CONCERN FOR ONE’S NATION
A. It is good to show concern for one’s nation. Showing concern for one’s nation is to be dissatisfied (both spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically), with the situation of things.
B. This concern may sometimes be in the economic, political, social, religious, educational and other areas.
C. It is not enough for one to feel concerned, but one must be prepared to do something within your capacity to ensure that what one feels is put into action.
D. It is not good to be comfortable in any place where things are not going on orderly, and refuse to do something about it.
E. It is important at this point to mention that “talk is cheap”. We can talk about a problem without doing anything about it. But to show concern, we must act accordingly.
2. HANANI’S VISIT; AND NEHEMIAH’S PLEA FOR JUDAH: NEH. 1:1-11.
A. Nehemiah was a Jewish young man who was captured into slavery to Babylon, and he became a cupbearer to the king at his palace in Susa the capital city,
B. While there, one of his brethren, Hanani, visited him from Judah. It was an opportunity for him to ask after the city, Jerusalem, and how those who escaped being taken into captivity (slavery), were faring.
C. Hanani reported to him outrightly that, “The survivors in the province (back home) who escaped exile are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” After Nehemiah heard that, he was heartbroken, and he sunk/sat down and wept, and mourned for days: fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
D. He wept and prayed so intensely, reminding God about, (i) His steadfast love and covenant to Israel; (ii) asking Him to be attentive, open His eyes, and hear the prayer of His servant and servants; (iii) He took time to confess the wrong doings of himself, their fathers and forefathers before God; (iv) He acknowledged their misdeeds, agreeing that they had wondered away from God’s commandments, statutes, and ordinances as He had commanded Moses; (v) He reminded God His promise to deliver them if they returned and keep His commandments and do them, and gather them back no matter where He had carried them to; (vi) He reminded God that they are still His covenant children; (vii) As he rounded up his prayer, he quickly up a request to God to grant him favour/mercy as he planned to speak to the king to grant him “leave of absence.”
3. REBUILDING THE WALL OF JERUSALEM: NEH. 2:2-20.
A. As Nehemiah had earlier prayed, God granted him the opportunity required to put forth his request to the king, and he didn’t hesitate to do so.
B. The king, noticing that he was sad, which had never happened before, immediately asked him, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sadness of the heart.” Though he was fearful at the king’s discovery, but he quickly said to him, “…Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” There and then the king asked him, “For what do you make request?”
C. He then requested the king to, (i) send him back to Judah, his own city, which was under Babylonian control at the time, so that he would rebuild it. To this request, the king asked him how long he intended to be away, and he told him. He immediately agreed to release him; (ii) He asked the king to give him a letter to the governors of the other provinces he would pass through so that they would grant him free passage until he arrived in Judah; (iii) He also asked for a letter to Asaph who kept the king’s forest, to give him timber to make beams for the gates of the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house he would live in. to all these the king granted him, because God was favourably disposed to him.
D. On getting to the governors of the provinces and giving him the letter, he had no choice but to do as the king had directed. Fortunately for him too, the king gave him soldiers and armoured vehicles for the journey.
E. As he arrived, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, on hearing about his plans got displeased that someone had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
F. The journey from Susan to Judah took only three days. Upon arrival, Nehemiah swung into action, doing some midnight survey and inspection of the city wall to see things for himself, without telling his Jewish brethren, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and others about his intentions. He visited all the places that required his on-the-spot assessment.
G. At last he took the bull by the horn and told the people his plans, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned.” He then invited them to join him in the business of rebuilding the wall; “Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” He challenged them to rise up and build with him, noting that God was on their side.
H. He was optimistic that the God of heaven will prosper their work and encouraged them to build, but noted that their enemies had no portion or right or memorial in Jerusalem.
4. OPPOSITION TO REBUILDING THE WALL OF JERUSALEM: NEH. 4:1-23.
A. When Nehemiah started the rebuilding project, different kinds of oppositions surfaced.
B. OPPOSITION THROUGH RIDICULE: (i) Leading the team of those who ridiculed the building project was Sanballat. He called the builders “feeble”; rubbishing all their efforts. (ii) Another agent of ridicule was Tobiah. He was optimistic that ” what they are building, if a fox goes up on it he will break down the stone walls.”
C. Nehemiah’s response to this opposition was to commit their work and the attitude of their enemies to God in prayer. They were succeeding because the people had a mind to work.
D. OPPOSITION THROUGH THREAT OF ATTACK: When the initial attempts at ridiculing them failed, the enemies deviced other strategy. (i) Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites on hearing about the repair, they were very angry; so they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and cause confusion. (ii) The Jews prayed, and set a guard to protect them day and night. (iii) The enemies boasted that the Jews would not know when they would come into their midst and kill them and stop the work.
E. OPPOSITION THROUGH DISCOURAGEMENT: After their first two attempts failed, they deviced other strategies, this time, discouragement. The people were encouraged not to be afraid. So, they armed them with swords, spears, and bows. (i) Because of the discouragement, he employed the people to defend themselves wherever they are. (ii) The people laboured on the wall carrying weapons. (iii) There was a trumpeter to alert them of the presence of the enemy. (iv) He told the people not to be far from one another and to be attentive to the sound of trumpet. (v) To ensure their readiness to withstand the enemy, he requested that every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, so that they may be a guard by night and labour by day. (vi) The opposition was so much to the point where himself, his brethren, servants and guards removed their clothes except for washing. They were armed almost all day.
5. LESSONS LEARNED:
A. It is not enough to have concern for our nation, or the environment where we live, but we must be willing to do something to change the cause of things there.
B. We must not forget the old saying “Do not think of what America will do for you, but think of what you will do for America.”
C. What bring nations to the point where Judah was besieged and her citizens carried away into slavery is lack of obedience to laws of God. When we disobey God, He abandons us to our fate.
D. Nehemiah did not just love his nation, he was obsessed at ensuring that something is done to restore its fortune and glory.
E. Nehemiah as a leader of his people gingered them into positive action..
Nehemiah’s faith in God and what He can do drove him into prayer and holy activities even in the face of imminent danger.
His faith in God was responsible for the various request he made from the king for those things he required to accomplish the building project.
We need to learn from the experience of Nehemiah that even when we have good intentions, oppositions would rise.
We must always watch and pray as we can see in the case of Nehemiah.
6. READ (I) The BOOK OF EZRA; (ii) In Chapter 4, write out fully, the various oppositions to the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem.