1 It's Time To Build
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:... a time to build up;" Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 3
With each new devotional series I pray that God will lead me in the right direction for thoughts from His Word. As I left for work one beautiful spring morning I noticed that the carpenters were up early, building on the new houses in my neighborhood. I saw robins and remembered that I was taught as a little girl that their return was always a sign of spring and knew that they, too, would be building nests. Most of all, my Bible reading led me to the book of Ezra and then Nehemiah, and I thought of the children of Israel returning to the ruined city of Jerusalem. They cried at the sight of all the rubbish from the destruction of the enemies, but they decided it was time to build. They built the altar (Ezra 3:2), they built the house of the Lord (Ezra 3:8) and they built the wall (Nehemiah 2:17). God began showing me things that we build as individuals in our lives, such as relationships, bank accounts, and body building. We can spend our time building things that last, on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, or we can build our castles in the sand only to see them washed away with time. Let's look into God's Holy Word and realize that it is "a time to build".
2 Rise Up And Build
"Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work." Nehemiah 2:17 & 18
Nehemiah was a Jew who had been carried away captive and he worked in the palace as the king's cupbearer. Over forty two thousand people had returned to Jerusalem to build the house of the Lord (Ezra 2:64 & 65) and Nehemiah asked one of his brethren about the work. "That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 1:2-4) King Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah's request to return to Jerusalem to build the walls and he encouraged the people to build "And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work." As we begin looking at things in our lives that we need to be building, let me encourage you to "rise up and build". Let us find wisdom and strength from God's Holy Word "for this good work".
3 Build An Altar
"Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt-offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God." Ezra 3:2
I wanted to talk about building the walls in Nehemiah, but we need to back up to Ezra and take things in the proper ofder. Before they built the walls, and before we can build for the Lord's work, we need to begin by building an altar. Our altar is our symbol and place of worship. Jesus became our Sacrifice, so we don't offer burnt sacrifices on our altar, but we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. We don't have to bow down at a church altar to be saved, but we do have to bow our hearts to God in repentance, and accept God's way as the only way of salvation. We don't build a huge mountain of stone to be our altar, but we must build on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 3:11) Our altar is our thanksgiving unto God. "And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour;..." (Genesis 8:20 & 21) Our altar is our obedience to follow God's leading and direction for our lives. "Now the LORD had said unto Abram. Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:... And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land; and there bulded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel o the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD." (Genesis 12:1, 7 & 8) Our altar is also our giving to the Lord. "And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, if God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on. So that I come again to my father's house in peace; than shall the LORD be my God; And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Genesis 28:19-22) Our altar is our dwelling place with God. "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother." Maybe God is calling you to go back to your altar, just as He called Jacob, and just as the remnant of Jews went back to Jerusalem to build the altar. How long has it been since you worshipped the Lord?
4 The God Of All Comfort
"Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” II Corinthians 1:2-4
Our hearts are saddened by the senseless shootings at Virginia Tech that killed 30 people. We ask many questions, but have no answers. I am not able to help those in need, or in the position to comfort those in distress, but I serve a God who can. He is "the God of all comfort." No one else can bring peace to troubled souls in times like these. Pray for those who have been affected by these atrocious acts. Pray that as they reach out they will find "grace to help in time of need." "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16) If you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour and Comforter, let me tell you that He loves you and that He came to a sinful world to give His life on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. Open your heart and let Him give you comfort for your troubled soul. Confess your sins to Him and ask Him to forgive you and give you everlasting life. As Jesus tried to prepare the disciples for his death, He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." (John 14:15-18) Turn your life over to Jesus Christ and let Him give you comfort in these troubled times.
5 Preparing To Rebuild The Temple
"They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD." Ezra 3:7 & 8
We saw that the remnant of the people built the altar and worshipped God with their sacrifices. Now we see that they are preparing to rebuild the temple. Ezra 2:68 & 69 tells us, "And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place: They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments." The people have returned to Jerusalem after spending many years in captivity. They are returning to the ruinous heaps of the city to begin their lives again. The small possessions they had, were offered willingly to build the house of God. They gave their gold, their silver, and their money. Those who had the ability, made the garments for the priests. They gave. Many today want to sit in beautiful church buildings with the most comfortable pews and the brightest fixtures, and that is good, but how many are giving to the Lord's house to help support His work? We need to give our tithes and offerings to God. We need to give our time and energy to the best of our ability to serve God through His church. Secondly, notice that the Levites were appinted to "set forward the work of the house of the Lord." We need to follow the leading of the Lord, our Good Shepherd, and also our pastors, our undershepherds. We need to pray for our deacons and elders who are there to support the pastor and help with the work. Are you helping to build your church? Do you support it with your tithes and offerings? Are you working under the guidance of the church leaders? We need to follow these examples if we want to see our churches grow.
