What are you committed to? You can tell a lot about a person by their commitments. Are you committed to your spouse? To your kids? Are you committed to your job? To your school work or degree? Maybe you’re committed to owning a house or a car? The truth is, our commitments reveal our investments and vice versa. We expend our effort and resources on the things we are committed to.
Nehemiah was committed to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah made the commitment to persevere in God’s calling to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We can make the commitment to persevere in the calling God has given us.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:Thanks for listening to the podcast from Gary Combs and the preaching team at Wilson Community Church in Wilson, North Carolina. Check us out on the web at wccnc.org for more. And now here’s the sermon.
All right, it’s time to get back into the book of Nehemiah. We are in the book of Nehemiah, chapter six, this morning. We’re continuing our sermon series through the book of Nehemiah that we’ve entitled Rise Up. We get this theme from Nehemiah, Chapter two, where Nehemiah went to the people of Jerusalem and he said, doo you see the broken down walls and the burn gates. And he told him about how the hand of God was upon him. The king had given permission, and he said, Let’s rebuild. And the people replied, Let us rise up and build and they strengthen their hands for the good work. And so that’s where our rise up theme comes from; it is from Nehemiah 2: 18. God gave Nehemiah a vision to rebuild the broken down walls and gates of Jerusalem. He went to the people and they, with great enthusiasm and devotion, said, ‘Let’s do it’ and that’s how it starts, right?
You make a commitment to make a commitment. Then you show up at work the first day and you get blisters up to your elbows moving stones around and building a wall. And so making a commitment to make a commitment based on your passion and devotion is one thing, but actually doing the work. That’s a whole other thing, isn’t it? Those of us that are married, you remember how that goes, right? You say I do; that seemed easy enough. And then you have to live into that the next few years. It’s one thing to make the commitment. It’s a whole other thing to do the work and to do what’s necessary to keep a commitment.
And so, as the people of Jerusalem moved from their passionate response, let us rise up more. That sounds great. That sounds like a good theme for a sermon series, but it’s a whole other thing to make a commitment and do the work. And so they had to learn to persevere as their commitment was tested. And so your commitment is always tested.
Vince Lombardi, who was the coach of the Green Bay Packers and his name is on the trophy for the Super Bowl. He said this about commitment, he said, ‘Most people fail not because of a lack of desire but because of a lack of commitment.’ So it’s not lack of passion, it’s lack of perseverance through the testing of your commitment. That’s really what causes people to fail. Everyone wants to be involved with a success. We all want to be connected to success, but very few people want to make the total commitment.
I heard a story about a chicken and a pig that wanted to start a restaurant. The chicken was ready to be involved. But the pig said, ‘Look, it looks like you’re just involved and for me it’s a total commitment.’ And so the pig was not feeling as good about it as the chicken. At the first service, they laughed. I get booed at second service, whatever. Maybe my delivery was better first service, but are you ready to make a total commitment ? Because sometimes it costs all that you are? Yeah. That’s the thing with you. Will you survive the testing of commitment? What do you commit to? Are you committed to your marriage? You know, you can tell a lot about a person by their commitments. Are you committed to being a good father? A good mother? Are you committed to your parents? You know, some of us are tweeners right now. You are in your forties and fifties and you’re taking care of your kids and your parents. You know, that’s a hard season. Are you committed? You can tell a lot about a person by what they are committed to. Are you your schoolwork? Are you committed to finishing the degree that you began? Are you committed to your work? What do you commit to?
The truth is our commitments reveal our investments. You’re committed to something. And then you invest your life in it, and then vice versa. What we’re investing in our life reveals what we are really committed to . You say you’re committed to something. But where are you putting your effort, your money and your passion, that’s really what you’re committed to.
Nehemiah is who we’re talking about; he was committed to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. As we look in Nehemiah chapter six, we’ll see that his commitment and the commitment of the people of Jerusalem was being tested. And I believe that Nehemiah made the commitment to persevere in God’s calling to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, to rebuild Jerusalem. In spite of the testing, I think we can make the commitment to persevering and to what God’s calling us to do as a church and as a people and as individuals. How could we do it?
As we look at the text, I think we’ll see three focuses for making the commitment to persevere in God’s calling. Are you ready? Get your seat belts on; we’ve got a lot of territory to cover. We’re going to do Chapter six and a few verses of Chapter seven. Pray for me. There’s a lot of names in this chapter, and we’ve encountered a lot of names in the reading of Nehemiah. Let’s do our best starting at verse 1, “Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. 3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 4 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. 5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” 8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. 10 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid. 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid. 7:1 Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.” This is God’s Word.
