Tuesday, 22 April 2008 17:00

Nehemiah's Christ-like Care

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Continuing with our series on the book of Nehemiah we want to consider the theme, Gods gracious care through Christ-like Nehemiah. Chapter 7 and following shows us Nehemiahs further care for the people and city of Jerusalem after the city walls had been rebuilt. Nehemiah takes care for the protection and good management of the city, and we find out he is concerned also that the city be more populated with people. What happens between these chapters 7 and 11 is also very significant, for in those chapters [8-10] we are told about the people being given further faithful instruction from the Lord and being led in covenant renewal before the Lord and each other. It is only after all this takes place that you get the dedication service and celebration time for the newly built walls of Jerusalem which is recorded in Nehemiah 12. In other words, our text shows Nehemiah acting in Christ-like care with such tenderness and thoughtfulness and thoroughness in guiding the people. It is beautiful to see this and how wonderful when we also model this in our day.

See Nehemiah being so tender here. Think of the walls being rebuilt and all the extreme pressures he had been under during those two months. You might think after the project gets done that he could and would just leave now and go back to his rather cushy job there in Persia as the kings cupbearer. He accomplished what he came for, so why didnt he just now leave again? Because he had such a care and love for God and for His people and Gods cause! When you are Christ-like you dont just do the least or bare minimum in a matter, but you seek to do your best, looking also to see what more could or should be done.

Nehemiah understood well, that with the walls being completed, still the people needed some more structure and guidance for the city to run well. So what does he do after the walls are completed? He takes care to arrange well the defense and protection of the city. As chapter 7 and following records in detail, Nehemiah makes sure the doors are hung and the gates well protected, giving good instructions concerning how the city is to be protected day and night. Nehemiah also arranges for the ongoing orderly management of the city, appointing a reliable and godly manager and also a faithful and upright chief of police as army captain over the city. Because the city was still facing enemies both from within and without, it was important to have godly caring people appointed as leaders as it was crucial for the wellbeing of the city.

Do you see how these measures to protect the city from harm and danger from within and without show such tenderness indeed? I call it Christ-like tenderness, for isnt this what God in Christ is so like? The Lord God is described in the Bible as the God of tender mercies and loving kindnesses. Surely in Christ Jesus and Him crucified and risen again we see God so reveal Himself to us. Think of how Jesus didnt only accomplish salvation with His shed blood and death on the cross, but He arose again also to prove Himself as Saviour and then to make known His salvation to sinners like us. The Lord will be His peoples perfect guide by His Word and Spirit, our Guide even unto death as we read in the last verse of Psalm 48. Praise God for His tender care for us in all our ways.

A good question to ask is, Do you reflect this tender care in the way of God and for others like Nehemiah did? Especially also in regards to the spiritual and future wellbeing of Gods flock and covenant people, are you showing tender regard for this, seeking also to be so caring where and how you might be? Are you caring that Gods church be protected from harm and danger, from evils coming at us from outside or even from within? Is Christ-like tenderness something you show in your home, and in the church and our community and world? Gods true people experiencing so much His tender mercies and protecting care themselves also begin and increase in showing such Christ-like tenderness in their ways. Do you ask God so to lead and bless you?

Gods gracious care through Christ-like Nehemiah is evident not only in Nehemiah being so tender as our text shows, but also so thoughtful. We are told Nehemiah is concerned about the lack of sufficient people within the city of Jerusalem and he makes it his care and prayer that there be a way found to bring in more people within the city, the great city of David, the city where there was the temple of God. In chapter 7:5 we read that Nehemiah says God put into mine heart to deal with this problem. In some ways we can understand that the city was not so populated considering the sad condition of that place for so long. But Nehemiah felt called by God to find a way that it become more populated for the good of the city and for the service of the Temple. Nehemiah was thinking of the future of this royal city of Jerusalem and for the glory of God in that holy city.

We are told in chapter 11:1 that many of the leaders, including Nehemiah, by example were living in the city itself and how finally it was resolved to get more people to move into the city. Under Nehemiahs prompting and guidance, the people cast lots to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine parts [nine-tenths] to dwell in other cities. Verse 2 goes on to tell us that the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem. What comes across is that the people willingly went along with this effort to populate more the city of Jerusalem and the nine-tenths living outside the city were there to provide for those living inside the city. The last verses of chapter 7 and much of chapter 10 as well indicate that Nehemiah also promoted that the people give liberally and faithfully for the work of the Lord and His temple service through His appointed servants. It is clear with this all that Nehemiah showed such tender care but also thoughtful care for the people of God and for Gods church and kingdom in his day.

