Walking Through Ephesians

Walking Through Ephesians

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The walls were rebuilt, but Nehemiah’s work was not finished. Upon rebuilding the walls Nehemiah shifts his focus to rebuild the nation. The people had proven they were willing to work, willing to listen, and willing to put the priority of God first. Nehemiah now directs that same passion and drive towards their relationship with God. 

The majority of chapter 7 is an organization of God’s people (very similar to Ezra 2). There are 9 categories: 

  • The original leaders (v. 6-7)
  • The Jews who were laymen (v. 8-38)
  • The Priests (v. 39-42)
  • The Levites (v. 43) 
  • The Singers (v. 44)
  • The Gatekeepers (v. 45)
  • The Temple Servants (v. 46-56)
  • The Descendants of the servants of Solomon (v. 57-60)
  • The One’s whose ancestry was questionable (v. 61-65) 

In addition to the organization of the people and their service to God, Nehemiah sought to arrange the work that would take place in the Temple (v. 70-73). Not only were there servants in need to work in the Temple, but such work also required financial organization. The willingness of the people to give of their own funds for the sake of God and His Temple indicated the priority of God and His presence (and work) in their lives. 

Leadership is important in all avenues of life – especially spiritually. Leadership is influence, and leadership is about people. As we lead those under our sphere of influence, remember that the greatest place we can lead them is to a stronger place spiritually. It can be through shining our light in the workplace (MATT 5:16; TIT 2:10). It can be through loving our spouses and caring for them to the best of our ability (1 PET 3:1-7). It can be through bringing the word of God into our everyday conversations with our children – tying every part of life back to God (DEUT 6:7-9). It can be imitating Christs before my brethren, refusing to complain, instead – we stir up one another to love and good works (HEB 10:24-25). Leading spiritually comes by remembering what the main purpose is. It’s not merely building good habits, forming good attitudes, or doing good deeds – all of which can be done apart from the main purpose in life. Our main goal is to lead others to Jesus – the example of good habits, the focus of good attitudes, the reason for good deeds. Nehemiah 7 reminds us that this path requires sacrifice – it’s not the path of ease. It’s a path that costs. It’s a path that works. But it’s a path that results in growth, inward maturity and increasing humility. It’s a path that contemplates the priority of God above all things. Think about the result of each day’s choices – where am I influencing others around me towards? Every word, every choice, every direction – make it about God. Leadership is about people, and bringing those people closer to the Lord. 

“Glorious Creator, benevolent God, You have given us all that we have – every good thing – every blessing – they all come from You. May I give to You this day the first of my thoughts, the greater portion of my strength, the devotion of my time, the praise of my lips, the focus of my life. May the choices I make this day bring greater glory to You. And may the choices I make this day help those You have placed in my life, to see Your greatness and glory this day.” 

Nehemiah said, (“Oh No” to Ono)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

We like to make a good impression. Most of us care about our appearance. Most of us want others to see us in the best possible light. That’s a natural thing; it’s a normal thing to want to be liked.  At least, for me it is. I want people to like me. However, those who do great works for God will have to endure personal attacks. They did it to the prophets; they did it to Jesus; they did it to Nehemiah. From his example we can learn how to handle it when it happens to us. 

“Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me…”  (Neh. 6:1-2)

The work is almost finished. All the bricks are in place. The only thing left is to put the gates in place. The reason that took longer is because the gates were made from wood and then covered with metal so that they wouldn’t burn up in case of an attack by fire. As soon as they hang those gates the wall will be finished. 

I think it’s significant that the next attack came when Nehemiah had nearly finished his mission. Just as everybody was planning the ribbon cutting ceremony, Satan has fired his final attempt to derail the project. Satan loves to hit us again just when we think we have cleared all the major hurdles. Just when we think we have conquered all the obstacles and we are on the home stretch, he strikes.

This time that attack is personal. “But they thought to do me harm.” (Neh. 6:2b). The problem is that the enemies have been threatening Nehemiah and the people with violence. However, that’s not working anymore because the walls are almost completed. They have enough soldiers to guard the gates. So, they change their tactics from force to fraud. 

Nehemiah resisted Satan’s intrigues by standing firm in his priorities. “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”  He said, “Oh, no” to the invitation to visit Ono. He wasn’t being arrogant. He just knew that what God had given him to do was important for His sake and for His people’s sake. He was not quite finished. Walls without gates were ineffective. His priority was to finish the wall. He will not allow an unnecessary meeting with the enemy to distract him from that one aim.

Nehemiah stayed true to the dream God had put in his heart. But notice how Nehemiah handled this personal attack against his character. He said once, quickly, “It’s not true!”  Then he prayed, “God, give me strength to handle this.” Then he just kept right on doing what he was supposed to do. Nehemiah felt that the truth would ultimately prevail and that he shouldn’t spend a lot of his time and energy trying to deal with rumors and accusations. 

Nehemiah’s persistent resistance gained the victory for the Lord. When the enemies and surrounding nations saw that the wall was completed, they lost their confidence. They had to admit that this work had been accomplished because of God (6:15). Even though Nehemiah and the workers on the wall had worked hard, not even their enemies attributed their success to their hard work. Rather, they knew that it was from God.

