Forum Class August 15, 2004
The following excerpts are from 12 expository messages dating from 1989 on Nehemiah by Ray C. Stedman, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/nehemiah/
DON'T DESPAIR -- BEGIN TO REPAIR (Chapter 1)
Nehemiah is the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, which took place in the fifth century before Christ. It is part of the long history of that troubled city which today is still in the news, and still in trouble, as you well know. This ancient city is still surrounded by thick walls, but they are not the same walls that Nehemiah built. Those walls have disappeared; and the walls that are there now are of a much later date. However, I was in Jerusalem in 1983, and I vividly remember standing one day in company with our Lambert Dolphin and the famous Israeli archaeologist, Naaman Avigad, on top of a section of wall which he told us, with great enthusiasm and pride, he had clearly established as part of the wall that Nehemiah built. This book, therefore, is an historic account of the rebuilding of the walls of that great city.
But Nehemiah did more than rebuild a wall, as we will learn. This book is also the story of the restoring of a people from ruin and despair to a new walk with God. Jerusalem is not only an historic city which has for centuries been the center of the life of the nation of Israel (and, in fact, the center of the biblical record), it is also a symbolic city. Jerusalem is also used in a pictorial sense throughout the Scriptures. What it pictures is the place where God desires to dwell. When the city was first designated to King David as the place where God wanted him to build the temple, he was told that this was the place where God would dwell among his people. Jerusalem therefore, throughout the Old and New Testaments, has pictured the place where God seeks to dwell. However, it is only a picture -- it is not the actual place where God dwells for, according to the New Testament, man is to be the dwelling place of God. God seeks to dwell in the human spirit. That is the great secret that humanity has largely lost today, but which New Testament Christianity seeks to restore. The Apostle Paul's great statement in the letter to the Colossians is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Colossians 1:27). This is God's provision and desire for man.
Jerusalem in ruins, therefore, is a picture of a life that has lost its defenses against attack and lies open to repeated hurt and misery. If you are at all acquainted with the world in which we live today, you will know that every time you turn your television on you are exposed to the hurt and misery of people whose walls have been broken down. Jerusalem in ruins is a vivid picture of their danger and despair. The book of Nehemiah depicts the way of recovery from breakdown and ruin to a condition of peace, security, restored order, and usefulness...
This last week I read of a recent survey taken of 200 people who had made New Year's resolutions last year, sincerely resolving to do better in certain areas of their lives. But the survey revealed that by the end of January half of them had broken their resolutions entirely, and none of the 200 made it through the first year! This would probably be the same story for most of us. The reason is, when you resolve to do better you are depending upon your own will power to carry it through -- and will power is what most of us lack. We find it more comfortable to go back to the old habits.
In Nehemiah we learn the reason why it is difficult to keep New Year's resolutions; why there is so much failure in this area. It is because, if I may put it very clearly right at the beginning, there is no recognition of God as a necessary part of the process! The most widespread secular illusion of our day is that we do not need God to do what we want to do. We think we can function quite adequately without him. It is amazing to me how many Christians live on that basis. I find in my own life tendencies to depend upon myself to do certain things and to ignore the need for God in this process. The book of Nehemiah is designed to teach us that only with God's help can we actually change ourselves and recover from the damage and ruin of the past. That is the central lesson of this book.
During the past year we have all heard of the moral difficulties and failures of prominent television evangelists and Christian leaders. We have seen the moral collapse of outstanding and prominent leaders. Among them was a man who was widely respected. He was not a flamboyant sensationalist, like certain of the television evangelists. He was a very widely respected, godly man, and a personal friend of mine. His name is Gordon McDonald. To everyone's horror and surprise it was learned that he had fallen into adultery. When it was made public he had to leave the work in which he was involved. He spent over a year in a state of self-imposed exile, seeking to restore his relationships with his wife and family. He has written an account of his recovery and it has been published under the title, Rebuilding Your Broken World. I would like to share with you a quotation from that book in which McDonald describes an incident during the time of his recovery. He writes:
In one of the darkest hours of my broken-world condition, I found myself one day in the front row of a Dallas church where I had been asked to give a talk. I had made a long-term commitment to be there, but had it not been for my hosts' hard work of preparation, I would have tried to cancel my participation. Frankly, I was in no mood to speak to anyone. But I felt constrained not to cancel, and so there I was.
When the service began, a group of young men and women took places at the front of the congregation and began to lead with instruments and voices in a chain of songs and hymns: some contemporary, others centuries old. As we moved freely from melody to melody, I became aware of a transformation in my inner world. I was being strangely lifted by the music and its content of thankfulness and celebration. If my heart had been heavy, the hearts of others about me were apparently light because, together, we seemed to rise in spirit, the music acting much like the thermal air currents that lift an eagle or a hawk high above the earth.
I not only felt myself rising out of the darkness of my spirit, but I felt as if I were being bathed, washed clean. And as the gloom melted away, a quiet joy and a sense of cleansing swept in and took its place. I felt free to express my turbulent emotions with tears. The congregation's praise was a therapy of the spirit: indescribable in its power. It was a day I shall never forget. No one in that sanctuary knew how high they had lifted one troubled man far above his broken-world anguish. Were there others there that day feeling as I did? Perhaps they would have affirmed as I did: God was there.
That is the difference that a recognition of God makes in recovering from anguish and ruin. With that I would like to turn to Nehemiah's diary, the memoirs of a man who was used of God to lead a whole city to recovery:
The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev [that is December] in the twentieth year [i.e., of Artaxerxes, 446 BC], while I was in the citadel of Susa [the winter capital of Persia], Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." (Nehemiah 1:1-3)
Notice the description of Jerusalem. The people were in trouble. They were feeling a great sense of disgrace and reproach. The walls of the city were broken down (Nebuchadnezzar had started 142 years earlier). The gates had been burned with fire and were no longer usable. If we take Jerusalem as a symbol of our own lives, there are many people, perhaps many right here this morning, who fit this description.
