May 25, 2007
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Following Scripture Verses
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- 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.
- 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 laded, 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.
- Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day.
- So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.
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- And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.
- 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.
- Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
- 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.
- And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
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- 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;)
- 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.
- 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?
- Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
- Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;
- 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.
- 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.
- Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
- 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.
- Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
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Thought for the day:
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These chapters continue the description of the rebuilding of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. Opposition came, as it always does. This time it was in the form of mockery. The old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" is technically true, but mockery is often very painful, and most of us don't enjoy receiving it. Verses 2 and 3 show this ridicule. The Jews are referred to as feeble, and their abilities, as well as their intelligence, are sneered at. Their religious sacrifices are scorned, and they are told that the end result of their labors will be so poorly constructed that a fox could break it down. Hearing this was no doubt difficult for the Israelites, so Nehemiah prayed to the Lord. His prayer was,
"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" (4-5).
The Jews had heard the mockery; not Nehemiah asks God to hear it as well, for God Himself is mocked when His people are mocked. He asks the Lord to take vengeance upon their enemies by bringing scorn upon them and making them captives of another nation. It is interesting to me that Nehemiah asks God not to forget about their sin, but to deal with it. This type of prayer is repeated throughout Scripture, even up through the prayers of the Tribulation martyrs. People who willfully reject the Lord and oppress God's people need to be judged, for God has promised that He will do so, and His holiness demands that He do so.
Following his prayer, Nehemiah kept the job going forward. I think it is important for us to remember that, while prayer is necessary, God does not expect us to quit doing what He has called us to do while we wait for Him to solve our problems. Nehemiah prayed, and went back to work with full confidence that Jehovah would take care of everything. He convinced the Jews to join him, and the work progressed quickly because "the people had a mind to work" (6). It is amazing what can be accomplished when God's people decide to get up and get busy about that which He has told them to do. Churches languish when the congregation gets lazy about attendance, giving, evangelism, and brotherly love. When only a handful of people are involved in the work, very little gets done. However, when all the members from all different walks of life who possess varied spiritual gifts and diverse talents decide that they will actually expend some energy to fulfill the Lord's commands, it is truly amazing what goals can be reached and what a difference can be made. Note that the motivation to work came from the mind. It was not based upon talent, for the Scriptures show that men from many different careers helped to build (chapter 3). It was not based upon strength, for even the daughters of Shallum were involved in construction (3:12). It was based in people making the conscious decision that they were going to do whatever they could to see God's work finished. This is the attitude that needs to exist in our churches. It has been said that in the typical church 10% of the congregation does 90% of the work. If this is true, than the average church truly has a great spiritual problem. Everybody needs to get involved, and that will only happen when Christians choose to believe God and then desire to see souls saved and His work progressing.
Do you have a mind to work for the Lord through your local church? Can anyone tell? If they can't, then get busy, starting today.
Pastor Dr. Mark J Montgomery