6 Remembering The Ancient
"And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel, And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off." Ezra 3:10-13
While the people shouted with a great shout when the foundation of the temple was laid, the older people wept. They remembered the temple, as it had been. A friend once told me that she couldn't understand why the older people of her church complained when they decided to start having contemporary services. I told her of a verse, Proverbs 22:28, which says, "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." The old-fashioned ways of worship are like ancient landmarks to some and they don't want those ways removed. I like the old-fashioned worship services and the old hymns. I wanted my children to grow up in an old-fashioned, Bible believing church. That is not to say that I am close-minded to all new ideas. I also believe that there are many different churches, to meet the needs of many different types of people. I think these Jews missed their old ways of worship, and they wept as their memories carried them back those many years. Do you remember how they wept as they were being carried away to Babylon? "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:1-3) Now they have returned to Jerusalem. Now they have once again, laid the foundation of the temple. Once again, they wept. I believe that their tears were not only of reminiscing and regret, but also of joy for the mercy of the Lord who brought them back to Jerusalem.
7 The Opposing Forces Of The Foes
"Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem." Ezra 4:1-6
When you start building a work for the Lord, you can be sure that Satan will rise against you. If he can't get you from without, he will try to get you from within. This was the first tactic of the enemies to the children of Israel. They tried to join forces with them under the guise of helping them. The leaders of the Israelites were wise to their ploy and refused to let them help build the temple. It is sad to say, but there are some in our churches today who hinder the work of the Lord. They join in the church services, but instead of building up the church, they are tearing it down. They weaken the true members who are working for the Lord with their words and deeds. Paul warned Timothy of some of these evil devices saying, "And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not." (I Timothy 5:13) Some people trouble those that are working by continually giving counsel against them. There are a few people in this world who are never satisfied with anything that is done. They don't want to do the work themselves, but they find something to complain about with each new project. In some cases the work is hindered by force. "Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." (Ezra 4:23 & 24) The enemy will stop at nothing to frustrate and hinder the building of God's house. We all need to work together in our churches and strengthen the work of the Lord.
8 God Works Behind The Scenes
"Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found in Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;... Now therefore, Tatnai governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered." Ezra 6:1-8
As I read these verses in the book of Ezra I was reminded of another Bible story about King Darius. Look at Daniel 6:1-3, "It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." The other leaders in the kingdom were jealous against Daniel and tricked the king into signing a decree that no one could ask a petition of any one other than the king. "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10) Because the law could not be changed, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions. The king could not sleep that night and went early to the lions' den and said, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me:... Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God... Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end." (Daniel 6:20-26) I added these verses to remind you of this familiar story in Daniel. I don't know how the time lines between these two Bible stories work together, but I do see that the remnant of the Jews who went back to build the temple were facing all sorts of opposition to the point that they were forced to stop their work and sent a letter to King Darius. The king knew the God of Jerusalem because of the living testimony of Daniel. He stopped the opposition and sent help from the king's goods. Daniel's witness had an affect on all those around him. It even had an affect on the king. We need to live a holy life so that we will have a positive affect on those who touch our lives. I think we can learn from this story that we don't know how far our testimony can reach in helping others.
9 The House Of God Was Finished
"And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy." Ezra 6:15 & 16
We are nearing the end of the book of Ezra. Some of the captives of the children of Israel have returned to Jerusalem and built the altar and have overcome much adversity and finally finished building the temple of God. The dedication was with joy and offerings to the Lord God. The people had a temple, now they needed a priest, and we meet Ezra. "Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkian,... This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him... For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up form Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." (Ezra 7:parts of verses 1-10) The rest of chapter 7 tells of the decree of King Artaxerxes that allowed all who wished to return, of the people of Israel, to return, and also of the freewill offerings that were given of silver and gold, food and oil. It ends with Ezra's prayer of thanksgiving. "Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a things as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem: And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me." (Ezra 7:27 & 28) How long has it been since you thanked God for your place of worship or offered your time and offerings to beautify your church? Today would be a good day to start!
10 A Separated People
“Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites... And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens... Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore." Ezra 9:1, 5-6, & 10:1
The people built the temple and sacrificed their offerings to God. Ezra prepared to teach the people the laws of God, and he was told that the people had not kept themselves a separated people before God. I think we can see a very good lesson in these verses for our churches today. As Christians, we are to be a separated people. I know that these verses in Ezra were written of the Jews, but Paul also tried to teach this to the Corinthian church. "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (II Corinthians 6:14-18) God has commanded us to be separate. We are to love people and be witnesses, but we are not to live just like the world. Some churches today try to make the world feel comfortable. A dear family member told me she was going to a new church and she liked it because the preacher didn't make her feel guilty. I am afraid that when churches adapt the "come as you are" motto, the people also "leave as they are." Our churches should be a holy place of worship, and we should be a holy people. These children of Israel saw their sin, and wept and confessed before God. If we want our churches to grow in the Lord, then we need to live holy lives, confess our sins, and be separated from the world, so that the world will see Christ living in us.