We’re going to be looking for three focuses for making the commitment to persevere in God’s call. Here’s the first: (1) Do the work. Here’s the first focus. When you say yes to a calling from God on your life, when you make the commitment, which is what saying yes means, there’s work to be done. Do the work. That’s the first step. Focus on the work. Do the work God calls you to.
Now, as we look at verses one through nine of chapter six, that’s what I see. Nehemiah is committed to the work. He will not be distracted. Many are trying to distract him from doing the work, but he is focused on the work and refuses to be distracted. Because of this, he knows what to say yes to and what to say no to. He said yes to God, but he’s saying no to the distraction.
Notice in verse three how he describes the work that he does. In verse three it says, “I sent messengers to them saying, I am doing a great work and cannot come down.” You know, he used to be a greater man, if you consider the fact that he served on the king’s court, King Artaxerxes, King of Persia. He was the cupbearer to the King, man. That’s a great job. That’s a comfortable job. That’s a wonderful job. Instead, he’s got this job over here with this little group trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But as he looks at it, he sees the work of God as the great work.
Do you see what Nehemiah sees? Do you see how he recognizes that there’s a greater work to be done? And he feels a sense of calling to it. And that’s how he responds to his detractors. They try to get him to go and meet with them four times. They invite him to come down to the plain of Ono. Ono; someone at the first service said that I missed in opportunity for a joke there. So it seems obvious you should say, ‘Oh, no. Right there it is.’ There’s your joke. I actually had a Beatles joke that I was working on and they said, ‘No, don’t do that; you should know not to mess with her. She broke the Beatles up. Don’t go there.’ And so the plain of Ono.
So, you know I like maps, right? Have I told you that I like maps, right? And so pop this one up. Here’s the plain of Ono. It’s up here northwest of Jerusalem. Sanballat is here; he’s the governor of Samaria. This area , this region here is where Tobiah of the ammonites lives; he’s over this region. Geshem from the Arabs is down here.
They’ve invited Nehemiah to come to what might be considered a neutral area where they’re not over it. And that kind of makes sense in a worldly sense. Like less council. Together we see that you’ve got the whole thing built except for the gates. So let’s just get together and have a conversation about some things we’ll name. I don’t have time for that. And plus, he sees through it. And so this is about thirty seven miles away from Jerusalem. He’d have to stop the work on the gates, which concerns him, because it’s really worthless until you put doors in the gates. And so he’s not going to do it because he sees through it. And so they’re not able to convince him he suspects them of wanting to harm him. And why shouldn’t he since they’ve been threatening his life from the beginning?
They invite him a fifth time it says in verse five. But this time with an open letter, not a private letter, not a private invitation just for him, but an open letter. What’s an open letter? It’s one that’s read aloud to the whole city. And so he sent a messenger in and he had him read this and you can see in verse five, ‘The fifth time has sent a servant to me with an open letter in his hand, and in it was written. It’s reported to among the nations and Geshem from the Arabs.’ It also says that you guys were trying to rebel against the king and Nehemiah, you yourself are trying to be king and we’re going to tell King Artaxerxes about it.
So now why would he read an open letter? Because he’s trying to not only scare Nehemiah now, he’s trying to scare the people and cause the people to get disunified. Nehemiah would have none of this. He keeps his mind and his effort focused on the great work that God has called him to do. Nehemiah responds; he says in verse eight, ‘I sent to him saying, No, such things as you say have been done.’ That’s a gentle way of saying you are lying . And then he says, ‘You are inventing them out of your own mind.’ That’s a gentle way of saying you are crazy. You are lying and you’re crazy. Basically, he let them hold it. And then he said, ‘I know what you’re trying to do, verse nine, You’re trying to frighten us thinking we will stop, but it will not happen.’
Then notice in verse nine. There’s this one going trait exhibited in in Nehemiah’s life. He’s a prayerful man. He’s a prayerful man, he responds to them. In fact , this is one of the few places he actually responds to them, to those external enemies. But he had to when they sent that open letter. Don’t you think he pretty much had to? They forced his hand and he says to God. ‘But now Oh God, strengthen my hands.’ In other words, make me strong to keep doing the great work. I’m not going to be distracted by this testing from Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem.
