AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH January 8, 2012
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
Nehemiah and Realistic Rebuilding in our own Day:
THE VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
Preparation of Heart
The year has begun, and settled down. Now adventure beckons, opportunities arise, challenge is present. Is it to be in the hand and power of the Lord or in the weakness and hope of the flesh, in man before God or of man as man without aid ? For my part, as with Nehemiah, and for ours as a Church, it is the former. If it calls for steadfast faith, so be it, if speed in enterprise, if alertness, let it be so, so long as in faith in the ever present Lord, we press on to the mark of the high calling Christ (Philippians 3:1)..
Nehemiah we read had an amazing opportunity. It could have been a calamity, but in faith it was transformed. Notice first however his INTEREST and concern for the remnant, those left over still in the devastated Jerusalem. From those who had been there, he received news - the gate broken and the wall, and many there with reproach, a pitiable remnant without any visible pity, like a bare tree, Autumn leaves long gone.
Thus first Nehemiah KEPT his ear open. Then he OPENED his mouth to God, and referring to such biblical passages as Deut. 4:29-31 30:1-5, he asked to Lord to heed as he brought up these covenantal promises to ask for help, as there assured. He added a coverage of the sins against the covenant which had rightly brought ruin, but he looked for the help from God as promised.
Weeping, he fasted before God for many days. His heart was in it; his mind too; and his will. Knowing he had appointment with the King that day as cup-bearer, he sought divine prosperity for his desires for the good of his people before God, his ruined people in their ruined land for their ruinous sins.
" 'O Lord, I beseech You, let now Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants, who desire to fear Your name: and prosper, I pray You, Your servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.' For I was the king’s cupbearer."
He was sad as he brought the King his wine. Why are you sad ? the King asked. You are not sick: this is nothing but sorrow of heart. WHY ? For someone consigned to sustain the welfare of the King, sadness could be suspicious, and could mean a lack of attention, though it could have been merely personal. At all events, the King asked him a very personal question and Nehemiah, seeing the way things were developing and sensing the potential, prayed to God in an instant before replying, a wholesome practice.
It was, after all, the first time he had been sad in the King's presence, perhaps noprmally having a latent joy as the words "the joy of the Lord shall be your strength," in Nehemiah 8:10, suggest. This shows the testimonial importance of practising what you preach, and living in the joy of the Lord, which no man takes from you (John 16:22). First saying, May the king live forever (a good thought since the King might if he sought the Lord himself), though very afraid, Nehemiah was very blunt, considering his position. "Why should I not be sad," he asked."The city, site of the tombs of my forefathers lies waste, its gates burned."
The Pointed Courage of Faith
How close this favourable relationship, and how prompt the King in his concerns! WHAT IS YOUR REQUEST ? Nehemiah, a man of action, was known and treated accordingly in the divine mercy. This is a problem ? Good, name the solution, what you want! This is in effect what the Lord is saying to us if we have that saving faith which sets us in His sights for a fatherly concern and care which is effectual because then He IS the Father, and those so believing in the Saviour are no more orphans set in an adverse situation, where wits and hope play like hose water on fires (John 14:18).
You are sad ? WHAT do you want ?
It will be investigated; it may be rejected if contrary to the kingdom of heaven (it would be useless for Nehemiah to have asked the King to break the laws which he held), but it will be heard and implemented if the case be sound. ALL things needed for godliness are GUARANTEED (II Peter 1), and consider John 16:23-28, where the asking of His people is to be in Christ's own name.
As in his prior prayer, Nehemiah had rehearsed and confessed the whole problem and its cause, so now the background being in place, the result came. What do you want, the King asks! Request ? Using courtesy, he then asked that IF he had found favour in the King's sight, he might be sent to his own land so that he could rebuild the city of his fathers. What an amazing request. The personal attendant of the King was to be sent to rebuild a city. THIS was his little request! How long will you be away ? asked the King, expecting his servant to be practical.
