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Consolidation, Preparation, Delegation

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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October 23, 2023 4:00 am

Consolidation, Preparation, Delegation

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 23, 2023 4:00 am

Rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall was important to Nehemiah—but glorifying God was his ultimate goal. Find out how he honored the Lord and inspired God’s people throughout the project and as he prepared to depart. That’s on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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Re-building the walls around Jerusalem was something that Nehemiah cared about very much but it wasn't his ultimate goal. Glorifying God was. Today on Truth for Life we'll see how Nehemiah honored God throughout the project and even as he prepared the Israelites for his own departure. Alistair Begg is teaching from Nehemiah chapter 6 beginning in verse 15. What I'd like to do this morning is just gather up these concluding verses of chapter 6 and the opening verses of chapter 7. The first main point in verses 15 and 16 we can consider under the heading Mission Accomplished. And we're going to note two things. First of all, how the enemies reacted and then what the enemies realized. Now, their reaction here in verse 16 is so very different from the way they'd been before. They've done an amazing about turn.

There's a change of face. If you doubt that, you should turn for a moment back to chapter 4 and the opening verses. Because there we have them in full flight in all their bombastic antagonism, angry, ridiculing, seeking to use sarcasm to suggest to Nehemiah that he is engaged in a project that is really quite ridiculous, and it is impossible for him to think of bringing it to completion. And what did Nehemiah do on that occasion?

What he did on just about every occasion. He turned to prayer. He encouraged the people who were working along with him to be vigilant in verse 9. We prayed to our God, we posted a guard, and to be diligent, and that is why the people worked with all of their heart, but their vigilance and their diligence was underpinned by prayerfulness.

It's a simple reminder to us, and yet one that's important. Because we'll never do God's work in God's way without being opposed, whatever that work is. And as we walk through our days in and out of our offices and in factories and in hospital corridors and in school classrooms, there'll be plenty of occasion for us to retreat in prayer. We'll find ourselves saying, Do my friends despise, forsake me?

Is there trouble anywhere? And the answer to that, of course, many a week, many a day is yes. And then we should never be discouraged but take it to the Lord in prayer. And Nehemiah stands across the corridors of time as an illustration of an individual who, having put his hand to the plow, refused to look back.

The guys who will put their hand to it and look back and look around and buzz off are ten a penny. The men, the women of courage and fortitude and discipline and conviction and commitment who will take the task and see it through are few. That's why we remember their names.

That's why they arise from the pages of Holy Scripture. So the mission is accomplished, and the enemies react with fear and a loss of self-confidence. That's, we're told, how they reacted. They no longer were as smug as they'd been, and frankly, they were afraid.

Now, why was this? What was it that the enemies realized? Well, we're told. The reason that they were afraid and lost their self-confidence was because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.

Now, let us not miss this foundational principle. Throughout all the pages of Scripture and throughout all of the history of the church, the challenge has always remained. For the people of God so to do the work of God that those who are outsiders to the work will not be able to explain what has happened in purely human terminology. And the degree to which the work of God can be, if you like, explained away in human terms is probably the degree to which men and women seek to do God's work our way.

Now, I can't belabor this point this morning, but let me give you a couple of wonderful stories to read for homework. One of them you'll find in 1 Samuel 17. It's the story of David and Goliath. When you get to that story and read it, you will find that the people of God needed to discover the same principle.

They were tyrannized, and they were neutralized on account of this big, giant Goliath who was marching up and down in front of the armies of Israel. And they couldn't see beyond this character. And since there was nobody big enough to go out and fight him, they decided they're just going to have to let him come out every morning and shout in the way that he did.

You see, the people of God had it all wrong. They were looking for somebody big enough. God was looking for somebody small enough. They were looking for somebody who could take him on at his own game. God was looking for somebody who would be so in touch with him that he might be able to confront this Philistine, despite all of his size and magnificence, and yet slay him in a way that would render the response, God did that. And that's exactly what happened. David, refusing the armor of Saul, takes what is familiar to him, fires his stone, dings the guy right in the middle of the head, chops his head off, and the whole Philistine army flee.

