Doing a Great Work in Spite of Impossible OddsBro. Ron Rupé
12/1/2007 6:00 PM
Nehemiah 1:1-11; 2:1-5
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace. That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.
And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid. And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.
A great work was worked through Nehemiah’s leadership. Nehemiah had a desire to rebuild a destroyed city, but he was just a cupbearer, a slave. He knew in his heart he would rebuild a city, and he had others that helped him. He and his people overcame impossible odds to accomplish an incredible feat. We’re to be builders, too, through spiritual ones. (See 1 Peter 2:5) The work we’re called to do is building. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10) There is a spiritual building for us to help build. We also face what sometimes seems like impossible odds. Learn from Nehemiah to overcome obstacles and do a great work. A great work begins with a vision and a burden. There are two aspects of a vision: 1) How things actually are; the current state of things 2) How things could be. Nehemiah saw that because the Israelites had sinned and not kept the commandments of God they were scattered and the city was reproached and burned. He saw that they could turn and keep the commandments of God and return and restore Jerusalem. What is the state of the world around us? That which calls itself the Christian church hasn’t kept the commandments of God; it is broken down and the people are ashamed and reproached and scattered. Until we see things as they are, we’ll never change or repent. We need to see what things should and could be, and that we can make a difference. We need a burden to see the vision accomplished. Carry a burden for the souls in your care. Weep, mourn, fast and pray for those you’re responsible for. How often do you do this for those you know and care about? This is where the great work starts. It’s a great responsibility. When you get the proper vision and burden, you’re going to have to overcome the rubbish.
Nehemiah 2:11-14; 4:10
So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.
And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.
There was a lot of rubbish to go through and remove. The church today is faced with much spiritual rubbish. False doctrines, false spirits, carnality and sectarian spirits abound in the church. This is spiritual rubbish. (See 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 1 John 4:1-2; 3 John 9; 1 Corinthians 3; Mark 9:38-40) The rubbish isn’t new for our day. Even the early church had to deal with some of the same issues. Trying to deal with the rubbish wears you out because it isn’t yours to deal with. We’re not supposed to move the rubbish, but to choose the good materials to build with.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Leave the rubbish in the heaps. Focus on what you’re building and make sure you’re not building rubbish into God’s building. Let God deal with the rubbish. Make sure what you’re building can be tried by fire. Focus on your work.
Vision + Burden – Rubbish
Now how to do the work?
Nehemiah 3:1-4, 31-32
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri. But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof. And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.
After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith’s son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner. And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.
This chapter talks of family building next to family all around the city. No place lacked a worker and no worker lacked a place. A great work is not accomplished by a single champion; it’s accomplished by the sum of our efforts. Can you be content to focus on your part of the wall? Focus on what God has given you to do. Often this work is found in a very obvious place.
Nehemiah 3:10, 27-29
And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah.
After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel. From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against the house. After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate.
The work should begin at your house and extend from there. Be a builder in the place where you are.
Vision + Burden – Rubbish + A Sanctified Work …
Nehemiah 3:1, 20
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
After him Baruch the son of Zabai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
These priests were helping to build their part of the wall. Many different folks from different walks of life worked on it. A little bit of them got into the building. They made an impression on the work.
Colossians 3:17, 22-23
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Make your work for God and make it a sanctified work. Earnestly work and sanctify it to God. A sanctified work has these characteristics. It is performed:
- In the name of the Lord
- To please God and not man
- With thanks to God for the results
The sum total of our sanctified works yields a great work. Expect and overcome opposition.
But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.
And it came to pass that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.
No work for God goes forth unopposed. Opposition and persecution are sometimes:
- Inward Struggle
- Manifold Temptations
Sometimes your work will be opposed by your brothers in Christ. "And it came to pass that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you." The Jews it speaks about here were those left behind that were accustomed to defeat. You may have to hold your vision while others doubt and express those doubts to you about your work. Get out of the habit of criticizing the workers. Don’t criticize what others are trying to do for God. All of these oppositions can, will and must be overcome.
Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that jaded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us. So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
When opposition comes, watch and pray first. Be courageous in the Lord. Don’t look at the rubbish and the opposition; remember the Lord. Fight for those you care about; don’t let the enemy steal it all from you. Be a builder or a defender; don’t be on the demolition crew. Be a builder/warrior. This is a picture of a mature, stalwart Christian. Rally around the breaches. Wherever the need is, gather there, defeat the enemy and then get busy again.
So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. 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.