Ought Ye Not? – Nehemiah 5:11-19

I saw an article the other day which was entitled – “Social Justice; America’s New Religion.” I didn’t take the time to read it, but I thought “Yes, I can see that.” Since casting aside the God of the Bible, Americans have made the creation of new religions one of their favorite pastimes. And many of those new religions aren’t even remotely spiritual. How about “The International Church of Cannabis” and the “Tattoo Parlor United Methodist Church.” How many men own a copy of “The Fisherman’s Bible” or “The Hunter’s Bible,” but they don’t own the Bible As I was reading Neh. 5 this week, my mind returned to that article, and the subject of false, quasi-religions. To the potentially long list false faiths, I’m going to add the religion of “Capitalism.” You may be an avid capitalist, and I’m not going to criticize you for that. As opposed to Communism and Socialism, Capitalism is a good thing. But a great many “good” things can be abused and turned into evil. And it seems to me that many Americans practice Capitalism as their religion. How many worship money and the methods of making money – the old fashioned way? How many never attend the services of God’s church, because they are worshiping at the cash register of their shop or store? How many Christians think of Capitalism as a doctrine of Christianity? During my first year at university, I took a course in economics – Economics 101, or was it Economics .01? That course didn’t make me an economist any more than visiting a barn in Saskatchewan made me...

Keys to Nehemiah’s “Success” – Nehemiah 4:11-23

Have you ever been corrected by one of the religious morality police for referring to “MY church?” “My church meets on the corner of 12th and Spokane” – “My church is a fundamental, landmark congregation” – that sort of thing. Has anyone, dressed in the spotless robes of the modern Pharisaic constabulary, ever corrected you, pointing out that Calvary Baptist Church is “not YOUR church” but the “LORD’S church?” If you haven’t, I am happy for you, and thankful on your behalf, because I know what it is to be rebuked for that error. Of course, it was not that I had forgotten that this is the Lord’s church. I was simply saying, “The church of which I am a member is Calvary Baptist in Post Falls.” If that kind of language is sinful, then I suppose that Nehemiah was the same kind of sinner that I am. Notice his dreadful slip in verse 16 – “And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of MY servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shield, and the bows and the habergeons.” The tongue police should have rebuked Nehemiah for speaking of the wall-workers as “HIS servants,” because they were not his – they were the servants of God. Of course I am being semi-facetious – except about the Pharisaic constabulary. I’d like to finish this chapter with one more point – and it takes us back to that same police force. Verse 6 says, “So built we the wall.” I think we could say that Nehemiah was...

Rubbish – Nehemiah 4:10

  Are you familiar with Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy from Hamlet? You may think you’re not, but I am reasonably sure you have heard some of it. It goes like this: “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep; No more; and by a sleep, to say we end The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.“ This is about a third of the discussion Hamlet has with himself about death, but the rest takes us beyond my intention. My point comes from the thought – “To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub.” Did you know that William Shakespeare died in 1616 only 5 years after the date usually applied to the version of the Bible which we use? Shakespeare and the Bible spoke the same language. With that being true, what is the meaning of “there’s the RUB?” “There’s the rub” refers to “rubbish.” “Rub” in this case is a noun, and it means the same as “rubbish,” the stuff which comes as a result of rubbing. “Rub” or “rubbish” might be as fine as dust, or it could be heavy beams...

What to Do in the Face of the Enemy – Nehemiah 4:1-6

The Book of Nehemiah is a very practical and useful book. For example, thus far in our 15 lessons we’ve had a couple of messages on prayer. There have been two lessons on the common maladies of sadness and depression. We’ve looked at the responsibility of the church, and a couple of times we’ve studied sinful society. There have been messages on patriotism, sin and the sovereignty of God. And there is Nehemiah himself. I remind you once again, that Nehemiah was more like us than many other important Bible characters. He was a man “subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly…” He was not a professional priest, but he could carry out some priestly duties just as we are supposed to do. He was not a politician, but the Holy Spirit thrust upon him a position of leadership. Many of us can identify with him – if not completely – at least in some parts of his life. He is now in the city which he loved, and he’s rallying its citizens to rebuild its wall as a first step toward the restoration of Jerusalem’s former glory. This ultimately means the glory of God. There is no other city in the world which is so closely tied to the name and glory of Jehovah. There are some of God’s enemies who realize this – like today’s Palestinians, Syrians and Arabs. But sadly, there seem to be few Christians who really grasp this fact. Satan hates that city almost as much as he hates the Lord. And this is why there is such anger at...