You may look back on your life and you see there are places where the walls have been broken down. There is no longer any ability left to resist destructive attacks. You have perhaps fallen victim to sinful habits that you now find difficult, if not impossible, to break. That is the kind of ruin that is described here.
There may be some who feel unable to stop wrongful sexual practices. You have gone along with the ways of the world. You have fallen into practices that the Bible says are wrong. You know they are wrong. But you have difficulty stopping them. You may be indulging in pornography. I am amazed at the number of Christians who secretly indulge themselves in this area. You may be addicted to drugs. You may be hooked on tobacco or alcohol. Perhaps you have a bitter spirit. You can be an addict of a critical, censorious attitude that complains about everything as much as you can be an addict to drugs. It is so habitual that you find yourself having difficulty stopping it. Perhaps your drift began innocently. You did not realize you were forming a habit, but now you no longer can stop it. Your defenses are gone. The walls of your city are broken down. Perhaps also your gates are burned. Gates are ways in and out. They are the way by which other people get to know you as you really are. Perhaps your gates have been destroyed, again by wrong habits:
Perhaps you were sexually abused as a child. This phenomenon seems to be surfacing more and more frequently in our day. The shame of it, and the scarring of it, has kept you a recluse. Your gates are burned and nobody has access to you. Perhaps you were a victim of divorce -- or rape -- or of some bitter experience -- and you feel betrayed or sabotaged.
You want to run and hide. No one can reach you. You have been so badly burned you are now touchy and inaccessible. There are parts of your life you cannot talk about. You do not want anyone to know. You have a sense of great personal distress and are feeling reproach and disgrace. Your have been scarred emotionally. No one may know about it. To others you appear to be a success. They think you are doing fine, but inwardly you know you are not. As you examine the walls and the gates of your life you find much of it in ruins. How do you handle that?
That is the great question many face. But this is where the Bible comes in. That is why the Scriptures are given to us. The men and women of the past have been through these self-same difficulties and they have told us how to handle them. This great book of Nehemiah is one of the most helpful pictures we have of how to recover from broken lives -- "broken-world anguish," to use Gordon McDonald's term.
The steps that Nehemiah took covers seven chapters of this book. They are very specific steps, very orderly -- and very effective! Taken in order they will lead to a full recovery of usefulness. We are only going to examine the first step this morning. We find it in these words,
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)
Nehemiah clearly has a deep sense of personal concern. He is willing to face the facts, to weep over them, and tell God about them. That is always the place to begin. There is nothing superficial about this. A popular song today says, "Don't worry, Be happy." But that is mere salve over a deep cancer. What is needed is an honest facing of the ruin, whatever it may be, and, without blaming or attempting to involve somebody else, tell it all to God. By yourself, alone, face the facts. Take all the time you want and pour it out before God. Weep, if you feel like it. Tell him all the hurt, the fear, and the pain. That is always the place to start, according to Scripture. A broken spirit and a contrite heart God always welcomes.
I would suggest that you follow the pattern of Nehemiah's prayer. We will not spend a lot of time with this, but I will quickly point out the four specific things Nehemiah did in this marvelous prayer recorded here: First, he recognized the character of God:
"Oh LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel." (Nehemiah 1:5b-6a)
The ruin you are concerned with may not always be yours personally. It may be that of someone close to you whose life you see falling apart because of certain habits or attitudes they have allowed to enter their experience. You feel like Nehemiah, and you want to weep and mourn and tell God about it. That is always the place to start, for God is a responsive God. He gives attention to the prayers of his people. And he is a God of power and ability, and, above all, a God of love. The second thing Nehemiah did was: he repented of all personal and corporate sins:
"I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses." (Nehemiah 1:6b-7)
This is an honest facing of his own guilt. Notice the absence of self-righteousness. He does not say, "Lord, I am thinking of those terrible sinners back there in Jerusalem. Be gracious to them because they have fallen into wrong actions." No, he puts himself into this picture, saying, "I have contributed to this problem. There are things that I did or did not do that have made this ruin possible. I confess before you, Lord, the sins of myself and my father's house." There is no attempt to excuse or to blame others for this. It is a simple acknowledgment of wrong.
It has always been true of the people of God that any degree of self-justification will cancel out recovery. If you try to excuse yourself for what is wrong in your life, you block your own recovery. Just admit it, declare it. This is exactly contrary to the spirit of the age in which we live, but this is God's way and it is the first step in the process of recovery. Then, third, Nehemiah reminded God of his gracious promises:
"Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand." (Nehemiah 1:8-10)
Nehemiah reminds himself of the nature of God: He is a God of forgiveness, a God of restoration, a God of great power. When the heart is right, God can change all the external circumstances of a situation and make it entirely different. And he will do so. He promises he will!
Only once in the history of the world has there been a prediction made of the entire history of a nation. It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, Chapters 28-30. There, in a marvelous message, Moses prophetically outlines the entire history of Israel. He said they would disobey God; they would be scattered among the nations; they would go into exile. But if there they would turn again and acknowledge their evil, God would restore them and bring them back to the land. Nehemiah reminds God of that wonderfully gracious promise.
Even the prodigal son in Jesus' story in the New Testament, languishing in the far country, eating pig's food, reminds himself that his last resort is, "I will arise and go back to my father," (Luke 15:18a). When he comes back, to his great surprise, he finds his father with open arms ready to receive him. The fourth thing Nehemiah did was that he requested specific help to begin this process:
"O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name [There were others praying with him]. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." (Nehemiah 1:10-11a)
What man? He goes on to tell us:
I was the cup bearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:11b)
He had a place to start. It was not going to be easy, but he knew what he had to do. It was going to take the authority of the top power in the whole empire (in fact in the whole world of that day). That is not easy to arrange. Talk about playing politics! You really have to maneuver to get a king, an emperor over a vast domain, to do what you want to do, especially when there are elements involved that are threatening to him personally. That is what Nehemiah foresaw. But he believes that God will help him. And so he starts to pray, and ask for grace and strength to carry out the steps that are necessary to begin recovery.
