July 22, 2007

"Nehemiah: The Fix"

(Nehemiah 1:1-11)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


A brand new pastor dropped in on the 7th grade Sunday School Class on one of his first Sundays at the church. While there, he decided to test them a little, "Who can tell me who was responsible for the walls of Jericho falling down?"

There was dead silence. But finally one of the boys, obviously one who had several close encounters with disobedience, said, "I don't know, but it wasn't my fault!"

The pastor turned to the teacher who explained, "I know Johnny and his parents, and if he said he didn't have anything to do with it, he didn't!"

Well that thoroughly frustrated the pastor who brought the matter up at his first board meeting. There was long uneasy silence afterwards until the Chair of the Trustees finally said, "Look Pastor, that boy and his parents are all good people. If Johnny said he's not responsible for the walls of Jericho falling down, we believe him. So, let's just pay for the wall and charge it off as a miscellaneous expense."

Last week we talked about how God used the little know character, Rahab, to help tear down the walls of Jericho so Joshua and Israel could take over the city. Well, today we're going to be looking at one of the Biblical Heroes that God used to build some walls back up. Namely the walls of Jerusalem.

Today we're going to be looking at the prophet Nehemiah. You know he was the shortest Prophet in the Bible don't you? Sure, his name says it all Knee-High-miah. I know but you've got to have a groaner every now and then.

Let's look at the passage that tells a portion of Nehemiah's story And then we'll look at some of the details of that story and how all this stuff we learned form VBS fits into it..

Nehemiah 1

[1] The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. In the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capital,

[2] one of my brothers, Hanani, came with certain men from Judah; and I asked them about the Jews that survived, those who had escaped the captivity, and about Jerusalem.

[3] They replied, "The survivors there in the province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire."

[4] When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

[5] I said, "O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments;

[6] let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Both I and my family have sinned.

[7] We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.

[8] Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples;

[9] but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place at which I have chosen to establish my name.'

[10] They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great power and your strong hand.

[11] O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man!" At the time, I was cupbearer to the king.

Nehemiah was a man of great faith. And he needed that faith and everything we learned in Vacation Bible School to complete the task God had placed on his heart, which was to rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem. Those wall were the cities protection from it's enemies. They had been torn down by some enemies who had overthrown Jerusalem and now anybody and everybody could just walk in and do what they wanted with nobody to stop them. It would sort of be like leaving all the doors and windows of your house open and having a big sign in your front yard that said, "Free Stuff."

It made Nehemiah sad to hear how his home city was being treated and how the people were all afraid because they didn't have any protection. So, he went to the King and the King noticed how sad he was and asked him why? Nehemiah told the King and because Nehemiah had always been such a good worker and advisor then King sent him to repair the walls of Jerusalem.

So, what does VBS have to do with that? We never even mentioned Nehemiah. No, but we did talk about the things Nehemiah had to do to get the walls built. He had to FOLLOW, TRUST, LISTEN, REPENT AND SERVE. And when he did, God honored Nehemiah.


First, Nehemiah had to FOLLOW God just like Abraham did. Abraham didn't really know where God wanted him to go, but he FOLLOWED anyway. And so did Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a very faithful God follower. That was one of the things the King liked about him. That was why God called Nehemiah to ask the King if he could rebuild the walls.

This week in the Science Lab we learned that if we're not following God we're kind of like this balloon. You blow it up, let it go and who knows where it will go. We might be trying to get it to the door. But since we don't know which way it's going to go, even if we try to direct it, it's going to take a very long time, with lots of twists and turns, before it gets to the door.

But when we focus our lives on God, our faith and our relationship with God puts us on the right path, just like this straw on this string. Watch how far and how quickly the balloon gets to its destination. It's the same with us. When our lives are thoroughly attached to God through faith and pray and worship, the wind of God's Holy Spirit can moves us to our destination as we FOLLOW God's plan for our lives. And in so doing, we bring glory to God.


Second, Nehemiah had to TRUST God, just like Joseph. Remember Joseph's brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery but Joseph never gave up believing and trusting in God. God was right there holding Joseph up the whole time.

We saw that principle in the Science Lab when we floated a ping pong ball in the air. We just pulled it out and stuck it right there in the air, didn't we boys and girls? NO!

Oh, yeah, we had to have the blow dryer to hold it up didn't we? (Demonstrate)

While we can't see the air from the blow dryer, we can hear the motor that pushes it through real fast and if we have the heat on, we can feel the heat in the air, but we can't see it. However, it does hold up the ping pong ball. It's the same way with our faith and TRUST in God. When we talk about faith what we're really talking about TRUST. TRUSTING God, who we can't see just like we can't see air, to hold us up in the midst of trials and troubles.