Speak Up – Nehemiah 2:15-20

I don’t know if you have heard, but there is a virus ramping up around the country. There have been about 2.5 million Americans infected and 125,000 deaths, according to one website. Not only is there controversy about those numbers, there are debates about how the virus spreads. Bro. Steve Roberts sends me material from time to time, one of which recently dealt with the question of how this virus passes from one person to another. Apparently catching COVID-19 by touching a door-knob after someone with the virus is possible – but unlikely. If we wash our hands regularly and use sanitizers the possibility of catching cornonavirus by contact is small. And being infected by walking past someone on the street who has the virus is almost impossible. Some experts are saying 15 minutes of constant exposure is necessary – but that is part of the debate. Infected people coughing, sneezing, breathing, singing and spitting creates droplets with the virus in them. Enough of those droplets have to reach you, and enter you, to infect you. And to be specific, those droplets have to contact your eyes, mouth or nose. The virus then has to reach your respiratory tract and use the receptors in your body to enter your cells and start replicating. But generally speaking those droplets from other people fall to the floor or ground and dissipate, which is why the 6 foot rule is encouraged. No one knows for sure how much virus it takes for someone to become infected. In a study published in the journal “Nature,” researchers were unable to culture live coronavirus if...

A Portrait of the Church – Nehemiah 2:9-20

In our first or second message in this series I hinted that we could look at Jerusalem as a picture of the Lord’s church. I’d like to continue with that simile this afternoon. I’d perfer to say that my subject is “Christianity” or modern “Christendom,” but this message would be more appropriate if we think along the lines of local congregations – the definition of “church.” I’d like to say that this representation doesn’t come close to our church, but that may not be exactly true. Let’s use a simple three-point outline – condition, opposition and solution. Nehemiah made a private survey of Jerusalem to discover the CONDITION of Jerusalem. How many weeks did it take this man to travel 1600 miles from Shushan to Judah? I’m not sure where to look for an answer. Let’s just say that it was a long, tiresome journey. Even if the man didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel himself all the way, he was exhausted. Verse 11 says, “So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days” – probably resting and recuperating. And by the way, there is an interesting statement in Ezra 8. After Ezra described his trip to Jerusalem in more detail than Nehemiah, he says in 8:32, “And we came to Jerusalem and abode there three days.” Were these three days just a coincidence or was it a part of general protocol for that day and age? At nightfall on the third day, Nehemiah saddled his beast and took a few men with him for a private survey of the city. He tells us he went...

Nehemiah’s Patriotism – Nehemiah 1:1-11

I am going back to chapter 1, not because I missed something, but because of the way tonight’s theme ties the first two chapters together. In fact, this, in some ways, may be the theme of the entire book. In my background reading on Nehemiah, I ran across the word “patriot” a couple times. And then as I re-read chapter 2, a couple of things jumped out at me in that regard. Let’s say that Nehemiah was a “patriot;” what can we learn about that subject from his example? This may be particularly important in the light of the chaos in our country these last few weeks. Sadly, I am not sure that there is a universal agreement as to what “patriotism” might be. Webster, 200 years ago, defined patriotism as – “Love of one’s country; the passion which aims to SERVE one’s country, either in defending it from invasion or protecting its rights and maintaining its laws and institutions in vigor and purity. Patriotism is the characteristic of a good citizen, the noblest passion that animates a man in the character of a citizen.” He said that a patriot is “a person who loves his country, and zealously supports and defends it and its interests.” As is usually the case, I think that Webster got it right. But when I googled the word, the internet computer defined a “patriot” only as – “a person who vigorously supports his country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” There is nothing in that modern definition about “service,” “good citizen” or “noble passion.” And then on the next...

Ejaculatory Prayer – Nehemiah 2:1-8

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that there are several different kinds of prayer – legitimate prayer to God. Let me expand on that. There are those prayers of the closet – your alone time with God – informal, personal, intimate. Then there are the prayers of the church and the temple – like Solomon’s great prayer. There are the “where two or three are gathered together in my name” kinds of prayer. There are the formal, follow-the-pattern prayers – “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” And there are the free verse hymns of prayer. There are joyful prayers full of praise and thanksgiving, and there are the broken-hearted, beat-on-the-chest prayers like Nehemiah’s and the publican’s – “God be merciful to me a sinner.” There are the unspoken prayers and the loud prayers representing large congregations. Nehemiah has shared one private prayer with us in chapter 1, and here he reveals another – “So I prayed to the God of Heaven.” In the language of the 17th and 18th century this was called an “ejaculatory prayer.” We might call it an “ex-clamatory prayer” or perhaps “interjectory prayer.” As I’ve suggested in earlier messages, this might have been nothing more than “Help me, God!” Nehemiah doesn’t tells us it’s length or content. But the circumstances seem to suggest that it was silent and very brief. It was like the prayer of a man facing the charging lion or looking down the gun barrel of the drug-crazed thief. “I am in trouble with a king who can order my immediate execution. Help me, Lord.” My premise this...

