No Longer a Reproach (Study Guide)

What did you learn from last week’s sermon?

Q1: Can personal sin destroy relationships as well as nations?

Q2: Can God strengthen you to do “all things” as Christian t-shirts everywhere advertise?

Q3: If the surrounding rulers (in Nehemiah 2:10) would benefit from Jerusalem’s rebuilding, why were they so mad?

Q4: Why did Nehemiah ride around part of the city in the middle of the night?

Q5: Rebuilding the city and addressing the “bad situation” that the people are in will be the beginning of what?

Q6: Does God want us to make an earthly application from this story and heal our nation?

Q7: What does “take up your cross” mean?

Sermon Summary & Answers

Our study on Nehemiah had to pause in mid-November due to the pandemic. So if you need a quick refresher course, quickly scroll through the sermon-summaries I did on the first two sermons, The Dynamics of Leadership & Risky Business. Basically, Nehemiah is being sent by God to Jerusalem to rebuild the city that had been destroyed, and he has the pagan king’s blessing, security detail, and money to do it. Now the Jews who live in Jerusalem are not worshiping God properly and are in “reproach” (God is disappointed in them). Their hearts lie in ruins, just like the city. All of this ruin is because they sinned against God. It’s the same for our lives. Sin always has a destructive effect on everything around us (soul damage, physical damage, relationship damage — people and friends, family and cities, and nations).

Nehemiah began with sadness, prayed relentlessly, and God provided a way to rebuild the city. He now sets off with eagerness, conviction, and incredible confidence that God has moved and will continue to move to help him. This attitude is the stuff of leadership. Remember Paul, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13. He wasn’t talking about “all things” that I feel I need or want. He was saying “all things” that I know God wants.

This Biblical truth is a promise that gives the confidence to rebuild cities. It makes powerful, rich, pagan kings appoint lowly cupbearers to become governors of vast lands with abundant resources to accomplish enormously expensive tasks outside of their belief system. Do we have this much love and trust in God to pour out our hearts night and day for months on our knees? Do we have the patients to wait months for an answer or relief while honorably serving the very monarchy that caused our pain? What a timely lesson for us Christians and our public responses to our government during Covid-19.

Are we coming from a place of Godly-confidence in our circumstances?

Are we relentlessly praying for our circumstances?

Are we patiently waiting for God to move while we honestly hold a posture of honor due to the government and its officials that God Almighty has appointed?

Well, Nehemiah could answer yes to all of those questions, but surely this goody-two-shoes would sail smoothly through his mission, right? Ha, not on your life…enter two local governors, Sanballat, the Horonite and Tobiah, the Ammonite. They were not upset about the city getting rebuilt, which would have been good for the economy. They were mad that those pesky Israelites were getting help from their God, whom they (Sanballat, the Horonite and Tobiah, the Ammonite) hated. More on these villains later…

Nehemiah 2:11-15 shows Nehemiah rising in the night with his guards and inspecting the city’s outer walls while it was quiet and dark. He told no one the insight and solution God gave him as he set about measuring his project’s cost. Our pastor points out the loneliness of leadership, seen even in King David’s accounts, and dare I say in Paul’s as well.

“No leader goes into a task without measuring the cost — and realizing the high price of failure … but they also don’t go into the task EXPECTING TO FAIL.”

Steve Wilson

In verses 15-17, Nehemiah takes ownership of the situation of his people, Israel. He talks about the bad situation “we are in,” “let us rebuild,” “to remove the reproach.” The people weren’t too interested in his words until he told them how God was with him, making all of this happen. They could see the king’s men with him. So, this had to be legit.

So, how do we apply Nehemiah’s situation to our own? Does God want us to rebuild the cities that are now burning down in our country? Are those cities considered in scripture as cities of God? No, they aren’t. Where is that next promised city of God? It is the Heavenly Kingdom with Jesus and all of the saints past, present, and future. We should be grieving over lost souls and Christians currently in reproach with God. We should be asking God to use us to help, like Nehemiah, so that our Heavenly City can become complete.

“That is how Jesus approached lessons on leadership — he didn’t seek to make an earthly application — he always sought to make heavenly — kingdom of God application.”

Steve Wilson

This kind of kingdom work will cost you considerably, and you are commanded to count the cost first before embarking (Luke 14:27-30). You could be ridiculed and persecuted even by loved ones. Life could be stinkin’ uncomfortable if you believe and indeed act upon the Gospel. After knowing that, are you still on board? Will you pick up that heavy burden and keep following Christ through this difficult life onto glory? There was a very high cost for this privilege. The son of God died, and there may be a very high cost to you as well. Don’t believe the come-one-come-all-for-the-free-gift-of-rent-on-Easy-Street in American Christianity. That message sells big time, but it’s a lie.

“We are called to call men from death to life — And they don’t want to be told they are dead …

We are called to call men from darkness to light —

And they love the darkness more than the light —

We are called to count the cost — and to rise up … to rise up each day

and rebuild what is broken down by sin …

To rise up — and restore what has been lost —

That is our task — that is our call … a call to build a kingdom that is not of this earth — a heavenly kingdom … taking as many as will go with us — to a better place, an eternal reward.”

Steve Wilson

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BlogPhoto1-1.png
Melissa Strautman

Answers:

  1. Yes
  2. Only if those “all things” are in God’s will…so if you are praying for His will to be done, then yes. God can and God will. If you are praying to survive hard times, consider who might have put you through those hard times to learn something.
  3. They hated God and the people of God.
  4. He was counting the cost of his project. He may also have wanted to be alone with God to do his duty.
  5. Removing the reproach on the Israelites
  6. No, God wants us to follow Jesus’ examples and make a heavenly application from this story, and the city in question to be built is in Heaven.
  7. It means that you will face hardships galore if you follow the risen Christ, and you have to be willing to endure without compromise.