TEXT: NEH. 13: 14
Whenever the statement ‘Remember me’ is made, means that the speaker is making an appeal to someone he thinks is in position to help him in future when an occasion demands. Perhaps he might have done something to that person which he expects a reward or reciprocation. In this case, it was Nehemiah who made this request to God. ‘Remember me oh my God; for what I had faithfully done in the house to the house of my God.
Aim and Objective:
(i) To impress upon Christians to do something in the vineyard of the Lord in order for God to reward them. And to leave legacies.
(ii) Christians should know their land of birth and be conscious of what is going on there physically and spiritually.
(iii) Christians should have a serious thought God had created them for to the interior part that they are from. And he has brought us out to where we have found ourselves now and the blessings they have received from God.
NEHEMIAH: (i) Who was he and where was he?
A Jewish statement, patriot and a reformer at the period of exile.A true Israelite.
He lived in Shushan the capital City of Medo Persian Empire under the rulership of Artaxerxes.
At Persia he was the cup bearer of the king (Artaxerxes). This office was held in high esteem, well paid and influential. As a cup bearer to the king, it was his responsibility to drink some of the king’s wine before the king partook in order to see if it was poisoned.
Kings and great men probably look upon it as a piece of state to be attended to by people of other nations. By this the place at the Court was given to Nehemiah as God had designed, as Moses in the Court of Pharaoh, And David in Saul’s house, etc God has always provided ways to use His men at different period on different events, so was Nehemiah’s case.
Some Cup bearers also had official status. In the case of Nehemiah, he was appointed as a governor to represent the Persian kings in Judah.
He must have shown himself as trustworthy honourable, humble and slow to speak to suit the office.
Nehemiah lived at ease, in honour and fullness of himself, but he would not forget that he was an Israelite, nor shake off the thought of his brethren’s plight, but in spirit like Moses (Acts 7:23) he decided to visit them. The distance did not a alienate his affection from them (though they were out of sight yet not out of mind), so neither did dignity to which he was advanced. Though he was a great man, and probably rising higher, yet did not think it bellow him to take cognizance of his brethren that were lowly and despised, nor was he ashamed to own his relationship with them and concern to them. He was very mindful of the cause of their suffering.
The visit of Hanani and his team to Shushan Palace gave Nehemiah an opportunity to tenderly and compassionately enquired to know how the city of Jerusalem and the remnant of the Jews were.
And Hanani who feared God than many of the Jews was able tell him the true position of the place and the people. It is probably that his errand to the Court at this time was to solicit some favour, relief, or other things that they stood in need of.
(iii) What was his feeling about Jerusalem, the land of his birth.
On receiving the news of the desolate state of Jerusalem his father-land, it gave Nehemiah a great affliction and concern and he wept and mourned. It was not only when he heard the news that he fell into passion of weeping, but this sorrow continued for some days.
Vs. 4 of Chapter 1 – He fasted and prayed to the God of heaven.
His Prayers Neh. 1:5-11
With the faith he had in God, he was convinced that his prayer was answered.
He now approached the king (Artaxerxes) to give him a leave of absence and a letter to other governors beyond the rivers based on the report he received from Hanani chapter 2:1-9
The king granted all his request.
- Granted him leave of absence
- Commissioned him as governor of Judah.
- Letters for the supply of wood Chapter 2:8-9
- Countered the former decree by the king against the rebuilding of the wall.
- He was given personal security men as a governor. (Captain and Hoursemen).
Nehemiah’s first Visit to Jerusalem
What was the assignment he set for himself?
- On reaching Jerusalem, he inspected the entire city which took him three days to know the general state of dilapidation of the wall without telling anyone his intention. It was after the inspection that he then had a meeting with elders and the priests to declare his plan to rebuild the broken wall. He kept his initial plan secret because he was aware of the hostility of the surrounding residence against the Jews. Even the rulers did not know. 2:17-18.