We TRUST that God is there. Nehemiah had to TRUST God to lead him in what to do to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem so the people there would be protected.


Third, Nehemiah had to LISTEN so he could know HOW to rebuild the walls because there just weren't enough people to go around to have the huge work crews needed to repair and rebuild the walls. Nehemiah had to learn what Martha learned from her sister Mary. Nehemiah had to learn how to spend lots of time in prayer LISTENING to God's plan and how God wanted the walls rebuilt.

In VBS we learned that if we do all the talking and don't listen then the only thing we'll learn is what we already know. And that won't really help us, will it. In order to learn you have to listen.

If Nehemiah had spent all his time running off at the mouth and telling God how much trouble he was having and how he didn't know how to do this and didn't think he was going to get it done and never stopped to listen, he never would have heard the solution would he?

And in order to be filled up with God's never ending love, Nehemiah had to listen. And God's love is never ending. (Use the never empty Water Vase.) It's kind of like this vase. It's never empty. And our faith lives can be like that too, but we have to take time in prayers to LISTEN.

When Nehemiah LISTENED, God told him how to build the walls with the people he had. The people of Jerusalem weren't called together and Nehemiah assigned each of them the task of rebuilding the wall in front of their home. They weren't afraid to do that. And the task wasn't too overwhelming. And when the portion in front of their home was finished, it was tied into the portion finished by their next door neighbors and pretty soon the walls were rebuilt, the gates were re-hung and the city was safe once again.

It was kind of like the old business adage: "How do you eat an elephant?" You have to LISTEN for the answer. "One bite at a time."


A. The Fourth thing Nehemiah had to do was to help the people turn around to a different way of thinking. He had to help them REPENT and change their ways.

Shoe, Thursday, July 19, the comic, Shoe by Chris Cassatt and Gary Brookins, Shoe is sitting at the counter at Roz's and Roz says, "What I think I need in my life right now is a total makeover."

Shoe says: "What I think I need in mine is a total do-over."

That's what Zaccheus got, was a do-over. When Jesus told Zaccheus to come down out of the tree so he could have lunch with him, Zaccheus was so moved and touched by God's love that he was changed and he REPENTED.

B. REPENTING is sort of like getting a do-over from God. We get to start over. Our lives sometimes are kind of like these glasses. We can fill the little one with milk and it gets filled up in a hurry with other stuff, work, play, family, friends, those things God doesn't really want us to do: lie, cheat, steal, disobey and disrespect our parents, fail to honor the Sabbath, and suddenly here's no room for God. As we get bigger, that sense of being filled up and having no room for God doesn't change. No matter how big we get in the world. There's still no room for God unless we REPENT.

But when we do REPENT, then all that junk in the glass is gone. It disappears and our lives get a do-over with God. That's what Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem found out, Our God is a God of do-overs and second chances.


A. And that leads right into the very last lesson of VBS which was how we SERVE. Nehemiah knew that the best way to strengthen our faith is by putting it into action, by doing something with it just like the apostle Peter. That's what the great commission is all about serving. Jesus told us to go into all the world with the Good News, preaching, teaching, baptizing, making disciples, feeding, nourishing and caring for God's flock in the world today.

B. In other words, we all need to serve, that's the way God made us. That's what has been so good about our Mission Project this year. Every child and every adult could serve by bringing school supplies.

And that's what is so great about VBS. We've averaged 100 children every night but they didn't just come up here and run around wild for 2 hours. A lot of work and preparation time went into helping these boys and girls Soar To New Heights With God. We had about 80 volunteers serving and helping each night. Not just in the class room but there were hall monitors, games, snacks, the snack suppers, crafts, music, story time, registrations and sign in, even a timekeeper to make sure we stayed on schedule.

Everyone of these people LISTENED to God's call to FOLLOW. They TRUSTED God and then they SERVED God by being here for the kids. And I know they all had to move some obstacles our of their lives in order to be here to work and play. But because they wanted to honor God's love in their lives, with God's help they moved those obstacles out of their lives so they could be here.

And we thank them don't we.

Nehemiah put his very life in God's hands and went to the King to make his request known, he REPENTED of anything he'd done wrong so he could go on this mission for God and SERVE both God and the people of Jerusalem and rebuild the walls so they were protected.


And that's all it takes for any of us to by Skyologists or Disciples who Soar to New Heights with God. All we have to do is FOLLOW, TRUST, LISTEN, REPENT AND SERVE.

Like Skylar, the scampering, skimming, scholarly, skillful, and squealing Sky Squirrel has been telling us all week and what Nehemiah found out, There's no better Flight Plan than this.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.







Other References Consulted

Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)

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Ministry and Media

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