11 A Burden To Build
"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,” Nehemiah 1:1-4
Nehemiah had a burden. He had a burden for the Jews and also for the holy city of Jerusalem. We need to get a burden. First of all, we need a burden for the lost men and women, and boys and girls who we come in contact with everyday. We see them everywhere; at school, at work, in the grocery store, in the yard next door. We need a burden for them because we may be the only person they come in contact with, that will witness to them. A visiting preacher at our church challenged all the people to hand out two tracts between Sunday and the Wednesday evening service, and then get two more to hand out before the next Sunday. You can put tracts in your check book so that you will remember to hand one to the cashier as you write checks, or put them in the envelopes with your monthly bills. You can put them on the console of your car and hand one to the person who takes your money as you drive-thru for lunch. You can leave them on the table when you eat out. There are so many people we come in contact with who may not know the Lord. Pray that God will give you a burden for the lost and tell them that God loves them. Nehemiah also had a burden for the city of Jerusalem. His brother told him the wall was broken down and the gates were burned with fire. This brought Nehemiah to tears. When we hear of the walls of faith being broken around us, it should bring us to tears and prayer. This country was founded on Biblical principals and now a few people are trying to take "In God We Trust" away. They are trying to stop people from praying in the name of "Jesus" so that they don't offend anyone. But, let me tell you, there is no other name that will hear and answer your prayers. Jesus is a holy, living God, who sees all and knows all and He cares for you. We need to pray for our country. Many things are going on in our nation that brings a reproach to any people. We need to have a burden for our country and pray, calling on the true and living God who said, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (II Chronicles 7:14) Nehemiah had a burden to return to Jerusalem and re-build the walls. We need to get a burden for our country and help re-build the foundation and walls on which America was founded.
12 Sharing Your Burden
"O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer. And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him.) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time." Nehemiah 1:11 & 2:1-6
I had planned to skip over these few verses, but there are a some things that God showed me, so I backed up and typed over the verses I had put down for today. First of all we see that Nehemiah's burden sent him to his knees. He prayed and asked God to prosper his work and grant him mercy before the king. He was a trusted servant. As the cupbearer, he tasted from the king's cup to make sure it was safe for the king to drink. He had a pleasant personality. Notice that he "had not been beforetime sad in his presence." He didn't complain about his job. He had service with a smile. The burden he had not only brought him to his knees, but it brought him sadness. I think one of the reasons we don't have a burden for others is because we don't want to be saddened. If we take time to care about others it breaks our heart. Watching the reports of the Virginia Tech shootings last week broke my heart. I was burdened for those whose lives were touched by this senseless act. Burdens make us lose sleep and may make us lose our appetites. Nehemiah's burden changed his countenance. Nehemiah was afraid of the king's reaction, but he spoke up, and shared his burden with the king. We are often afraid to witness to others because we are afraid of their reaction. When we get a real burden for lost souls, it will give us the courage to be a witness for our Lord. We will pray more and God will lead us with the right words to say.
13 Evaluating The Need
"So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work." Nehemiah 2:11-16
There are two points that I think we can learn from these few verses. The first thing we see is that Nehemiah circled the city to evaluate the need. Before he made plans on how to rebuild the wall, he wanted to see the whole picture. He went out the gate and rode around the city making mental notes of all the repairs that needed to be done. Once we get a burden to build a work for the Lord, we should evaluate the need and not just "jump in" without a plan. The next thing I notice about Nehemiah is that he is not like many leaders of today. When political leaders run for office they will often make huge promises of all they will do once elected. Many times ball players or stars will donote money and brag about how they have helped a charity. People often do good deeds for the publicity and popularity it brings them. Nehemiah did not burst on the scene bragging about what he planned to do. He did not build himself up to the rulers or nobles. He did not even tell the priests what God had laid on his heart to do. He had a purpose, and he waited until he had a plan before he shared this work with the people.
14 Encouragement From A Leader
"Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work." Nehemiah 2:17 & 18
A reference in my Scofield Bible states that the book of Nehemiah takes place 14 years after Ezra returned to Jerusalem. The people built the altar, they built the temple, then they stopped building. They had opposition in building the temple, so maybe they thought the opposing forces would be too strong against them. It is hard to fight a continual battle to do what's right. When the things we do are challenged, it gets harder to keep standing up for good. Maybe they had gotten used to how things looked and they were able to overlook the ruins. Our hearts gradually become hardened to sin and we lose sight of God's perfect will for us. It could be that they got tired of working and just decided to sit back and take it easy. This reminds me of the verse, Zephaniah 1:12, "And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees..." When we are first saved we have a zeal to work for the Lord, but after a while we lose that "first love" and sit back and take it easy. The work of God must go on. There is no time to quit. It is sad to say, but maybe they just didn't care anymore. They may have lost their hope. Don't give up on the Lord's work. Notice how Nehemiah encourages the people. "Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me..." He bragged on the goodness of God. "...as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me." He assured them that the king was also on their side. They needed a leader, who was zealous for the things of God, to lift their spirits and pull them all together to build the wall. "And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work." I can see them filled with excitement as they burst out, "Let us rise up and build." We need to encourage one another to keep on keeping on. If you are still breathing, the Lord isn't finished with you yet. Don't get discouraged when the way gets tough, just keep building on to the work of the Lord.
15 The Ridicule Of The Enemies
"When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel." Nehemiah 2:10
We begin our verses today with Sanballat and Tobiah. When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to repair the walls these two men got mad. We see them mentioned again in verses 19 & 20. "But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem." Notice in these verses that now these two have become a trio with the addition of Geshem. They tried laughing at them in an attempt to discourage the children of Israel. When we try to build a work for the Lord, the world will often laugh at us. When we witness for Him, there will be those who laugh at us, but don't let that discourage you because in Matthew 9:24 we read how the people laughed at Jesus. "He said unto them, Give place; for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn." Back to Nehemiah, when they saw that their mockery did not stop the Jews, they despised them. In chapter 3 the work began and we see these men again in chapter 4. "But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall." (Nehemiah 4:1-3) Their mockery continues and now they have an audience of their brethren and the Samarian army. Nehemiah prayed and the people kept on working. "Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." (Nehemiah 4:4-6) When we get "a mind to work" we won't let a little ridicule stop us. Let us continue, "But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." (Nehemiah 4:7-9) The list of enemies grew, but still the work continued. Don't let the ridicule of others stop you from doing the Lord's work. Keep on working, and keep on praying, and let God do a work in you.
16 The People Worked Together
"Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri. But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof. And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." Nehemiah 3:1-5
Chapter three of Nehemiah contains 32 verses which tell of the many families and people who worked on the wall. The first verse tells how Eliashib and his brethren built the sheep gate. Each verse covers the next part of the wall, all the way around the city and back to the sheep gate. The chapter ends, "After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner. And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants." (Nehemiah 3:31 & 32) Nehemiah had encouraged the people. "Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work." (Nehemiah 2:17 & 18) In the summer many churches join together to have Old Fashioned Camp Meetings. Our churches need to work together for this good work of the Lord. This chapter in Nehemiah tells of all these people working together, but did you notice the last part of verse 5? "...but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." These men did not help in the Lord's work and it was recorded here in the Word of God. I don't want my name to be on record as one who refused to work for the Lord. What about you? Are you doing the Lord's work?
17 More Opposition But The Work Goes On
“And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease... And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me." Nehemiah 4:10-11 & 16-18
We talked last week about how the enemies laughed at the people building the wall. Tobiah said, "Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall." (Nehemiah 4:3) When they saw that their laughter had not stopped the work, they resorted to force. They planned to kill the people as they worked on the wall, so all the workers kept their weapons by their side. They also had the trumpeter ready to sound an alarm if the enemy attacked. Many of us may face ridicule from unbelievers when we take a stand for the Lord. A few have also faced danger for their stand for Christ. I think the message for us today is that we will have opposition from the world when we do the Lord's work. These verses also show us that we don't need to quit. We need to help protect each other and keep a watchful eye for the enemies. Don't give up. Just keep trusting the Lord and keep on working for Him.
18 Trouble Within The Walls
"And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards. And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.” Nehemiah 5:1-6
The Jews had been carried away into captivity to be servants to the Babylonians. A remnant had returned to Jerusalem to build the altar, the temple, and now the walls about the city. They had overcome many obstacles and were making progress on the wall. They were spending all their time building on the wall, and had spent all the money they had on food. Many had mortgaged their homes to be able to get enough corn to eat. They left a land of bondage, and had become servants to their own brethren just to be able to eat. Nehemiah became angry when he learned that the rulers and rich Jews were taking advantage of the people. "Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them. And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen: and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer... Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them;..." (Nehemiah 5:7-8 & 11-12) I like the way Nehemiah said, "Then I consulted with myself..." I always think about this verse when I catch myself talking to myself. It must be ok, because that is what Nehemiah did. I can see him walking around in small circles as he muttered their words over in his mind and tried to decide what to do. The rulers were taking all that these poor Jews had just to give them corn, and they were charging interest. I am a firm believer that God wants us to give to those in need. I don't "do yard sales" because I feel that if God gives me more than I need, I should give it to someone who can use it. It blesses me to be able to pass things along to someone else who can make good use of items that I no longer need. We just started a new Mission Project with our youth at church to send money to Nigeria to help feed, clothe, and school the children there. We have been blessed and God has provided all our needs and many of our wants. We need to pass His blessings along to those who are less fortunate. I think that if you will pray about it and "consult with yourself" God will show you how you can help others in need.
19 Prayer For Strength
"Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner... For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." Nehemiah 6:1-4 & 9
I am sure that Nehemiah and the Jews who worked on the wall were getting discouraged by Sanballat and Tobiah by this time. The more that they progressed on the wall, the more of a challenge they faced from the opposition. Notice the prayer of Nehemiah, "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." When you don't think you can go on any farther, remember this simple prayer. When I was younger, I used to like to push mow the yard. I enjoy being outside, and it gave me some exercise. As I get older, I can't mow as long as I could before, so I mow off sections and it takes me longer to do the yard. Last weekend I mowed off a section that was bigger than usual and I realized that I was going to have a hard time finishing that part. When it seemed like my energy was about gone, I prayed that God would give me strength to go a few more rounds. After about ten minutes, I thanked God for helping me, and prayed that He would give me strength to go another ten minutes. With His help, I was able to finish the part I had begun. As I thought about that I realized that I should pray often for God to "strengthen my hands." David said, "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?... Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." (Psalm 27:1 & 14) Have your adversaries tried to beat you down? Has your strength failed? Trust in the Lord and pray the simple prayer of Nehemiah, "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands."
20 The Wall Was Finished
"So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God." Nehemiah 6:15-16
The people overcame all their adversity and finished the wall. They listened as their enemies laughed at them. They worked with weapons in their hands. They faced the challenges and overcame their opposition as they prayed to God for strength. Each small group worked on joining sections of the wall, and with their combined effort and unity they were able to complete the wall in fifty two days. We are leaving the book of Nehemiah as we move on to other areas of "building" in our lives, but you might enjoy reading this little book during your own devotional time. Chapter 8 tells how the people stood in the street to hear Ezra read from the book of the law of Moses. They made booths of tree branches and kept their feast days as God had commanded. Chapter 13 tells how Eliashib the priest made a room for Tobiah to live in the courts of the house of God and Nehemiah threw him out and cleansed the chambers. A few last words from the last chapter... "Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof." (Nehemiah 13:14) "And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy." (Nehemiah 13:22) And the last few words of the book, "...Remember me, O my God, for good." (verse 31) We are often concerned about how people remember us. We try to make a good impression on others. We should be more concerned with how God will remember us. Are you building on the Lord's work? Don't quit before the job is finished. Do your finest work for God, because He will remember.
21 The Foundation Of The Earth
"And, Thou, Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands." Hebrews 1:10
When you start a building project, you need to begin with a good foundation. This verse assures us that the Lord laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning. You probably know the very first verse in the Bible, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) There are many people in the world today who don't believe that God spoke the heaven and earth into existance. The theory of evolution is taught to our children in school. I am glad that God gave me enough faith and common sense to believe Genesis 1:1. If I did not believe that God created the heaven and earth, why would I believe any other part of scripture. And on the other hand, since I do believe in the Lord's creation, I have no problem believing the entire Holy Bible that has been preserved for us down through the ages. The prophet Jeremiah said it well: "Ah, Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name," (Jeremiah 32:17-18) My beliefs are built on the Word of God, from Genesis 1:1 all the way to Revelation 22:21, from the beginning to the end. As we put our emphasis on building, let's begin with the beginning. Put your faith in the God of creation, and let your foundation be based on the true words of the first foundation.
22 Building Onto The Right Foundation
"So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." I Corinthians 3:7-15
I am sure that architects and builders like to look at their finished products and see if the reality of the buildings resemble their dreams. As they travel past their structures, I imagine that they have a sense of accomplishment. I often notice the details of old houses. They can be barely standing, and I think of how they must have been beautiful when they were built. It is sad to see these large, stately houses, falling to ruin, and I wonder of the children that must have played on the stairs, and the stories that were shared on the wide front porches. They may have been marvellous houses in the past, but time has a way of eating away the beauty. Our scripture in I Corinthians describes us as builders. We are building on the solid foundation, Jesus Christ. Let us look at the building materials we may be using.
Gold -- "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" (I Peter 1:7) Does your faith stand strong in the trials of life?
Silver -- "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation. And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels." (Leviticus 27:1-4) The children of Israel had to offer silver to the Lord when they made vows. It cost them something to serve the Lord. Are you giving to the Lord?
Precious Stones -- "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (Malachi 3:16-17) God's children are jewels. Are you doing all you can to lead others to Christ?
Wood -- "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire: so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." (Proverbs 26:20-22) Wood in these verses is compared to strife and to talebearing. James 3:6 also tells us, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." Do your words stir up strife and harm others?
Hay -- "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:" (I Peter 1:24) Works that we do through the flesh will fade away. It may appear to others that we are working for the Lord, but if we are working in the flesh, or for self-gain these works will be burnt up. Are you working for the Lord?
Stubble -- "They are as stubble before the wind and as chaff that the storm carrieth away." (Job 21:18) Stubble is what is left in the field after the grain has been cut. It has no substance or resistance and is tossed about with the wind. Paul told the church at Ephesus, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine..." (Ephesians 4:14) Are you steadfast in the Word of God? Be a part of a Bible believing church and read the Bible to be grounded in truth.