No matter what the ruin of any life may be there is always a place to start. There is a place where you must begin. You need to apologize to someone. You need to go to somebody and straighten something out. You need to stop some practice that is wrong. You need to open yourself up to counsel. You need to seek advice. You need to get some guidance. There is always a first step. That is where you must begin. And whatever you pray, pray that God will give you the grace, the strength and the determination to take that step. Then, the process of recovery has begun...
DON'T HESITATE -- INVESTIGATE! (Chapter 2)
We have in English a number of proverbs that urge us to action when the time is right. Shakespeare wrote, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." In the days when blacksmiths were common, we used to hear the proverb, "Strike while the iron is hot." Not many would understand that these days; today we have shortened it to: "Get with it!"
In the second chapter of Nehemiah we come to just such a moment. In Chapter One we saw our hero weeping and praying over the ruins of Jerusalem, beseeching God to lead him in a program of recovery. In the wonderful way the Bible has, this is intended to illustrate the damaged and ruined areas of our lives that need to be rebuilt, repaired or recovered. As we pursue that interpretation through Nehemiah, we shall find much practical help on how to reclaim a ruined life.
Many today find themselves in almost total ruin. They have lost their way and are wide open to the attacks of any destructive or hostile force. Others have severely damaged areas in their lives. They are, perhaps, still held in bondage to wrongful attitudes or habits. It almost goes without saying that if you are praying for help, as Nehemiah prayed for help in the opening chapter of this book, then you should expect an answer: Expect God to do something. Be ready for it when it comes.
An opportunity to change will surely appear, at times rather unexpectedly or after a longer period of time than you think it ought to take, but it will happen because the God we worship is a God who answers prayer. We find Nehemiah at that point of opportunity as the second chapter opens:
In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven, (Nehemiah 2:1-4)
Notice that this chapter has a different date than the opening words of Chapter 1. It is in the month of Nisan of the Hebrew calendar when Nehemiah finally has an opportunity to inform the king of his concern over Jerusalem. Last week we looked at incidents that took place in the month of Kislev, which is approximately the same as our month of December. Nisan corresponds to our April, so there is a lapse of about four months between these chapters. We are not told why Nehemiah delayed that long in bringing his problem to the king. But we can presume that because he was a man of prayer he was waiting for the Lord to indicate the right time. Suddenly, in Nisan, that time came.
God often works in lives this way today. We are hasty, impatient creatures. We want our prayers answered tomorrow, or even yesterday! We pray, and we expect God's answer right away. But God often delays his answers. It is not because he is impotent or unwilling. There is much teaching in Scripture that a delayed answer does not indicate an unwilling God. We are taught again and again in Scripture to persevere in prayer -- to keep praying till the answer comes. Evidently Nehemiah has been doing this and the indication of it is that his heart is still deeply troubled over the state of Jerusalem. So much so that when he comes before the king in the performance of his normal duties of serving the wine, his face shows his concern. This is the first time he had ever allowed it to appear but apparently his concern is so great it breaks through his control. The king notices this immediately and asks him why he is so sad. Nehemiah tells us that his response to that question was: "I was very much afraid."
That may sound strange to us for it looks as though the king is simply being solicitous here. He seems truly concerned about the welfare of a trusted and beloved servant, and he is quite naturally inquiring about the cause. But Nehemiah's fear has a sound basis. He was the cup bearer, remember. It was his responsibility to taste the king's wine before it was served to make sure that no one had poisoned it. In those days of totalitarian monarchs, assassination was the only way one could be removed from office. The usual method was to poison his food or his wine. This was a dangerous job Nehemiah had. It is obvious that he had to be a man of unlimited integrity and trustworthiness. The king relied upon him to keep him safe. He must be always above suspicion, keeping the king's trust at all times. If the king grew suspicious or distrustful, Nehemiah's life would be in danger. He would not only lose his job, but he could also lose his head. That is why he was "very much afraid." But Nehemiah was just such a man as the job required. He was trustworthy and thoroughly reliable.
Though this is a moment of danger, it is also one of great opportunity. Nehemiah immediately senses that. This is God's open door. Nehemiah's response is to shoot up a prayer to heaven for help. I hope you are familiar with this kind of praying; we used to call it an "arrow prayer." Perhaps we ought to update it and say that Nehemiah faxed a prayer to heaven! In his thoughts, without words, he formulated a quick plea for help, and then made his response. In Verses 5-8, we learn just how ready he was for this occasion:
...and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it." Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates [the provinces on the west of the river], so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. (Nehemiah 2:5-8)
Observe how tactful is Nehemiah's presentation. Twice he refers to Jerusalem, not as the capital of Judah, or even by its name, for it had a reputation as a troublesome city and had been the source of revolt in the empire before, but he designates it as "the city where my fathers are buried." That is an accommodation to the emperor's own concerns. These ancient kings were greatly concerned about their burial. The pyramids in Egypt which the pharaohs have left are ample evidence of that. They expended vast amounts of labor and money on their memorials. This king would be immediately sympathetic to Nehemiah's desire to go and restore the city where his fathers were buried. Nehemiah wisely plays upon that interest and presents his case in the best possible light.
