the last phrase of verse 12 – …they had understood the words that were declared unto them. A partial understanding of God’s word is better than no understanding at all. But better yet is a full understanding. And that’s what the Jews received on this 1st day of the 7th month – their New Year’s Day.

So we’re talking about God-Honoring New Year’s Resolutions. How about this as a suggestion based on what we’ve seen so far? This year, with God’s help, I resolve to understand God’s word better and to live based on that understanding. What would it take for you to do this? I’ll give a few suggesstions. Come to church. And when you do, listen to what’s being taught. Take notes. At home, read the Bible daily. Read some books on how to accurately read and interpret the Bible. I’d strongly and heartily recommend the book “How to Read the Bible as Literature” by Leland Ryken. This man is an English professor at an evangelical institution. His book has been very helpful to me in interpreting the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. I think it would be helpful for you, too.

So that’s the 1st of 3 scenes. The 2nd scene starts in verse 13 and runs through the end of chapter 8. What happens here? Let’s read verses 13 and 14 to find out. And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. 14 And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month. Again we see people gathering to a man who knows God’s word and can teach it to them. These people again desire to understand God’s word. But who are these people? The people in the last scene were whom? Verse 1 says “all the people.” So everyone was there for that scene. But now the group narrows a bit. Here in this second scene we have only the leaders gathering to Ezra to understand the Law. And what do these leaders find in the Law? They discover that the Jews as a nation should celebrate the Feast of Booths every year in the 7th month. Why, that’s the month they were currently in! And this text say that it was the 2nd day. I assume that’s the 2nd day of the 7th month. But the Feast was to be held on the 15th day of the 7th month. They only have 13 days to prepare! They better hurry. And they do! They proclaim throughout the region that everyone should go and cut down branches to make booths to live in. The people obey this order. And then they live in those booths for 8 days, just like the ordinance prescribed.

Now let’s read verse 17. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Can you believe what you’re hearing? The sons of Israel really hadn’t celebrated the Feast of Booths as they ought to have from the days of Joshua! Yes, in 2nd Chronicles 8, Solomon is shown offering sacrifices during the Feast of Booths. But it doesn’t say he built temporary structures like the ordinance required. We see a similar situation in Ezra 3. The people who returned with Zerubbabel are said to have offered sacrifices for the Feast of Booths. But it doesn’t say they lived in booths. So Israel hadn’t practiced this Feast in a completely orthodox way for hundreds of years before the time of Nehemiah the governor. Fascinating! And then this scene ends by telling us what we already have been led to believe – that the Jews kept this ordinance exacty as prescribed in the Law.

Now again, we’re talking about making God-honoring New Year’s resolutions. What do we learn from this 2nd scene in our text? Might a God-honoring resolution look somethng like this? I resolve not only to understand and live-out God’s word. But I resolve – with God’s help – to do this even in the most inconvenient or seemingly-insignificant parts of the word. The Feast of Booths had been overlooked for hundreds of years. Why? The Jews apparently thought it was insignificant. “I mean, what’s the big deal? We’re offering sacrifices! Why waste a bunch of tree limbs and live outside on the dirt with a leaky roof over my head?!” This may be one reason the Jews had avoided practicing this Feast for this long. Or maybe they thought it was inconvenient… Some of us like camping. Others really don’t. I don’t mind a few days in the woods. But 8 days, like this Feast required? And, as I’ve hinted at before, these Jews wouldn’t have been in a nice sealed water-proof tent. They’re just throwing a bunch of sticks together to make booths. And they have to live in those booths for 8 whole days… Now, what is there in your life that you know to be God’s will from his word, but it isn’t convenient? In fact it’s extremely inconvenient to you. Or maybe you think it’s pretty insignificant. “I mean, most other Christians I know don’t bother with it. Why should God want me to do so?” Would you resolve with God’s help to do what his word commands, no matter how inconvenient or insignficant it seems? You will – just like the Israelites did – you’ll experience “very great gladness” if you do.

So that’s the 2nd of 3 scenes. And at this point that’s the good news. The bad news? We’re only half way through the text! So let’s move along to the 3rd and final scene of our text today.

Nehemiah 7 KJV, Meaning, Commentary, Explained, Ezra 2

Nehemiah 7 KJV: This is the 14th week of our study of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Today we’ll plan to cover 4 chapters. I know, you don’t think I can do it. But with God’s help we will!

We’re in the 7th chapter of the book of Nehemiah this morning. And this chapter begins the 2nd of 2 main sections in the book of Nehemiah. The first 6 chapters that we’ve been studying in the past few weeks prepared us for this point in the book. Those earlier chapters dealt with a few things. First, Nehemiah learned that his people were in distress – perhaps because of their sin. Then Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and led the Jews in rebuilding their wall, in the face of opposition from both without and within. But finally in the 6th month the Jews completed rebuilding the wall and the enemies were stunned… Now what?

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Verses 1-5

Let’s read 7:1-5.

Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, 2 That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. 3 And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house. 4 Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded. 5 ¶ And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein,

So Nehemiah hands the keys of the city over to one of his siblings and another man. This other man “was faithful” and “feared God more than many.”

And Nehemiah gives them a few tasks. The only thing keeping those old enemies out of the midst of God’s people was the wall and its locked gates. So these two needed to keep those gates locked as much as possible.

And there were only two of these guys. They needed assistance. So Nehemiah tells them to appoint guards from among the people who live in Jerusalem. And these guards can be stationed by their respective house.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Two Problems

Now, there are two problems with this situation.

First, Nehemiah says in verse 4 that there were very few people living in this large city. So how would these two guys find others who live in the city to help them when there was practically no one else living there?

Second, though the city was large and expansive, most of the houses weren’t built yet. So Nehemiah appears to be telling these two guards that they need to appoint assistant-guards from among the people of the city – who don’t live there – and these extra helpers can keep watch outside their houses – which don’t exist.

Do you see the potential for failure? Nehemiah did, as well.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Genealogical Census

So Nehemiah says that God put in his heart to enroll the people by genealogy. That’s interesting.

The first time we saw God put something in Nehemiah’s heart it was back in the early chapters of Nehemiah where he said that God put on his heart to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. And we know what happened there. The wall got rebuilt in quick order.

And now what God put on Nehemiah’s heart is to take a census of the people. We’ll see what happens from here!

Nehemiah 7 Ezra 2

Now right after Nehemiah declares that he wants to enroll the people by their genealogies, he finds the record of those who came to Jerusalem from the exile. Remember the folks who originally came with Zerubbabel and Jeshua back in Ezra chapter 2? Well, Nehemiah recounts this list in detail here.

We need to do a few things with this passage before we can move on.

First I want to point out something that can be alarming to folks like us who believe that the Bible is without error. Can I ask us to do something? Can we keep our hand both in this section and back in Ezra 2?

I want to compare a few things in these two citations of this one list of people… I’ll just come out and state that these two lists are not identical.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Children of Arah

Look at Ezra 2:5. The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five.

And now look at Nehemiah 7:10. The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two.

