From heart to hands – From vision to mission
We’re in the book of Nehemiah, and we’ve been talking about having a desire or a compulsion on your heart. Something that just gets a hold of you. Something that you long to see done or fixed. Nehemiah had one such compelling desire concerning the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem. He has prayed, he had made his request, and he has received permission and funding to do the work. Today we’ll see that he finally arrives on the scene.
Have you ever longed for something for a long time and finally saw it come to be? Here’s a common one. I remember when Nancye was pregnant with Gabe. Of course, there’s a waiting period with such things. So, for months we knew, we prayed, we prepared, we waited. Then the day came when she gave birth and we finally had our little baby boy with a thick black swatch of hair on the top of his head. And, for that moment everything that we had longed for had finally been realized. What we had longed for in our hearts was now in our hands. Then, we had to get involved. We had to take him home and take care of him. And, it was a struggle. He wasn’t on our schedule and he didn’t know how to eat… Well, there was nothing left to do but put our hands to the work and embrace what we had longed for.
That’s a bit like where we are with Nehemiah. Remember he was in Susa when he heard about the shape of Jerusalem. He prayed and fasted and waited for 4 months. Then he traveled about 850 miles to Jerusalem – a trip lasting about 4 months.
So, eight to nine months after first hearing of the shape of Jerusalem, Nehemiah finally arrives. Can you imagine how he would have felt riding up into the city for the first time?
This is where we pick up.
Nehemiah meets the governors of the area and proves his right to be there with King Artaxerxes’ orders.
Now here is where we meet some characters that we will run into again a few times. Sanballat and Tobiah. We’ll talk a bit about them in a minute.
Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem and after three days, he rises up in the middle of the night and goes out to examine the wall.
~ Courageously connect to the work.
A night time visit v11-16.
Let me help you a little bit with the locations. (I say a little because we’re not really sure. This is an approximate map of Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah. We’re not truly sure of the shape or location of wall and all the gates. Some would suggest that there was a much larger area being rebuilt. I believe (with others) that this is more likely to resemble what Nehemiah was dealing with. You can read in the passage and follow along in the map where Nehemiah traveled. But, the more important point right now is that Nehemiah is getting his hands into the situation.
After 8-9 months of prayer, preparation, and pursuit, he has found the place where the desire of his heart meets the real world.
Let me just explain to you that this is the point where many of us miss out on what God is trying to do with those things that have captured our hearts.
When you recognize that thing that God has laid on your heart, you think about it, you pray about it, but eventually you have to act on it.
Maybe your concerned with the plight of children in our community. Do you get involved with after school programs, rec leagues, our children’s ministries?
Maybe you have a heart like Nehemiah – disaster relief and rebuilding. Are you getting trained, are you willing to give up some time to go?
Maybe the gospel in international places is what captivates you. Are you willing to go?
I know what you’re thinking – excuses. Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough know how.
At some point you courageously take the risk. And, you put your hands where your heart has been yearning.
~ Call to Action
Finally Nehemiah is ready to involve others (v17).
You may not be calling Jews, priests, nobles, officials, others. You may be calling your church, your family, your spouse, maybe just yourself.
But, no matter who you’re calling here’s a few things that will help you move from heart to hands.
1. A clear idea of the issue (v17: “You see…”). This could be someone’s forgiveness, family worship, reconciliation, a need in the community…
2. A specific goal (v17: “Come let us build…”).
3. A God-honoring purpose (v17: “…we may no longer suffer derision.”). Recognize that the issue isn’t just that the Jewish people are in disgrace, it’s God’s people who are in disgrace. This is echoed in Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1 (see v10). By the way, this is what separates a godly vision from a mid-life crisis.
4. A partnership with God (v18: “I told them of the hand of my God…”). We will accomplish God’s purposes with God’s strength in us. This was one of the points from a couple weeks ago. Nehemiah had a prayer and a plan. He trusted in God’s strength while he was using the strength God had already supplied.
The people agree and strengthen themselves for the work. Then…one more thing.
~ Resist the enemy (v20). I’m not going into this too deeply today because we’re going to meet these guys again in a couple of weeks in chapter 4. For this morning, I mainly want to say two things.
First, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3.12).
Secondly, having submitted yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4.7).
If you’re doing God’s work, you don’t have to fear the enemy. I love how they try to challenge Nehemiah with fear of the king. But Nehemiah sees this as above the king’s pay grade: “The God of heaven will make us prosper…” and confidently enters the work “we his servants will arise and build…”
Are you ready to move forward?
If you know Christ as Savior, this is your calling. You were created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2.10)
Messages in this series
Messages by Greg Taylor