As I read Nehemiah 2:9-20, I wonder what God's Word might be speaking into my life? But we must be careful not to jump the process of proper exegesis and hermeneutics (fancy words for "what did it say then" and "how do we apply the timeless principles today.")
Seeking to understand what the text is communicating in its proper context, we know that the Jews disobeyed God and turned their back on the Lord for a long, long time. Eventually God's grace reached the end and the people were exiled. But just as God exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, that's not the end of the story. I once hear a pastor say, "Jesus jumped the fence and went after Adam and Eve."
Nehemiah is a picture of restoration and redemption--then and now. God had physically brought his people back to the Promised Land, but the city was trashed. The result of their actions produced a serious mess. The walls were wrecked and the city was burned. But God also sent Nehemiah to the city with a vision, a plan, and God's favor.
That's what happened in history. We can say, "well, that's neat" or we can ask, "What's the timeless principle here?"
Timeless principle #1: Disobedience and rebellion (which the Bible calls sin) result in exile from God.
Timeless principle #2: Beyond exile from God's Kingdom, sin also brings about wrecked walls, burned gates, distress, and great shame in our lives.
Timeless principle #3: God cares for his people and the circumstances they are in.
As we look at Nehemiah 2:9-21, we see what Nehemiah did with God's vision for the city, God's plan, and God's favor (or provision). First Nehemiah spent three days in the City. The text does not say what he did with those three days, but based on Chapter 1, I suspect he was praying. Then Nehemiah carefully inspected the problem. He didn't bring in a committee or open public hearings. He just went out to see the destruction. Nehemiah needed to get a solid idea of the problem. Then, after doing this work, Nehemiah met with the people.
Nehemiah shared the reality. Look at Nehemiah 2:17. He told the people what was. He was honest. The situation wasn't great, but sugarcoating it wouldn't help. Covering it up wouldn't be the way to see things right. Then Nehemiah told them what should be. He told them to his plan (the one God gave him). "Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision." And then Nehemiah reminded the people that God's favor is on them. God is with them!
Timeless Principle #4: We must be honest about situation.
Timeless Principle #5: What is, is not necessarily what should or will be when it comes to God's redemption.
Timeless Principle #6: If it's God's plan, God is in the solution.
Now it's time to apply these timeless principles to our own lives. If these principles are true for all people of all time of all places, they they will be true of us.
Your disobedience and rebellion separates you from God. Mine too. The results of your sin not only separate you from God, they wreck your life. Are your walls wrecked and your city burned? No matter how much you might try to hide it, you know it's true don't you? But you should know God cares about you. And me. For this I am thankful.
God's Word says we need to be honest about our sin. We need to confess it and ask God to forgive us. You should also know that who you are today is not who you will be tomorrow if you are in Christ. God has a plan and in fact, Jesus Christ is the solution. Nehemiah was just a shadow of the better Redeemer and Restorer to come--Jesus. How are you doing with Jesus? (I'm happy to chat with you about this if you'd like to discuss it more.)
And there's something else we should see in Nehemiah 2:9-11. Nehemiah had opposition. Serious opposition. Sanballat, Tobiah, and a few others. They are only being introduced in this part of the book, but trust me, we'll see them a few more times. They heckled Nehemiah and jeered. Later they will make serious threats. But look what Nehemiah said to them in Nehemiah 2:20: "The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem."
Nehemiah stood with God. In addition, he pointed out that Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem were not among God's people. There they were, jeering, yet they do not stand with God. So who were they really jeering at? Nehemiah? No. They were jeering and fighting against God. (If you read your Bible, you'll learn that that never goes well for people.)
Timeless Principle #7: God is with his servants. He will make them prosper.
Timeless Principle #8: When people jeer at God's people, they are really jeering at God.
Applying these timeless principles, we should take great comfort if we are Christians. God is with us. Even more so, we ought not worry or fret when society, or internet articles, or even friends and family jeer at us for doing God's will. They are not jeering at us, they are taking a stab at God.
Be encouraged by Nehemiah's words, "The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build."
We'll be discussing the book of Nehemiah every Sunday and in our Fellowship Groups through mid December. We'd love to have you join us.
Soli Deo gloria!