Why? Because of the same principle. The enemies realized God is here. Now, if you want to go somewhere else to another fascinating story, go to 1 Kings chapter 18 in the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. They've got a big sacrifice burn-off event going, and basically the deal is that they're going to see whose God can make their sacrifice burn. The prophets of Baal, there are 450 of them. They're all in their finery, presumably.

They're all dressed. They all look very prophet-like, and they're all in their grandeur, and they come up, and they're going to make their plea to their gods to send fire and consume their sacrifice. There's one other character who is not apparently dignified, as are the prophets of Baal. He's got a kind of threadbare old camel coat, and he doesn't look like much. He's the only one left, and it's him against the 450. Who do you think you would have stood beside if you'd been in 1 Kings 18? After all, this looked—if anything looked like power and might, if there was any evidence of dramatic things taking place, if there were any words of prophecy being given, they were all being given over here with a 450.

Goodness gracious, what could we ever expect from the old threadbare fellow? And so they slashed themselves, and they danced around from morning until night. They couldn't get a spark out of the thing. And over comes Elijah. He says to his boys, Set it up. They set it up. He says, Dig a trench around it.

They dig a trench around it. He says, Get four big jugs of water, fill them up, pour them on the wood and on the offering. They pour it on.

They must have been looking at one another, saying, Man, this is hard enough without this. And then he said to them, Fill the jugs a second time and pour it on. They poured it on. We've now got eight huge jugs of water swimming all over the wood in the sacrifice. He then said to them a third time, Take the jugs, fill them, pour them all it on. And as a result of that, it flowed all over the sacrifice and down, and we're told in 1 Kings 18 that it filled the trench round about.

From any human perspective, it was an absolute impossibility that you could get a spark out of that, let alone a flame, let alone consume what was on the altar. And that is exactly what happened. And back here on the wall, with the enemies saying, It can't be done, Nehemiah acts in such a way that the people say, God has helped them in this. Loved ones, that's how it's supposed to be in church. That's what's supposed to happen in this church. Our neighbors and our friends are not supposed to be able to sit down with a balance sheet and work out who we are and what we've got and what we've done, nor sit down with the interest in family life and the concern for stability and the interest in religion, and sit down with all of those factors and then lay them as a paradigm over Parkside Church and say, Oh, that's easy.

I understand what that's about. But that's exactly what people will say, unless there is a God dimension about us. Unless there is a God dimension about my life, my enemies will never be forced to conclude that God's involved.

They'll just conclude, He's religious. When they come into worship and they hear us sing, they'll never fall down on their faces and exclaim, God is in this place, unless the people of God are living on the edge with God, doing things for God, with the help of God, so that when the outsider comes in, they can only exclaim, God is in this place. Surely this has got something to do with what Paul has to say about we could be involved in apparently very successful ministries, and yet on the day that we stand before God and we offer up our work to him, most of it is burned up. Indeed, we go into heaven singed in the seat of our pants, because what we thought was really powerful was actually wood and hay and stubble, rather than gold and silver and precious stones. Will you pray for our church?

Do you pray for our church? Well, that's the accomplishment of the mission. Secondly, notice what happens when we go behind the scenes. We go behind the scenes in verses 17 to 19.

Behind the scenes, people were writing letters. A guy called Tobiah was a real pain in the neck. He was a pain in the neck at the beginning of the story. You'll find as we conclude that he's a pain in the neck at the end of the story.

It's almost like God raised him up just to be a pain in the neck. He kept sending letters, and people were replying to the letters. And in verse 19, they kept coming to Nehemiah and saying, Tobiah's a really nice man, and telling all his good deeds, and waiting to see how Nehemiah would respond, and then they buzzed back to Tobiah, and then they told Tobiah what Nehemiah had said. Now, the interesting thing is, in verse 14, Nehemiah had been talking about Tobiah. To whom?

To God. That's the best person to talk to your enemies about, incidentally. Don't talk to your friends about your enemies, because then your enemies might become your friends' enemies, and that would be a shame, because then everyone is getting enemies. So if you've got an enemy, you know somebody doesn't like you, then just talk to the Lord about it.

And that's exactly what was happening here. Tobiah is a pain in the neck to Nehemiah. Nehemiah tells God about it. Verse 14, Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, remember them, because of what they've done to me.

They're a jolly nuisance to me. So the wall was completed, the project is done. Verse 19, And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.