Then we read, “So Satan gave up the battle and went home, and Nehemiah and the Jews lived happily ever after.” Not exactly!

For us today, Nehemiah is an example for us. We should work as hard as if success depended on us, but all the while we lean totally upon the Lord. We must never put confidence in our work, but only in the God who enables us to work. 

Nehemiah couldn’t kick back and admire the wall because these ongoing problems forced him to keep fighting the battle and trusting in the Lord. Sometimes we mistakenly think that some program or building project or other accomplishment will solve all our problems in the church. But we no sooner achieve our goal than other problems erupt. The Lord uses these things to keep us looking to Him rather than kicking back and trusting our work.


Monday, February 13, 2023

When God’s people are at work for God’s purposes, the enemy won’t be far behind. Satan will do all he can do thwart the plan of God, and we certainly see that unfolding in the book of Nehemiah. He tried outward assaults, intimidation from neighboring enemies. But when Nehemiah shrugged those empty threats off, and bolstered the people’s courage, Satan shifted his approach and sought to attack from within. That’s the focus of Nehemiah 5. 

The people came to Nehemiah with their problems. There was a famine in the land and some were hurting: 

  • Some had large families and no food to feed everyone (v. 2)
  • Some had to mortgage their property just to afford the rising price of food (v. 3) 
  • Some were so heavily in debt they were being threatened by the lenders to even sell their children (v. 4-5)

Nehemiah’s response was anger, not merely over the hard circumstances the people faced, but over the unjust and cruel actions of Judah’s nobles that contributed to these difficult situations. The law of God gave specific guidance on lending to one another (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-40; Deuteronomy 23:19-20). What these nobles were doing was selfish, wicked, and wrong. But notice v. 7 – there’s a crucial phrase found therein… “I consulted with myself.” Nehemiah was angry, but he thought before he spoke. Self-control is an indispensable quality for effective leadership. When we jump to conclusions, when we lash out in anger, when we explode out of frustration, more harm is done than good. Taking the moment to collect our thoughts, to contemplate our actions, to consider our words (and the tone by which we say them), can make all the difference between peace and war, between conflict and resolution, and in some cases, between pursuing righteousness or furthering sin. Remember what James said, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger…” (JAS 1:21)

After thinking things through Nehemiah confronted the nobles, addressed their sin (v. 7-9), provided the steps they needed to take going forward (v. 10-13). That would have been enough, but the power behind every message spoken is the message lived. Nehemiah is appointed as the governor in the land (v. 14), and in this position of influence he provided the proper example for the people. Though others who were governors before him ate the food allowance provided for the governors, Nehemiah did not. He wouldn’t indulge himself while the people suffered. While others governors told the people to do the work, Nehemiah led by example and worked alongside the people. While other governors horded their goods for themselves, Nehemiah opened his door and invited the people to eat at his table all at his expense. Why? “Because of the fear of God” (v. 15). When honoring God and caring for others becomes our highest priority, we won’t put money, possessions, positions, or projects over another’s wellbeing. Leadership is about people. The nobles forgot that. But Nehemiah reminded them, both in word and in example. What makes a good leader? One who remains in control, who leads by example, who is motivated by the fear of God and love for those we lead. May God mold that kind of heart in our own lives! 

“Merciful King, we bow before You in prayer, recognizing You as the great leader. The excellent example set by Your servant Nehemiah is but a shadow pointing to the true leader, Jesus. We’re so thankful for the example He set, the righteous life He modeled, the self-control He possessed while on Earth, the priority He pursued of Your will and other’s needs. In our moments of anger, give us the strength to step away and consult with ourselves, and with You. In the moments we’re tempted to quickly lash out, help us to instead to slow our speech and our actions down. It is our desire to live lives that are worth imitating, lives that are striving to imitate Christ. We ask for greater mindfulness of our influence, and greater devotion to that perfect pattern of Your beloved Son. May our lives lead others to You.” 

The Danger of Half-Way

Friday, February 10, 2023

The enthusiasm with which we begin a project is often not the same with which we end. Nehemiah got the work started. The people were working on the wall with all their heart, and they got the wall up to “half its height” (4:6).  Halfway is a very critical and difficult place.  It’s easy to get people excited about doing good work, but when the sweat begins to roll off their face, and their muscles begin to hurt, and they see they’ve still got a long way to go, it’s hard to keep them excited.

“So, we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (4:6). Then the very next verse begins with a word of contrast, “But.”  Things are about to change. The enemy shows up and in verse 10 we learn that the builders become discouraged and say, “We cannot rebuild the wall.” They went from working with all their heart to being half-hearted about their work. What did Nehemiah do to help them overcome their discouragement?

He changed their focus. Nehemiah knew that the real problem was not that there was too much rubble. The real problem was not that they were worn out. The real problem was that they failed to remember the Lord, Who is “great and awesome,” and they got afraid.  So, he says to the people, “Get your eyes off the rubble, and get your eyes off our enemies, and get your eyes back on God” (4:14). 