Well, which is it? How many of the children of Arah came? 775 or 652?

And this isn’t the only place where the numbers are different. I counted 19 instances in these two lists where the numbers differ from one another.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Word Differences

In addition, we have certain words included in one list that may not appear in the other. We have names that are featured in one list and not mentioned in the other.

So what if you’re witnessing to an atheist friend and he claims that the Bible contains errors and contradictions and he points to the differences in these two lists? How would you respond?

Again, I’ll mention the differences in numbers. I think this is the most troubling thing for us in this regard.

Let me offer a way to think about that.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
“Which Came with Zerubbabel”

Look at Ezra 2:2 — Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah.

And we’ll stop there.

How many names of men do you count there including Zerubbabel?

I count 11.

Now read Nehemiah 7:7 — Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.

Now I count 12 people.

Nahamani is added in Nehemiah’s list.

In addition, do you see the second-to-last name is each list? Nehum and Rehum? Maybe this is the same guy. But maybe they’re different.

So here’s what I’m led to believe. We’re talking about the same thing generally in both books – it’s a list of people who came to Jerusalem from Persia. But the list in Ezra has a few different names than the list in Nehemiah.

Neither list is fabricated or in error. They simply record a few different people.

I mean, if Nahamani brought some folks with him and he and his people are recorded only in Nehemiah, then the list in Nehemiah can be expected to have different numbers of people than the one in Ezra.

That’s one explanation that should set our mind at ease over this apparent discrepancy. But let me point out something else that should comfort us and strengthen our faith in the trustworthiness of God’s word.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
How Many Returned?

Look at Ezra 2:64. How many people total came to Jerusalem?

The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.

If counting with scores is a little foreign to you, that’s 42,360.

Now look at Nehemiah 7:66.

The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.

Again that number is 42,360. It’s the same number – the same total number of people came back according to both Ezra and Nehemiah.

But you know what? When I go through these two lists I don’t get those numbers. In fact the list in Ezra gives me a total of 29,818. And in Nehemiah I get 31,809.

So here’s what I think we learn from this. The purpose of these lists in the minds of their authors is not to give us every single detail of every single person who came with Zerubbabel.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Purpose of the Lists

The lists are a representation of all those 42,360 folks who did come. So if you’re looking for two identical lists that enumerate every single person who came, you’re going to be disappointed. Because that’s not the purpose of these two authors.

An atheist can claim this represents an error. It does not represent an error. Plain and simple.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Returning to Jerusalem

Now, I want us to look one last time at Ezra. Look at Ezra 3:1.

And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.

So after this list in Ezra we’re told that the people gathered to Jerusalem. At that point they come together to rebuild the altar and to offer sacrifices.

And – wouldn’t you know it? – something similar happens in Nehemiah. Let’s read Nehemiah 7:73 and on into 8:1.

So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities. 8:1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.

So here in Nehemiah—similar to Ezra—we see the people gathering together to Jerusalem. But it’s a little different this time. This time when the people come to Jerusalem the altar is already built. So is the Temple and the wall. And now they want to hear God’s word.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Spiritual Renewal

At first I wondered why all the Jews wanted to hear God’s word. Why this sudden enthusiasm about spiritual things? Was it a combination of the wall being rebuilt and the census being taken that ignited some nationalistic fervor among the people?

Nehemiah 7 KJV
Rosh Hashannah

Maybe. I do have another idea. Now, maybe it’s just the season of year we’re in right now that’s kind of coloring my understanding of this passage. But I’d like to think that’s not the case. What month are we in here in Nehemiah? The 7th month. And actually we’re on the 1st day of that month. What happens on the 1st day of the 7th month in the Jewish calendar? It’s the Feast of Trumpets. This is also known as Rosh Hashannah, which is Jewish for “the Head of the Year.” It’s the Jewish New Year’s celebration.

Imagine my shock when this realization dawned upon me – we’ve just entered a new year. And in our passage so have the Jews! Incredible timing.

So in the absence of the text plainly telling us why the Jews were suddenly so enthusiastic about God’s word, I’m going to suggest that perhaps the hopes of a new year spurred them on to a renewed interest in the Lord and his word.

Nehemiah 7 KJV
New Year’s Resolutions

Surely you’ve known something of this kind of dynamic… For example, why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Ever wonder about that? I think it indicates that we as a race tend to have some renewed hope with the dawn of a new year.

Now, does anyone here have any New Year’s resolutions? Well, if not, it’s not too late to develop some!

So let’s go through the rest of chapters 8, 9, and 10 and try to make sense of what we see. Perhaps we’ll gain some pointers on how to make some God-honoring New Year’s resolutions.

That’s what I’ll entitle the message – God-Honoring New Year’s Resolutions.

Nehemiah 6 Summary

Nehemiah 6 Summary: We’re just finishing up the section in Nehemiah that started in chapter 2:9. Do you remember way back then? That’s where Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem after he heard of the Jews’ plight and after he petitioned King Artaxerxes to be able to come and rebuild Jerusalem and help his Jewish brethren. Then he arrives in Jerusalem. And immediately we heard about the opposition Nehemiah faced. And yet despite that opposition, Nehemiah took his secret midnight ride around Jerusalem surveying the wall. Then he came to all the Jews and told them his plan for rebuilding the wall. And they agreed to his plan and started the work. But in 2:19 we again hear about opposition. But the Jews just go ahead with their building project. In 4:1 the enemies mock the Jews and again the Jews continue the work. In 4:7 the enemies plot to attack Jerusalem and to stop the work that way. But Nehemiah catches wind of this development and leads the Jews to be constantly vigilant against the enemy. And when the enemies heard that the Jews learned of their plot to attack the city, the enemies kind of backed off for a little while.

And that led us to chapter 5, which we covered last time. And admittedly the placement of that chapter is a little confusing. Do you remember the content of chapter 5? That’s where the trouble wasn’t coming from outside the Jews’ camp. The trouble was actually coming from Jews oppressing other Jews. And so we saw how Nehemiah the godly leader dealt with internal conflict among God’s people. We saw that he feared God and loved God’s people. And this fear he had caused him to be completely just to God’s people. He didn’t allow them to oppress each other. And he himself wasn’t involved in any such oppression. Why, again? Because he… feared God. Keep that in mind. Because I’m wondering why chapter 5 is where it is. It almost seems to be just kind of thoughtlessly slipped in where it is. Why do I say that? Well, our lesson for today covers chapter 6. And in chapter 6 we again see external opposition. You can see the names of the opponents in 6:1 – Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, etc. So think of this – 2:9 to the end of chapter 4 we see external opposition. Chapter 6 also deals with external opposition. And chapter 5 is just kind of sandwiched in the middle there – not dealing with external conflict but with internal conflict. Why did Nehemiah decide to insert chapter 5 where he did and then continue with the theme of external conflict in our chapter for today? Look at 5:9. Nehemiah confronts the rich among God’s people who were oppressing the poor among them. And he says “ought ye not walk in the…” Fear of our God. Look at 5:15. Nehemiah wasn’t making full use of his liberty and position to live at the expense of the Jews over whom he was ruling. Why did he not make full use of this liberty? Look at the last six words of this verse. “Because of the…” Fear of God. Nehemiah then feared God and loved his people. And we should, too. And that’s great to know. But how does this relate to chapter 6? We’ll you’ll just need to follow along through the rest of the message to find out! OK, so let’s start into this last message in this section dealing with the opposition that Nehemiah faced.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verses 1-2

Let’s read 6:1-2.

