Lessons from Nehemiah: Building with Purpose, Passion, and Joy (Audio Podcast)

Monday, June 08, 2020 Bryan Hudson 0 Comments


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Nehemiah 8:9, And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah led the effort for a select group of people to return from Babylon to Jerusalem to help people still living there who were in distress, to rebuild the wall around the city, and to restore hope and worship.

Through their effort and passion, the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt in 52 days—which was an amazing accomplishment. This was a testament to the power of purpose and the effort of one man to make a difference. One person can always make a difference. Be that person.

As Ezra said, “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah and the people who came with him had been living in prosperous Babylon. The people in Jerusalem were in a difficult place and had many needs.

Regardless of how blessed you become in this world, do not forget your people and know that true joy comes from doing God's will. The Hebrew word for "strength" means "protection" and "safe harbor."

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was not brutal captivity. When Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, conquered Jerusalem, he only deported the most prominent citizens of Judah: professionals, priests, craftsmen, and the wealthy. He left the others behind.

His intention was not to destroy the Israelites, but to use them to advance and build his own kingdom.

Nehemiah was born in Babylon and raised in exile. Nehemiah was a leader during the time when Israel was living in captivity. Nehemiah was instrumental in the rebuilding and reestablishment of Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C. following the Babylonian exile. 

I realized that we have been in captivity to coronavirus COVID-19. If fact, our captivity was similar to Israel in that those of us who have not suffered from COVID have had a relatively comfortable captivity like Nehemiah and the Israelites living in Babylon.  They had homes and a community inside of Babylon. In fact, they probably had more freedom of movement than we had at a point during our shelter in place season.

The season of Nehemiah's captivity in Babylon prepared him to serve a greater purpose. Though he had no direct connection to Jerusalem, he always knew Israel was his homeland and Jerusalem was its capital city. Seasons of captivity or limitation always have a greater purpose.

Nehemiah had an interest that became a passion. That passion became a source of joy and strength. It came from an encounter with the Lord and through prayer.

There are parallels between Israel's captivity in Babylon in our captivity to coronavirus. We have to consider that part of God’s design for the season was to help us grow and grow closer to him. These seasons also provide and opportunity to purge out unnecessary things and to refocus. The old saying is, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

This is consistent with James chapter 1 which tells us guys design for trials. “Count it all joy.”

There has been another captivity with African Americans and black men in particular being subject to mistreatment and violence.  The current outcry against the murder of George Floyd, an innocent black men accused of no crime, but angered a white police officer. There is a captivity of expectation for black people to submit, to be subservient, and compliant. We are all aware of it. Some black folks just play along to get along.

Nehemiah was a man of great privilege in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. He used his privilege to serve the Lord, serve his people, and serve his purpose. 

That was that source of his joy. Joy is not an emotion. Joy leads to good emotions, but joy is strength from the Lord.

Their enemies tried to discourage and discredit them, but they kept building
Their enemies conspired against them, but they kept building
Their enemies wanted to have a conversation in ONO, but they declined and kept building

Nehemiah 6:1, Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.

Sometimes when enemies cannot compete with you or defeat you, they will ask for a meeting to have a conversation and waste your time. How you use your time is part of your purpose and part of your joy.

In Nehemiah chapter 9 they experienced repentance and restoration of relationship with God

Nehemiah 9:36, “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, To eat its fruit and its bounty, Here we are, servants in it! 37 And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress. 38  “And because of all this, We make a sure covenant and write it; Our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”

This was the restoration of the people of God with God. This was part of Nehemiah’s purpose and joy.

Joy comes out of the recognition of what God has done and is doing, such as when God’s people in Nehemiah’s day completed the wall around Jerusalem as they purposed to do.

Nehemiah 12:43, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”

Joy is not denial of your own pain or the pain of others. The joy of the Lord is your strength and perspective.

Joy is your strength because joy is from the Lord and anything He provides gives your strength.

Joy is your perspective because you focus on the right things

Reminder: God's design for the outcome of trials (including COVID) is to cause you to become "mature and complete, lacking nothing." Let "patience" have its complete work -- which is developing you while you wait on Him.

James 1:2 "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking nothing.”

Let your season sing!

Isaiah 55:12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."