He concentrated on their safety. He armed all the workers. He posted 24-hour guards.  He put extra people in the exposed places.  “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard.”  Remember in the face of ridicule, Nehemiah prayed, but now in the face of threat, Nehemiah prays and acts—he posts a guard!

Vision! – He Challenged Their Future.  He said in verse 14, “Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” In other words, he says, “We’re not just building a wall here, we are building a future.” Discouraged people need to see hope for the future. 

Unity! – He Consolidated Their Forces (see 4:19-23).  He said, “Do you know what the problem is?  We’re so spread out that we can’t be there for each other.”  So, he had a man stand beside him with a trumpet, and he said, “If I ever blow this trumpet, I want everyone to come to the sound and we’re going to stand beside the person in trouble.”  Then he said, “Some of you are staying outside the city at night, and that’s not going to happen anymore. I want everybody to move inside the city.” 

For us today, Nehemiah accomplished two things by consolidating his forces.

First, he increased their dependence on one other. If somebody was being attacked, everyone would run to their side to help. Nehemiah knew that fellowship with fellow believers is a great remedy for discouragement. What does this say to us?  We need to listen. When someone says, “I need help,” we run to help.  Sometimes it’s not so straight forward.  Someone’s in trouble and we need to see the signs and run to their side. We need to encourage them and fight with them.

Second, he insulated them from the enemy.  Some people were walking to their homes outside of Jerusalem every night . Along the way they could easily be ambushed by the enemy.  If they weren’t ambushed, the enemy would certainly try to tell them a bunch of lies that were meant to scare them.  Look at that word “near” in verse 12.  It was precisely because some Jews were living so close to the enemy, that the rumors began, and the discouragement set in. 

Usually, discouraged disciples have taken their eyes off the Lord, or they’ve forgotten their future, or they haven’t been around brothers and sisters in a while. To build for God, we need people pulling for each other. It will be hard to win the battle unless we care a lot about the person next to us.  


Thursday, February 09, 2023

With the city inspected and the people properly motivated, Nehemiah sets a plan to start the work. The chapter is fairly easily to follow – the work follows the seven gates of the city, starting with the sheep gate on the north side of the city and moving in a counterclockwise direction until eventually returning to it. Described through this chapter is Nehemiah’s detailed plan on how the people were to pursue this work. What’s clear about Nehemiah’s plan is that he didn’t underestimate the task, he didn’t put off getting the work started, nor did he try to get too much done at once. 

One of the brilliance of Nehemiah’s plan is that he got everyone involved. We find mentioned several groupings of people – priests, men of Jericho, union men, city officials, women, bachelors, temple servants, city guards, merchants – and that doesn’t include the vast number of individuals who would offer their talents and strengths to this massive project. 

Nehemiah had the mammoth project of rebuilding the walls organized. If everyone built where they were assigned, there would be no gaps in the wall. They all worked close to one another. There was also a sense of convenience and motivation to where each built. There’s a phrase found all through this chapter, “in front of their house.” Not only would this be convenient, no time would be lost commuting to a different work site, but building the protective wall in front of where one lived would ensure they built it well. 

What do we learn about leadership from this week’s reading? Leaders get everyone involved. The old way of thinking is, “If you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself.” The Biblical way of thinking is that we are better when we work together (ECC 4:9). Within every person is a talent God has given, a strength that can be used, an ability that can be utilized and developed, the potential for greatness. Paul taught that the body of Christ grows which each member does their part (EPH 4:11-16). In every home, in every office, in every congregation, the leaders seek to utilize every single person. Everyone has a job. Everyone has a role. Everyone has something to contribute. Everyone is important. Everyone has potential to grow and learn. Everyone can make a difference. The walls wouldn’t have been completed were it not for the work of every single person. Leaders aren’t focused on the best and brightest – they’re focused on their people. Every one. 

Nehemiah 3 is a recognition of the workers who helped to restore the walls of Jerusalem. It’s neat reading through the chapter and thinking about each name, each person, each section of the wall. Did they do something special on those bricks as a reminder of their work – leaving their initials or their fingerprints? Did they take personal pride in knowing the walls in front of their house would keep their family safe for generations? There’s one important detail in this chapter – it’s what is missing. Did you notice the name missing from this chapter? Nehemiah’s name is not found among the workers on the wall. That’s not because he didn’t work, in fact he did just as much as the rest of the people, if not more so. The reason his name is not found in this chapter is because leaders don’t lead for recognition and praise. Nehemiah gave credit to others, put the focus on the people, and ultimately on God (NEH 6:16). Remember, leadership isn’t about products and projects, nor is it about recognition and praise – leadership is about people. “With the people God has entrusted under my influence, how can I bring them to a better place” or from today’s reading, “how can I help every person get involved?” 

“Righteous God and Father, thank You this day for the wisdom recorded in this section of Your words. What a blessing You’ve given through the combined efforts of every person. You have given us families, brethren, communities and groups that enjoy great success collectively and individually when we all work towards the common goal. When pride would creep into my heart against another, help me to see the value of others, and to keep Your purpose as my own, to help each person under my influence come to know You, and grow to become more and more like You. Just as You gave Jesus for every single person, help me to pursue what is best for every single person in my sphere of influence, for Your name’s sake.” 

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