PUTTING THE PRIORITY ON THE SUCCESS OF GOD’S KINGDOM PROGRAM REQUIRES BOLD FAITH THAT COUNTS ON PROVIDENTIAL FAVORS
What does God’s Providence mean to you? Do you have a sense that you are in the center of God’s will in terms of lining up with His kingdom purposes for this age. Do you have an expectation that God in His timing is going to be gracious in very special ways that will enable you to minister effectively for Him? Not talking about miracles here … but directing the course of your life so that things turn out good from a ministry standpoint?
Zondervan: Providence concerns God’s support, care, and supervision of all creation, from the moment of the first creation to all the future into eternity. Jesus Christ said, “My Father is working still, and I am working” (John 5:7). [What then is God doing?] Providence is God’s activity through His unlimited power and knowledge to fulfill His purpose for the whole creation including man.
Short Def: The divine intervention in the affairs of man within the confines of natural law to bring about God’s objectives
Works not just on the big picture, the global scale – but sovereignly governs all of the little details of our lives.
When it comes to opportunities for ministry – for accomplishing God’s work here on earth – God’s Providential working is the key. But He does not work apart from us or against our will. We must exercise bold faith and look for opportunities to minister. We cannot be passive in the process. It is not “let go and let God” but “trust God and move forward” with the expectation of His grace and power.
How can we trust God to tackle tough jobs? We need to learn from Nehemiah
PUTTING THE PRIORITY ON THE SUCCESS OF GOD’S KINGDOM PROGRAM REQUIRES BOLD FAITH THAT COUNTS ON PROVIDENTIAL FAVORS
FOUR ASPECTS OF GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL FAVORS
I. (:1-3) PROVIDENTIAL POSITIONING — AN ANTICIPATED OPPORTUNITY
A. Providential Positioning — In Terms of the Trusted Relationship
[Transition phrase from end of Chap. 1]
“Now I was the cupbearer to the king.”
Had probably been in this capacity for a long time; very surprising in that Nehemiah was a Jew rather than a Persian; but he had developed this relationship of trust; become one of the king’s chief counselors; his wisdom had proven out in many contexts; God had been preparing Nehemiah for this very important mission
B. Providential Positioning — In Terms of the Timing
“Now it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king.”
Importance of waiting before the Lord; the deepening of the burden; the development of the vision; the prayer for providential favor and success; period of 3-4 months had intervened since the events of Chap. 1 when Nehemiah became concerned for the ruined condition of the City of God and the embarrassment it was to the reputation of God – the walls needed rebuilding and the people needed instruction and encouragement – Revival / Rebuilding was the burden on his heart – growing over this time period; this period of waiting on the Lord was not wasted time
Did he choose this day to be extra sad?? Maybe, maybe not … but it seems he is aware that the king is now going to sense his burden and bring things to a head; no longer masking his true feelings
Michael Crawford: Wrong for Christians to act as if appearing sad and mourning is not spiritual; there is a time for sadness; Nehemiah had been sad for 4 months; now his emotions are definitely emoting – cannot be hidden; sadness is the very tool God used to start the rebuilding process
Kidner: Nehemiah has resolved to speak out ‘today’ (1:11). He may even have decided to precipitate the enquiry by allowing his feelings to be obvious. Now the moment has come, and if he mishandles it there will not be another. Further, he will be asking the king to revise his policy, for the decision against Jerusalem had been official. (Ezra 4:21)
C. Providential Positioning — In Terms of the Trigger – the Telegraphed Emotions – that is what is going to set everything in motion
“Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’”
The king knew Nehemiah very well; they were very close; he could tell something was seriously wrong – recognized the distinction between physical sadness and emotional sadness
Sadness because of a burden from God; because of obedience; because he cared deeply [cf. Chap. 1] about God’s people and God’s program – does not mean that we are outside of God’s will just because we are in the midst of sad times – sometimes Satan will use that emotion to try to accuse us … to make us think that we must be outside of God’s will – but look at how sad the Apostle Paul must have been in various contexts of suffering and false accusations
D. An Awkward Opportunity — Potential for Panic
“Then I was very much afraid.”
Why not greatly excited and overjoyed??
Sometimes we think everything was easy for these spiritual giants of old; as if everything ran smoothly and they just had so much grace that they didn’t feel the heat;
Nothing sinful about being confronted with the emotion of fear; How will you respond? Will you be diverted from faithfulness or will you follow through in obedience?
Presence of Fear does not make us a failure – the bravest of men must confront their fears …
We need to Fight Fear instead of Submit to Fear – use all of the supernatural weapons at our disposal – instead of being paralyzed by fear, we need to boldly obey in spite of our fears
Brian Bill: In the best selling book called, “Who Moved My Cheese,” the author asks a very penetrating question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid.” He points out that fear often keeps us from taking the steps we know we need to take. Fear can paralyze us.
A man of courage will take the same actions whether or not he is afraid
Broadwater: Why was he so afraid?
– afraid of failure – nobody likes rejection; or starting something and not being able to complete it
– fear of man – especially such a powerful king – would be understandable
– fear of the future – the unknown – where this course would take him – Who knows??
Nehemiah was prepared for the moment of fear and had already made his decision that he was moving forward
T. S. Elliot: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”
C.S. Lewis: “Problem is not that we ask too much, but we ask too little”
Nehemiah Dared to Ask – to make that bold request of God – but for something that was not self-serving but at the heart of God’s kingdom program
E. An Anticipated Opportunity – Requiring Bold Initiative
“I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?’”
Michael Crawford: “Let the king live forever” – really saying “Don’t kill me but I am going for it!”
There it is … he has laid it on the line … it’s all out there for the king to respond to; great dramatic moment
Michael Crawford: Problems
– City is in ruins
– Gates are broken down
– Great trouble
Kidner: The remembered scene lives for us in this intimate, rapid narrative. We are involved in it, holding our breath with Nehemiah as he gasps a prayer and braces himself to reply. The exchanges are characteristic: the suppliant speaks with the slight verbosity that courtesy demands; the king with the brevity of one whose habitual role is to decide matters. Each of his questions goes straight to the next point.
What difference can one man make when the city of God lies in ruins?
When God’s church is in such a mess … what difference can one man make?
II. (:4-5) PROVIDENTIAL VISION – AN AUDACIOUS OBJECTIVE
“Audacious” – intrepidly daring – characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude and endurance; not referring to any wrong tone of pride or arrogance
A. Setting the Stage for Ministry Proposal – for the Presentation of the Vision
“Then the king said to me, ‘What would you request?’”
Might be hard to read the king’s attitude at this point … probably not yet a blank check approach; perhaps still evaluating; maybe even somewhat skeptical …hard to say … more details need to be provided; the request needs to be fleshed out
Do you get nervous at work when you are getting ready to make a big presentation before some important folks; some performance anxiety? Huge burst of adrenaline; hands are all sweaty … it’s a big moment; you are not going to be given a mulligan; no chance for a do-over
B. Solicitous Approach Towards Those in Authority – the Precarious Nature of the Vision
You do not control the success of the outcome – you need Providential Favors
1. Seeking the Favor of Divine Providence
“So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
Can only fire off these quick emergency prayers when you have laid the groundwork with a life of consistent persevering prayer
2. Seeking the Favor of Human Authority
“I said to the king, ‘If it please the king and if your servant has found favor before you,”
C. Significant Ministry Objective – A Big Vision – the Particulars of the Vision
“send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
Great assurance in knowing you have been sent by God to accomplish your ministry objective
This is quite the Audacious Objective – huge in scope – given the danger and difficulty involved
Very strategic objective in terms of God’s kingdom purposes
III. (:6-8) PROVIDENTIAL PROVISION – AN AMAZING OUTCOME
A. Gracious Help Granted – Permission Granted
1. Timeline Requested – King not even dictating the terms – very gracious
“Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, ‘How long will your journey be, and when will you return?’”
Significance of the presence of the queen?
– private instead of public encounter?
– queen would be especially favorable to Nehemiah or to the plight of the Jews?
– as a witness to the king’s decision?
Shows the value of Nehemiah to King Artaxerxes – did not want to lose him forever; wanted him to return to his position of trusted cup-bearer
2. Deadline Established
“So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time.”
King not reluctantly giving in but enthusiastically sending him – it pleased the king
Again shows his planning and preparation; he know how long the project would take; knew what resources it would require; not just shooting blindly from the hip
Deadlines are important at work
B. Going the Extra Mile — Additional Help Requested and Received
Look at how God does above and beyond what we can imagine —
1. Additional Administrative Authorization
“And I said to the king, ‘If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah,’”
Anticipated difficulties and obstacles; this was a dangerous undertaking
2. Additional Physical Resources
“and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.’”
Nehemiah had done his planning as God formed this vision within him; he knew what needed to be done; had counted the cost
Michael Crawford: Like obtaining a huge gift card to Lowes where you could obtain all the timber and supplies you needed for the building project
C. Good Hand of God (Providential Favor) Paving the Way = Key to the passage
“And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.”
Hand: power, protection, provision, security, safety
Cf. 2:18; 13:31; Ezra 7:9; 8:18; Ps. 34:8; 119:68
– Nehemiah wanted to know that he had been sent
– Nehemiah wanted to know that he would be safe
– Nehemiah wanted to know that he would be supplied
If God be for us, who can be against us – Rom. 8
Great Commission – All authority has been given to Christ and He promises that His good hand will be with us – Matt. 28:20
IV. (:9-10) PROVIDENTIAL PROTECTION — FROM ANGRY OPPOSITION
A. Supreme Authority
“Then I came to the governors of the provinces beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters.”
Nobody has enough authority to challenge the edict of the king; when you have been commended by the king, you have all the protection you need
B. Supporting Strength
“Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.”
King had provided abundant military power for the operation – not just letters of commendation;
Of course we are most interested in the supernatural resources and weapons that strengthen us in our ministry battle; how many angels are looking over the ministry of God’s church and protecting what we do?
C. Satanic Opposition
“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel.”
Selfishly interested in protecting their own empire and agenda rather than getting in line with God’s kingdom program – cared nothing about the welfare of God’s people;
Stedman: Whenever you read of the Ammonites, Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites, Perizzites, or any of the other “ites,” you have a picture of the enemy of God in the flesh. These various tribes symbolize satanic agency within human beings, causing them to oppose and resist the work, the will, and the ways of God. Sanballat and Tobiah are no different; they are enemies of God and enemies of Nehemiah.
Michael Crawford: Sanballat and Tobiah always show up to try to discourage and distract believers from the task at hand; not outside attacker but they live in our mind and heart; our internal voice that only we can hear telling us what we can’t do; questioning whether this really is God’s will
The good hand of God does not mean smooth sailing with no challenges
Contrast their displeasure with the pleasure of Artaxerxes in sending them
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Ps. 127:1
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 15:58