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October 12, 2021 4:00 am
We've all experienced trial you like they might break us. That's true. A bus was certainly true for Nehemiah and God's people when they faced tragedy today on Truth for Life.
Alastair Begg considers how and why Nehemiah's response made such a lasting difference in chapter 1 the words of Nat my life in the month of his life in the 20th year while he was in the Citadel of Susan Hannity, one of my brothers came from Judah with some other man 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 been burned with fire. When I have these things. I sat down and went for some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said, 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.
I confess the sins we Israelites including myself and my father's house have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly towards you. We have not obeyed the command's decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses 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. And even if you're exile people out at the farthest horizon. I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen is a dwelling for my name. They are your servants and your people whom you redeemed by your great strength in your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in reviewing your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. I was cupbearer to the king in the month of Nisan and the 20th year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought before him. I took the wine and give it to the king, I not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me why does your face look sad when you're not ill. This can be nothing but sadness of heart. I was very much afraid that I said to the king made a king live forever. Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins and its gates and been destroyed by fire. The king said to me, what is it you want that I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king if it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in his site. Let them send me to the city and Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it than the king with the Queen sitting beside him, asked me how long will your journey take and when will you get back it please the king to send me so I set a time. I also sent to them if it pleases the king may have letters to the governors of trans-Euphrates 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 request so I went to the governors of trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also send army officers and cavalry with me when send out the horror night and to buyer the Ammonite official Herod about this. They were very much to start that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites is probably little doubt that you could say that now, Maia lived on the edge. His job essentially demanded to be the cupbearer to the king possess immense clarity, you drink the stuff if it was poison you're gonna goodbye now Maia and Long live the King. So you needed to be the kind of individual who was shrewd, the kind of individual that had an eye for detail, you would need to be able to gauge character and pay careful attention to those who were around, especially since the position that one fulfilled was of such strategic importance is introduced to is in a matter of few words in the opening of the book we are told who he is now my other son of hack Alliance and there it ends. He had no great pedigree of which we are told he was essentially a no-name like some of us like most of us all to me like all of us.
When is it well it's wintertime were told hits in December 20 year of the king's reign. This second half of the fifth century BC. It's quite a while ago and where is he.
Well, these 800 miles were told from the deepest concerns of his heart is great longing and concern was far removed from the place of his employment.
He was in Susa, the capital of the Medo Persian Empire, a place that was central to the activities of the then known world. He was in a strategic spot, but he was a long way away from what he ultimately really cared about and he receives were told here to visit from one of his brothers in some of his friends and so it is that he reads.
He learns of what's going on amongst God's people in God's place, neither time nor distance has eroded the deep-seated concerns of his life in the news wasn't good, we read that there be information was described with words like survival trouble disgrace learned broken safe to say that he could've taken blows to his body with a greater sense of deference than he was able to sustain these blows to his heart and mind as he thought about the people that he left behind in the situation. Now the historical significance of these events I'm going to largely assume because you will have studied this, but for those of you who have forgotten, I give you a thumbnail and brief refresher course. Remember, it was 722 BC the Assyrians rated Israel that was in the north is a result of the invasion in the North a bunch of people in the north decided to hightail it to the south that was to Judah is a big immigration a big influx of people they settle in Judah, but Judah does not do well in relationship to God's word the mark as messengers they despised his words and they scoffed at his prophets. Therefore, in response to the promise of God in 586 BC. We have judgment invasion chains, bondage, and at 800 mile route March into the Babylonian captivity and once again the people of God are in exile.
They are living under a foreign power as their forefathers had been in Egypt. It's during this period that some of the Psalms are written. For example, Psalm 137 by the rivers of Babylon. We sat down and wept. How can we possibly sing the Lord's song in a foreign land and they were writing that in this experience of exile in 539 Babylon was overrun by Cyrus. He instituted is a policy of repatriation, allowing a number of people to return to the country of origin that's described for us in the first six chapters of the book of Ezra and there you read of how a small company went back they began to rebuild the ruins only to have their project come to a grinding halt all over again. As a result of the intervention of Arctic Xerxes. You can read that and I in Ezra chapter 4 and verse 23. Now it was news.
I believe at least of this second desolation which was being brought to now Maia and in response to discovering what was happening with the work of God.
If you like in Jerusalem. He now Maia was overwhelmed by sorrow out.