KJV Nehemiah 6:1 ¶ Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) 2 That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.

So Nehemiah is setting the scene for us. The cast of characters includes the three enemies he mentions in verse 1. These three aren’t new. We’ve seen them before. He also mentions “the rest of our enemies” – again giving us the idea that there was a list of these fiends which was too numerous to keep writing about. So we’ve got this great band of enemies of God’s people. And they hear something. They hear that Nehemiah rebuilt the wall. There was no breach left in it. And that’s what they heard. But the reality was that Nehemiah actually had yet to install the doors in the gate ways. So the gates were still open. And yet what the enemies heard was that the wall was rebuilt. So they change their tactic. They no longer are going to attempt to attack the city. No – with the wall in place that wasn’t advisable. They couldn’t easily enter the city. But they could draw people out of the city. And that’s why Sanballat and Geshem send a message to Nehemiah. They tell him that they’d like to have a meeting in the plain of a place called Ono. This was an area in Benjamin that was northwest of Jerusalem. Actually – you know me, I had to check – this is a real place currently in modern-day Israel. And if you type Ono, Israel and Jerusalem, Israel into any online map service you’ll see that today a car ride from one area to the other would take about 50 minutes to traverse the 41 miles between the two. We humans tend to walk at an average speed of 3 miles per hour. And at this rate a journey from Jerusalem to Ono would take over 13 hours. This then was a significant journey. I guess in a way Nehemiah would have been on his own turf, so to speak. Ono was in Benjamin and it seems that the Jews owned that land at the time. And yet such a long journey suggested by such avowed enemies as Sanballat and Geshem didn’t sit well with Nehemiah. And somehow – probably based on past incidents with this adversarial group – Nehemiah knew that they intended to harm him. And that’s not hard to picture. Imagine Nehemiah going off to Ono on his 13 hour trek. The enemies could have been waiting in ambush near the city and once Nehemiah left they could have just entered the city without much of a struggle. Or the enemies could have set ambushes along the way to Ono to kill Nehemiah. Or they could have waited until he got to Ono and then sprung their attack. Whatever their plan was, Nehemiah wasn’t buying into it. So with all this in mind, Nehemiah rejects their offer to meet.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 3

Let’s read verse 3.

3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

So Nehemiah’s response is predictable. He rejects their offer. He’s busy doing God’s great work. Why should he stop this work to come down and talk with these enemies? And really, have you pondered that? Why would Nehemiah want to meet with them? Why would the leader of the Jews who is building the walls of Jerusalem – why would he want to meet with the enemy? It’s not like they could or would contribute anything to him. He knows they’re up to no good. What could Nehemiah possibly stand to gain by meeting with them? So he rejects their offer. He says he’s not going to come down to them. Come down? I thought Ono was northwest of Jerusalem. Shouldn’t he say, “come up?” Actually Jerusalem is highly elevated so that no matter where you go from Jerusalem, the direction you go is typically “down.” So he’s not going to come down to them. How do the enemies take this rejection? They’re desperate. They know this is their last chance.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 4

Let’s see their response in verse 4.

4 Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

The enemies don’t get the hint. Three more times they send the same old message to Nehemiah and three more times he responds similarly to how he responded at first. So you can imagine after this that the enemies would get the hint.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verses 5-7

And they do in verse 5. Let’s see how they respond.

5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; 6 Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. 7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.

So Sanballat can tell his overtures to Nehemiah aren’t being well-received. So he sends a fifth message. This time he sends it with his own personal servant. And the servant has an open letter in his hand. I think this indicates that others would have known the contents of the letter – like an open letter today. Today these open letters usually are published on the internet for all to see. The addressee is named, but whether that guy actually reads it or not, everyone else has the opportunity to read it. And I’m not sure how the servant would circulate the letter to other folks, but somehow I imagine that he did. So when we read the contents of this letter remember that not only is Nehemiah reading it. All of his fellow-Jews are reading it as well. And what does the letter say? The letter is making unsubstantiated claims about the leader of God’s people and threatening to report these claims to the king of Persia. There are these supposed reports from the nations (heathen). Further Gashmu is willing to substantiate these reports. Before we go on, who is Gashmu? It’s Geshem the Arab. It’s sort of like the difference in English between William and Bill or James and Jimmy. Geshem can be called Gashmu. And these reports claim that the Jews are planning to rebel. And this is why they’re rebuilding the wall. And Nehemiah furthermore wants to be their king within their walled capital. At least that’s what these trustworthy reports claim. And actually, according to these Gashmu-certified reports Nehemiah is appointing prophets to proclaim his kingship! And Sanballat is threatening to send these reports along to King Artaxerxes. And so Sanballat ends with this renewed appeal to meet together in Ono. You can imagine how Nehemiah and his people may have reacted to this letter from Sanballat. How would they feel? Lies are being circulated about their leader and their work. They’d want to defend themselves and their leader. They really were doing nothing wrong. The king himself had authorized their work. And yet, would the king believe the Jews or their enemies? Well, Nehemiah at least doesn’t let on that this letter from Sanballat swayed him at all.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 8

Look at his response in verse 8.

8 Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.

I love it. This should be our theme verse for 2014. There were some foundational facts used in this letter that were true – the Jews really were rebuilding the wall and Nehemiah really was their leader. But Sanballat took these facts and cast them in the worst light possible. So the wall is being rebuilt, yes. But it’s being rebuilt SO THAT the Jews can rebel against the king. And Nehemiah is the leader of the Jews, indeed. But really he intends to usurp authority from Persia and be the king of the Jews! And Nehemiah has stirred up the prophets to proclaim this to everyone! And you know what? Sanballat can find other enemies of God’s people to substantiate this claim – remember old Gashmu, for instance? He’s willing to substantiate these claims and even to put his name to these reports. The rest of the witnesses – well they’ll just remain anonymous under the label “the heathen” or “the nations.” Who knows who they are? Does it even matter? In light of Sanballat’s false attack I love Nehemiah’s response. You might want to make that your life verse if you’re constantly facing false accusations by people opposed to God’s work through you. “Sanballat, nothing of what you say is true. You’re simply inventing all this stuff in your mind.” And that’s all Nehemiah says. Nehemiah outright denies the verity of Sanballat’s reports. And he frankly states that Sanballat is just imagining these things. That’s it. This isn’t the only way we can respond to false accusations by our enemies but it is one way – “what you’re saying simply isn’t true. You’re making it up.” Now, what motivated Sanballat to insinuate this falsehood against God’s people and their leader?

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 9

Read verse 9.