Again, is this not indeed so Christ-like? Did not and does not Christ the Saviour provide ultimate tender and thoughtful care for His church and His people? God Triune in and through Christ Jesus takes care that His church and people may flourish and He has provided clear guidelines in His Word for the wellbeing of His church and for the flourishing of His people. Throughout history, even since Bible times, God has been working for the increase and good of Zion. The way Nehemiah was in his day was in view of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and in his ways he was a dim foreshadowing of Christ Jesus in His ultimate perfect care and provision for His people. If you just stop to consider it, can anyone ever say enough about Gods shepherding care of His flock, how great and manifold and faithful and wonderful and everlasting it truly is?

Are you looking to the God of salvation in all His care for His people? The mark of truly looking to Christ and following after Him is that then also you will by His grace reflect something of this thoughtfulness for Gods church and kingdom. Is Christ-like thoughtfulness evident in your life as well? Do you really aim that everything in your life and all you do help so much to strengthen the Christian church in being faithful and true also for the future? Do you ever ask yourself, Am I a weakening influence or a strengthening influence in the cause of the Lord? Is it obvious in your whole life that you want by all means to be a strengthening influence and by no means a weakening influence? Does your family know and see you really care about this matter of Christs church and kingdom above every other care you might have? I could go on in making further practical application of being thoughtful today as Nehemiah in Christ-likeness was in his day, but you can make some further practical applications yourself.

Nehemiah showed tender care for Gods cause and kingdom, and Nehemiah showed thoughtful care for Gods church and kingdom. Notice yet with me that Nehemiah demonstrated such thorough care for Gods church and kingdom as well. Just after the rebuilding project is done, what happens also under Nehemiahs supervision and prompting? The people gathered in unity to hear and learn from the Word of God, especially under the preaching and teaching of the godly scribe, Ezra. Chapter 8 tells us this very clearly. Just a few days after the walls are completed, Nehemiah organizes this great gathering of the people come together to hear the Word of God. Do you catch with me here Nehemiahs burden for the people that they be rooted and grounded in the truth of Gods Word and gospel way? All the people gathered together, husbands, wives, and children too, as many as could understand something at all. We read in verse 3, and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. The Hebrew text actually just says they were all ears to the book of the law of God, Gods holy Word read and taught to them. How thorough Nehemiah was in his care for the people. We learn that in his taking care, as best he could, that the people hear and know Gods Word and follow it in spirit and in truth.

This surely was something Christ-like in Nehemiah, something he showed in union and communion with the LORD God in his day. How Christ Jesus exposed all superficial and simply only external religion as something false and vain, and how He urged that we be not only true hearers of all His Word but doers thereof too. More than temporary renewal and external reform we need, above all, internal renewal and reform. Did not Jesus teach and emphasize that so much? God calls us to be a people who seek and serve the Lord in spirit and truth in submission to all His holy unchanging inspired Word. This is the Saviours passion surely in a perfect and ultimate way as He says also in John 14:6 about Himself, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father except through Me!

Isnt this the burden of all Gods true people? Then you care most of all that all people, close to you and across the world, be instructed and taught in the ways of the Lord in accordance with His Word? Are you caring too that this good old timeless gospel message, also in our times and beyond, be truly known and proclaimed and followed and not watered down nor departed from in any way? A reformation today doesnt mean discovering new gospel truth but rediscovering and uncovering the old gospel truths and building our lives on that. Paul says in Ephesians 2:20 how the household of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone. The reality is, being Christ-like today means, as in Nehemiahs time, being Word-based and Word-focused, Word hungry and Word-committed, Word-submissive and Word promoting. Is this what is evident in your life before God and others, especially also in your home and at your church?

Let us thank God for His gracious care through Christ-like Nehemiah long ago and for Christ Who shows always this ultimate perfect care, being so tender, so thoughtful, and so thorough in His leading of His people. Will you be all ears also to this message from Gods holy Word? Amen.

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