People can respond to circumstances simply by rehearsing them or bemoaning them and that is largely the case in the moving amongst people who do God's work in our day is not difficult to find a group of people who are able to describe the circumstances and lament them all dear is in this dreadful and all are we not in a sorry predicament. Although I never imagined that it would be like this and you're only ended these people's company for four or five minutes. Do you find yourself thoroughly depressed they are.
They are poor souls and we are poor souls to the degree that we engage in that kind of thing. Not that we are triumphalist it not that we are jingoistic or unrealistic, but that we must always come to the circumstances which confront as within the church within our churches within the work to which God has called us in light of the fact of who God is and in seeing God in all of his glory.
We then look at man in all of his predicament, and every so often on the stage of human history when the light seems to be most extinguished and when circumstances appeared to be at their darkest God having fashion. Somebody unbeknown to others raises them up in that moment in time and what was needed in this circumstance was a man who could make a difference the world. Someone said will always make way for the individual that knows where they're going and it is clear as we are about to see that now.
Maia was someone who could cope in the midst of ruin and despair and who could not simply cope, but who could also forge ahead. Somebody who could establish a vision and when I say establish a vision.
I do not mean an individual who could talk. Insert a dramatic possibility terms, but somebody who could bring the truth of God to bear upon the circumstances of the now in such a way that he was able to encourage those around him to become partners in the very work of God, so God puts his hand on an ordinary man with an extraordinary gift for an out of the ordinary responsibility. That's the way he chooses to do it. Ordinary people to whom he gives extraordinary gifts for out of the ordinary challenges is probably where most of us are living our lives, and therefore we do well to consider the pattern that is established here by now, my I want to trace a line to this by encouraging you to notice. First of all, his reaction his reaction when I heard these things he says in verse four the way in which you and I react to circumstances tell us a great deal about us and especially those of us who have been entrusted with positions of responsibility. We have unique challenges in this area because of the way in which our reactions will affect the reactions of other people. Nobody lives to themselves. No one dies to themselves and certainly in leadership. We have a real challenge. There may be that there are some airline pilots here who fly commercially and I am always I always marvel when we have encountered some of the severest turbulence that you think a plane can stand when you finally hear the captain's voice over the intercom. It is always with such points. In general, I'm sorry about that little bump. I made coffee has been going off the ceiling. People have been screaming and prayer meetings have been happening instantaneously with people who don't even believe in God and finally he comes on, and he says I'm sorry about or when we did a go around in a 747 coming out of London into Pittsburgh.
We were when we were wheels down and within 3 miles of the runway and he pulled it out and the child in front of me started a sharp guy, which was really bad because I wanted to show the same thing. And eventually, when he when we went back into the nether darkness's voice came on again and he said I'm sorry to have to give you the scenic tour of Pittsburgh this evening was very reassuring to me. If you come on and start shouting all oh, I'd be with the kids you know now when you take the people going up to examine the circumstances as dispatched by the leadership in the book of numbers the 12 men who went this by engaging in is the children's song says Dan were bad and two were good. They all saw the same stuff the all experience the same place the all encounter the same challenges.
They were all aware of the same opportunities and 10 of them said shut it down. We shouldn't do this can't be done.
There are giants in the land and to said with God, we can take the place over.
Caleb and Joshua. The proportion is largely the same. It would seem to me whether it's in your session or wherever it is you got 12 guys that we can on them that know why it can possibly be done and leadership is going to have to be prepared to stand up and react in a different way and so the reaction of now Maia is illustrative fonts. Notice the depth of his devotion the extent of his compassion. This is no formalized morning on his part. This is not a concern on now Maia's part about buildings and walls and gates as we will see he wasn't weeping because the walls and broken down, he was weeping because of what the broken down walls represented because the glory of God was being dragged in the dust of a Judean Hills site and people are looking on that and saying. So where is your God now and that is exactly what men and women are doing. I was just back in my own city last week and in Glasgow and coming on church buildings again and again and again that our Islamic temples in the city in which I grew up with the module. Let Glasgow flourished by the preaching of his word and by the praising of his name on the churches. I'm also concerned about the buildings. I don't mind about the building but it's what it represents. If you read start on acts when he describes Paul going into Athens to remember I'm assuming you read it now, but he did and if you have and you should read the section on acts 17. It is wonderful and he talks about how he goes into this magnificent city and yet how it is not the aesthetics of the city. It's not the architectural die mentions of it that bring the paroxysms to this is the fact of the idolatry of the place and the godlessness of it and the abject poverty of spiritual reality that distresses them to the very core of his being and start says from his boot. When is the last time any of us went into a contemporary Western city and were grieved to the very core of our being for the tragic emptiness of the church of God in our day and generation. You see, it takes the spirit of God to create that kind of reaction in the life of a man or a woman. It is not a natural response. It is a supernatural response and that you see is what Mark now my is a man of vision amongst people who encounter the same circumstances but did not react in the same way. He sat down in the wet who will weep for the 22 minute surface, it would be funny what a not so tragic. I don't want to come to you as the prophet Amos but I do believe that without a real significant move of the Spirit of God in this country.