9 For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

This was Sanballat’s desire – that all the Jews, not just Nehemiah, would become frightened. Then hopefully the Jews wouldn’t have the strength to continue God’s work. So perhaps by now with the sending of messengers and such, the enemies knew that the Jews didn’t yet have the doors up in the gates. So the Jews still have some work left to do. Let’s stop them, thought the enemies! It’s our last chance!

So the enemies of God’s people wanted Nehemiah and the Jews to fear them. After all the enemies had the power to give this damaging evidence – these reports – to the governing authorities. Ah – do you remember the question we were seeking to answer from earlier in this message? How do chapter 5 and chapter 6 relate to one another? Chapter 5 is about fearing God – Nehemiah did it. And now in chapter 6, who are the enemies wanting God’s people to fear? God? No, them. The enemies wanted God’s people to fear men. And yet, we already know that Nehemiah feared God. And therefore he would refuse to fear men. And this consideration brings us finally to the title of this message and I think the message of Nehemiah 6 — To accomplish God’s work you must overcome the fear of man. And this is what Nehemiah did. And how did he avoid fearing man? Chapter 5 – He feared God first and foremost and loved God’s people.

Now, Sanballat accused God’s people and their leader of a few things. One was that they were planning to rebel. The other was that Nehemiah planned to be their king. And do remember what Sanballat said Nehemiah was doing to promote this notion that he was their king? Nehemiah was having prophets proclaim that he was the new king in Jerusalem. Let’s keep this in mind as we look at the next scene from verses 10 through 14.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 10

We’ll read verse 10.

10 ¶ Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.

So Nehemiah apparently is visiting a shut-in named Shemaiah. The name of his father and grandfather are given, but they don’t really help us establish this man’s identity. And why is he shut-in at his home? We don’t know that either. He’s kind of a mysterious man up to this point. It’s possible he was experiencing some disability – whether temporary or permanent. One Hebrew lexicon suggests he was perhaps ceremonially unclean or fulfilling a vow. Whoever this man is and whatever his situation, we at least know that he has a dire warning for Nehemiah. Shemaiah urgently proposes that he and Nehemiah enter the temple together and hide themselves there. Why? Because Shemaiah apparently knows that the enemies are coming to kill Nehemiah and they’re going to do so at night. But wait. If this guy is a shut-in how does he know what the enemies’ plans are? We’ll find that out in a few verses.

Now, how do you think Nehemiah would respond to this warning from Shemaiah? Let’s think about Nehemiah’s situation. Let’s just assume Shemaiah is absolutely correct and the enemies are coming to kill Nehemiah at night. Would hiding in the Temple help? Remember – the doors in the gates aren’t installed yet. The enemies can come right into Jerusalem through those gates. What good would hiding in the Temple be to Nehemiah? What would keep the enemy from entering into the city and going right into the Temple to slay him there? No, Nehemiah’s only hope if the enemy were to attack would be to arm his fellow Jews and keep a constant watch just like we saw them doing a few chapters ago. So how does Nehemiah respond to Shemaiah?

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 11

Let’s keep reading verse 11.

11 And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.

So Nehemiah refuses to go into the Temple. Fleeing is not an option for this man. Going into the Temple would not save his life. In fact it would endanger everyone for him to run away and hide. There are many times where God’s people simply cannot afford the luxury of fleeing their situation. They need to face the enemy head-on. So why did Shemaiah give such bad advice?

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 12

That’s what Nehemiah discovers in verse 12. Let’s read it.

12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

Nehemiah didn’t need to think at all whether Sanballat was trying to harm him earlier in the chapter. He would have expected threats and danger from Sanballat. But Shemaiah was a fellow-Jew. Nehemiah should have been able to trust him. And look – he’s actually a prophet – that’s how a man who’s shut-in could apparently know of the enemies’ plans without needing to go outside of his home. So this prophet utters a false prophecy against Nehemiah. Why? The end of verse 12 – Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. But why? What were these two enemies trying to accomplish by hiring Shemaiah to give a false prophecy against Nehemiah?

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 13

Nehemiah explains that in verse 13.

13 Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

Now it’s all coming together! Do you remember Sanballat’s original false accusation of Nehemiah? Nehemiah was supposedly having prophets proclaim that he was the king of Judah. But of course Sanballat had no proof of that whatsoever. So he hires a shut-in prophet to try to lure Nehemiah into the Temple. The Temple is the site where at least once that I can recall a king was installed in Judah. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what might have happened if Nehemiah would have accepted Shemaiah’s offer. He and Nehemiah would have entered the Temple. Just then Shemaiah may have burst back out through the door of the Temple with a shofar proclaiming that Nehemiah was the new king. Nehemiah of course would have been baffled as to why Shemaiah was doing this. I’m sure he would have tried to stop Shemaiah. “Wait, no, stop that. I’m not a king!” But it would have been too late. The witnesses would have seen and reported to whomever had hired them. Nehemiah would have been set up. The enemies would have an evil report against him and would reproach him. And did you pick up on the fear factor again? The enemies wanted Nehemiah to be afraid of them. And if Nehemiah did fear them this whole string of events would occur – he would enter the Temple, etc. But this godly leader never let that ball get rolling. He feared God as we saw in chapter 5 and therefore he didn’t fear man and what the enemies could do to him. And Nehemiah’s refusal to be afraid saved his life and saved God’s work in Jerusalem. So Nehemiah refused to fear man. Instead he took this concerning issue to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 14

Let’s read about that in verse 14.

14 My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

I think this is amazing. Not only does Nehemiah need to call God’s attention to Tobiah and Sanballat and their evil deeds. And furthermore it’s not just Shemaiah that’s trying to sabotage God’s work through God’s leader. Actually Shemaiah is joined by a whole company of so-called prophets who are doing what? Trying to frighten Nehemiah! It’s unbelievable. Here’s a godly man like Nehemiah trying to help God’s people. He didn’t need to leave his comfortable job in the capital of Persia to come to dusty old Jerusalem to help God’s pathetically weak people. But he did this so selflessly. And some of those among God’s people who should be the most mature and helpful and on-board with the plans of God’s leader actually turn out to be his worst enemy. Brethren, let this be a warning to us. The most spiritually knowledgeable among us are still liable to fall. We need to take heed lest this happen. We each need to be striving to be a help and a blessing to the leader God has given us here in this assembly. Let’s not any one of us be found joining hands with the enemies of God’s people. Let’s not destroy the work that God is doing in this assembly.

Well you know, with all this talk of opposition you’d think there wasn’t much actual work getting done on the wall.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 15

If that is what you think, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear the news of verse 15!

15 ¶ So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

Let’s just quickly talk about the chronology of Nehemiah up to this point. The only other reference to a specific month we’ve had thus far is from chapter 2 where Nehemiah makes his request to Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem. That happened in the month Nissan which is the first month in the Jewish calendar – it overlaps our March/April. Then Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem which would have taken about 4 months. So then we should be in about the 5th month in the Jewish calendar. Nehemiah then started the work on the wall sometime early in the month of Av which is indeed the 5th month. Av overlaps our July/August. And 52 days later in the month of Elul Nehemiah finished the wall. So this is sometime around our August/September – the 6th month in the Jewish calendar. So the chronology that Nehemiah presents to us is accurate. And it’s fun to be able to trace.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly impressed with this sequence of events. I mean, 52 days to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem is pretty amazing if you ask me. Personally, I’m struggling just trying to figure out how to replenish the mortar between the stones on the exterior of my house! So for me, to complete the restoration of a whole wall made of stones in 52 days causes me to take notice. And I’m not alone in my sense of astonishment.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 16

Let’s read verse 16.