Note also the thoroughness with which he had thought out all that he would need. He knew it would require a lengthy period of time, so he asked for the time he needed. The king had asked him how long it would take, and Nehemiah records, "It pleased the king to send me, so I set a time." He was actually gone for twelve years. I doubt if he asked for that long a time at the beginning, but it took that long in the working out of his plans. He must have known it would take at least a number of years and whatever he asked for he was granted that amount.
In parenthesis, as it were, Nehemiah says that he asked the king, "with the queen sitting beside him." There is obviously a reason for this inclusion. This queen was probably the queen mother, Queen Esther, the wife of Xerxes, and mother of Artaxerxes.
Not only did Nehemiah need sufficient time for this expedition, but he needed secure travel. So he asked for letters to the governors of the provinces that he would have to pass through, to provide safe conduct for him. We learn later in this book that this not only gave him diplomatic immunity, but it also meant that he was appointed as the governor of Judah. He does not tell us that at this point, but it becomes clear that he was actually sent as a governor of the province of Judah. This would, therefore, give him diplomatic status as he traveled. From secular sources we learn that there had been trouble in the province of Syria (just north of Judah), two years earlier. The satrap (governor) of that province had rebelled against Artaxerxes. It is likely that the king welcomed this opportunity to place a trusted man in the governorship of Judah and interpose a buffer between Syria and Egypt who were often at war in those days. Thus this proposed journey of Nehemiah was something the king found very satisfying.
Finally, Nehemiah knew he would need some special supplies which only the king's authority could provide. He asked for special timbers to be cut for him out of the king's forest. Some have taken that to be located in the mountains of Lebanon. But others say it was probably a local forest, south of Jerusalem, from which King Solomon had taken wood for the building of his temple. At any rate, Nehemiah got what he asked for. He had done his homework thoroughly.
This suggests to us that if we are truly concerned about rebuilding parts of our life, we need to think seriously about what it will require. We must assess what we will actually need, what steps we should take, and what may be involved in changing our habits so that we can be freed to be what God wants us to be. Nehemiah teaches us that we need to face honestly our situation. In Verses 9-10, we get the account of his journey.
So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. (Nehemiah 2:9-10)
This was an impressive array. I know what a difference it makes to have a military escort. Several years ago, when I was in Israel, I was driving from Galilee back to Jerusalem through what is now known as the West Bank. In those days it was much less tense than it is today. On the way I picked up three submachine-gun carrying Israeli soldiers who were hitchhiking. I drove them down into the city of Nablus, which is the major city of the West Bank. Just south of that is the little village of Sychar, where Jacob's well is located, I asked them if they would like to visit it with me, and found -- to my amazement -- that though they were stationed just outside the city they had not known that Jacob's well was located there. We went up to the gate and knocked on it. It was at the noon hour when the site was normally closed, but the Syrian priest in charge of it came to the gate. When he saw me with three armed soldiers behind me, he flung the gate open and took me on a tour of all the premises! He really rolled out the carpet! So I know from personal experience that an armed escort makes a great impression and commands immediate attention.
Nehemiah not only came with a full military escort but it is apparent from this account that he came with the full authority of the throne of Persia behind him. I want you to remember that if you set out to change something in your life for the better, you have the full authority of the throne of God behind you; you may proceed with full confidence that the unseen, but very real, power of God is backing you up!
Nehemiah met two very troublesome enemies when he got there: Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the Ammonite. An Horonite is a devotee of the god Horon, a local deity of Palestine. This indicates this man was a pagan. Tobiah was a citizen of Ammon, which was the country that we now call Jordan (whose capital, by the way, is named Amman). Ammon was one of the tribes descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham, and thus related to Israel but always an enemy of Israel. This records the first appearance in this book of the enemies of Nehemiah.
This situation sounds very much like normal Christianity. I have always enjoyed the definition of a Christian that says he is one who is completely fearless, continually cheerful, and constantly in trouble! It is often God's way to let us face troublesome difficulties. But he also has unknown provisions waiting for us, as we will see in Nehemiah's case.
I shall never forget once sitting at lunch with Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, and hearing from his own lips the story of how Wycliffe came into Mexico. This was back in the '20s at a time when Mexico was very sensitive to anything religious. They had just thrown off the shackles of the church, and they were very opposed to public preaching or the building up of churches. Cameron Townsend went to a tiny Indian village up in the mountains and began to work there, translating the Scriptures into their language. Although he could do no preaching, he found that he could help the people. Their economy was suffering because they had poor crops, and he taught them how to dam up a stream and divert the water to their fields. This greatly increased the amount of crops they raised and soon their economy was at a higher level. He also taught them certain industries they could establish right there in the village. Soon word of the changes there got back to Lazaro Cardenas who had just been elected president of Mexico. He had a great heart of concern to help the Indians. One day the President drove out in his limousine to the Indian village, and, when Cameron Townsend saw the presidential limousine, he went up to it to greet the President and introduce himself. The president said, "You're the very man I came to see." He invited Townsend to come to the capital and they became close friends for the duration of Cardenes' presidency. He opened a wide door to the entire work of Wycliffe Translators, and later presidents continued that support. Thus, in a most unexpected way, Wycliffe found an open door for widespread labors through that incident.
In many wonderful ways God demonstrates that he can work in our lives! This is what Nehemiah relied upon. If you are struggling with some habit, some attitude of mind or heart that has possessed you, limited you, and made you difficult to live with, and you want to be free from it, you can expect God to help, often in ways that you cannot anticipate. That is the lesson of this great story. Having seized the critical moment and entered the open door that God set before him, Nehemiah now takes the third step to recovery: He honestly faces the full reality of his problem. First, we are told that he enjoyed a brief period of recovery.
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few men. (Nehemiah 2:11-12a)
He takes time to recover from his journey (his jet lag), and then begins to examine, individually and personally, the extent of the problem he faces.