During the same time period, there were two prophets that had prophesized during the time of the Book of Ezra and the time of the Book of Nehemiah. Ezra largely depicts the rebuilding of the temple. Nehemiah depicts the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem. There were two prophets, Haggai and Zachariah that are writing during this time.
Haggai hears from the Lord. InHaggai, chapter two, he gives this word to the people. ‘Now the Lord says, Be strong all you people still left in the land and now get to work for I am with you , says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. My spirit remains strong among you just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’ It’s better than a Nike commercial. Listen to this: Be strong. Do the work. Do not fear. Be strong. Do the work. Do not fear. Be strong. Do the work. Do not fear.
What was the enemy trying to get them to do? Stop working, right? Be weak. Stop working! Be afraid. The enemy wanted them to be weak. Stop working! Be afraid. But the spirit of the Lord, through the prophet Haggai, the word of the Lord to the people was: Be strong. Do the work. Do not fear.
Back up your commitment. How? Depend on the spirit of the Lord. He’s the one who called you to the work. He will also encourage you and empower you to do the work. How do you do this? I begins with making a commitment to follow Jesus . When you make a commitment to follow Jesus, it begins with a yes. You say yes to Jesus. You make a commitment. You really don’t know exactly what you’re getting into. You just know you need help. That’s really probably enough. I’m not doing well on my own. I’m a sinner and I I need a savior. Help! Lord, rescue me.
Do you know the simplest prayer you could pray is called the Jesus prayer? What’s the Jesus prayer? Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. That’s the Jesus prayer. Do you want to make a simpler version? Lord have mercy on me, Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. If you pray that prayer, that’s a commitment prayer and then be ready. He’s going to give you the willpower and the working power to keep your commitment to follow him.
Look what it says, Paul, writing to the church at Philippi, ‘For God is working in you, giving you the desire, which is the willpower and the power to do which is the working power.’
What pleases him? You know, sometimes you don’t have the willpower to keep your commitment, You know what I mean? Sometimes it’s not the working power; you just don’t want to. But when you follow Jesus and you say yes to him, he gives you a new willpower, and then on top of that, it gives you working power. But it begins with a yes. One yes leads to another and to another as Christ empowers us. Make the commitment to follow Jesus. We focus on doing His work, His great work rather than ours. We start talking like Jesus talked when He said, ‘I only do what I see my father doing.’ So we begin to agree with that. We want to do what the father is doing.
Here is number two. The first was, Do the work, focus on the work. When God calls you to do something, do the work. When you say yes, do the work. Here’s number two: (2) Depend on the Word. Depend on the Word. Look at verses ten through fourteen. Now we’ve talked about versus one through nine. It represented an overt attack on Nehemiah. Overt means out in the open; the open letter from the enemies from the outside attacking and they stayed firm. They kept doing the work.
But now in verses ten to fourteen, we have more of a covert conspiracy against Nehemiah; this is the worst kind. This is a sneaky, sneaky thing that the evil one pulls on Nehemiah in verses ten through fourteen. We see a prophecy within Jerusalem been paid for by Sanballot and Tobiah, to give a false prophecy to try to get him to be afraid. And we see it in verse eleven. He describes what it is they’re trying to get him to do. They’re trying to get him to run away and hide.
Isn’t that how we often feel when times get hard after we’ve made a commitment, don’t we feel like running away? You know, the only problem with running away is wherever you go, there you are. You can’t run away from you. You might think you can run away from the circumstance, but the truth of the matter, the circumstance is not the problem. You’re the problem, because wherever you go, there you are. Write that down. That’s deep. Think about it. You’ll get it when you get home.
This is a conspiracy. And so we see this guy Shimada. He’s got a great name. It starts with Shemaiah which means to hear and aiah, which is from Jehovah. So the Lord hears That’s his name. That’s the great prayer they pray three times a day in Israel Shamaa, Yisrael, Adonai Israel The Lord Thy God is one. It’s in his name, Shemaiah, The Lord hears and he becomes a false prophet. He’s got quite a lineage. He’s the son of the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel. He’s an important fella. He’s confined, it says in verse ten, to his home.