Gold, Silver, and Precious Stones shall all come through the fiery trials. Wood, Hay, and Stubble shall all be burnt up. Keep on building onto the right foundation, with your gold, silver, and precious stones.
23 Building A Church
"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:42-47
How do we build a church? I don't mean the wood, brick and stone. We have a nice church building. We have a faithful congregation that is the core to our church. But, how do we build our church, or how do we make it grow? I think the Lord has to build the church. Verse 47 ends, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." I want to see souls added to our church. What did these people do that we aren't doing today? First of all, they "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." They listened to the gospel preaching. They had fellowship with one another and they prayed. We seem to have those things in our church. We have a wonderful preacher who continually seeks the will of God and preaches from God's Word with compassion. We meet and pray for lost souls, for the sick, for those who are in nursing homes, and for our leaders and military. We also see that they "had all things common". The people had unity. We need to have unity in our churches if we want to see them grow. We need to pray that God will give us love for one another. The early church sold things they had to give to those who had need. Our church can help provide for the poor people who have need. We send money to support missionaries in our homeland, and in foreign fields. And again we see that they continued "with one accord" in the temple. They had unity. To see what might be a hindrance to our churches today, let's look at some of the problems the church of Laodicea had. "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:14-20) These words paint a clear picture of most of our churches today. We are neither cold nor hot. We continue day after day, year after year, content with the spiritual level of our churches. We go to church on Sundays, so that we don't get "cold", but we don't grow in our desire to see lost people come and be saved. How sad that many of our people and churches feel in their hearts, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing..." We don't come right out and say it, but we act like we have come to the point that we don't even need God. How can we build our church? The Lord said we need to repent. We need to listen to His voice and open the door and invite the Lord to come back to our churches and our daily lives. I want my church to grow. I want the Lord to come to church with me. I want to worship my Lord and Savior and serve the living God. I pray that God will add to our church, "such as should be saved."
24 Building A House
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Psalm 127:1
We talked about how we need the Lord to build our church. In this verse we see that we also need the Lord to build our house. And just as we saw that we need unity in our church, we need unity in our homes. Jesus told the disciples, "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mark 3:25) When I was a little girl I liked to sing the song of Zacchaeus. "And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And then they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:1-10) What a difference it made in the life of Zacchaeus when the Lord went to his house. It will make a difference in our lives when we ask the Lord to abide at our house. Do we make the Lord feel welcome in our homes? If we want the Lord to abide with us we need to make room for Him and repent of the sins that crowd Him out of our lives.
25 Body Building
"If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” I Timothy 4:6-8
There is a big emphasis on exercise and body building today. There are many gyms and places to work-out. The models and television stars are all really thin and you can find about any type of diet to fit your way of eating and schedule. Still, the news media says that much of America is overweight. It is hard to imagine people back in Bible days being concerned with body building, but Paul admitted to Timothy that "bodily exercise profiteth little". Exercise does help our body stay fit. He also states that "godliness if profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." When we exercise ourselves unto godliness, it not only helps us in this life, but in the life to come, eternity. Another reason we should be more concerned with our spiritual body, over our physical body is found in I Corinthians 6:19-20. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." So, keep on your walking program, to help your physical body, but also keep walking with the Lord, for your spiritual well-being.
26 Building Up One Another
"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves." I Thessalonians 5:11-13
We see two expressions of building up one another in these few verses. The first phrase, "comfort yourselves together, and edify one another" seems to tell me that we are to build up our Christian friends and family. We can help our troubled friends through trials and hard times, and lift their spirits with comforting words and deeds. The next example points to those who have Christian authority over us as it tells us to "esteem them very highly". Do you know the workers in your church? When was the last time you complemented your church musicians? How often do you tell your pastor or Sunday School teacher how much their preaching and teaching helps you? Do you really appreciate that little elderly lady who shakes your hand and says, "I'm praying for you"? Don't give out artificial complements that have no meaning, but work on building up one another. Christ loved us and gave Himself for us while we were yet sinners, and surely we can let His love overflow our hearts and spill over into the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters. A few kind words go a long way in lifting up a troubled soul.
27 Building A Reputation
"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold." Proverbs 22:1
Today we are talking about building a reputation. I have often heard people say, "Well, I don't care what they think..." The truth is, we should all be concerned with the influence we have on those we come in contact with day by day. As our friends, peers, and co-workers see our reaction to things that happen in our lives they will form their opinions by our actions more than by our words. We can tell people that we are saved, but can they really see a difference in our lives? Do I have a reputation of integrity and honesty? Can those around me see Christ shining through my life? Don't kid yourself into saying, "It doesn't matter what people think about me." When we are saved, we become children of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved by faith, not by works. But, as James said, "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." (James 2:18) I want my life to be such a witness for Christ, that those around me will know that I know God. I will never have a reputation for being wealthy, or having great beauty, but I pray that when others hear my name spoken, they will think of me as a Christian who lived a separated life.
