Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3rd - Redeem the Time

Prayer Requests

Pastor Aaron preaching and resignation

Swift Cantrel witnessing

Students traveling for Spring Break

Easter Baptism Outreach (in the works)

Balfours camping

David - Job and School

Mason - Job

Gavin - Teaching

Jerusalem Project

Text – Nehemiah 6, Ephesians 5:15-16

This week I was going to step out of Nehemiah 6 briefly since many of our students are heading out of town for the week, but as I examined it, it seemed that our class would be intact, at least those who are following us through Nehemiah, so I decided to stay with Nehemiah, and the lesson I was going to teach is actually going to fit in pretty well.

So last week we saw some instructions for a perfect church. How should we treat our brothers and sisters within the church when they are in need? We should, out of our own abundance, fulfill their lack. Should we charge them exorbitant interest? No, we shouldn’t charge interest at all within the church. Nehemiah was a great example in this, but who is our greatest example? Jesus Christ.

Now we’re in chapter 6, here the wall is just about done, actually the wall portion is done, but all of the gates are not yet installed, and the enemies of Jerusalem are getting pretty desperate and sneaky to stop the completion. We’re going to see what they sought to do and how it relates to our life. So let’s go through it as a narrative:

Nehemiah 6:1-2 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), 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.

The plain of Ono is about 25 miles away from Jerusalem, it would take at least a few days for Nehemiah to go and get back. Nehemiah clearly sees that they want him to go so far so they can murder or detain him in Samaria. There is nothing wrong with avoiding someone who intends to do you harm, nor is it wrong to stand against evil, the event and your conscience must drive your response. Let me give you an example from Acts where the response was fleeing.

Acts 14:5-7 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.

Alternately what was Esther's response in the face of danger for God's sake? (I think we're going to look at Esther next) If I perish, I perish.

But saving his own life was not Nehemiah’s reason for not going, for he trusted in God and would have no problem walking into danger, but what he was interested in was good stewardship of his time,

Nehemiah 6:3 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?”

Nehemiah knew that his example was driving the work of the wall, he was instrumental in the building of the wall. If he left, he had reason to believe the building effort would fall apart. It would be very easy for me to say to you that this applies to all leaders, but that would be wrong, else we would expect our church to fall apart today as Pastor Aaron leaves, or when I leave sometime next year, but that’s not the case. Any guesses as to why Nehemiah was instrumental in the building of the city of God and we aren’t? Nehemiah was a type for Christ, and Christ is absolutely instrumental in the building of his church; who is in charge of building the church?

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Considering Nehemiah to be a type for Christ, I need to follow a rabbit trail real quick so you see almost the exact thing happening, when Christ was doing a great work and scoffers opposed him:

Matthew 27:42 He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

On the cross Christ was doing an infinitely better work than Nehemiah was doing in Jerusalem. Nehemiah was only saving men’s lives, Christ was saving men’s souls, he was doing a far greater work than Nehemiah, yet both their detractors wanted him to come down from the work they were doing.

As we near Easter, I don’t think we can emphasize enough that Christ was tempted more in his life than any of us have even been tempted, coming to unbelievable levels on the cross, where he had legions of angels at a moments notice to rescue him from death, taunting, beating, and reviling, as he absorbed the full cup of his Father’s wrath for our sake. Yet he pushed through and those who hope in him are saved. Let this next verse be our favorite in the Bible, our battle cry, knowing that Christ accomplished his work first, giving us an example to follow in our lives,

Psalm 69:6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.

The call to Nehemiah was not a one-time taunt, but was repeatedly,

Nehemiah 6:4-5 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand.

They are about to resort to blackmail, seeing that they cannot lure Nehemiah away. Let’s look at this letter:

Nehemiah 6:6-7 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. 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.”

The claim is once again to a higher authority, to tell King Artaxerxes that the Jews are about to rebel. These are serious claims if they were true, but they’re not. We see Jesus in this as well, that though the main reason they crucified him was because he claimed to be God, the Romans saw him as a rebel trying to be king over the world. Jesus answered,

John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Once again we see that if we trust in God, then the truth is our best option, and Nehemiah knows that as he holds to the truth, God will bless their efforts.