- The rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem Chapter. 3:1
The work was done perfectly well with one mind, led by the priest themselves and the work was shared to individuals according to his ability without any strife or discouragement.
The spiritual leaders were of good example, who led on the rebuilding and were not the type who refused to get their hands dirty.
What was significant about the building of the wall was the organization by which it was carried out and the fact that everyone had a specific section of the same project, but in their designated areas of works. In their assigned location of the wall to repair, they were to begin with the section of the wall close to their house. The impetus for the work them began by each family seeing their responsibility to secure their own home 3:10, 23, 29-30. Another thing was that some of those that had first finished theirs, turned to help their fellow men who were not as strong share where they saw was most needed be completed.
- The relief of the oppressed (especially the poor within) Chapter 5:1
Another problem Nehemiah encountered was that the wealthier Jews were taking advantage of their poor fellow Jews. There was a famine in the land, and subsequently some of the Jews had put themselves in debt in order to pay their taxes. Some had to give themselves as servants to their fellow Jews because they had borrowed from them to pay their taxes. Because of their greed the wealthier Jews were using a time of distress as an opportunity to impoverish their people. They were charging interest and learn from fellow Jews which was contrary to the law of the land Exo. 22:25. He ordered that such debt should be cancelled immediately without notice.
- Restoration of the Law of Moses (Law of God) Chapter 8 – 10
Nehemiah gathered all the Jews and directed Ezra (the scribe) to open the book of the law and read for them. Ezra read and explained it to their understanding. Using the language they really understood. The understanding of the law gave them direction 8:9-12. They all wept, prayed and fasted because they relished that their forefathers and themselves suffered so much as a result of disobeying the word of God and the glory of Israelites was no more there because of the idolatry of the fathers, mixed marriage was also the problem which they confessed Neh. 10:30-33 but Nehemiah’s encouragement to them was they stood the time of repentance, thus it was time for them to rejoice. They should forget about the past and moved in to the future. Their joy was based on the fact that they realized that were being forgiven.
- Compelled the High Priests and the Levites to confess and renew their covenant with God.
(a) To keep the Sabbath.
(b) They will not neglect the temple of God.
- Dedication of the world to God Neh. 12:27-30.
Second Visit of Nehemiah to Jerusalem
Social and religious activities reform: Chapter 13
The second visit of Nehemiah to Jerusalem grieved him and he complained bitterly and cautioned them for committing such abominable sins. There were several abuses and corrupt practices that crept in during his absence.
- He turned out from Israel the mixed multitude, the Moabites and Ammonites especially with particular indignation, he expelled Tobiah out of the lodgings he had got in the Court of the temple Neh. 1:9 which was possible through the Chief Priest, Eliashib. He was allied to Tobiah by marriage and friendship. Vs 4. This is a high priest who should have taught the people the law and set them good example. This was against the law of the land. Nehemiah threw him (Tobiah) out of the court with all his belongings, and restored the chamber to their proper use.
- He secured the maintenance of the Priest, Levites, the singers and the temple workers to them more firmly than it had been (10-14) These people were scattered into their field, may be because of the lodging of Tobiah. They were denied their portion as was directed by the law. He also made treasurers over the treasures.
- He restrained the profanation of the Sabbath day and provided for the due sanctification of it. He stop them from buying and selling on the Sabbath. 15-22
- He checked the growing mischief of marring strange wives 23-31. They corrupted themselves by marrying strange wives. Corruption Nehemiah was able to purge out these from the people:
(a) He showed them the evil of it and his obligation he lay under to witness against it.
(b) He showed himself highly displeased at it.
(c) He obliged them not to take any more such wives and separated those whom they had taken and cleansed them.
(d) Took particular care of the Priest’s families, that they may not lie under this stain and guilts.
(iv) What were the obstacles he faced in trying to carry out this plan?
