Category Archives: Nehemiah Study

Nehemiah 1:6 Prayer Is Desperate

After turning from his sin (1:4) and focusing on the character of God (1:5), Nehemiah begs God for His presence and help in a time of need. It’s clear from the words of 1:6 that he was dependent only on God for help.

Crisis situations or “breaking points” like Nehemiah experienced are used by God to draw into a special kind of prayer…desperate prayer

The thing is, our prayer life usually wouldn’t be defined by the word “desperate”

  1. We almost never set aside a time specifically for it
  2. When we do, it’s incredibly random because we don’t have a purpose or plan in our prayer
  3. We find ourselves very easily distracted
  4. And five minutes can seem like an hour

Desperate prayer on the other hand is characterized by an intense focus on God, and an unwillingness to quit praying before an answer comes

The source of this desperation is our inability to fix a problem on our own. Sadly, it’s only we have been broken by God (all our strength taken away) that we turn to prayer. But the prayer of someone who has been broken by God brings great glory to Him.

“How is God glorified by desperate prayer?” you might ask

As noted above, there are two big ways.

Desperate Prayer Focuses on God

This is a different kind of focus that we see in 1:5 where Nehemiah thought about the characteristics of God. We see in this verse a “begging” of God for His power and presence in the life of Nehemiah.

Specifically he begs God to have open eyes. This may seem strange because God obviously sees and knows everything that goes on in the world, nothing surprises Him. What Nehemiah refers to here is the blessing and help of God. He’s begging God to give strength and help in a time of need. Secondly Nehemiah asks God to have an open ear. This refers to Gods heeding his prayer, or responding to his cries for help.

Through this desperate begging we hear Nehemiah clearly say, “Lord I need you!”

And this is the heart of desperate prayer

Passive prayer says “Lord it would be great if you can help me, but if not I can take care of things myself.” We may not actually say that, but our actions do. How many times do we pray once or twice about something, and then try to fix it ourselves? Desperate prayer knows that apart from God there is no hope.

which leads to our second point

Desperate Prayer is Unwilling to Quit Praying before the Answer Comes

The words “day and night” mean the prayer of Nehemiah was constant. Now he wasn’t able to literally pray twenty-four hours a day, but the need of Jerusalem was constantly on his mind. And Nehemiah was committed to praying until God answered.

often the crisis situations of life are used by God to “test us” and see how long we will wait. Desperate prayer knows that there could be quicker fixes to the problems of life. But apart from Gods help, we have no hope.

Few things bring God greater Glory than a child who will cling to Him in prayer like Ruth did to Naomi. Who like Jacob will “not let go until you bless me.”

This prayer may take a long time to answer, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

I can remember being in a very bad traffic accident (my only one) after College. Standing on the side of the road looking at two totaled vehicles, I said with my lips what my heart was crying out. “Lord I can’t fix this.”

Out of all the prayers that God hears, I believe one of the most precious cries out “Lord I can’t fix this!” And refuses to quit until He does

Nehemiah 4:14-A Time To Fight

As Christians we are to be known as people characterized by calmness, peace, love, and unity. However, there are times when we have to fight.

Nehemiah in chapter four has been warned ten times his enemies Sanballat and Tobiah are coming to attack him so the work on the wall will cease. We have already seen his responses to this.

  1. He asked the Lord for help
  2. He put guards in place
  3. And he temporarily ended the work on the wall so the people could rest, and prepare themslves

Now Nehemiah puts the people into battle positions, and encourages them to fight with confidence. This confidence is found in the fact that God is majestic (awesome), and they are fighting for their families.

The important thing to remember is Nehemiah didn’t try to fight right away. When Sanballat and Tobiah tried told lies about him he just kept working (2:19-20). When they mocked him, he responded with prayer instead of violence (4:1-5) and intensified work (4:6). When they threatened attack he took necessary precautions (4:7-13). Now as a last resort, Nehemiah was prepared to fight.

The reason why Nehemiah decided to fight was because he knew that the wall around Jerusalem was something worth fighting for.