16 And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

The enemies of God’s people were greatly disheartened. All along these 52 days they thought they could thwart Nehemiah’s plans. They really didn’t think the work would get done. They thought they had the upper hand and that they could discourage God’s people and their leader from finishing the work. But the enemies were wrong. And what disheartened these enemies in particular? They saw that this work was brought about by the God of the Jews – the only true and living God. I guess they hadn’t planned on the Jews having a real God who can see and hear and act on behalf of his people. It’s easy for the enemies of God’s people to discount us. We’re weak. There aren’t many wise or noble in our ranks. We don’t have many political elites in the church. God has chosen the foolish and the base to receive forgiveness and to enter into his kingdom. And because these are the kind of folks that make up God’s people you can understand why the enemy thinks little of us. We are weak. And nothing we might attempt to accomplish should naturally succeed from a human point of view. But that’s why God gets all the glory whenever he does some mighty work through us. It’s evident when God’s work is accomplished amongst God’s people through their leaders that God is ultimately the one behind the work.

What a happy ending! God’s people overcame their enemies. They did God’s work, led by the man God would have to lead them. And the result is two-fold – the enemies were disheartened and some from among the enemies as we’ve seen joined themselves to the Jews and their God… But you know what? Nehemiah isn’t much for happy endings. He’s a realist and the reality is that in this life, reality does not often include a happy ending. So we heard that the enemies lost heart. But that doesn’t end their animosity to God’s people and in particular to their leader.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 17

Let’s read about it in verse 17.

17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.

Now I’m not sure what “in those days” means. Is Nehemiah saying that this all happened before the wall was rebuilt? Is he saying this happened after the wall was rebuilt? I’m not sure. But what I do know is this. Nehemiah intentionally put this account of Tobiah after he mentioned the wall being rebuilt. So whether Tobiah and the nobles were in cahoots before and/or after the wall was rebuilt – Nehemiah wants us to get the sense that he faced relentless opposition – even after the wall was rebuilt. It just didn’t stop. The enemies of God’s people can be tenaciously persistent in their opposition.

And does this not frustrate you? The nobles were in league with Tobiah. The nobles – those who were supposed to be noble, like their label would indicate – those who were probably more well-to-do than the average Jew – those who were strongly confronted by Nehemiah in chapter 5 for charging usury to their brethren – those folks who seemed to repent and agree to do right – who even took an oath that they’d do right –  these folks were corresponding with the enemy. Why? Why were they corresponding with Tobiah?

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 18

Read verse 18.

18 For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.

So Tobiah had some family connections with the Jews – and the nobles in particular. Now this wouldn’t have been the case if the Jews would have simply obeyed God and stopped intermarrying with foreigners who were hostile to God and his people. And this reminds me of when Ezra came to Jerusalem. Remember how the people reported that the Jews were marrying pagans? What did they say? They said that the higher-class folk were among the worst offenders. And this unhappy “marriage” – pardon the pun – was one result of the nobles’ disobedience to God’s word – this strange mixture of God’s people and their enemies. So Tobiah married a woman who happened to be Shechaniah’s daughter. Shechaniah was the son of Arah. And Arah was a man who apparently returned with Zerubbabel back in Ezra chapter 2. Furthermore, Tobiah’s son married the daughter of Meshullam. We saw this guy working on several places on the wall of Jerusalem. But he gave his daughter in marriage to the son of an enemy of God’s people who would like to see that very work stopped. And usually the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So I imagine that Tobiah’s son shared many of the beliefs of his father and was probably antagonistic to the idea of the Jews following God’s commands.

Can we just step back and think of how bizarre this situation truly is? The Jewish nobles stood to gain a great deal from Nehemiah’s leadership. With Nehemiah they had a man who was working to strengthen them. Nehemiah was paving the way for reforms that would see the Jews following God and separated from their enemies. The enemies – Tobiah included – on the other hand wanted to see the Jews weak and unable to defend themselves. The enemies wanted the Jews to continue to sin against their God and thus be continually on the receiving end of God’s chastening. Nehemiah wanted to free the Jews from this. And yet to whom do these nobles turn? To their godly leader Nehemiah? No. They apparently miss Tobiah. They feel obliged to write to him. “Dear Tobiah, We sure miss you since our oppressive new leader came to town. We hope to see you soon. Love, The Nobles.” Maybe the Nobles think that Tobiah could still have a place in Jerusalem. Maybe they think that Nehemiah is too hardline in distancing himself from God’s enemies and not allowing them a place in the religious and social life of God’s people.

Nehemiah 6 Summary
Verse 19

And I think maybe this is why we see the Nobles do what they do in verse 19.

19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.

The Nobles tell Nehemiah about all the good that Tobiah has done. I’m guessing this is an attempt to influence Nehemiah to allow Tobiah back into their lives. But what kind of effect might this situation have on Nehemiah? Can you imagine this godly leader’s struggle? He knows the Jews need to stop being influenced by Tobiah and folks like him. At the same time he understands how they’re connected to Tobiah because of unlawful intermarriage. And furthermore Nehemiah can recognize that Tobiah is still made in God’s image and isn’t as completely evil as he could possibly be – he does have some good works to speak of. And yet Nehemiah as the leader ultimately before God needs to prevent Tobiah from influencing the Jews in any way, shape, or form with his ungodliness. This was an unpopular stance for Nehemiah to take. But it was necessary… In our present situation sometimes it’s those of us who know the most who want to advocate for some of the most ungodly things. And praise the Lord if God’s people have a godly leader who will put his foot down and risk being despised and betrayed by his own people in doing what he knows to be right. God help us to accept the instruction and scriptural limitations our own godly leaders place before us.

And how does this story end? Tobiah hears of Nehemiah’s words relayed to him by his buddies the nobles. And Tobiah sends letters to Nehemiah… in order to do what? To frighten him. Sometimes the enemies of God’s people and their leader – they just don’t quit. Praise the Lord for a leader who won’t bow under the pressure to fear man. Praise the Lord for a man who will lead God’s people to do right. God help us to not discourage such men. And God help us to personally overcome the fear of man to accomplish God’s work.

Nehemiah 5 Summary

Nehemiah 5 Summary: Today we’ll be studying Nehemiah chapter 5. So let’s briefly survey how we got to this point in the story.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Chapter 1

The book of Nehemiah starts by describing the circumstances that brought Nehemiah to Jerusalem. Chapter 1 starts with Nehemiah discovering that Jerusalem was desolate and that the Jews were greatly distressed. So Nehemiah humbled himself before God and prayed. And we read his prayer. And based on the tone and content of that prayer I have a suspicion that Nehemiah thought that God may have been sending the Jews out of the land once again for their unfaithfulness.

Well maybe you say – how could that be? What did the Jews do that made Nehemiah think that God was sending them out of the land for their sin?? Throughout the the books of Ezra and Nehemiah it seems like the Jews are never far from total apostasy. For example, remember when Ezra came to Jerusalem just a decade or so before Nehemiah arrived? He found that the people had been engaging in sinful inter-marriage with the enemy! We saw the peoples’ propensity to slide back into sin in the time of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. Even at the end of the book of Nehemiah we see that when Nehemiah leaves for a little while the people go right back to their old sinful ways. So, we’re not told exactly what the people did to make Nehemiah think that they were being chastened by God. But given the Jews’ track record, you can imagine why Nehemiah might have feared that this was the case again.

At any rate, Nehemiah formed a plan to return to Jerusalem and to help God’s people. Artaxerxes approved that plan. And Nehemiah was off to Jerusalem!

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Stopping Sin

Now how would you help God’s people to stop slipping into sin if you were Nehemiah? Do you see a pattern to the Jews’ sin? I think we see that often the Jews are influenced to sin by the ungodly pagans around them. They intermarry with the pagans. We’ll see later that some of them have an alliance with an influential pagan. At the end of this book they let one of the pagans back into the city – into the Temple actually. So it seems like the Jews just couldn’t resist forming partnerships with their enemies. And unfortunately when this was happening it wasn’t the Jews who were influencing the pagans. It was the pagans who were influencing the Jews to break God’s law and adopt ungodly practices. Can you see now why the first thing Nehemiah does is to build a wall of separation between the Jews and their enemies? It’s as if he knew that keeping the ungodly influence out was essential if these people were going to have a chance of keeping themselves undefiled and clear of God’s anger and chastisement.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Walls Rebuilt

So Nehemiah started rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem with the Jews’ help. He hoped this would help keep the ungodly enemies out of God’s holy city. Now, how do you think the enemies felt about this? Well we don’t need to guess because we already saw the opposition that immediately met them as they tried to erect a barrier of separation between God’s people and the ungodly world around them.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Enemy Opposition

And the opposition was fierce. You remember all the enemies – Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and really all the nations surrounding Jerusalem. They were all ready to attack the poor weak Jews. And at this point the wall is still not fully re-built. So these enemies are still threatening to enter the city. Let’s see their next attempt to attack the Jews. Read 5:1… “And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against SANBALLAT AND TOBIAH… no — their brethren the Jews.”

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Internal Opposition

Whoa, that may have caught us off-guard! I wasn’t expecting this change of conflicts. I’m used to God’s people experiencing conflict with external opponents. But you just don’t expect it from internal folks who should be on the right side. But whether we expect it or not, that’s exactly what we have here – opposition: not from the external enemies but from folks who are among God’s people.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Fear God, Love His People

And so originally I thought that this passage was mainly focused on godly leaders dealing with internal opposition as opposed to what we’ve seen before with godly leaders facing external opposition. But I don’t think that’s the main point of chapter 5. And so I’ll give you the title of today’s message and see if it bears out throughout chapter 5 — Godly leaders fear God and love his people. I think this chapter is yet another opportunity for Nehemiah to showcase his actions as a godly leader. So let’s learn all we can from this godly leader. I think every husband, parent, teacher, and really everyone else who has some sort of influence over others – I think we all have something to learn.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Jew vs. Jew

So Nehemiah the godly leader is faced with internal strife. And this was a big deal. It was a great outcry. The people and their wives took issue with their Jewish brethren. It’s Jew versus Jew. And that’s all we know so far. Well what’s the big cause for the disturbance? Let’s read verse 2.

For there were that said,

We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.

So here’s some of these people who were crying out.

And they were saying that there was a number of them. There were a good number of Jews in the land at that time. And for the most part it seems that each family had a number of children. So there were a lot of these people.

Well, that’s good. Part of God’s blessings to his people are that they would be abundant. So what’s the problem? The problem comes in the last half of that verse. They indicate that they don’t have anything to eat.

Let me clear up a few translation issues here. First, “corn” is a translation of a Hebrew word that can also mean “grain.” So these people need grain or food of some sort.

The second issue that needs explanation is the phrase “therefore we take up.” In the Hebrew text this verb communicates that these people are saying something like “therefore let us take up or get grain.”

These people are all together confirming the fact that there are many of them and that they are hungry and need some food!

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Why No Food?

Well, I don’t get it! Why don’t these people have food? Are they lazy or something? Let’s read verse 3.

Some also there were that said,

We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

So we’re presented two problems that are contributing to the Jews going hungry.

First they’ve mortgaged their property. Here’s what they did. They had a need for food and apparently their last option was to give up the only property they owned as collateral for a loan so they could buy some food.

The second issue brought up is this business about the “dearth.” This of course is a word that simply means a “lack” of something. Lack of what? Well, in the context they’re lacking food. And this is a widespread issue, at least in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. What do we call a widespread lack of food? Yes, a famine.

So we’re getting a more complete picture of what’s going on here. The people lack food because there’s a famine in the land. They don’t have enough money to buy food so they get a loan from their Jewish brethren to buy it.

The only problem is that they need to put their fields and homes up as collateral to get these loans. So they’re just on a downward spiral.

And really, some things are worth getting a loan for – like buying a house maybe or something that may increase in value. But food? Food just gets eaten and then it’s gone. It’s not as if the people who are getting these loans are going to be able to pay these loans off. Especially if they don’t have their fields anymore. How else would they have made money to pay their lenders back if not for their produce?

Do you see the hopeless downward spiral these Jews have descended upon? The situation is bleak. That’s how we ought to feel for these folks. Sympathize with their plight.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Taking Their Children?!

In modern times this would be akin to you having to put your grocery bill on the credit card and never being able to get enough money to pay off your credit card balance. Interest piles up. Bills go unpaid. Collection agencies start calling. Repossessing your stuff. Taking things that are valuable to you – maybe even your own children!

Well but that doesn’t happen in modern-day America!

You’re right. It doesn’t.

But it did in post-exilic Judah. Let’s read verses 4 and 5 for more details.

There were also that said,

We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

So in addition to the famine that’s causing the Jews to mortgage their fields, there’s also this matter of paying the king’s tax on those fields. And the Jews are finding themselves unable to pay this tax.

So the result of this is not pretty. The Jews are starting to sell their children back into slavery in order to get some money to pay this tax – a tax on land that they don’t even own anymore!

Why don’t they own it? Because other men own that land now.

Well, who owned the land? The poor Jews allude to the answer as did Nehemiah in verse 1 of this chapter. The Jews say that they are just like their brethren and their children are like their children. Except now they are needing to sell their children… to their Jewish brethren.

But why? Because the wealthy Jews are doing something evil that’s leading the poorer Jews to need to start selling their children to them.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Verses 1-5

So here’s a summary of this situation.

