Nehemiah Overview

 

The books Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther all deal with the events that happened after the children of Israel had returned back to from 70 years of captivity. These books cover almost 100 years of time from 536 B.C. and 430 B.C. and they include the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

 

If we wanted to put these book in chronological order we would have to put Ezraís first 6 chapters first, which covered there 1st return to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. Then we would have to insert the book Esther. Next would be the last 3 chapter of Ezra, which covers the 2nd return under to Jerusalem under Ezra. The finally we have Nehemiah, which cover the 3rd return to Jerusalem under Nehemiah.

 

Nehemiah is the last of the 12 history books of the OT. The name Nehemiah means Jehovah comforts.

 

The author of Nehemiah has been debated for many years. Jewish tradition says that Ezra wrote the Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, but others believe that Nehemiah wrote this book because the very first verse starts out saying, ďThe words of Nehemiah.Ē In fact let me give you 2 quotes from O.T. commentaries in favor of Nehemiah being the author.

 

Keil wrote:

 

††† "The contents of the book itself do not furnish the slightest opposition to the view that the whole composition was the work of Nehemiah." (C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 3c, p. 150.)

 

††† Also Whitcomb pointed out:

 

††† "The fact that Nehemiah is written in the first person is evidence that Nehemiah is the author, and the places where he is mentioned in the third person can be explained in harmony with his authorship." (Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 435)

 

The Date the Nehemiah was written was around 430 B.C. Ezra had been in Jerusalem for about 13 years, when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. So, Nehemiah covers the events between 444 B.C. and 432 B.C.

 

Some of the key words found in this book are Rebuilding, prayer and work, which were are related to the rebuilding of the wall. There are also several key verses that point out why Nehemiah was successful in getting the people rebuild the wall.

 

Nehemiah 4:6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

 

This verse also contains the key phrase of this book, which is the ďpeople had a mind to work.Ē

 

Nehemiah 4:9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

 

Nehemiah 4:17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.

 

Nehemiah 4:20 "Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."

 

All these key verses in the chapter show how the Nehemiah was able to stir the people up to restore what God had given them and they did this by trusting in God, actively praying to Him for strength, and by determining in their minds to work together to restore the wall and they had confidence that God would fight for them. Our next key verses show they accomplished what the set out to do.

 

Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

 

Not only did they accomplish this great task in 52 days, it caused their enemies to become discouraged after they saw what they were able to do with the help of God almighty. The key chapter of this book chapter 9 because Ezra confesses the sin of Israel and they enter into a convent with God that they will keep the Law of God.

 

Let me give you a basic outline of Nehemiah.

 

1-2 Covers Nehemiahís return Jerusalem

3 The gates are rebuilt and a general list of the workers of the wall and gates are given

4-6 Deals with the events that happened during the rebuilding and completion of the wall

7 Lists those that returned back with Zerubbabel.

8 Ezra reads the Law for 7 days

9-12 The children of Israel enter into covenant with God to keep His Law and the completed wall is dedicated.

13 The Jews had become lax with their tithes, the Sabbath and mixed marriages and Nehemiah deals with these problems.

 

The great theme of Nehemiah is restoration. This is why Nehemiah teaches a great lesson for the Christian today because we live in time where there were hundreds of denominations in the world and we keep seeing bigger congregations in the Lordís church that are moving away from the Law of Christ. The need to restore people back to the New Testament Christianity is just as strong and necessary as it was in Nehemiahís day.

One thing you will notice is that Nehemiah did not attempt to design and construct new walls with new material. Instead a great deal of the wall was rebuilt using the old stones. With this thought in mind, we need to understand that we should never seek to build a new church. Instead, our goal should always be to rebuild and restore the church that Jesus built. We have no right or authority to add to or take away that which Christ has built. Anytime a congregation tries to go beyond the blueprints that God has left us then something other than church is in place. When Christians decide to do this, its time for those walls to be knocked down and for true restoration to occur. We must learn from the example of Nehemiah and get people to understand the importance of follow Godís Word, having an active prayer life and trusting in God.