We are probably less than 1/4 of a century away from duplicating the demise of Western Europe and the deadness and emptiness of the raft. Even jelly filled his may then if we are alive.
Grantor steers to the key thing is that we need that die mention of understanding, like the men of this occurred, that we would understand the times in which we live and we would understand that God who rules over those time so his reaction is one of devotion. It is one of compassion. It is to cry. It is to weep. It is to mourn but notice that his counteraction is also vitally important. He doesn't simply dissolve into a bucket of tears, but he fasts he sets aside his normal intake of food. The routine that is attached to it for the express purpose of seeking God and in the expedience of that.
He comes to them in prayer. He knew that none other than God could accomplish what was necessary if the city was to rise again. If the gates were to be restored if the glory of God was to ring and it would all be as a result of God's intervention unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build what you find.
The hardest part of gospel ministry is prayer, not close to that.
It is for me the challenge of public prayer, and really praying. The challenge of personal prayer in really praying challenge of believing that if I were to spend significantly more time seeking God on my knees, then scribbling about God and my notes that in actual fact, God may yet be magnified to a far greater degree. The that has ever happened. If said someone our prayers meager is because we regarded as being supplemental and not fundamental that we can do more than pray after we've prayed we can do more than pray until we've prayed one of the commentators having a man by the name of Barber, although even look at my notes, I can think who he is. He says this in a little trilogy, the self-sufficient do not pray they merely talk to themselves. The self-satisfied do not pray they have no awareness of their need the self righteous cannot pray they have no basis upon which to approach God and therefore any attempt to explain the visionary impact of now my order of others like now Maia that fails to see this essential element as being, namely that an essential element will in itself be flawed. The little phrase there in verse four. For some days actually is a significant phrase for some days I mourned and fasted. If you check the time gap between the first verse of chapter 1 the first verse of chapter 2. The time gap is approximately three or four months immediately apparent until you go and check it if you check and you find that what I'm telling you is accurate.
Interestingly, when you get to chapter 6 and verse 15 you discover then that the time that it actually took for the construction itself was 52 days so if you have four months is approximately hundred and 20 days 52 days so more than twice was spent in praying and in realigning his heart and mind and will with that of Almighty God of gaining perspective of thinking we are not to think of them as some kind of trance I imagine in praying, sometimes walking, sometimes including other, sometimes alone, often with a notebook is at work and writing down the things that were coming to his mind. I don't think you can understand. Chapter 2 except for the fact that in the expedience of prayer he was fashioning and forming certain convictions and practical factors that would be necessary if the sense of prayerful dependence upon God was going to be turned in to reality amongst those with whom he was going to minister reacting with compassion, counteracting prayer from Alastair Biggs teaching today on Truth for Life will continue this message tomorrow. Alastair originally preached this message to an audience of pastors and as much as ever, our pastors really need our prayers and our encouragement.
I mention this because October is pastor appreciation month a great time for you to reach out to those who helped lead your local congregation. Let them know how thankful you are for their leadership and if you're pastors anything like me you keep loves books and sermons. You'll find a terrific collection of pastors resources in our online store Truth for Life.org/store. We recommend USB titled the pastor's study contains more than 60 messages from Alastair. It's available for purchase for just five dollars or you can share the pastor study for free through the Truth for Life out by passing a link to your pastor is also a transcript that accompanies each term.
Finally, the basics conference for pastors and church leaders, which is hosted by Alister is now scheduled for May 2020 .2. The conference takes place just outside of Cleveland Ohio registration to the conference also makes a great gift for your pastor visit basics conference.org Bob Lapine if the men and women mentioned in the Bible are ordinary people like you and me.
How does a simple cupbearer find the courage to face and out of the ordinary challenge find out when Alister continues this message tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alister bag is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living