Monday, 07 April 2008 08:20

Being Victorious [1]

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We come back now to our series on the book of Nehemiah. Let me remind you of the setting as we study chapter 6. Nehemiah 1 tells us about Nehemiah hearing of the ruins in Jerusalem and his prayer that the city might yet be restored to Gods praise and honor. In chapter 2 we read about Nehemiah himself going to Jerusalem with the king of Persias approval and supplies to help rebuild that city. Nehemiah 3 tells of the project getting going and how everyone is working together on it. Nehemiah 4 records for us all the opposition against the rebuilding projects by the surrounding peoples who hated the Jews and the God of Israel. Especially mentioned are Sanballet, Geshem, and Tobiah who are referred to again in our study today on chapter 6. Then Nehemiah 5 tells about the internal troubles and strife within the camp of the Jews and how Nehemiah dealt with that. Nehemiah, by Gods grace, taught and led the people by example in the way of Gods Word and will. And now we come to chapter 6 where we meet again with ongoing assaults against the work of the Lord with the rebuilding and restoration of the city of Jerusalem.

As the enemies become aware that, in spite of all their efforts so far to stop the rebuilding project, still the project was progressing, they then try different tactics to stop it. In Nehemiah 6:1-9 we read about different attempts especially to get Nehemiah personally off track and even to have him killed. What Im intent on having you see with me here is how Nehemiah, by Gods grace, withstood all the attempts to get him off course and to wipe him out even. Listen to the reading of God-inspired Holy Scripture as we find it in Nehemiah 6:1-9. 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 [invent] 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.

Let us now focus on how Nehemiah, by Gods grace, overcame all the resistance and threats brought against him. For Gods people to be strong and growing and fruitful in Gods ways today there is so much we can learn from Gods leading and guidance in Nehemiahs life long ago. We see here a constant attempt by the enemies of God and His church to bring Nehemiah down and, in fact, to try and destroy him. With this message we will cover just two points, and next week follow up on our theme with the rest of the chapter.

The first attempt to ensnare Nehemiah is recorded in the first four verses. Sanballat and Geshem, seeing the walls were getting done, looked to have a meeting of partners with Nehemiah. They say to him, Look, since you are being successful, let us meet to establish our future relations, that we get along well and make some good trade polices together. Come to a place called Ono [the exact location we cannot say, but most believe it was a place about 55 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem]. Let us have a conference meeting there, establishing good relations for the future, as it looks like we will be longtime neighbors. The words in verse 2 indicate that the real intent of this planned conference was to do Nehemiah harm. They thought to do me mischief, we read. Yes, possibly to imprison him, and even to assassinate and kill him there in the place they mentioned.

What I want to stress is how Nehemiah responded. He did not go and would not go, though they attempted four times, as verse 4 mentions, to have him come. Why not? Because Nehemiah had his priorities right! Why should the work cease while I leave it, and come down to you? is Nehemiahs response. You see, Nehemiahs God-given concentration at the time was the rebuilding project, and both from chapter 4 & 5 it is clear Nehemiah as leader had to be there to keep that project going. This man of God would not let himself get sidetracked from his present responsibilities. Do you have your priorities right and do you stick with them regardless of the countless attempts to get you off track? Our priority in life must be to seek and serve the Lord and to live to His praise and glory above all. Think of Jesus teaching in the Lords Prayer with the first three petitions where He teaches us to pray and live with this focus in all of life: Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Such needs to be our priority in life!

What is your priority in life? What is it that you will by no means be dissuaded from and kept away from? Is the honor of God and the work and service of His church and kingdom your top priority? God gave His Church long ago a Nehemiah. In Gods service and for the churchs good, Nehemiah was a man with godly priorities in his life. This is what is needed in the church today as well. This is what marks the true child of God. It is what characterizes a truly reformation Spirit-filled people of God. Are you one who maybe reflects all kinds of other priorities in life rather than godly priorities? Are you someone not seeking first and foremost the kingdom of God and its righteousness, but so much lesser and other matters instead as your main focus in life? May God make us Nehemiah-like in our day!

Nehemiah not only showed godly priorities in life, but notice next he had godly perception too. When it says in verse 2, But they thought to do me mischief [harm], what does that comment reflect? Nehemiah knew he could not trust the avowed enemies of the Lord, the ungodly surrounding nations and their leaders. They might want to negotiate and compromise some deals possibly but Nehemiah knew any alliance with them would be dangerous and not for Jerusalems good, especially not spiritually. Friendly contacts and compromises with the ungodly and with non-believers are bound to lead us down a wrong track and to do damage in far reaching ways. I think here of Pauls words in II Corinthians 6:14ff. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord [accord] hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel [an unbeliever]? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul also writes along the same line, Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Do you have this godly perception as well, seeing through also the devils plots in having the church make compromises with the world, and having the Christian and godly seed mix with unbelievers in a compromising equal status sort of way? Especially in our postmodern global village world, is there not every reason to be so careful in our relations with those who do not seek and serve the Lord, and, in fact, openly oppose Him and His Word and will? It is said a basic guideline for firefighters in battling against engulfing raging flames is, the basic aim of all firefighting crews is to deny the fire a source of fuel. Well, Nehemiah knew compromising with the enemy would be providing fuel for the fire of ungodliness, and so as a man of godly priorities and godly perception, he would not and did not meet with them, regardless of the pressures put on him.

Are you like that too or do you provide the flames of worldly compromise a source of fuel rather than deny those flames any further fuel?

Are you going to places where, clearly, confessing Christians and Gods covenant people dont belong? The question is valid and relevant, isnt it? Are you living with the perception that contacts with worldly pleasures and pursuits distract you from God and His church and kingdom? Are you aware that not only do unnecessary worldly contacts distract you, but it compromises your thinking and outlook, having a corrupting influence in our lives as well?

In connection with this, consider these comments from a perceptive review on a recent book entitled This Little Church went to Market. In this book, as the reviewer put it, The author makes a convincing case against methods [in church and worship] which resort to entertainment, psychology, and mystic spirituality [and moving ritualism]. Making graceless church members by methods which have no warrant in the Bible may seem to work. But the price paid in the end is too high. Too many churches are going to market by chasing growth but sacrificing truth. In the end they will lose their foundation and the very gospel message which they were meant to stand for.The duty of such [churches and the leaders thereof], is to repent and do the first works. .We have no mandate for improving on the old gospel of repentance and regeneration. It has to be said, dear friends, on the basis of Nehemiah 6, these are surely fitting and uncovering words also for our times.

Do you know about denying yourself for the sake of God and His honour and being strangers and pilgrims on this earth, a salt against the decay of our times and light in the darkness all around? In any day Gods true people stand out as being different from the world, not weird but godly, with a holy focus and purpose in life. No matter how much the world may look appealing and may also seek to draw us out and in with them and their ways, let us be wise and not unwise. How often in the history of the Christian church corporately and in the lives of individuals we can fail miserably thinking compromises with the world cant harm us and may even help us. God make us Nehemiah-like in our day with godly priorities in life and godly perception too! As we will see next time, there is more to learn from Nehemiah 6, but will you for now take to heart just these first two spiritual lessons from Gods Word? Amen.

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