28 Noah Built The Ark
"And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it." Genesis 6:13-16
We all know the story of Noah and the ark, but have you ever stopped to think about what Noah must have thought. God begins speaking to him one day, and God says, "Noah,... make thee an ark of gopher wood..." I don't know where Noah lived, but he must have wondered why God wanted him to build such a huge boat. My Bible reference states that one cubit is equal to 18 inches. That means that 2 cubits is one yard, and if the ark was 300 cubits, that would be 150 yards. It reached a height of 30 cubits, which would be 15 yards tall, with three stories. That was a really big boat. I'm sure Noah was listening intently as God explained that He was going to send a flood and destroy all flesh, so Noah and his family would have to carry two, or seven, of every animal on the ark with them. They would also have to take enough food for them and the animals. I like verse 22, "Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he." I don't think Noah really understood the full realm of everything that was about to take place, but he obeyed God and built the ark. There may be times in our lives when we don't really understand why God has asked us to do certain things, but we need to follow God and do what He says. "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
29 A Home Built In Heaven
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." John 14:1-4
There are many beautiful mansions here on earth, but I don't think they even begin to compare with the mansions in heaven. In the book of Revelation, John tells us a little about the city. "And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Revelation 21:18-21) Many people on earth almost worship gold, but in heaven we will walk on gold. All our worship will be to the Lord God Almighty, the Lamb that was slain. Jesus gave His life so that we could be forgiven from our sin and have an eternal life in heaven. He has gone to prepare a place for us. Isn't that a wonderful thought! No wonder, He said, "Let not your heart be troubled..." If we would consider what our Lord has done for us, we would see that the things that trouble us here in this life, are really small. Do you know the way to heaven? "Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:5-6) There is no other way to heaven than through the blood of Jesus Christ. Many people think that if their good works outweigh their bad works they will go to heaven when they die. The problem with this theory is that they are trying to get to heaven by their own works. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) How can a person be saved? It is as simple as A, B, C. Admit that you are a sinner, Believe in your heart, and Confess with your mouth. First Admit that you are a sinner. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23) Then, Believe and Confess. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 10:9-11) As Jesus told Nicodemus, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again... For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:7 & 16-18) There is only one way to heaven. If you don't trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, you are condemned to an eternity in hell. Please search your heart and make sure you are on your way to the city of gold.
30 A Wise Woman Builds Her House
"Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands." Proverbs 14:1
I want to wish a happy Mother's Day to all mothers. Motherhood is one of those things that you never fully understand until you experience it. I still remember the anxious preparation and waiting for nine months and those first moments after my son was born 26 years ago. I listened for his first cry, and then I cried for joy as I counted his fingers and toes. My life changed in an instant, as I felt the awesome responsibility God had placed in my hands. Every day I prayed for wisdom to be able to bring up my children in the center of God's will. I prayed for the wisdom to teach them how to live for the Lord. As they grew older and began to let go of my hands, I had to leave them in God's hands. I prayed for God's protection as I trusted Him to watch over them when they started school. I prayed for God to guide them as they went away to college. I prayed for God to lead them and keep them as they got married and started their own homes. It has been difficult to let them go, but my prayers go with them. I still pray for wisdom, but now I pray that God will give them wisdom, so that they can build their own homes in the center of God's will.
31 Building On The Sand
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:21-27
Earlier we talked about building on the right foundation. In our verses above we see the comparison Jesus used in teaching the people. He said that those who hear His Word and do it are wise and building on the rock. Those who hear the Word, but don't follow Him are like those who build on the sand and when the rains and storms come they have no foundation and their house falls. Notice the first verses in our reference above. Jesus warned that there are many that do "many wonderful works" in His name, but He will say, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." We can't live a Christian life and build onto the Lord's work unless we know the Lord as our personal Lord and Savior. We must build on the "rock". I Corinthians 10:4 tells us of the children of Israel, "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." Jesus Christ is the Rock, the firm foundation that we must build upon. Any works we do aside from Him are like building castles in the sand, that will be washed away.
32 When God Says "No"
"Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains. Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee. And it came to pass that same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in;” I Chronicles 17:1-4
Sometimes we want to build... but God says, "No". There are times when we want to build a good work for the Lord, but He says, "No". David wanted to build a temple at Jerusalem, but God said, "No". He had a beautiful plan. He told the prophet, and Nathan said, "Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee." But, God spoke to Nathan that very night and said, "No". Do you know how King David reacted when Nathan told him God would not let him build a temple? Did he get angry against Nathan and against God? Did he pout? Did he build the temple anyway? No, he humbled himself before God. "And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?" (I Chronicles 17:16) Then, David prepared the building materials so that Solomon, his son, could build the temple. You may want to work with the youth at your church, but God told you, "No" and let someone else lead them. What should you do? Be a help to them in any way you can. Like David, you could help support them with supplies. Donate some refreshments for their next meeting. You may want to teach Sunday School, but there are no classes available. Be faithful to a Sunday School class and support the teachers. Maybe you want to sing, but you aren't asked to sing specials. See if you can help the choir. Sometimes we have big ideas, but our plans don't fit into God's timing or purpose. We need to humble ourselves to God and work with those who have been chosen to do the building.