Yearning to Fear – Nehemiah 1:4-11

There is a phrase toward the of Nehemiah’s prayer which is somewhat astonishing to some 21st century ears. Before he asks, “Grant me mercy in sight of Artaxerxes,” he says that he is among other godly people. That isn’t surprising or astonishing because God has always maintained a small remnant of saints. The Lord has always, as He said, “reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” There may not have been 7,000, but Nehemiah was not alone in his yearning for restoration and revival. But notice how he describes these people. He doesn’t say that they are saints, or even that they fear God’s name. He describes them as those “who desire to fear thy name.” There is a strange breed of people – in my estimation – who enjoy the rush of adrenalin through their bodies. So they take risks – extreme rock climbing, base-jumping, diving through narrow canyons with nothing but little wings attached to their arms and little cameras attached to their heads. They can’t walk up to a stranger and ask if he is child of God, but they can swim with sharks. They couldn’t declare their allegiance to Christ before a group of girls, but they could defy corrupted power defending the Constitution in front of a bunch of liberal senators. And, for some of these people, it was as children they began to love horror stories, horror movies – terror. Perhaps you are among them, but I am not. Can we say that those people look for reasons to be afraid – something...

The Regathering – Nehemiah 1:8-9

I. Introduction: A. When David was fleeing from Saul, he didn’t have all the spiritual helps that are available to us. 1. As Bro. Fulton has told us, he didn’t have strong Christian brethren or a church with which to fellowship. 2. And we have no way of knowing how much of God’s word he actually was able to hold in his hands. 3. The Pentateuch, the writings of Moses, were available at the time, but did he actually have a copy? 4. Did he draw strength from the Book of Judges or from Joshua? We may never know. B. And similarly, how much of the Word of God did Nehemiah have? 1. Could he read the comforting words of Isaiah for example, or the Psalms? Did he have a copy of Ezekiel 2. They had been written, and they were in existence, but were they available to him? 3. Let’s make that one of our targets as we progress thru this book; let’s look for additional Bible references. 4. Nehemiah knew probably did own a copy of the Pentateuch – he has already referred to Moses. 5. And in our text he prays about God’s promises of judgment upon Israel & her restoration when she repents. 6. As I said this morning his thoughts about this judgment could have come from Leviticus & Deuteronomy. 7. But did he also have any of the more expressive or concise eschataological scriptures? 8. Was he for example, thinking about Ezekiel 36 which was given by God about 125 years earlier. a. Ezekiel said, “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto...

Sin, the Reason for Destruction – Nehemiah 1:4-11

I. Introduction: A. I have said a couple of times in our first three messages that the theme of Nehemiah’s book is “restoration.” 1. Nehemiah said to King Artaxerxes that he was intensely sad because, “the place of my father’s sepulchres lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire.” 2. He was told by Hanani – “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach.” 3. God lay on Nehemiah’s heart to do something about the terrible state of Jerusalem. 4. Earlier, under Zerubbabel, God’s temple had been rebuilt – but without its original glory. 5. And after 50 years it was, once again, not being given the honor it deserved. 6. Later, under Ezra the walls of the city had been rebuilt, but they had not been maintained and God’s enemies had torn them down again. 7. The people of God, the house of God, the worship and service of God needed more restoration. B. Although the names have changed, the geography is different and we have technology which was unimagined in Nehemiah’s day, the same need exists today – revival – restoration. 1. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that my last statement may be true. 2. Are there enough other similarities for us to continue this study? Do birds fly and fish swim? C. Why was Judah in the need of revival? 1. Because the nation had fallen into SPIRITUAL disrepair. 2. And what had brought about that disreputable state? Israel and Judah had sinned against God. 3. Nehemiah had expressed part of it,...