In the same way we don’t fight about everything, but there are definitely some things worth fighting for

  1. The Gospel of Christ
  2. Correct Doctrinal beliefs
  3. Spiritual maturity within the local Church
  4. Unity of the Church
  5. And Holiness of Believers

There are others that can be added to this list, but you get the idea

Now when we fight as Christians it still shouldn’t be done in violence or anger of course. Instead we fight by boldly proclaiming Gods Truth faithfully, often when very few are doing it. We also fight by not giving up on the Lords work when things are hard.

The fact that Biblical truth is worth fighting for has always been important, but perhaps never more important than today.

We are seeing in Nations around the world a complete rejection of God’s standards. This has not happened overnight, but it came slowly through subtle changes that were hard to recognize before it was too late. There were opportunities for Christians to stand up and fight when God’s truth was compromised, but sadly few did. So many battles were lost because Christians refused to fight.

Brothers and sisters it is time for sharpen our swords, put on our armor, and go to war. Because it we don’t fight soon, there will be little worth fighting for.

Nehemiah 4:10-12 A Time of Rest and Prepare

Nehemiah and the Jews had reached a half-way point of their wall building project, which made their enemies Sanballat and Tobiah warn of a coming attack. Nehemiah prepared for this attack by praying, and putting guards in place. However, he also had to protect the people by any means possible.

4:10 talks about “rubbish” which refers to very large stones that were either part of the original wall, or had been supplied. These rocks brought two problems. First the people were too tired to bring them in (4:10) and these large blocks were ideal hiding places for enemy soldiers (4:11). The danger of this situation was intensified because Sanballat and Tobiah sent ten messages threatening attacks on the Jews.

Though chapter four doesn’t tell us this directly, the context of the passage shows us a the response of Nehemiah.

He put a stop to the work

This is interesting because up until this time Nehemiah refused to stop the work on the wall for any reason (we will see this again in Chapter five). He knew that the goal of his enemies was either to delay the work, or distract him from the work, so Nehemiah displayed an amazing amount of dedication. Yet there came a time when the work needed to put put on hold for a short time.

There are two major reasons for this:

  1. The people were too tired to continue the work properly
  2. and the people were afraid

Because of this Nehemiah chose to take some time for physical rest and “regrouping” before they prepared themselves for warfare (4:13-15).

The application of this passage for us is clear…sometimes you need to rest

By this I don’t just mean sleep (though that can be part of it) instead I’m talking about taking a strategic step back from the work so that you can do it effectively in the near future.

Rest can involve many things

  1. Meditation on Scripture
  2. Prayer
  3. Silence (unplugging from everything electronic)
  4. Taking a walk (preferably in nature)
  5. Reading a good book
  6. or some basic planning

The goal of this rest isn’t to completely turn off our brains like we often do while watching TV or streaming services, but to refresh ourselves both physically and spiritually for the work ahead.

A big part of this rest principle is paying very close attention to your body, and spiritual level so that you know when rest is necessary.

I usually minister in the community from 3:00 to 5:30 but for some reason my body started getting extra tired yesterday at 4:30. I was tempted to push through physically till 5:30 but knew from experience ignoring the warning signs my body gives off will just bring greater physical weariness later. So I took a cat nap instead.

The important thing is knowing this time of rest and refocusing isn’t laziness. Laziness is doing absolutely nothing when God wants you to work. Rest is taking the time to recuperate because you know its difficult to accomplish the Lords Will when your exhausted or struggling spiritually.

Nehemiah 4:9 (B) Laziness is Not Faith

When facing the attacks of satan, it’s necessary for us to respond with prayer, since it’s only with Gods help that we can withstand him. At the same time, we must also be vigilant (watchful) and prepare ourselves for those coming attacks so that we aren’t taken by surprise.

John Owen in his book “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” explains our need to be prepared this way.

When we realize a constant enemy of the soul abides within us, what diligence and watchfulness we should have! How woeful is the sloth and negligence then of so many who live blind and asleep to this reality of sin. There is an exceeding efficacy nad power in the indwelling sin of believers, for it constantly inclines itself towards evil. We need to be awake, then, if our hearts would know the ways of God. Our enemy is not only upon us, as it was with Samson, but it is also in us.” 

John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation

Elsewhere in his book Owen explains that we as Christians should know our temptations or the trials of Satan very well, and watch for them. This way we can recognize the attack before it is directly upon us.