Nehemiah set a time, and continued to be reasonable and practical. As one who in faith EXPECTED to act, so he covered the case in his request, another excellent prayer aspect (Phil. 4:2-6). I will need letters to the Governors in the area, a timber requisition order to cover needs for necessary beams, he said. All this the King granted, and in the spirit of Nehemiah's whole venture and adventure went well "according to the good hand of my God upon me," Nehemiah 2:8.Again practical and procedurally careful, he went with his royal letters to the local governors concerned with his land; and of course, the thing was well organised, for the King had sent not one Captain but several from the army, to accompany him, with horsemen.
The Private Ride and the Public Promotion
This done, he entered into the strictly personal side of things once more, and in solitary observation, went for privacy, at night, to inspect the ruined city of Jerusalem. There was no retinue: he simply rode, humble like Christ on the ass's colt, on his own horse. He saw in detail the state of the ruined city. The officials had no idea of what he had done in the night. Then, thus forearmed, he spoke to them. You see the waste! and indeed, it lay desolate like the lost.
Then he told them of the way God had enabled and led him. All this was so potent, and the Lord gave such spirit to his words and lift to their hearts, that their reply was as quick as he had been well-organised. "Let us rise up and build!" they amazingly replied, no cavils, no equivocation, direct and to the point, yes to the many points needing reconstruction!
Now in Nehemiah's report, we have already been told (2:10) of leaders of various antagonistic races or tribes who were only too glad to see the Jews in trouble, and who were concerned when in due course, they heard of Nehemiah's coup with the Governors, the result of his blessed work with the King to GIVE him the letters (just as we Christians today have as it were our own letters in the promises of God).
The language here is very instructive and extremely like that of the rancorous enmity found NOW found in Israel, in 2012, as Jews have gone to rebuild their lost land, and extend Jerusalem. There is little change: God sends, man resists and seeks to overthrow. Again we hear of these bitter and vehement confrontationists in Nehemiah's day, that they openly despised the work of the reconstructing Jews, cast aspersions on it, just as Arabs have called the return of Jews to contemporary Israel 'the catastrophe'. This, in terms of biblical orientation, is like thieves calling the arrival of officers of the law, a catastrophe! (Genesis 17:7-8, Ezekiel 36-39). When God completes the deliverance of Israel (following or at the time of their conversion to Christ), then the nations will know why it has all happened, Israel being removed because of basic sin, and returned in long promised mercy (cf. Ezekiel 39:21-29).
True to type, in disinformation, twisting the context in history, these adversaries asked, "Will you rebel against the King ?" In fact, the King had sent Nehemiah's group with stated and fixed purpose, before all this happened! They did not realise or know what they were talking about. Similarly now, they call what little Israel has taken back from the League of Nations promised territory of Palestine, 'occupied territory', instead of naming their own taking of some two-thirds of it, already given to Jordan as 'occupied territory,' as it is indeed. In the end, those who dispute endlessly with God will find the folly of their twisting (Micah 7!).
Nehemiah answered them with that blend of directness and accuracy which was seemingly characteristic: "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."
The habit of leaving out God in dealing with history and geography is now, as it has always been, in naturalism and nationalism alike, a bane like rabies for those who ignore His verified word, the Bible. Many a fallen and forsaken Church (as in Revelation 2-3), unfaithful, has no clear plans, no repentant and encouraged procedure with which to act, indeed may find little or nothing to rebuild, for it sees only psychological procedures for betrayal. This is well illustrated in the Alpha Course (Helpless Hitches ... and Divine Dealings Ch. 3, Bewilderment ... or The Beauty of Christ's Holiness Ch. 7), the procedure of which starts with scope for straight flow of criticism of God without provision for reply, and continues in an all-inclusive heresy loving sport with the adversaries of the Lord, whether camouflaged Protestant or Romanist, or others moth-like attracted, all spiritually 'liberated' to do and to be whatever the managers desire, an unbibllcal and devastating form of ecumenism: THIS Christ did not seek (John 17:6-10).