Now there’s a lot of talk in the commentaries about what that means. We don’t know what it means. Maybe he was confined because he had a health problem. Some suggested he couldn’t leave his house because he’s sickly. Others thought, well, maybe he’s unclean and he couldn’t leave his house for that reason. But if he’s unclean, he shouldn’t be inviting company over. Others have I think more accurately suggested he confined himself to his house in order to say, ‘Hey, we’re all about to be killed and come hide with me. The Lord told me and I’m the one who hears from the Lord. It’s in my name. The Lord told me to tell you to come and hide with me. And when you come with me because I’m from the priestly caste, I’ll take you and hide you in the temple.’ Even the pagans believed if you hid in the temple, no one would kill you there. Okay? Sounds almost convincing.
Then he throws in this little extra. He says, ‘They’re coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.’ It’s not like it’s not bad enough to get killed during the daytime. It’s a lot worse to get killed at night. Think about it because you’re more afraid at night. And the purpose here is to make you afraid. So how does he reply? How does Nehemiah reply? Remember, he depends on God’s word, not a false word from a false prophet. How does he have the discernment to know? Because, Nehemiah is not only a man of prayer, he’s a man of the Word. We found that out in Chapter one. He’s a man of the Word.
Look what he says in verse eleven, ‘Should such a man as I run away.’ Now look on first glance, that kind of looks like a “Rambo” statement that kind of looks like a “John Wayne/ Clint Eastwood” statement to me, like a really macho statement. I don’t think that’s what it is. I think this is a man who’s doing a great work and called of God. He’s the first one in and the last one out because God called him. He will not turn away from the work; he will not run away. He will be the first one in and the last one out. Should a man called of God, should a woman called of God run? No, I think that’s Nehemiah’s thinking, too; he had assurance of his calling.
I’ve often talked to young church planters who are planting churches, and they’ll be into year three and they’ll call me and they say, ‘You’ve been at this twenty seven years. How did you not quit?’ How did you not quit when your wife quit on you? How did you not quit when your kids were tired of it? How did you not quit when you had a hard time putting groceries on the table? And here’s what I had to say, ‘God called me when all else didn’t seem to make sense.’ The calling was still true. Should such a man who is called, should such a woman who was called run away?
Then he says what man such as I could go into the temple and live. I’m still looking at his reply in verse eleven. What man such as I should go into the temple and still be able to live? Well, here’s what Nehemiah knows. He knows that the word of God says he’s not allowed in the temple because he’s not a priest.
It says in Second Chronicles chapter twenty three, ‘Remember, only the priest and the Levites on duty may enter the Temple of the Lord for they are set apart. The rest of the people must obey the Lord’s instructions and stay outside.’ There was a king in Israel who got it in his head one day that he’s going to go in and and burn some incense and the Lord gave him leprosy. Friend, you’re not supposed to be in there. You’re the king, Your over all things. But you’re not a priest. You’re not allowed in the temple. This is God’s word. Here’s what he knows. God will not speak contrary to His revealed Word. If somebody comes to you with a word. (I got a word for you) and it’s contrary to the word. It is from the evil one; Nehemiah knows it and he recognizes it. He accuses him in verse thirteen for this purpose, he was hired. You are a hired profit. You’re a prophet for hire. And he said ‘You did this to make me afraid; you did this to make me sin. You did this so it would give me a bad reputation, a bad name so people could talk about me. I will not do it. He depended on God’s Word.
How does he finish in verse fourteen; how does this section finish? Remember Tobiah and Sanballot? . How does he stand up against the overt? Testing the outward, he replies and then he stands up in prayer. What about the covert the sneaky attack? He replies and then he takes a stand in prayer. This is a man of the word and a man of prayer. And he says, ‘You remember them? Oh, my God,according to these things that they did and also the prophetess? I don’t know what she did, but she was in on it. And the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid he was being attacked within and without and he depended on his God and he depended on God’s Word.
Here’s something you can say about fear . 2nd Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind.” If you will memorize that verse, the next time fear hits, you go, ‘Where’s this coming from? God does not give us a spirit of fear. He gives us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. So where’s this coming from?’ Why are you afraid? Are you afraid of what the doctor told you when he gave you the diagnosis? Are you afraid of what your worries or telling you? Are you afraid of something someone told you? Think about where it’s coming from.
Anything that strikes fear and keeps you from God’s calling is not from God. That’s the first thing. Here’s the other thing. God will not alter his word. It says in Psalm 89:34, “I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.” God does not change his mind. He has said it and it is written down. I don’t think that you’ve got a new idea. Well, I think he gave me a special dispensation to do this. No, he didn’t. And we can depend on God’s word for guidance and direction. It helps us make decisions so we know what to say yes to and no to.
