Concern, Timing, and the Attitude of Nehemiah
Sunday, we started a new eight week look at the book of Nehemiah. A few years ago I completed a class study (about 4 months long) just on the book of Nehemiah, scripture by scripture. Prior to that class I really had no idea who this man was or what he did. After the class I had such inspiration for how God had used Nehemiah and what he, through God, was able to accomplish for the people of Israel, that it has stuck with me ever since. Now, years later, I have certainly not rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, but I am still influenced each day by that study.
Now, I almost get to look at this series with fresh eyes and a new understanding of what God can do, with any of us, who have a passion and/or burden for the Lord and His work. To get the series started, Rusty put out three points about Nehemiah and I thought I would share them here, starting with Chapter 1, verse 4.
Nehemiah Had Deep Concern
After hearing from his brother about the condition of Jerusalem, scripture says Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. Obviously over great concern for the state of the people of Israel, Nehemiah's first step was to seek God. Although he was a great man of physical action, this wasn't his first step, it was to seek out God, and show his genuine concern for what had happened.
Frequently the first thing we want to do when we see an injustice or something of concern is jump in with everything we have. As the Israelites had seen many times before, without God, much of what we do can be pointless, even if we are passionate about the issue at hand. When the Israelites refused to take the land, which God had promised to Abraham's descendants, God punished them, not allowing them to take the land at that time.
They decided they were just going to go ahead and go anyway after being admonished by Moses, but then it was too late. In Deuteronomy 1:40-45 Moses recounts what happened. “And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, “Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; otherwise you will be defeated before your enemies.” (v. 42)
The Timing Was Deliberate
As with the example above, the phrase "timing is everything" is not just an empty saying, in many cases, it really is everything. Nehemiah didn't just rush head first into a plan of action, he waiting on God's timing. The text says he waited "for some days", for God's timing. It turns out Nehemiah waited about 4 months before putting God's plan into action.
Often when we wait for God, we find God. God is in the waiting. Our 21st century culture knows almost nothing about waiting for anything anymore. We are just about as instant a society as one could be now, so waiting on God's timing is hard. Do we not generally think our timing is God's timing instead of the other way around today? Many times, I know at least in my own walk, I often can only see what was God's timing through the lens of history.
Looking back it is easier for me to see when the timing was purely my own and when what I deemed to be doing nothing, was actually waiting for God's own timing. Psalm 27:14 says "Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord ." A tall order for us today, but one Nehemiah did before he went on to build a wall, and renew the spiritual life of a broken nation of Israel.
Nehemiah had a Deferential Attitude
Perhaps one thing that made Nehemiah such a great tool for God was his attitude. He was the greatest coach of all time, and it eventually translated into the people he lead to build the wall. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." I love that verse. We are not restricted in doing things for the glory of God on Sunday mornings, it says, "whatever" we do.
Nehemiah's attitude was a game changer, he made the small picture big, the little things, huge, many times just with his attitude towards the work at hand, for the glory of God. When we are in the midst of the struggle, we cannot always see the whole picture, but God can. John Piper explains it in his classic book Desiring God that God can look through a wide angle lens or a narrow lens. He can see both our own seemingly small struggles, and yet see the entire picture and how it turns out in the end, we often can't, but we can have the attitude of Nehemiah.
I am looking forward to the next 7 weeks to see what God has in store for Nehemiah, and His local church here in Auburn.