Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 5-9

Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and setting the gates in place was an all-consuming task for Nehemiah and the remnant of Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity.  Nehemiah anticipated the work on the wall would face opposition and when enemies openly mocked, ridiculed and threatened him, he prayed and continued the work God had called him to (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:1, 7-8).

Having overcome opposition from enemies without, Nehemiah soon faced troubles and discouragements within that threatened to derail the work on the walls.  Nehemiah learned those who labored on the walls were forced to mortgage their houses and fields to borrow money and feed their families. Working on the walls to the neglect of their own fields and households, the workers were unable to repay their debts.

Wealthy lenders, giving no regard to the sacrifices of those working on the walls, began foreclosing on their borrowers’ possessions, even taking their children and enslaving them to pay their debts (Nehemiah 5:1-5).  Hearing the people were oppressed, Nehemiah became indignant and publicly rebuked the elders (5:7-13).

By contrast, while some took advantage of the people to enrich themselves, Nehemiah did the opposite.  He refused to burden the people with unnecessary taxes or require any more of them than was necessary.  Why?  After all, he was governor and had authority to charge the people (5:14).

Nehemiah’s answer… “because of the fear of God” (5:15).  Confident God is the rewarder and honors His laborers, Nehemiah prayed, “Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people” (5:19).

There are many spiritual lessons and challenges found in Nehemiah chapters 6-9; however, I will limit my observations to three qualities of spiritual leadership I admire in Nehemiah’s life (Nehemiah 6:1-5).

The first quality, Nehemiah was HONEST (Nehemiah 6:1). 

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;) 

Unlike a lot of leaders, including too many preachers, Nehemiah did not know the term, “evangelistically speaking”.  While his enemies were saying he “had builded the wall” (6:1), Nehemiah makes the honest observation, “I had not set up the doors upon the gates” (6:1).

Minor detail you say? Perhaps, but it was an honest admission.  He was not a man given to “little white lies”, nor one to misrepresent his work.  He was a man who spoke the truth (Ephesians 4: 15, 25).

A second quality I admire in Nehemiah is he was UNCOMPROMISED …unwavering in his priorities (Nehemiah 6:2-3). 

Nehemiah 6:2-3 – 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.  3And 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? 

When Nehemiah’s enemies failed to stop the work on the wall, they proposed a compromise… “Come, let us meet together” (6:2).  Nehemiah, however, discerned they were not interested in his welfare or the “great work” to which God had called him (6:2).

The following opinion will not be popular with some of my peers; however, I believe there are preachers who neglect their pulpits and the well-being of their congregations.   Travel, speaking engagements, and serving on multiple boards might be alluring, but I fear it is often to the neglect of shepherding the flock God has entrusted to their care.

Finally, Nehemiah was DISCERNING (Nehemiah 6:4-5, 12-14). 

 Nehemiah 6:4-5 – Yet they [Nehemiah’s enemies] sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.  5Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;

 Nehemiah’s enemies were persistent and when friendly compromise failed, they slandered (6:5-9) and plotted to ambush him (6:10).  Nehemiah saw through the motives of his enemies and answered their attacks with spiritual discernment and conviction (6:11-14).

America needs a generation of preachers who Fear the LORD, are Honest, Uncompromising, and Spiritually Discerning!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith