Monday, June 2, 2008

The Nehemiah Strategy

Nehemiah is an inspiring Old Testament leader. God used Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem around 446 B. C., to repair and rebuild the protective walls around the city. Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra, who was a priest that led the second of three groups who had been captive in Babylon back to Jerusalem.

In 538 BC Cyrus, who conquered Babylon, issued an edict that the Jewish people could return to Jerusalem, rebuild the city and the temple. The first was led by Zerubbabel. Upon arrival the first group starts rebuilding the temple, but opposition from the non-Jewish inhabitants discourages the people and they cease their work. God raised up two prophets to call the people to complete the task, Haggai and Zechariah. Nehemiah is called to complete the work that had been started by Zerubbabel. When the captives returned they found the city in ruins. The temple had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the gold and silver implements had been taken as spoils of war.

Zerubbabel and the early returning captives began the work in spite of difficult circumstances, and now Nehemiah was to be used of God to rebuild the wall and the protective fortress around Jerusalem. Nehemiah is a book about restoration and revival. My prayer is that God will use the book of Nehemiah to give us a strategy on rebuilding the walls that have been torn down by our enemies. The Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, took many of the people captive, and finally destroyed the city.

In Exodus God had made a covenant with Israel. In Exodus 23:20-32 God told Israel that He would protect them, but they must keep His commandments. In Exodus 23:22 – “But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” When Israel disobeyed God’s Laws and violated the terms of the covenant by giving themselves to idolatry and wickedness, God allowed the Babylonians to take them into captivity.

Like Israel of old we live in a time when our city lays in ruins, the walls have been torn down through compromise, sin, and disobedience. We are called to rebuild the walls and to prepare for revival. As we study the actions of Nehemiah there are some valuable lessons that can be learned about restoration and revival.

God is calling the Body of Christ today to rebuild the walls of protection that have been torn down by our enemies. There is a great need to rebuild the walls that have been torn down in our homes and churches:
  • The wall of prayer and communion with God - 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs to "Pray without ceasing."
  • The wall of living a separated and holy life - 2 Corinthians 7:1 instructs us to "...Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

  • The wall of commitment - Jesus instructed us to "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."

The first chapter of Nehemiah gives a the following strategy for rebuilding the walls that have been torn down by the enemy in our lives and our churches:

1. Nehemiah was moved by compassion for His people. In Nehemiah 1:2-3 Nehemiah asks a question out of concern for those who had returned to Jerusalem. “that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.”
Verse 3 – “And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”

What is the condition of the city? What is the plight of the Jewish remnant? “They are in great distress and reproach.” These are questions that we must ask today. What is the condition of our city? What is the plight of the inhabitants? The walls have been broken down, they are unprotected, and they are in great distress.

This moved Nehemiah to compassion. Nehemiah 1:4 – “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Compassion will be birthed out of prayer and fasting. Nehemiah mourned for many days!! He spent some sleepless nights! He fasted and prayed. Why? Compassion. defines compassion as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Compassion will move you to do something about the situation. When Jesus saw the multitudes who were sick and suffering – “He was moved with compassion."

Like Nehemiah, God wants to break our hearts – for our lost family members, our sick and suffering neighbors, and this Baltimore region that desperately needs Christ.

2. Nehemiah interceded for those in distress. Nehemiah 1:4 – “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Verse 5 – “And I said, ‘I pray, Lord God of heaven, O Great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments.” Verse 6 – “Please let your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now day and night.”

Nehemiah is not praying for himself, but for those who had been scattered throughout the nations. He was interceding for his fellow countrymen. One of the best ways to have your own prayers answered is to pray for others. Compassion will move you to intercede. The first and best thing we can do for others is to pray with them and for them.

Dr. Frank Damazio in his book, "Seasons of Intercession," defines intercession as “a prayer with a set meeting time, place and purpose. It means to meditate or to stand in for another. It is a free-flowing, bold prayer, prayed with child-like confidence.” God is calling us to intercede for our families, the region we live in, and our nation.

God told Ezekiel – “I sought for a man among them who would make up a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30) You and I may be the only one standing between our lost, unsaved family members and hell! We must stand in the gap and fill in the breach with our intercession.

God is calling us to put a wall or hedge of protection around our loved ones, our churches, and the region we are called to. We can determine judgment or revival! We can determine outpouring or devastation. We are called to stand in the gap and make up the hedge. It is time to pray like Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1:11 - "O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

God has an assignment for each of us. Like Nehemiah we must rebuild the walls of protection that were broken down by our enemies.


Eric said...

Great Information. Thanks Pastor.

Eric Birden

J said...

Terry it is good stuff.


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