Most all of the Jewish families would have owned land at that time. And they would live off the produce of their land typically.

But there’s a famine. And their fields aren’t producing like they usually would.

Add to this that the king is still taxing their land.

And so some of the poorer Jews are borrowing money from richer Jews to get grain and to pay this tax.

But the poorer Jews need to hand over their land as collateral.

And because their land is basically someone else’s they’re starting to resort to selling their own beloved children to try to make ends meet. And in fact some of them have daughters in particular who are already slaves – slaves to their own Jewish countrymen!

Nehemiah 5 Summary – His Reaction

So Nehemiah hears about this. How do you think he reacts? Let’s read verses 6 and 7.

6 ¶ And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

7 Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them,

Ye exact usury, every one of his brother.

And I set a great assembly against them.

So Nehemiah was very angry. This is the same word (charah) that’s used of Sanballat’s feelings when he heard the Jews were succeeding in the work. Isn’t that interesting? The enemies are angry when the Jews are succeeding and Nehemiah is angry when the Jews are failing.

Nehemiah then consults with himself. And the picture I initially got of that was Nehemiah muttering to himself like a crazy guy. That’s not the picture we’re to have in our minds. The sort of mechanical way of translating this would be – “my heart took counsel upon me.” His heart counseled him or vice versa. What would that look like? He’s mulling this over. He’s carefully thinking about this situation and what he ought to do.

And he eventually figured out exactly what to do. He rebukes the nobles and rulers. Ah, so there’s the group that’s taking advantage of their poorer Jewish brethren!

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Usury

And what does he accuse these nobles and rulers of? Exacting usury. What is that? Usury is exorbitant interest. Like you see those credit cards out there and if you read the fine print some of these cards charge around 20% interest. This is in my estimation a modern-day example of usury.

Well, what’s the big deal? I mean, business is business, right? The poor Jews didn’t need to go to the rich Jews for loans. Well, maybe they did. But I mean, surely it’s not as if the poor Jews didn’t know the conditions of their loans with the rich Jews. Why is Nehemiah so upset? These poor Jews should just work hard and pay off these loans.

Well, do you remember what I think is Nehemiah’s mindset for coming to Jerusalem in the first place? Remember, the Jews are scattered out of Jerusalem for the most part. And I think Nehemiah is fearing that another exile is coming if these Jews don’t do right.

But by what standard can Nehemiah judge whether they’re “doing right” or not? What was the equivalent of the Jews’ national constitution? The Law of Moses, right? And wouldn’t you know it? The Law has something to say to Jews about charging interest to their Jewish brothers. Let’s turn to Leviticus 25. And we’ll read verses 35 through 38.

And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

God’s command to Israel was to not lend to their brethren with interest. If a Jewish brother became poor his neighbors needed to help him. They could lend to him. But it would be a 0% APR, Free-Financing type of loan – no interest! His fellow Jews were not to become rich off their brethren.

In fact, if the poor Jew needed food, the rich Jew was commanded to not make a profit off of that. The purpose was so that the poor Jew would be able to regain his bearings financially and move on and keep the land that was allotted to him and his family continually throughout their generations.

What was the rich Jews’ motivation for doing this? He stood to gain nothing. He would have to lend his money and get nothing in return. What would motivate a man to do such a thing?

Look again at verse 36.

Take thou no usury of him or increase but… fear thy God.

That’s the key. And that alone is what would motivate anyone to do right despite financial inconvenience. The fear of God.

Remember that mention here as we move along back into Nehemiah. In fact let’s turn back there to Nehemiah 5:7.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Nehemiah Confronts the Sinners

So now we see why Nehemiah was angry.

The Jews were breaking God’s law. They were putting themselves in the cross hairs of God’s burning anger. The rich Jews were not obeying God and were oppressing the poor Jews. This could very well end in the Jews being deported once more by God.

And Nehemiah stood as the lone voice of reason – the one who would fill in the gap so to speak – and would try to divert God’s anger.

How would he do this? He would need to confront the ones who were doing wrong in a very public and solemn manner. And that’s just what we see at the end of verse 7.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – The Great Assembly

He calls a great assembly against the offenders. Can you imagine that? A GREAT assembly.

I’m not sure how many people we’re talking about attending this assembly. But I’m sure all the nobles and rulers were there. They were probably stationed in the middle where everyone could see them.

Then of course the oppressed poor Jews would have been there. This meeting was of special interest to them. Really, their lives depended on the outcome of this assembly.

Then of course Nehemiah was there serving as the prosecution and judge. And here’s what he says to the nobles and rulers. Verse 8.

8 And I said unto them,

We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen;

and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us?

Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.

Here’s Nehemiah’s first round of questioning.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Buying Back Slaves

He reminds the nobles and rulers that the Jews by and large had been sold to the nations. After the exile they were scattered and many apparently were sold off as slaves to Gentiles.

And Nehemiah and some of his partners – maybe even including some of these nobles and rulers! –  were active in buying back these Jews from the nations. We wouldn’t have known that unless he had just revealed it here.

Now, I’m sure that wasn’t cheap – buying back a person out of slavery. It’s something that Nehemiah didn’t need to do. No one was forcing him to buy back Jews from slavery. And yet he did it out of love for his fellow-Jews.

So in light of Nehemiah’s generous actions can you imagine how frustrating the actions of the rich Jews must have been. Now it wasn’t the Gentiles who were enslaving the poor Jews. It was the Jews themselves enslaving one another!

And here’s the most frustrating part of all. Nehemiah wouldn’t let this enslaving go on. He and his partners would buy back these Jews. And I’m guessing that some of these Jews Nehemiah had already emancipated from the Gentiles just a little while ago. And here they are again, needing Nehemiah to buy them back once more. Can you envision that? A Jew is bought back from slavery to a Gentile only to become a slave to a fellow Jew only to be bought back by Nehemiah. And the cycle continues. Isn’t that absurd?

Nehemiah 5 Summary – More Questions

How would these rich Jews defend themselves against this charge? Well we saw it already. They couldn’t find a word to say in their defense. They knew they had done wrong.

But that doesn’t stop Nehemiah from stating the obvious in verses 9 through 11.

9 Also I said,

It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? 10 I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury. 11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.

Here’s Nehemiah’s second round of questioning.

He asserts very simply that what they’re doing to their poor brethren is not good. He asks rhetorically whether they ought to walk in the what? The fear of God. That should remind you of the passage we read earlier in Leviticus. You remember that the motivation for the people not exacting usury or interest from their poor brothers was that they should be fearing God.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Why Fear God?

And what’s interesting is that in this passage we see deeper motivation to fear God in the first place. So, why should they not collect interest on their brothers? Because they should fear God. Why should they fear God? Well, in this passage he says the motivation to fear God should come at least from the fact that they have enemies around them that are reproaching them. Not just the poor Jews but also the rich Jews are being subjected to this ridicule and derision from their enemies. It’s like Nehemiah is saying, “Don’t you understand that we as the people of God need to be unified? The enemies know that we’re weak. They’d love to see us fighting among ourselves. And you rich Jews who are claiming to be God-fearers and servants of God – if you oppress your brother, what kind of testimony is that to these unrighteous enemies of ours?”