I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool [the pool of Siloam], but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. (Nehemiah 2:12b-16)
Anticipating opposition, Nehemiah kept his own counsel. He did not tell anybody what he was going to do until he had seen for himself what needed to be done. Apparently the walls were in such a state of ruin that rubble and debris had strewn the valley floor so that he could not even ride his mount through it. He found during this moonlight ride that the walls were in a very sad state of repair.
It is most important that we do something like this in recovering our own ruined areas: We must face the facts as they are, name them, and acknowledge to ourselves and others that they are true. We must not try to cover them over or in any way excuse them.
If you are acquainted with the work of Alcoholics Anonymous you know that they require that everyone they work with must publicly acknowledge their problem to be alcohol addiction. They must state it clearly, "I am an alcoholic." If they are not willing to do this, there is little hope for their recovery. So Nehemiah personally explores the extent of his problem, and then, as the account records, informs the ones who must do the work with him. This is a moment of challenge when Nehemiah begins to involve others in this work.
Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace." I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding." So they began this good work. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
This is a wonderful example of good leadership. He cannot do this work alone. He must involve others. First, he appeals to their pride, "You can see the ruin around you," he points out. Actually the ruins had been there for almost one hundred years. He is saying, in effect, "That is long enough. It is disgraceful that nothing has been done until now. Let us begin to act." He puts it to them plainly that now is the time because, as he suggests, "God is with us." God had already helped them. He had moved the heart of the king, setting up the possibility of repair. Now was the time to act. When leadership steps out like that, it is almost certain to find a following. Nehemiah galvanizes the Jews to action, to begin the process of rebuilding. He appeals to their sense of self-respect, and supplies an encouraging motive to begin. But, when you actually start recovering your ruin, you will also meet severe resistance, as Nehemiah discovers.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab [here is a third enemy coming in now] heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. "What is this you are doing?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?" (Nehemiah 2:19)
Whenever anybody says, "I will arise and build," Satan always replies, "Then I will arise and oppose." You can count on it! It is a necessary part of the process. God allows it for it is good for us to have opposition. That is what God is after in our lives. It is opposition that makes us strong. If we did not have any difficulty we would be moral cream puffs, unable to function in the kingdom of God. So in his wisdom and grace God allows opposition to rise. Notice the way Nehemiah handles this:
I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it." (Nehemiah 2:20)
These men stood outside the covenant of promise. One was a pagan, Sanballat the Horonite; one was a renegade son of Lot, an enemy though also a relative of Israel; and one was a total foreigner, a descendant of Ishmael. All three had no claim to the promise of God to inherit the land. That is why Nehemiah took this stand.
The form their opposition took is also prophetic of our struggles. They first "mocked and ridiculed." This is usually the first weapon the enemy employs. You may have felt it when you began to recover from your ruin. Your friends laughed at your desires to change. They may ridicule your religious convictions and resent with scorn your implied criticisms of their conduct.
Also, Nehemiah's enemies began to threaten and slander him with charges of rebellion and disloyalty. If ridicule does not work, then the opposition stiffens and becomes openly unfriendly and threatening. It is the next level of resistance which those who seek to rebuild will encounter.
These are but pictures for us. They picture something very real: the opposition and the resistance that we will experience from Satan himself. What was true of these opposing forces in Nehemiah's case is true also of Satan. He is a usurper. He has no right to possess humankind. He has tricked us. He has bedeviled us and led us astray. He has confused, manipulated and misled us. Yet he has no right to do so. Jesus came to restore God's property to him and to loose the hold of the devil upon the human race. That is what he does in our lives. So when we face resistance we must see it as allowed of God to strengthen us, but it has no real right to our lives. We do not have to be weak, failing, and unable to function. We are called to be free. That is the glorious note which the epistle to the Galatians states: "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!" (Gal 5:1a).
What that means in practice is that we do not need to be bound by habits from the past. No matter how innocently they may have begun, we do not need to be slaves to drugs, sex, alcohol, tobacco, or whatever it may be controlling and limiting us. Remember Paul's great cry, "I will not be brought under the power of anything!" (1 Cor 6:12). Why? Because he was under the power of God. This is what Nehemiah declares here. There is no necessity to be a slave to a hot temper, or a critical, censorious attitude, or a complaining spirit. These areas of ruin in our lives can be set aside because we are trusting in the program of God. We are expecting God to grant us the grace to stand.
DON'T BE PARALYZED -- GET ORGANIZED! (Chapter 3)
I saw a cartoon recently of two men at a party. Each had a drink in his hand, and they were sitting on the stairway talking while the party was going on. (That is where party philosophers like to hold forth). One said to the other, "My view is this: reality is something that you should always treat with respect, but it should not be allowed to control your life."
Many people seem to feel that way today. They are fleeing from reality, regarding it as unnecessary. But in the book of Nehemiah we are learning how to return to reality after we have experienced the ruin that comes from following illusion.
Chapter 3 is one of those chapters that appears to consist largely of unpronounceable names and long forgotten people! When you are reading through your Bible, it may be discouraging to come to a chapter like this. But it tells the story of the work of repairing the gates and walls of Jerusalem which Nehemiah had been sent there by King Artaxerxes of Persia to do. He first aroused the people to the work, and this chapter tells how that work was actually accomplished.
One commentator has said, "God is a great believer in putting names down." That is true. There are many chapters like this in the Scriptures. But that should really encourage us. It means that God has not forgotten our names either. He loves to record the names of obscure people. He may be writing your name down in some great book right now that others will read in times to come.
The central teaching of a chapter like this is that, in putting lives back together, we need and must seek help from each other. We cannot do it alone. This is a great chapter about cooperation. It illustrates the New Testament truth concerning the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and other chapters, teach that believers in Christ are part of a worldwide body made up of many members. We belong to each other and so we are to help one another and bear one another's burdens. This is portrayed in a very dramatic way throughout this chapter. The chapter is too long for us to read in detail but if you will follow with me we will discover four important principles for working together.