I mean, you can't go forward for going back. Just when you think you've got it buttoned down, just when you think you did it, still the undercurrent is there. And the undercurrent was clearly there. The problem in the Tobiah factor, if we may refer to it in that way, was simply this, that Tobiah was not an outsider. He was a Jew like Nehemiah. Secondly, he was financially involved with some of the wealthy families in Judah. That's the significance of the statement here concerning many of Judah who were under oath to him in verse 18. And also, as we see in verse 18, he was related to the wealthy families in Judah through marriage. Now cast your mind back to chapter 5. Who did Nehemiah stick it to? For oppressing the poor, the wealthy families of Judah. So he had a problem with the wealthy families of Judah, and Tobiah had an undercurrent going with these same families. And the apparently inconsequential correspondence which was flowing between them was probably a thin disguise for the fact that they were all waiting for the day when Nehemiah would go, and then they could get things back on track. When Nehemiah would take his hands off it, and they would once again have the upper hand in Judah. Anybody who's been involved in leadership at all knows just what a telling illustration this is, what a fact it is. The undercurrents that are always present, no matter how apparently successful the project, no matter how completed the walls may be, no matter what the desires and hopes for the future, nobody will ever sustain leadership in the people of God unless God makes their shoulders broad enough, their mind expansive enough, their hearts strong enough to deal with this kind of undercurrent.

Okay? Mission accomplished, 15 and 16. Behind the scenes, 17 to 19, and finally, verses 1 to 3, going forward, going forward. There's no record of Nehemiah asking for his name to be etched in stone. No flavor of his retirement emerging here.

Nobody's suggesting that he should take a rocking chair and go sit over at the Watergate. Why don't you go over there, Nehemiah? You've done a great job. We'll put your name up on the wall, and you can go sit over by it and look at it and just preen your feathers and congratulate yourself.

No, none of that. Because the servant of God knew that the work of God was far bigger than him. That's very, very important. And we're tempted to think that there's nobody else in the world could ever do this. You know, if I don't play this organ, no one will play it. If I don't do this Sunday school class, no one will do it. If I don't preach, no one can preach. And so on and so on. We have to write across our mirrors in our bathrooms, the kingdom of God can go on very well without you, Alistair Begg.

Thank you very much. And that keeps us with a right sense of perspective. That is not to say that our part is insignificant. It can never be insignificant if God gives it. So he gave him a very significant part, but it didn't have significance beyond the part that God had given him. And so his mind is already on the future. He's not taking time to memorialize his achievements. He's thinking future. There's almost a breathlessness about the description here.

It makes me want to stand on my toes and look over the wall and see what's going to happen next. With Paul, he's the kind of guy who's forgetting the things that are behind, and he's pressing on to the goal to win the prize for which God has called him. Philippians 3, 14. Indeed, the three words that I suggested would be the title of the whole study help to summarize this.

Let me just give them to you. First of all, what is happening here in verses 1 to 3 is consolidation. He is consolidating what has already taken place. He's asking in chapter 7 this question, who is available to populate and revitalize the city?

Or if you like, who do we have and how can we use them? That's what chapter 7 is about. He borrows a list from Ezra chapter 2, and he repeats it here in chapter 7 of Nehemiah. And what they're doing is they're laying down, conducting a census and saying, who do we have? And the people of God must always do that. That's the significance of membership.

It is that, and in many ways, not a great deal more than that. For the key thing is that we are attached to Christ. We're therefore made members of his invisible body, and we become identified with a local body so that the leadership can look out and say, who do we have and how can we use them?

It lays a burden on the leadership to use them, it lays a burden and responsibility on those who are present to offer themselves in service. The people were perhaps tempted to believe that once the wall was up, that was it. Or to believe that once community had been established, that was it. But neither the wall nor the community was the end.

Neither the building nor the gathering of the church is the end. We don't exist for ourselves. We exist for those who as yet have never heard. And that has to constantly be sounded out for a congregation, because we're so tempted to say, we did it! We arrived!

We're here! Now what we're going to do is scratch each other's backs and keep each other accountable and have a little time to ourselves. That is all well and good, but that's not the objective. The objective is that God would be glorified.