(1) External: Sanballat, governor of the Samaria, Tobiah, the Ammonite, Geshem, the Arab Sheikh and their Allies. Neh. 4:1-3, 8, 11, Neh.6:1-7
These were the most serious obstacles to the building of the broken wall of Jerusalem, because they were the most influential personalities of the time.Sanballat was very furious and very angry because he saw the efforts of the Jews as an attack against his authority and possibly his economic status. It at least stirred up his prejudice against the Jews Neh. 4:2. He was suspicious of anything they did that would suggest a rebellion. He had little regard for their beliefs and so could not understand their dedication for preserving their heritage.at this time of rebuilding project that he was about to muster the army of Samaria to join mockery of the Jews and also a threat to the Jews. They have even accused Nehemiah and threatened to report him to the King of Persia.
(2) Internal: The nobles of Judah Neh. 6:10-14, 17-19. The “Noble” Shemiah a secret informer wanted to lure Nehemiah into a very serious and abominable sin, knowing very well that the inner chamber of the temple was not to be entered by anybody except the Priest Num. 18:7. If Nehemiah went into this part of the temple, accusation could be made against him (II Chron. 26:16-23 Uzziah).
(3) The Language of the Captors: Since most of them were in exile for along time, some were speaking the Arabaic language. It was necessary to interpret the law in the language they easily understood.
(V) Did the opposition make them to stop work?
And why? Neh. 4:66, 16-23, 6:1-10 (The answer is No)
(1) Nehemiah knowing very well how influential the enemies were in the authority. He requested permission from the most superior authority which is the king of Persia – Artaxerxes.
(2) The people had the mind to work. The people’s answer to the mockery of samballat and his friends was to continue to work. Another answer to their mockery and compiracy was PRAYER TO GOD since the people had the mind to work, theywould not be detoured from the objective that Nehemiah had set before them. He knew how to organize the people to work and how to agonize under threat of opposition. Such personal characteristic made him a leader. 4:6-9. Regardless of knowing that the good hand of God was for him. Nehemiah took every precaution against the possibility of an attack from the army of Samaria and made plans for defense. His leadership was characterized by prayer and being watchful for the work of Satan, encouragement of those who were engage in the work. Neh. 4:13-14
Nehemiah’s defensive organization was skillfully carried out. Families were to protect one another. Work was to continue, but the workers also to arm themselves. They were constantly ready to work or defense 4:15-23
Regardless of all the opposition, Nehemiah and those faithful people who were working with him accomplished their goal.
(vi) Nehemiah acknowledged that it was God that did the work for them, hence were not afraid. They rather prayed to God constantly.
(3)B: For Christian Today:-
- Can you be Nehemiah for your home congregation?
- How often do you visit them? Do you even know where you are from?
- Are you aware of what is happening there – Physically and Spiritually?
- What are your involvements in terms of project execution and correcting wrong doctrine if any? Knowing quite well that you are going to face stiff opposition in the area of doctrine.
- You can extend this gesture to your local community as well.
- Do not be contented with Uyo Town Church or any other Township congregation you may find yourself alone.
- Having achieved this, like the Nehemiah of old, be bold enough to plead God to remember you.
N/B: (a) For us to be able to accomplish this we must possess these characteristics: like Nehemiah did.
- Patriotism – Neh. 1:1-4
- Prayerfulness – Neh. 1:5-11, 4:4-5, 9
- Faith – Neh. 2:20, 4:14
- Courage – Neh. 4:20, 6:10-11
- Diligence – Neh. 4:21-23, 6:3
- Executive ability. – Neh. 4:13-20
- Firmness in the right. – Neh. 13:11, 17, 25
- Enestness in reform. – Neh. 5, 13;15-31
(b) Remember how modest he was in his request. He only prayed, remember me and not reward me, wipe not out my good did and not publish them.
CONCLUSION: I Tim. 4:9 – Heb. 6:10
UYO TOWN CHURCH OF CHRIST, 20 PAUL BASSEY STREET, UYO
INDOOR LECTURE FOR AUGUST, 2017 PRESENTED BY BROTHER ESSIEN NDEH