 

These physical walls were built to protect the Jews from their enemies. In a similar way its important that we build strong spiritual walls around us to protect us from our enemy the devil. The stronger the wall the more protection we will have. We can make those walls stronger by studying Godís word and living by it and the mortar that binds the walls together is our prayer life. ††

 

While the walls were down around Jerusalem, it made the Jews vulnerable to attacks and the same thing is true in lives today. If our spiritual are down because we are neglecting Godís Word and our prayer life is non-existent, then we are vulnerable as well. This is why it so important that we build strong walls by studying Godsí word, living by it and having an active prayer life.

 

We also learn from Nehemiah that there was internal corruption after the wall built. Some time after the completion of the rebuilding of the walls, Nehemiah made a trip to Babylon.When he returned he discovered that Eliashib, the priest, had installed Tobiah in a chamber in the courts of the house of God (Neh. 13:7).This was the same Tobiah who had opposed Nehemiah and his work from the beginning.This was the same Tobiah who had ridiculed their work, saying,

 

Nehemiah 4:3 "Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall."

 

This is the same Tobiah who had conspired to make war against Jerusalem (Neh. 4:7-8).Now Nehemiah found him in the courts of the house of God. We find Nehemiah doing exactly what should have already been done in,

 

Nehemiah 13:8 And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room.9 Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

 

Notice, he didnít tolerate this corruption and he threw out all this stuff that did not belong. In this same chapter he refused to allow the people to disobey the command of God by desecrating the Sabbath.He condemned the intermarriage with foreign women because these forbidden marriages had resulted in children who spoke half in the language of Ashdod and could not speak in the Jews' language. Just as Nehemiah upheld the Law of God, we should do the same today. We should throw out those things that are not authorized by Godís Word.

 

Again this needed today because there are some in the Lordís church who have started engaging in open fellowship with denominationalism to the point that many brethren now speak their language. Those in the denominations have tendency to redefine Biblical terms and unfortunately, do to a lack of study, some in the church are accepting a corrupted version of the truth.

 

In the past, many of the denominations out there were conservative and that had a deeper respect for the authority of the Scriptures and they use to defend the positions they held, but today these same denominations have moved farther and farther away from the word of God. Many denominations are hard to distinguish between the world because they now teach a message of love and tolerance for sin. Basically, they have opened the door to allow anything and everything to come in. They are getting to the point of teaching all will be saved no mater what.

 

You can see how they look like the world because they are allowing women to be elders, deacons and preachers. Some of them are even allowing active homosexuals to preach and serve in church. There sermons talk a lot about Godís love, mercy and grace, but they donít talk much about Godís wrath for the disobedient. The list can go on and on, but whatís sad is that some in the church are following this same trend and they are speaking the same languages as these denominations.

 

Thatís exactly why we have churches like Max Lucadoís, Richland Hills and Quail Springs embracing denominationalism. They want to move beyond what God has authorized just like these people of Nehemiahís day were trying to do. These churches that are moving away from God need a Nehemiah to warn them and to get them back on track because they are desperate need of restoration. All the stuff they are adding needs to be thrown out and they need to get back to the Bible instead of calling themselves a progressive church of Christ.

 

Another thing we can learn from the Nehemiah is how to overcome those things the hinder us from doing our spiritual work. We can see how to do this by how the Jews of Nehemiahís day overcame their opposition.

 

1. They overcame the scorn and ridicule of their enemies by having confidence in God Neh. 2:20

2. They overcame their enemiesí wrath and disrespect for them through prayer and hard work Neh. 4:4-6

3. They overcame conspiracy and conflict with prayer and watchfulness Neh. 4:9

4. They overcame the negative and defeated attitudes of their friends through their faith and steadfast courage Neh. 4:13-14

5. They overcame selfish greed by the rebuking of Nehemiah and by the self-sacrificing example he gave Neh. 5:6-17

6. They overcame the false accusations that were made as a distraction by standing firm and saying no this is not true Neh. 6:1-14

 

If we apply these 6 steps to our lives, we will have everything we need to keep us on track so that we can carry out the spiritual work that we should be doing.