We learn from the New Testament that there are two things you cannot say any longer when you be come a Christian. The first is, "You do not need me." Everyone in the body of Christ needs everyone else. The second thing is, "I do not need you." You do need others! It is the awareness of that truth that makes a church a living, warm, vital, loving fellowship. I hope we are finding this out more and more here.
In a moment we shall look at the importance of keeping in repair the gates of our lives. Gates, in Scripture, are means of access and egress. They represent ways of entering into other people's lives and also letting them into ours, of reaching out to others, and allowing them to share our thinking and feeling. As we go through this chapter we shall look in particular at each gate in Jerusalem because each designates a particular quality of the life that we need. The passage from Second Peter which was read to us this morning is a very practical example of what I am talking about:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
This exhortation to add certain qualities to our behavior is a marvelous explanation of what it means to repair the gates of our lives. As we do so we will be no longer unfruitful and unproductive. The book of Nehemiah therefore is a picture in Old Testament terms of someone who is restoring the walls and gates of his life. Before we do that I want to skim through this chapter with you briefly and point out some of the principles for working together that are found in it.
Here is the first one. In summoning the people of Jerusalem to rebuild their walls and their gates we learn from this chapter that all the people were involved in the project. The whole city gave itself over for a period of 52 days to building the walls and the gates. That portrays for us a very important principle of the New Testament: that the ministry of the church in the world today belongs to everyone in the congregation.
Once, people thought that only the pastor and the hired staff were to do the work of evangelizing, teaching, counseling, healing the hurts of others and serving the needy. Because we have followed that practice far too long, the church is in trouble all over the world. But the ministry belongs to the whole congregation. That is what we see demonstrated in this third chapter. For example look at Verses 1-2:
Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt me Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them. (Nehemiah 3:1-2)
Notice that everyone is involved. The priests began the work. That may encourage some who think that preachers never do any work except on Sundays! And with them the Levites worked. A number of rulers are also mentioned. Two men, each of whom ruled half the city of Jerusalem, are getting their hands dirty working on these walls. There were gate keepers, guards, farmers, even perfume makers were involved in the work. I don't know what they did. Their hands probably were pretty soft, but nevertheless they worked on the walls. There were jewelers, pharmacists, merchants and temple servants. Even women were directly involved, as Verse 12 points out:
Shallum, son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters. (Nehemiah 3:12)
I wish I had read that to my family years ago when my four daughters were home! They are gone now, so I must rely on someone else's daughters to help me out. Undoubtedly, the wives of these workers did what women always have done through the centuries. They cooked food, served meals, and kept the men at work. But here were women who worked right along with the men. It is encouraging to see this demonstration of equality even in those days.
All of them, by the way, were volunteers. Nobody was conscripted to do this; and no one was paid for their work. There is an interesting mention at the end of Verse 16 about a man who built the wall "as far as the artificial pool and the House of Heroes."
I do not know who occupied the House of the Heroes in those days, but I was in San Antonio last week at a board meeting of Bible Study Fellowship, that wonderful organization that holds women's and men's classes all over the country and around the world. There they have built a series of apartments which they call "The House of Heroes." It is used for all the volunteers who come and devote a week, two weeks, sometimes six or eight weeks, even several months, to helping out in the work of that ministry, thereby saving that organization tens of thousands of dollars every year. They call them the "heroes of faith," so they have the House of Heroes for them to live in.
Here is a long list of volunteers like that. Some were residents of Jerusalem and some came from the surrounding cities of Jericho, Tekoa, Mizpah, and other outlying villages of Judea.
So it is also in the body of Christ. We are all engaged in the ministry. I do not know any truth more important for the accomplishing of God's work than that. Yet, in church after church, it is difficult to get people to understand that. You have the great privilege of reaching out in your own neighborhood and doing the work of the ministry there. Where churches do not understand that one finds a very distorted condition. People do not know what to do, religiously. They have no ministry of their own and, therefore, little excitement or interest in life. Someone has well described them in a little jingle that says:
The pastor is late,
He's forgotten the date.
And what will the people do then,
They'll sit in the pew,
With nothing to do,
And sing a collection of hymns.
I am afraid that describes many churches today. The second principle that emerges from this chapter is: They worked together. All through this account you will find the phrase, "next to him" worked so and so, and "next to them" worked others. They took note not only of the workers but also the shirkers, however. Verse 5 says of the men of Tekoa: "their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors." Did you know that God records goof-offs too? When you will not take up your ministry, God puts your name down in that column as well. But the rest all worked and worked together. They helped one another. Nehemiah had so marvelously organized this that each one had a section of the wall or a gate assigned to him. And some exceeded the work they had been given. Look, for instance, at Verse 13:
The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah...They also repaired five hundred yards of the wall as far as the Dung Gate. (Nehemiah 3:13)
Note the also. They exceeded their allotment and went on to help somebody else to the extent of repairing 500 yards of wall (an enormous section; probably much of it was still standing and needed little repair). You will find other mentions of men who did their work and then repaired "another" section.
Then the third principle of cooperation is this: They worked near their home. Look at Verse 10: Jedaiah "made repairs opposite his house." Verse 23 tells of certain men who "made repairs in front of their house," and Azariah "made repairs beside his house." Verse 30 mentions a man by the name of Meshullam son of Berekiah, who "made repairs opposite his living quarters" (chamber is the word). This man was apparently a bachelor. He had an apartment but he had no family, nevertheless, he worked right where he was.
The important truth that emerges is that this is God's design for ministry. God has placed us all strategically where he wants us to be. Your neighborhood, office, or home is where your ministry should be. That is why God put you there. In John 15, Jesus said to his disciples that he had appointed them, and the word means "strategically placed them." He had put them in the place where he wanted them to be. This is brought out beautifully here as we watch these people laboring in their own neighborhood.