Not so the Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries, whose testimony lives on (though we must beware of making their good words a basis rather than a restorative). Not so the restorative evangelists like Moody in the 19th century, before the mutating Graham affair of the 20th..
Alert to their task, encouraged by the preliminary work of God through Nehemiah, recognising this as the way, HOW they toiled, each worker like a specialist, a dentist with individual teeth. Not teeth however but walls with intensive labour and continual, they were reconstructing, restoring the gates, using timber as needed, all provided for, with zest (Nehemiah 3) by regal decree and alert action from authority of Nehemiah. It rose from the ground, a labour of inspired love, like a rebuilt sinner, now citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
Meeting the Challenge of Detractors, Subtractors and Mockers
The Sanballat group, resentful, fearful, remembering former glories in Israel, confronted with the name of the Lord so wisely invoked by Nehemiah, were aroused. In particular, vocal adversary Sanballat was furious (like the Arabs now, throwing rocks, hiding behind children, attacking children in Israel, firing rockets from land given to them by Israel for peace), and resorted to mockery.
"What are these feeble Jews doing," he asked,
"Will they offer sacrifices ? Will they fortify themselves complete in a day ? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish - stones that are burned ?"
"Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it,
he will break down their stone wall," Nehemiah 4:3.
To this Nehemiah gave a prayer retort, and spoke not to man but to God.
"Hear, O our God, for we were despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity ... They have provoked Your anger before the builders."
The enemies thus came together to attack Jerusalem physically, in plan, but not in fact; for the builders and leaders made their prayer to God, and set a watch against nocturnal assault. So is the very house of God, the living temple of lively stones today being assailed, mocked, planned against by godless States and unprincipled people (I Peter 2:1-10), but the walls of God are sure against the very gates of hell (Matthew 16:18, John 20:21-23, Mark 11:23-26).
One might ask us: Will you continue to rely on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ ?
Yes by the grace of our God, we will, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12), and other foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, which Is Jesus Christ.
Will you seek to build when so much of your church's power is degraded by those who have joined the enemy ? the question may come.
Yes we will, for our trust is in the Lord, and whether as with Rome, there be lions, or for Reformers, thumb screws and dank prisons set by traitors, or the callow heartlessness of Communism as in the KGB now gone, or the People's Courts or whatever has been or may be, nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39), who makes us more than conquerors, in His love, whose power knows no limit, and whose interventions are at His pleasure, whether for immediate deliverance, or testimony of love in sacrifice.
Neither in civilisation nor psychic powers, nor in any part of creation is the delightful divine dynamic; nor to those things will we give reverence, for that is mere delusion, for their day is done, their trust in the merely volcanic issuances of force. By His grace, we will continue to attest the truth and to seek the lost, even though they themselves may hate us for it, and misuse us.
When the King who sent us comes back, our work will be restored and the wonder of His creation and redemption shown once more in all its glory (Isaiah 11); but in the meantime, if God wants His adopted children to be faithful to Christ and to the Bible, His written word, why should they lack... Though the stones be burned of our former inheritance in the nations, that is merely the external loss, from fallen churches and usurping forces.
The Great Commission concerning that lively building (I Peter 2, Matthew 28:18-20), continues, as does its charge to us. It lasts to the end of the Age (Matthew 28) and so will its testimony, He with us and His people till evil is burnt out and the divine glory is displayed. Thus more of those saved will become part of the rebuilt temple of grace, in which the praises of the unchanging God are heard, despite the heavy metal noise in the hearts and minds, and from the hands of many.
An epidemic is not best met by joining it, but by treating it; and so the Gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ will be used, like injections for rabies (now epidemic beyond our North), but only where it is desired; for it is written, "I will give of the fountain of the water of life to him who thirsts." Therefore drink freely (Revelation 21:6,22:17, John 4:14, 7:37-38), and with the vaccination of the Gospel to abort spiritual death first taken, find the water of life, of His Spirit who gave His life, for living, and from death took it back again, for the testimony of truth and the shepherding of His flock (Acts 2:23-28, John 10:9).