 

The last thing I want to look at this evening is the Character of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was one of the great leaders in O.T. at a period that is much like our own.We need preachers and elders with the qualities of Nehemiah.

 

He was a man who agonized over the condition of God's people. When he heard that Jews were in distress and greatly oppressed and that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins, Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed. The situation of Jerusalem drove Nehemiah to his knees and for days he prayed and mourned.He freely confessed to God his sins and the sins of his people.He recognized that the basic problem was their relationship with God:

 

Nehemiah 1:6 "please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned.7 "We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

 

When we start thinking about the condition of Godís church in the United States, it should be enough to send us to our knees and to cause us weep, mourn and pray because of the way many have gone. Fifty years ago, the church was growing and it was primarily made up of Christians who did their best to uphold Godís way, but over the course of 50 years we have seen more and more Christians who have embraced worldliness and the philosophy of man. Many are repeating the history of the Jews because they have not learned from their mistakes. The saying is true that if you donít learn from the mistakes of history you are doomed to repeat them. †††

 

Nehemiah was a man of courage.He was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes and he had the courage to come before the king even though he was afraid. True courage is not the lack of fear, but it is overcoming that fear by doing what you should do. So, Nehemiah pleads with the king to allow him to go to Jerusalem and to help his people get back on track. It would take a great deal of courage for him to speak to his people as well, but he did it because of his love for God. We need to have this same courage today when it comes to restoring people back to God.

 

Nehemiah was willing to sacrifice because he had a high position as the kingís cupbearer and he would have had plenty to eat, a good place to live, and the prestige of a job close to the king. But because of his love for God, His Word, and for His people, he left all this behind to help his people rebuild the wall and their lives.

Again, we need to have this same attitude today. If it becomes necessary for us to leave the comfort and security of lives to restore the church that Jesus built then let us do so.

 

 

Nehemiah was also man ofpersistence in the face of scorn and ridicule.Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem laughed them to scorn and despised them (Neh. 2:19).Mockery and ridicule are the first resort of those who do not have Scripture and reason on their side; but it can be very effective psychologically.No one likes to be an object of ridicule.I am convinced the reason some brethren are embracing denominationalism is their desire to please man instead of God. If they put themselves in a non confrontational position then they never have to worry about being mocked or made fun of for standing on the principles of Godís Word. People who think this way are more concerned about being popular than being pleasing to God.

 

Thankfully there are Christians today who will not allow themselves to comprise Godís truth for popularity or money. They hold the same value as Nehemiah who said,

 

Nehemiah 2:20 The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."

 

Nehemiah was persistent in the face of a frontal attack.When his enemies saw that ridicule did not work and that Nehemiah and his workers were serious about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, they became serious in their opposition.

 

Nehemiah 4:7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry,8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.

 

Their enemies thought they were going to be successful on their attach, but Nehemiah was aware of what they were trying to do and he had men read for them and when they came they were driven back and they knew that God had warned the Jews about their attack. The Jews stayed prepared for battle after that as we read in,

 

Nehemiah 4:17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.

 

This is the same way that we should handle ourselves today. There are many false doctrines that are being taught and it is our responsibility to confront these false teachings and battle against the wicked way, but at the same time we cannot neglect the great work of the great commission. As the Jews of Nehemiah day we need to defend and fight against false doctrine with one hand and with the other hand we need to work at reaching the lost and wining them to Christ. Both works are important and both should be done.

 

Nehemiah was persistent and he was unwilling to compromise Godís truth and neither should we. Nehemiah was a fighter, but he did not start the fight or relish it. But he refused to step down from a fight for the Lord. Every Christians and especially every preacher must not avoid fighting for the truth. Fighting for the truth can become unpleasant, stressful and it can even cause division, but we must be like Nehemiah and be willing to fight for the Lord and His truth no matter what the cost. As Paul said we need to fight the good fight of faith.

 

If we try to avoid our responsibility to stand on Godís truth today, then Godís church is going suffer for it tomorrow. I hope this overview of Nehemiah has shown you how important is that all of us take a stand on Godís truth and that we pray for strength and guidance as fight the good fight of faith.