Nehemiah decides no, I will not come to your house. No, I am not going to go hide in the temple. This is a good memory verse: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It gives us guidance. What’s your source of guidance? Do you follow your own decision making, or do you get together with some fellow employees in the break room asking for them to vote on it. I mean, how do you make decisions?
Christian, I would say to you, Look to God’s word . So do the work. How do we keep our commitments? Focus on doing the work. Focus on depending on the word of God helps us keep our commitments.
Here’s number three: (3) Define the win. Define the win. Now, first of all, may I make this preacher comment someone told me this after the first service. As preachers go, this is a triple double. I have come up with D’s and W’s in all three points. A church member came up to me and said, ‘Pastor, you have the triple double.’ Anyway, that’s hard to come by. Define the win. That’s a phrase that’s often used in the sports world, the business world; it is used in the nonprofit world. It has to do with making sure it’s clear in your mind what success looks like; it defines and clarifies success so you know you’re aiming at the right thing.
Here’s Nehemiah the whole time, and he thinks, I’m sure he thinks this. If I rebuild the walls and the gates, Jerusalem will thrive and it’ll no longer be in trouble. It will no longer suffer derision from the nations where they’re taunting and making fun of us and of our God. If I just get those walls rebuilt, that’ll be awesome. Unfortunately, he finds out, because now we’re in versus fifteen through the end of six and in the first few verses of chapter seven, he finds out that it was never really about the walls. It was always about the people. The people were broken; that was the problem. The people were broken. Yeah, they needed the walls to protect them. Yeah, he needed to do that. But now, you realize that rebuilding Jerusalem is a much more intense and challenging calling. He thought God called him to rebuild the walls. But it turns out he called him to rebuild the city, which meant rebuilding the people.
Some have said, ‘Pastor, why have you talked so much about money during the series. We’re not used to you doing that.’ Have you been coming? Because that’s never been the win. I have said this from day one and I will say it again. We have been called to make room for more people to come just as they are and be forever changed by the love of Jesus. That requires sacrifice on the people of God to do the work depend on the word. The win is, well, there it is. The names in these cards.
If you’re here for the first time, I just want you to know these are cards that we’ve been writing names down of people that are far from God that we wanted to see come to Jesus. We’ve been calling them our impact cards. We’re praying for that person that we’ve almost lost faith in; we’re writing their name down that God could save them. We’ve been writing multiple names down every week.
That’s the win; making disciples. What’s God called us to do, church? Make disciples of all nations. So that’s our calling. But what’s it look like? That’s the win. What’s the win? To make disciples that follow Jesus, who have a heart for God, a heart for each other and heart for our world, to the glory of Jesus Christ. That’s the win. That’s the win.
How do we do it? Well, we need a preacher. Apparently, we need a building that has cool and heat at appropriate seasons. We need a worship team. We need seats for people to sit in. We need a children’s ministry. We need a children’s church. We need a youth group. Can I just keep going on? These are all things, but they’re not the win. It’s not the walls, it’s the people. But the people of God need a house to live in. And so the need the financial need for Phase two we’ve been talking about it is one million dollars in order to do the new theatre room upgrade to redo the entryway and the parking lot. That’s the need. But that’s not the win; that’s just the walls. You will find out if you build all that, that it still doesn’t fix the problem.
What’s the problem? People are far from God, and that’s what Nehemiah is starting to find out here. The walls were finished in fifty two days. Only God could do that. For almost one hundred fifty years, the walls have been broken down. Nobody can get this fixed. Nehemiah shows up and he rallies the people of God and God helps them in fifty two days in the month of Elul. Remember, in the month of Kislev, he went in to see King Artexerxes. In chapter two of Nehemiah, he had been praying, He’d heard about it from his brother. His brother told him. The walls are broken down. He prayed for four months in the fourth month, the month of Kislev, he went before King Artexerxes and he asked for permission to go and rebuild the wall. The king gave him permission. He arrived in the month of Nissan because he had to stop off and get lumber. And all this other detail. In the month of Nissan, he shows up, (not the car.) The Jewish month, right? That’s in the month of March April, and he goes. And so that’s when he tells the people, and the people say, Let us rise up. That is the month of Nissan. Some things have been going on in these months where he’s been getting everything organized and about fifty two days before Elul, which is August September. So somewhere right here. The work started and finished on the twenty fifth day of Elul, which would be probably late September early October. That’s a miracle.
