Nehemiah 2

From Motivation to Perspiration

Winston Churchill has been called the Man of the Century. History records his marvelous talents as a statesman, orator, and world leader. His leadership through the bleak, crucial days of World War II helped preserve our democratic way of life. He was a gifted orator who could stir the masses to persevere in the face of any odds. Churchill knew how to motivate people. He knew people were itching on the inside and knew exactly where to scratch.

Like Churchill, Nehemiah was a man who knew how to motivate and inspire his countrymen. He knew the Jews in Jerusalem were itching on the inside and knew exactly where to scratch. He motivated the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to the end that God be glorified and the city of Jerusalem regain its prestige. He knew how to motivate others to work. He knew that motivation must lead people to perspiration.

The Personal Petition of Nehemiah
Nehemiah 2:1-8

After four months of praying, the day finally arrived for Nehemiah to present his petition before the king. Over the four month period of praying, Nehemiah had come under the conviction that God had an important role for him to play in solving the dilemma of his people.

Nehemiah’s opportunity came one day in April as he was performing his official duties as cupbearer. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sad countenance and asked him why he was so sad. Nehemiah responded by explaining to the king that he was sad because he had learned that the city of his fathers’ was in a deplorable condition.

Perhaps sensing that Nehemiah wanted to make a request, the king asked, “In what way can I help?” This is the moment Nehemiah had in mind when he prayed, “make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man” (Nehemiah 1:11). Nehemiah breathed a quick prayer and asked the king for permission to return to the city of his fathers’ to rebuild it.

Concerned about the length of time Nehemiah would be away, the king asked, “How long will your journey be and when will you return?” Nehemiah gave the king a definite time and further asked that he might be granted the proper written authorization for the journey back to Judah as well as for supplies to do the work which awaited him.

Nehemiah 2:8 records, “and the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.” Nehemiah gave God the credit for the king’s generous permission and provisions. Thus Nehemiah teaches us about the power of prevailing prayer, the importance of proper planning, and the value of tireless perseverance.

Examination: Nehemiah Inspects The Walls
Nehemiah 2:9-16

Beginning with Nehemiah 2:9, Nehemiah lays aside his role as cupbearer and takes up the role of builder. We read in Nehemiah 2:9 that the king granted Nehemiah an escort to Jerusalem. This undoubtedly added to his prestige and verified his credentials as he made the long journey to Jerusalem.

Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah immediately experienced opposition. Sanballat and Tobiah, two politicians from neighboring areas, were not at all pleased that someone had come to seek the welfare of the Jews. This should not surprise us, for as we have noted in previous lessons, God’s work will not go unchallenged by the enemy.

Three days after his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah made an inspection of the damaged walls by night. He wanted to be certain that he had all of the facts in hand before formulating his plan of action. So while the city slept, Nehemiah made his way around the rubble to gain a better perspective of the situation. He, no doubt, saw more at night than most people saw in the light. Nehemiah did not tell anyone what God was putting into his heart to do for Jerusalem. He did not want to risk anyone inadvertently “leaking” information to the enemy lest they gain an advantage in frustrating the work once again.

Motivation: Nehemiah Inspires The People
Nehemiah 2:17-18

After his nocturnal inspection of the walls, Nehemiah was ready to disclose his plans to the people. Nehemiah 2:17-18 is a précis of his inspiring speech to the people. Notice four things in particular.

First, Nehemiah addressed the serious plight of the people: “You see the bad situation we are in.”

Second, he called people to action: “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.” He even gave the people a reason to get involved in the work: “That we may no longer be a reproach.”

Third, Nehemiah shared an encouraging personal word of testimony. He shared with the people how God had worked things out for him to journey to Jerusalem. By sharing his testimony he pointed the people away from their fears to the Lord.

Fourth, Nehemiah identified himself with the people: “You see the bad situation we are in…Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach” (Nehemiah 2:17).

Nehemiah’s speech was so inspiring that the people responded by affirming their support: “Let us arise and build.” The response of the people was prompt (there was no discussion), practical (they were ready to get to work), and unanimous (notice the use of the word “us”).

Intimidation: Nehemiah Impugns the Opposition
Nehemiah 2:19-20

As we have already noted, God’s work will not go unchallenged by God’s enemies. As soon as Nehemiah announced his plans and motivated the people to get to work, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem began to intimidate and mock the people. They used every demoralizing technique they knew to try to discourage the people.

Nehemiah however, swiftly addressed the opposition in a confident, firm, and dignified manner. He did not draw them into argument or debate. He simply informed the opponents that God would grant them success, that the work would proceed in spite of their threats, and that they had no religious claims to the privileges of Jerusalem.

Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem had not reckoned on dealing with a Nehemiah. They had come to intimidate the Jews and instead were impugned by Nehemiah. We can just imagine the admiration of the people for Nehemiah at this point.

Practical Considerations:

God honors prayerful planning.
It is evident from Nehemiah 2:1-8 that Nehemiah had spent much time in prayerful planning before he ever made his petition known to the king. He was prepared to answer all of the king’s questions and to request the necessary authorization to secure his passage and provisions. We noted in our lesson, “Planning that arises from and is the product of prayer is far superior to planning that is merely backed by prayer” (White).

We must be willing to allow God to reorder our priorities.
As a result of his time in prayer, Nehemiah came to an understanding of how God wanted to use him as part of the answer to his own prayer. He was willing to allow God to reorder his personal priorities and plans for the purpose of serving his fellow Jews in Jerusalem. Nehemiah discovered an opportunity for service through prayer. 

Nehemiah teaches us the importance of careful planning.
Nehemiah was convinced that it was God’s will for the wall of Jerusalem to be rebuilt. He was also confident that God had called him to play a major leadership role in the project. But before undertaking the great task, Nehemiah carefully inspected the damaged walls in order to gain a better perspective on the situation. This helped Nehemiah to formulate a practical plan of action to meet the challenge of rebuilding the walls. Nehemiah was successful because he coupled specific prayer with careful planning.

Nehemiah teaches us the importance of sharing our testimony.
Nehemiah assembled the people for the purpose of revealing his plans and motivating them to take part in the project. Nehemiah shared his personal testimony of how God had performed what seemed impossible by granting him an extended leave of absence from the king’s service with the proper authorizations to undertake the work of rebuilding the walls. By sharing his testimony he inspired the people to turn their gaze from their fears to their God. Nehemiah’s testimony inspired the people to “put their hands to the good work” (Nehemiah 2:18).

Nehemiah teaches us the importance of standing firm.
When the enemies of the Jews learned that the repatriates were being challenged to rebuild the walls, they wasted no time in mobilizing themselves to counterattack. They used every demoralizing trick they knew to try to frustrate the hopes of the people. Nehemiah however, stood tall in the face of the opposition because he was confident that God would grant the people success. He did not argue or debate the opposition, but merely stood on the firm convictions of his heart. By so doing Nehemiah impugned the opponents and once again inspired the people.

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