Nehemiah 6:8-9 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.” 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.

As always we have both difficulties outside, and difficulties inside. There have never been a lack of false prophets in the church, one of the major ones to watch out for today is Rob Bell, who is everything but a Christian, but whom is exceptionally popular with young people today. Nehemiah goes to talk to a prophet/priest who for some reason, perhaps out of fear or appearance of fear, is hiding in his house. Here is what happened,

Nehemiah 6:10 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.”

This prophet tells Nehemiah to go hide in the temple, clearly the last place anyone would look for Nehemiah, because it was illegal for him to enter the temple.

Numbers 18:7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

So we see that we have a false prophet in the midst of the people, he’s just tried to kill Nehemiah. Let’s see how Nehemiah reacts,

Nehemiah 6:11-12 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.” 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. 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.

You must constantly be on the lookout for these false prophets, and they are more rampant today than ever before. Jesus tells us how to look for them,

Matthew 7:15-16 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

A few things we see, they look like Christians, but they don’t act or believe like Christians. I find that they are often consumed with money, gifts, strange doctrines, or sexual deviancy, though these are not the only signs. Shemaiah here obviously cared more for money than God.

Remember that every time you speak for God, you make yourself a prophet, so make sure you are speaking from his Word and with reverence towards Christ, seeking to please him rather than people or yourself. It doesn’t tell us what Nehemiah did to Shemaiah, but it does tell us that he prayed to God against them, another imprecatory prayer,

Nehemiah 6:14 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.

Apparently Nehemiah knew of some other prophets and prophetesses operating against him, and asked God to do violence to them. Remember from Romans 12 that we leave all vengeance up to God. In all of this, Nehemiah did not cease to oversee the building of the wall.

Nehemiah 6:15-16 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 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.

This was record time; it shows what good leadership and the help of God can do. We know that it was record time because the people around Jerusalem saw it and knew that it was accomplished by supernatural means.

We can see the supernatural work in the building of the church when we have people from every nation and tongue come together in perfect harmony, something that can’t and won’t happen under any other world-view, because they don’t have God on their side. The devil can counterfeit a lot of amazing signs and wonders, but he cannot produce a true peace like the gospel of peace and Prince of Peace do. In the final days the Antichrist will produce a worldwide peace, but it will be short-lived, less than four years.

In the last three verses we see a new little conspiracy forming in Jerusalem, something that we’ll talk about a lot more in chapter 13, but check out how sinners are intertwined with some of the people in Jerusalem,

Nehemiah 6:17-19 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah's letters came to them. 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. Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

All of this says that Tobiah is intermarried into the Jewish people, though he himself is not a Jew. This gives him political prowess and shows that the people of Jerusalem are not willing to divorce from the world. This is a bad thing, because it points to a sinful state, moreso spiritual than physical. I feel I would do you a disservice if I didn’t point out that the Bible is certainly not against interracial marriages, for the main reason that there is only one race, the human race. But the Bible is totally against interspiritual marriages, for what fellowship does light have with darkness?

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Ok, so some application now. Nehemiah did some amazing things in a very small amount of time. Before that the walls of Jerusalem had been in ruins for 141 years, 90 of those years with people dwelling in it, and they had no interest to rebuild the city. But Nehemiah, in just a few weeks was able to do amazing things.

Ephesians 5:15-16 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

There are a lot of ways you can waste your time. In the United States we have a pandemic of “busyness”, where people run full speed all the time, never stopping to think, and accomplish nothing. Beloved, be testing where you spend your time, make sure it is edifying to yourself and the church, when you feel like you’re really busy, look at what you’re busy doing.

I think one of the reasons that we make so much effort to stay busy is so we don’t have to stop and think we’re not really accomplishing anything. It is good to step back every once in a while and determine whether what you’re doing is worthwhile. Nehemiah very easily could have headed off to the meeting at Ono and said, “I have to do this and it will take a week,” but he saw that his time was best spent somewhere else.

So beloved, be redeeming your time, the days are evil, now that the work for the church of Christ is infinitely more valuable than work for things that will not last. However, in everything you do, know that you are a representative of the Living God, and so live with this in mind. Let's close with,

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.