Nehemiah’s God and Ours – Nehemiah 1:1-11

Every once in a while I pick up one of the books of the 18th century preacher, George MacDonald. Some of you might know him better for his works of fantasy or his Christian fiction, many of which have been edited by Michael Philips. But MacDonald considered himself, first of all, to be a preacher – a pastor of the Church of Scotland. His theology books are really quite difficult to read, because they are as deep and thoughtful as any you will ever find. They take a long time to finish, because sentence after sentence has to be read a second and third time. But the Lord lead me back to one of his books which has been sitting in my library for nearly 30 years. So several days before I started preparing this message, the Lord started preparing me. The first paragraph of the first chapter of MacDonald’s book, “Discovering the Character of God,” I read, “What kind of God do you believe in? Everything depends on the KIND of God one believes in. This the starting point toward discovering who God truly is. How many ideas of God might there be? Everyone who believes in him must have a different idea. Some of them must be nearer right than others. Instead of automatically blaming the person who does NOT believe in a God, we should ask first, if his notion of God is a god that ought to be believed in.” Did you hear that last thought? “Instead of automatically blaming the person who does not believe in a God, we should ask first, if his...

Nehemiah – Nehemiah 1:1

This evening we are going to start a study of the Book of Nehemiah; something I’ve never done before. I promise that we’ll not look at every verse, because there are a lot of names and places which are no longer relevant to us today. I probably won’t even read them all for you. So this shouldn’t be an extremely long study, unless the Lord leads otherwise. Speaking of “relevance,” why are we going to this book and this man, rather than Isaiah or Nahum or some New Testament book. First, because this is the man whom the Lord has laid on my heart. He was a part of a message from a few weeks ago, and I can’t get him out of my mind. Second, the theme of this book is “rebuilding” – something which many people are going to have to do over the next few months. Nehemiah is relevant in the light of the Coronavirus. Third, Nehemiah was not a preacher, priest or prophet. He was an extra-ordinary, ordinary man. Some think that he was a member of the Judean royal family, but this is only conjecture. Others say that he was a priest, but the verses they cite do not necessarily demand that idea, and he wasn’t filling any priestly role while living among the Medes and Persians. He was an ordinary “joe” – a saint of God who became burdened about the work and people of God. Nehemiah had an important job among the Persians, perhaps like you in the things of the world. But he had a more important job as a servant...

Biblical Geo-hydrology – Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13

My subject, like a few others recently, could be simply called “Life,” but that is not the title I am going to use. Let’s call this message “Biblical Geohydrology.” I thought at first, I was making up a new and powerful word, but alas, someone already coined it, and it may be found in a few university prospectus packages. There are college courses on this subject – or at least on half of it. I do doubt that “BIBLICAL Geohydrology” can be found at any theological institution. “Hydrology” is the branch of science which studies water, especially in its movements upon land. I’ve added the “geo” prefix, because I want to tie it even more closely to geography. In addition to our scripture from Exodus, I’d like us to consider a similar event in Numbers 20. Let’s turn to Numbers 20 and read the first 13 verses. Both these histories involved bringing water out of a rock for thirsty people in a very dry and thirsty land. They were similar events but in very different places at least a hundred miles apart – Rephidim and Kadesh. And they took place before the eyes of two similar, but separate, generations of Hebrew people. And that is perhaps where we should begin this evening. The problems of the CHILDREN of Israel were the same as those of the PARENTS of Israel. In my study I ran across a question posed by Joseph Parker: “How far have we traveled from Rephidim?” There is no place called “Rephidim” today, but we can make a reasonable guess as to where it was. As to...

Marks of a Spiritual Christian – Ezekiel 36:24-27

If we took a survey using the question, “What is the best color to paint your car?” we’d get a lot of answers. But if we somehow were able to ask Henry Ford, he’d give us but one answer – “black!” And a century ago his answer would have been the right one – the only one. And if we took another survey asking the question, “What are the characteristics of a SPIRITUAL man?” Again, we’d likely get a variety of answers. But if we want the right answer, we would have to talk to the expert – the Holy Spirit. I’m going to try to answer that question myself, but in many ways, it will only be my opinion. Someone says, “A spiritual man is the one who talks about the holy Spirit all the time.” “No,” says another, “he’s the person who talks about the Saviour, the church, and saving grace – because the Spirit doesn’t talk about Himself.” Some else suggests – “The Spiritual man prays well – especially in public – long and a lot.” Someone says, ”The Spiritual person smiles a lot.“ Someone else says, ”No, he doesn’t smile at all; he is very, very serious.” “He quotes the Bible; he doesn’t own a TV; he makes his wife home-schools his kids.” “He doesn’t dance, he doesn’t smoke or chew, and he doesn’t date the girls that do.” Then someone else says, “Spiritual boys don’t date at all.” The truth is, we may find nearly all of these things in a truly spiritual child of God…. And then again, we might find them in...