How is God glorified? In this is my Father glorified that you bring forth fruit and so prove to be my disciples. So the work of consolidation, the work of preparation, the whole tenor of these opening verses here has to do with the fact that he was looking forward.

There were unique opportunities, there were peculiar demands. And he's preparing for the future. He knows the part he's played. He knows what his role has been. He knows now that his role is going to be different in going forward. There's a change here in the organizational chart taking place. That brings us to the third and final word.

It's the word delegation. Up until this point all the lines, if you like, had come back to Nehemiah himself. He was the guy in whose heart God had put to do these things. He was the guy who did the reconnaissance. He was the fellow who came around and said, Look, I think we can do this.

He was the point man for so much. But he's reached a point along the journey where he says, If we're gonna go forward from here, I can no longer be this person. And so he decides to make these delegations. He delegates to gatekeepers.

Also, when God moves amongst his people, they sing, and the worshippers were there, and the servants were there, the Levites. And then he makes these two key appointments. Loyal, able, responsible supervision for the project was needed. So he takes his brother Hanani, whom we met in chapter 1, because he was the character who had come the nine hundred miles to Susa to tell Nehemiah, The gates are burned with fire, the walls are crumbling down, the people of God are in deep trouble. Hanani was a man who had the big picture in view, who cared for what was going on. And so he turns to him, and he says, Hanani, you're gonna take charge of Jerusalem.

And there's gonna be another fellow work with you. His name is Hananiah. You know the one. He's the commander of the citadel. We've read of him before, and I want him to have a strategic role in this because of his professional competence and his devotion to God.

Notice that. Because he was a man of integrity, verse 2, and he feared God more than most men do. That's what you look for when you look for leadership in the church. Men of integrity who fear God more than most.

Not just run of the mill. People who fear God more than most. Twelve men went to spy in Canaan, ten were bad, two were good. What was the difference? The difference was that Joshua and Caleb feared God more than most, more than the other ten. They stood out from the twelve because of their integrity and their fear of God.

Hananiah knew that if the project was to go on beyond simply the building of a wall, if it was going to mean the establishing of the community of God's people, if it was going to have all the dimensions that God intended, then there would need to be loyal, able, responsible supervision to take care of all the details of government, and presumably to prepare for the day when he departed for Susa, because after all, when he had left, the king had asked him in verse 6 of chapter 2, how long will your journey take, and when are you going to come back? You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life with the message he's titled, Consolidation Preparation Delegation. Alistair will be back shortly to close today's program. In the meantime, if you have not yet requested a copy of the book that we've been highlighting this month, let me remind you to do that. The book is titled, The Beauty of Divine Grace, and if you ever find yourself wondering if you've done enough to enter the kingdom of God, this is a book that will quickly correct your thinking. The Beauty of Divine Grace explains, with straightforward clarity, that salvation is not through our own efforts in any way, it is all a gift of God's grace. This book looks at what the church reformers referred to as the five solas. Each chapter explores what it means to be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

It's a foundational book that will help you fully understand what the Bible teaches about salvation, and it's a great book to share with a friend, someone who's interested in learning what it means to trust in Jesus for eternal life. Ask for your copy of The Beauty of Divine Grace today when you donate to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can give through the mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. At Truth for Life we're always looking for ways to help you grow in your faith and to help you share what you believe with others. On our website you can access and share many resources for free.

Thousands of Alistair's audio or video messages are available. There are weekly articles. There's a daily devotional. Visit truthforlife.org. You'll also find several study guides that we've put together to help you dive deeper into some of Alistair's teaching series. You'll find the study guides in our store at truthforlife.org slash store.

They're available as a free download or you can purchase them in booklet form at our cost. Now here's Alistair to close our program with prayer. Father I pray that you will take our studies in Nehemiah, take our church as it is this morning, take our lives and let them be consecrated to you. Pour out upon us a spirit of praise. Give to us a spirit of expectancy. Bless us not because we deserve it but because we long for it and really need it. For Jesus sake we pray. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. We're glad you've joined us today. What are you looking for when you attend a church service? Are you looking for a great sermon, a great worship team, some encouragement to start your week? Tomorrow we'll look at what we can learn from how God's people gathered for worship in Nehemiah's day. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the learning is for a living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-23 10:59:20 / 2023-10-23 11:08:44 / 9

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