33 You Can't Build A Tower To Heaven
"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth:..." Genesis 11:1-9
Here is another example of God saying, "No" to man's building. After the flood God told Noah and his sons to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." (Genesis 9:1) When the people came to this plain of Shinar, they decided to stay there and build a large "city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven." We can't climb up to heaven by our works. The only way to heaven is through Jesus, the Son of God. They also said, "...let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." They wanted to build a city large enough to make a name for themselves and also to stay together. God wanted them to go out and replenish the earth, and they wanted to stay together in one city. When we don't follow God's plan in the building of our lives, our building plans will most definitely be confounded, just as the language of this people was confounded.
34 Count The Cost
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish." Luke 14:28-30
Jesus gives a practical lesson here. Before we build, we should count the cost. I work with mortgage loans and many times people take out construction loans, and they have to come back and borrow more money to finish their house. Maybe they made upgrades which added to the initial cost, or the price of supplies went up, or they just miscalculated in the beginning. Before we begin to build any work for the Lord we need to count the cost and be prepared to work till the job is finished. I think the lesson goes deeper than just building. Look at the verse prior to this one. "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." I think the Lord was trying to tell the disciples that there is a cost involved in following Jesus. We also read in Matthew 16:24-26, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoseover will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" If you want to follow the Lord and build for His glory, then you will have to put Him first in your life and let Him live through you. Salvation is free to all who believe, and once we are saved, we need to give ourselves back to the Lord to be His servants.
35 Building Bigger Barns
"And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Luke 12:16-21
This rich man had "I" trouble. Look at how many times he said, "I". "What shall I do, because I have no room... This will I do: I will pull down my barns,... there will I bestow all my fruits... And I will say..." Many people today have this same problem. They spend all their time and energy laying up treasures for themselves here on earth. In the book of Matthew, Jesus also said to lay up treasures in heaven, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21) What can we do to lay up treasures in heaven? I think one way is to give of our excess, to those who have need. John the Baptist preached, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." (Luke 3:11) Don't tear down your barns and build bigger barns to keep all your goods. We may not have barns, but how much stuff is piled away in our attics, garages, and in storage units? I personally don't think yard sales are the answer either. I believe God wants us to give of our abundance to others. When I am able to give something to someone who has a need, it makes me feel blessed even more that God has been so good to me. When my children were small, I would give away their clothes as they outgrew them. I think that for every bag of clothes we gave away, someone gave us a bag of larger clothes that the boys could wear. Recently God spoke to my heart from a verse in Malachi. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10) God said, "...prove me now..." Give to God and He has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour His blessings on you. You will never out-give God.
36 Building Your Own Gallows
"Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai. Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife. And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king. Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate. Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the things pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made." Esther 5:9-14
I wanted to complete our theme on building by looking at Haman and the gallows he built. The book of Esther is very interesting reading. Haman had asked the king's permission to kill all the Jews when Mordecai refused to bow to him, not knowing that the queen was also a Jew. (Mordecai was Esther's cousin, and had raised her in the land of captivity, after her parents died.) Through the providence of God, Esther was chosen to be queen after Queen Vashti was exiled. When the decree went out to kill all the Jews, Mordecai sent word to Queen Esther to go in before the king and try to save her people. "Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed? and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this." (Esther 4:13-14) Esther invited the king and Haman to a banquet, but she must have lost her nerve, because she told to king to come to another banquet the next day and she would tell them her request. That brings us up to our scriptures above. Haman left the first banquet "joyful and with a glad heart" until he passed Mordecai, who refused to bow to him. He went home and called his wife and all his friends and bragged about his riches, his children, and his promotion. (How many of us lift ourselves up as we brag about the material things we have, our children, or our success on our job?) Anyway, back to our story, Haman was so angry with Mordecai that he decided to build a gallows fifty cubits high. You can see the anger in Mordecai in building a gallows 75 feet tall. The next day he goes to another banquet with the king and Esther makes her request to the king to save her and her people. "Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went unto the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king. Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face. And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon." (Esther 7:5-9) The story took quite a twist, as Haman was hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai. I wanted to use this story today to ask you the question, "Are you building your own gallows?" There are many people today who are lifting themselves up, at the expense of others, and they may meet with the same problems they caused those whom they "stepped" on in their climb on the ladder of success. Also, look at your lifestyle. Are you living a life that will eventually destroy you? Are you controlled by alcohol or drugs? If so, you may be building your own gallows 75 feet tall. We are finishing up our "building" series. Please take a look at what your life is built upon and make sure you are building on the solid Rock, Jesus Christ.