Nehemiah in 4:9 displayed this balance of relying upon God and preparing himself clearly. On the one hand he responded in prayer to the Lord for help, but he also put guards in place so the wall could be protected when the attack actually came.

This verse teaches us two very important lessons about dealing with attacks:

  1. We should use common sense
  2. And there is a work for us to do

For the sake of this post I will emphasize number two since it seems to be the main focus of our passage. However, it is important to notice Nehemiah used common sense when dealing with the attacks of Sanballat and Tobiah. He thought things through, and made the wisest choice possible in that situation. To do something ignorant or foolish like not having armed guards when an attack was coming would not glorify God.

This is linked to the principle of our second idea…

Laziness isn’t the same thing as Faith

By this I mean there is always a work for us to do when facing a challenge from satan. Sometimes the devil likes to give us the idea that any kind of action is a lack of faith in God. So in order to keep from dishonoring the Lord, we must step back and do nothing.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth because as Christians we are called to “bear fruit” (do good works) for the cause of Christ. These good works obviously aren’t the source of our Salvation, but as the Holy Spirit transforms our lives through the Word of God, we prove (display) our Salvation through a Godly testimony. This is why James tells us that “faith without works is dead”, there is no fruit or working of the Spirit to display a transformed life.

Just to be clear, those who are waiting for God to do a work but won’t take a step of faith themselves aren’t displaying faith. They are displaying laziness

Of course that doesn’t mean we relegate God to the side and start doing all of the work ourselves! Instead there must be a balance.

Seek the Will of God in prayer

Ask Him to give you strength

And then accomplish the work of God the way He wants it done

in this way we aren’t displaying selfish good-works, but a humble submission.

Like Nehemiah we must seek Gods leading humbly. But once He begins with lead, we then must obey with a passion. Asking God to work when He has already revealed His will, and equipped us to do the work is nothing less than laziness.

Nehemiah 4:9-Emptying Your “Anger Bag”

If you asked me today what my most important ministry tool was other than a Bible I would immediately reply, “Columbia boots (I’m on my second pair), a Yeti water bottle, and a SOG backpack.”

Thats my answer because I use each of those items daily, however if you made me choose just one I’d tell you my backpack.

Using backpacks is a very common thing here, especially since you do lots of walking (also why the Columbia boots are important). Traveling from place to place means your backpack doesn’t just need to look good, but hold up to daily wear and tear because it will be overloaded often.

I have fallen in love with my current backpack which is approaching two years of daily use (got it in Christmas 2018) and has just now started to develop a rip in it.

While my backpack can take a very heavy load, I’ve had to start putting less in it because that load can wear my body down pretty quickly. More than once I have found myself trudging up the road towards home exhausted because of weight on my back.

In the same way we can often carry around harmful emotions such as anger, self-pity, bitterness, anxiety, or discouragement and allow them to weigh us down spiritually. Often when we experience these feelings our first response is to get rid of them as quickly as possible so nobody can see them. I use the illustration of stuffing them into your emotional backpack (what I call an “anger bag”) so that the emotions can be hidden.

The problem with this response is your body isn’t created to take that kind of emotional load. Just like I physically cannot carry a heavy load in my bag without resting, I emotionally and spiritually cannot keep those feelings hidden. Eventually they will come out, and at the worst possible time.

Nehemiah in the first part on 4:9 states that when a threat of physical attack came from Sanballat and Tobiah, he responded with prayer. This isn’t his only response as we see in the rest of 4:9, but its interesting to see the first thing Nehemiah does is pray.

I believe with this prayer he is pouring out his frustration to God, and asking for protection, as well as help. In a way this is Nehemiah’s way of confessing to God he cannot carry the burden alone.

He is emptying his anger bag.

There was probably a part of Nehemiah that felt he could lead the rebuilding project, protect the people from Sanballat and Tobiah’s attack, and motivate the people at the same time. Yet he knew this was too heavy of a load for him to carry alone. And we weren’t created to carry our own burdens.

As Believers the stress and frustrations of life don’t call us to hide our weakness so nobody can see them, instead it calls us to confess our own weakness. To agree with God that we aren’t meant to live with a backpack thats filled to the brim with toxic emotions. To empty our hearts and minds of the daily struggles we experience, and lay them at the feet of our Heavenly Father.

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