And so the people of the nations around who had been talking bad about Israel and about Israel’s God it says when they heard of it, they were afraid they were trying to make Israel afraid. Now they’re afraid, and they fell greatly in their own esteem, literally in the Hebrew, their self image dropped in their own eyes. Now they’ve got low self esteem, and now they’re afraid, and now they they’re esteem for Israel’s God has gone up. God’s gotten the glory. Everything they tried to do to Nehemiah has happened to them.
Now, Verse seventeen of Chapter six to the end of Chapter six describes something that just kept on going on. That’s the people problem. Tobiah of the ammonites has intermarried, and he’s got some kind of relationship with the priestly caste, and that’s all those complicated names to pronounce right there. But if you research it, he’s married the daughter of some important person, and they’re sending letters back and forth to each other, telling everything that Nehemiah does and Nehemiah is just saying it just don’t stop. Even after we rebuilt the walls, even if we really rebuilt the gates, Tobiah has still got his finger in here trying to mess things up.
In chapter seven we see he starts working on the real problem. It’s not the gates, not the walls, he says. I started appointing people gatekeepers because what good are gates without gatekeepers to open and close them with appropriate times and singers, which I find a random comment in the midst of everything, But I kind of like it, too. I’m a musician. Let’s get some singing up in here. It’s been hard work. Come on, worship team. You’re going to build the house of God. There better be some singers. And the Levite,were appointed. His brother Hanani was appointed to watch over the place as he goes back to back to Artaxerxes to report in. And as we look at this, he’s here for twelve years after this. So after this he apparently goes back to Artaxerxes and he says, Look, it is worse than I thought. It really wasn’t about the walls. The people are beat up. Look at verse 4, for the city was large, but the people are few. There’s no houses rebuilt. I have an urban problem here. I have got a lot of work to do. He goes back and he asked for permission to be the governor. And he comes back for twelve years as the governor of Jerusalem. And that’s later. We’ll talk about that more later. Here’s what he learns. The win was the people of the city. They needed his help.
Here’s what it says in the book of Ephesians as Paul’s talking to the church there, he says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Here’s what he says. It’s not the steeple, it’s the people. In fact, the church is the people. We are the living stones. Christ is the cornerstone; the apostles and the prophets are the foundation. And he’s building the church and someday he will finish, and he will return and take us to be with him. And he says to comfort ourselves with this to not to be afraid, “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house, there are many mansions. If it were not so would have told you. I go there to prepare a place for you that where I am there you may be.” Also, he’s building the church and the gates of hades, he says, will not prevail against it.
You’re the church. It’s not the steeple. It’s not the walls. It’s the people. That’s the win. Why do we do all this other stuff? Why do we appoint gatekeepers and singers and build walls and gates? Why do we do this? Because the people need a safe place to hear the gospel so they can hear it and grow. A place to make disciples in the house of God for the people of God.
Have you made a commitment to be a disciple of Jesus? You’re the first person I would talk to on this commitment Sunday. That’s your commitment today. It’s not this commitment card. It’s your heart. Would you have Jesus change your heart; I am talking to you. If you’re far from God today, I know this commitment Sunday has been a little different than most of our Sundays, but it’s the same for you. It’s about you and Jesus. I’m going to give you a chance to pray with me in just a second. We’re about to enter into a holy moment in our church service. That happens every week, a sacred moment when people make commitments, We do it every Sunday. People make commitments for Jesus. They make commitments and they say Yes, and then they say Yes, and then they say yes, and they learn that their life changes as they make commitments and as they focus on the calling that God has on their life.
So I want to pray. And then I want to talk to you about these commitment cards. But let me pray. Lord Jesus. First of all, I pray for the person in the room that would say right now, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. My friend, you’re here and you need help and we love you in Jesus’ name. Thanks for coming. Would you give your life to Jesus right now? You can do it by faith just by talking to him in prayer. You can pray with me right in your seat. Dear Lord Jesus I am a sinner and I need you to save me. I believe you died on the cross for my sins that you rose from the grave and that you live today. Come and live in me. Make me the person you want me to be. I want to be a child of God. If you’re praying that prayer right now believing and making that commitment he’s ready and willing to be your lord and savior and to make you a child of God. Others are here this morning and you are members or attenders. You’re ready to make your commitment, Lord help us to be faithful. I pray that no one sits this one out, but that all sense how you’ve called them to do the work depend on the word and to define the win that what we’re doing is in order to win more to Jesus. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.