The fourth principle found here is: Each one completed his assigned task. They kept on until they had finished the work. Some had more to do than others, but no one failed -- except the "nobles" of Tekoa who would not dirty their hands.
I have learned through the years that responsibility is always the mark of spiritual maturity. The most mature members in a congregation are those who stay with the work that has been assigned to them until it is done.
I want to spend the rest of my time looking in specific detail at the work they were doing. As we have seen, building a wall and restoring its gates is an illuminating portrayal of a life that is being rebuilt from ruin. You may be hurting right now in some area where you are exposed to peril by some habit you have picked up. You may have a burned gate where evil has access to you. You can be invaded easily and are upset quickly. This account reveals the areas which you need to rebuild if you want to find deliverance and safety.
As we go through this we shall see that each of these gates has a particular meaning which is given to us in the symbol contained in the name of the gate. I know some people have trouble with this kind of an approach. They call it "allegorizing the Scriptures," or sometimes, "spiritualizing the text." And they are right, in a sense. There is a danger in working with symbols. It is easy for the imagination to take over and assign arbitrary meanings which have no relation to the text. That has resulted in the past in some very serious abuses of Scripture. Somebody has well said, "He who spiritualizes lacks 'spiritual eyes' and tells 'spiritual lies.'"
Nevertheless, there is a legitimate way to use the symbols of Scripture. The Apostle Paul uses allegory and also tells us that "all these things happened to Israel as types (or symbols) for us, upon whom the end of the ages has come," (1 Cor 10:11). If we observe the primary law of Scripture, that Scripture must interpret itself, we can proceed safely through an account like this. All of these symbols have been used elsewhere in Scripture. And they are consistently used. That is our guideline as we look at this.
Let us go back to the beginning again, and look at the gates: The first gate mentioned is the Sheep Gate. This was located where now St. Stephen's Gate, sometimes called the Lion Gate, stands. It is at the northeast corner of the city. Here in Nehemiah's Jerusalem it was called the Sheep Gate, because it was there where the sheep which were to be sacrificed in the temple courts were kept.
It reminds us immediately of Isaiah's great word about Jesus, "as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth," ( Isa 53:7). Remember also that John the Baptist greeted our Lord with the words, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (John 1:29). Sheep are therefore a symbol of sacrifice in Scripture.
The Sheep Gate is the principle of the cross at work in a Christian's life: It is where you began your life as a Christian. There is to be a principle of death at work in your life -- the death of your natural self. The phrase that is emblazoned across the front of this auditorium, "You are not your own, you are bought with a price," expresses that principle beautifully. It is the cross at work. Have you acknowledged that? When you came to Christ you gave up control of your own life. You are no longer to do only what you feel like doing. You are called to obey him, to follow him and walk with him. That means that some of your desires, some of your natural longings, must be put to death. That is the principle of the cross. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are crucified with Christ unto the world, and the world is crucified unto us. This is the gate that must be kept in repair if you want to grow into a strong Christian.
In this counter-clockwise tour around the wall of Jerusalem, the next gate is the Fish Gate. This would be close to the spot where the present Damascus Gate is found. It is called the Fish Gate because the fishermen from Galilee and the coast brought their fish into the city through this gate.
Immediately it reminds us of what our Lord said to his disciples: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men," (Matthew 4:19). Throughout the Old Testament fishing is a symbol of witnessing to others, of the necessity of acknowledging that you belong to Christ. You witness by your words and actions.
Years ago I asked a High School kid who had been at a summer camp, "How did you get along as a Christian there?" He replied, "Oh, they never found out I was a Christian." That indicated a Fish Gate that needed to be repaired. We are called to be fishers of men.
Then we come to the Jeshanah Gate, which in Hebrew means the "Old Gate." It would be located somewhere near the present Jaffa Gate. This gate represents the old ways of truth versus the new illusions of error. The world is constantly proposing something new -- the New Age movement, for instance -- but Scripture calls us back to the old way. Jeremiah in his sixth chapter says, "Ask for the old paths. Ask for the good way and walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16).
Somebody has well said, "If something is new, it is not true; and if it is true, then it is now new." That is because truth remains the same throughout the centuries. Truth never changes. So this gate calls us back to the basics of life, back to the time-tested paths that have led to stability, security, and order.
What are some of these? One that is widely ignored today is that we live in a fallen world; our world is not perfect. It was not intended that it should be after the Fall. We must constantly remind ourselves of that fact and take that into consideration in all relationships. But, nevertheless, we are under a sovereign God, and he can do what he wants: We can come to him, and believe in him, and be born again. We can learn the love that disciplines, power that serves, zeal that can wait, hope that endures, and strength that helps others. Those are the old paths. That is what this gate reminds us of.
In Verse 13 we come to the Valley Gate. This would be located at the southwestern corner of Jerusalem. A valley in Scripture always represents humility and the judgment of conceit in our lives. John Stott calls humility "that rarest and fairest of Christian virtues." If pride is the ultimate sin, then humility, its opposite, is the ultimate virtue. Peter tells us, "God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble," (1 Peter 5:5).
I often remind myself of that verse when I am tempted to be proud. I remember that feeling and acting in pride means that God will start resisting me. Do you want God working against you? Then go on with your pride. He has ways of resisting that can never be overcome. God resists the proud, yes, but he gives grace and help to the humble! Thus the primary goal of believers is to maintain a sense of humility: We do not have it all together. We are not smart enough to find all the answers ourselves. We do not know how to handle all the difficulties into which we come.
The world applauds pride. It tries to make every individual feel capable of handling anything that comes. It even applauds arrogance. But God applauds humility. This is the first lesson in the school of the Spirit. Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest to your soul" (Matthew 11:29). One of the reasons why many people are so restless today is that they have never learned to be humble to be meek and lowly of heart.