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Stop the Usury

And the end of verse 10 and into verse 11 is Nehemiah’s plea to the rich Jews – please stop charging interest to your poor brothers. Lend them money without interest. Give them food without making a profit off of them. Restore the land that you took from them. And stop taking the money and food that you are continually charging them.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – The Rich Respond

Now, this is the moment of truth. These rich folks probably held quite a bit of sway in the Jewish community. This series of questions from Nehemiah may have been humiliating to them. They may not have appreciated being the focal point of this great assembly that Nehemiah called against them. How would they respond to this call to action? This is really the most tense part of this scene.

Let’s see how the rich Jews respond in verse 12.

12 Then said they,

We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest.

Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.

Wow, the nobles and rulers humbled themselves and adopted Nehemiah’s plan. What a relief. Just what the Jews didn’t need was to be fractured any further in the midst of their hostile enemies.

And this shows again what we’ve seen already in this book – this tendency of the Jews after the exile to be pretty malleable when confronted with their wrongdoing.

And I’m sure Nehemiah was pretty relieved to hear their response. But he really wants to make sure they stick to their word. So he calls the priests to take an oath from the nobles and rulers that they would keep their promise.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Object Lesson

Then Nehemiah gives them an object lesson to help them remember to do right. Verse 13.

13 Also I shook my lap, and said,

So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.

Nehemiah takes his dusty old robe – a robe that had seen a lot of hard labor on the dirty wall – a robe that had been worn in the dusty, near-desert conditions of Jerusalem, spending numberless hours every day pulling dusty stones out of dusty piles of dusty rubbish.

Nehemiah takes hold of this dusty old robe and he shakes it. He shakes it hard.

I can imagine that when he did this, some dust probably just fell to the ground. The rest probably was launched into the air. Before that, that dust had settled pretty well on Nehemiah’s garment. But when he shook it out, some landed on the ground. The rest flew into the air. But none remained on Nehemiah.

And that was to be a solemn warning to those who would transgress this promise they made to not lend to their brothers with interest. They were settled in the land just like that dust was settled on Nehemiah’s clothes. But God would shake them out of the land if they disobeyed.

I think that got the point across. The people rejoiced that justice had been done. The nobles and rulers did according to their promise. Praise the Lord for a leader like Nehemiah. Godly leaders fear God and love his people. In this situation this godly leader was motivated to fear God even when those he was leading were not.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Love in Two Forms

And his love for God’s people took two forms.

How did he love the oppressed, disadvantaged, and offended among God’s people? He made matters right for them. He saw to it that they were no longer mistreated.

And how did Nehemiah show love to those who were doing the mistreating? He insisted that they stop their injustices against their brothers.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – More Love

And this isn’t the only instance of Nehemiah fearing God and loving God’s people. Let’s read verse 14.

14 ¶ Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.

Alright, what do we have here? Nehemiah is refusing himself and his brothers the bread of the governor.

Who was the governor? Well, the beginning of the verse says that Nehemiah himself was the governor.

So what is this “bread of the governor?” Apparently as we learn in the rest of this chapter the governor had a right according to Persian law to eat his food at the expense of those whom he governed.

Nehemiah did not claim any such right. He could have done so lawfully. But he refused.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – A Love That Refuses Luxury

I wonder why. Keep reading – verse 15.

15 But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people:

but so did not I, because of the fear of God.

So we see here that Nehemiah was acting in stark contrast to those who preceded him.

Who were these governors anyway? Well, we don’t know – at least I don’t. The Bible doesn’t say. Nehemiah surely isn’t talking about Zerubbabel. He had been gone for a number of decades by this point.

Well, whoever these former governors were they apparently liked to live at the expense of the destitute Jews. They took from the Jews. They took bread. They took wine. They took silver. And if that wasn’t bad enough even their lowly servants oppressed the Jews.

But Nehemiah was completely different.

And I just asked this before. But why was he so different? Look at the last four words of verse 15. There’s that phrase again! The fear of God. That’s what motivated Nehemiah to do right. This loving reverential fear of displeasing God. And whenever we’re truly fearing displeasing God, we’re bound to do right to his people. And this is what happened with Nehemiah.

Now really Nehemiah was in a pretty comfortable position. He could have just kind of coasted along at the expense of the Jews. But he didn’t. He testifies to that fact in verse 16.

16 Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.

Do you see the singularity of mind that Nehemiah had? He was missional in his approach to life. He came to Jerusalem to work on that wall. And work on that wall, he did! He didn’t even busy himself with purchasing land.

And his servants? Well, they certainly weren’t slacking either. They were gathered to work right alongside this godly leader who feared God and loved his people.

Nehemiah 5 Summary – More to Love

And if these considerations haven’t made us love and admire Nehemiah enough we have the content of verses 17 and 18.

17 Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us.

18 Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine:

yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.

Imagine packing 150 plus people into your house for every meal! And imagine cooking all the things that Nehemiah provided for his scores of guests every day! Oxen, sheep, birds, wine to flavor and disinfect their water. I imagine they also had some vegetables.

This would be costly to Nehemiah. This would require his servants – because I’m gathering that he didn’t have a wife – it would require that his servants clean and prepare for each of these meals. This would be a lot of work and a significant expense.

But you don’t hear a hint of complaint from this godly leader. He says he didn’t take the governor’s food allowance as he mentioned earlier. I mean he had every right to take it. He was feeding a number of his subjects. But he fed them for free. Well, it was free to them. It cost him quite a bit I imagine.

And yet he gladly bore the extra expense. Why? He says at the end of verse 18 – he sympathized with the people. The burden was already very heavy on the people. They were maxed out physically and monetarily. They had nothing else to give.

So Nehemiah, who feared God and loved his people, he took the extra burden upon himself.

Again, I am really put to shame by Nehemiah’s example. What a godly leader. Oh that each of us husbands were this kind of leader to his wife. That us parents were this kind of leader to our children. That we would appreciate our own godly leaders who exemplify for us Nehemiah’s fear of God and love for people. God help us!

Nehemiah 5 Summary – Humility

I want to point out one last thing. Have you noticed who’s been writing this book thus far? You see a lot of 1st person personal pronouns – I, me, my, our, us. Nehemiah is writing this about himself.

Can you imagine being the kind of man that Nehemiah was and writing these glowing things about yourself? I personally do not doubt that I’d be lifted up with pride as I put my quill to parchment trying to describe what I did for God and his people.

But what’s Nehemiah’s attitude? What audience is he appealing to as he writes about these things that God had done through him? Let’s finally read verse 19.

19 Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

Is Nehemiah recording these things for his own vainglory? No. That’s not what’s in his heart. He’s not doing these things, he’s not writing this book, for the sake of having men praise him.

He’s doing it in God’s sight alone. If others see, that’s fine. But he must have God notice. He wants praise from him alone. That’s his sole focus.

God help each of us who are leaders in any capacity to fear him and love his people just as Nehemiah did.