Then in Verse 14 we come to the Dung Gate. That is not a very pleasant name, but it is a necessary activity. It is the gate of elimination, the gate where all the rubbish and corrupt things in the city were brought to the garbage dump in the Hinnom Valley, outside Jerusalem.
It is necessary to have an elimination gate in our lives as well. Paul urges us, "Cleanse yourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit," ( 2 Corinthians 7:1). One of the reasons many people are unable to function as God wants is because they seldom use the Dung Gate. They do not deal with their secret sin, with private corruption in their own lives. Jesus warned that doing so may be very painful. He said it may be like cutting off an arm or plucking out an eye. But it is something that has to be done or otherwise it leads to ruin.
The sixth gate (Verse 15) is the Fountain Gate. This was at the end of the Pool of Siloam, low in the valley in the south. It speaks, of course, of a fountain springing up and reminds us of Jesus' words in John 7 where he spoke of "rivers of living water" (John 7:38) which would come from believers in him. By that he describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
So here is the Spirit-filled life, overflowing to others. As the Apostle Paul said, "Keep being filled with the Spirit," (Ephesians 5:18). You will notice it comes immediately after the Dung Gate. After the corruption is cleansed away by the consent of the believer, then the cleansing of the Spirit washes clean.
In Verse 26 we come to the Water Gate. This is located at the spring of Gihon, where Hezekiah's tunnel begins. (This is not the famous Watergate in Washington, DC!) In Chapter 8 we learn that this is the place where Ezra reads the Law of God to the people. Water, in Scripture, is the symbol of the Word of God. This is the gate that reminds us of our need for the Word of God. The interesting thing about this account is that they did not repair the Water Gate. It did not need repair. The Word of God never needs improvement or repair for it lasts forever. It is indestructible. What it needs is to be re-inhabited.
I wonder how many of us need to re-inhabit this gate, and begin again to read and study the Word of God? Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Man does not live by bread alone," ( Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4). Well, then, what does he live by? "By every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God," ( Matthew 4:4). If you want your life filled to the full and enjoying what God intended you to have, it will only be as you come to understand the Word of God.
Then, reading on, in Verse 28 we come to the Horse Gate. This would be found on the eastern wall of Jerusalem. The horse is always the symbol of battle in Scripture. This is the gate that reminds us that we are not on a picnic: We are not on a Caribbean cruise. We are on a battlefield! We are going to be under attack. We are going to be assaulted by surprising events. There is much joy in the Christian life, but it will not always be without struggle. Everybody is going to face battle. We need to be alert to the fact of spiritual warfare.
I often think of Isaac Watts' great hymn,
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Nay, I must fight if I would win.
Increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
This is the lesson of the Horse Gate.
Then we come to the ninth gate, the East Gate, mentioned in Verse 29. Today this is called the Golden Gate. It is on the eastern side, opposite the temple area and facing the rising sun. Thus, it is the gate that speaks of hope and expectation. It is the gate through which the returned Messiah will enter the city of Jerusalem.
This is the gate that is often in ruins in people's lives today: After the first service this morning, a woman came and told me with tears about a friend of hers who has lost hope. She feels defeated and despairing. She does not want to live any more.
The newspapers last week recorded the tragic story of a mother who lost hope and actually put her two children to death because she saw them having to live in a world that was hopeless. This is a common condition with people all around us.
What does the East Gate tell us? It tells us that God has yet a glory awaiting those who trust him. The story of life does not end in despair and tragedy. Jesus said to his disciples, "When you see all these things coming to pass, lift up your heads and rejoice, for your redemption is drawing near," (Luke 21:28). We ought to be like tea kettles -- even when they are up to their necks in hot water, they are still singing!
Then the last gate is the Inspection Gate mentioned here in Verse 31. The word in Hebrew means "the appointed place." If you are familiar with the book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, you will recall 9:27, "It is appointed for man but once to die, and after that the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27) -- the inspection!
It is a reminder that we must give an account of our journey: We must learn at last the truth about our lives as God sees it. We will see all that has happened, exactly the way it really was.
And yet Scripture encourages us by assuring us that it is not a place of condemnation, but rather, as Paul says in First Corinthians 3, "everyone shall receive commendation" from God (1 Corinthians 3:8, 3:14). It is the place for the giving of rewards, for the acknowledgment of faithful service.
Then at the end of the chapter we come again to the Sheep Gate, where we began. The Sheep Gate stands for the cross and the cross must be at the beginning and at the end of our lives. Undergirding everything is this principle, out of death comes life. Out of the subjection of our natural desires to the will of God comes the life of God filling us full and blessing our hearts.
I remember as a young boy, not even in my teens yet, learning a hymn that has stayed in my memory ever since. We do not sing it very often these days. The words are simple, but they are very meaningful. It is called The Way of the Cross:
I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There's no other way but this;
I shall ne'er get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss.
I must needs go on in the bloodsprinkled way,
The path that the Savior trod,
If I ever climb to the heights sublime,
Where the soul is at home with God.
The way of the cross leads home,
The way of the cross leads home,
It is sweet to know as I onward go,
The way of the cross leads home.
Isn't this wonderful teaching in this book of Nehemiah? As we compass the walls of Jerusalem, each gate instructs us of the part of our life which needs to be watched, and rebuilt, and repaired. You may find some areas that need repair as you look at your own life today. This is what Nehemiah (and Peter) call us to do: to repair these gates and help ourselves become all that God intended us to be.
Audio Sermons on Nehemiah by James M. Boice
Class Notes and audio files: http://ldolphin.org/daniel/
Lambert's Newsletters: http://ldolphin.org/news/
August 15, 2004.