Nehemiah 6-8

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

April 2, 2003

Introduction

Nehemiah has arrived on the scene from Persia.  He’s toured the city of Jerusalem and then gathered the people together and challenged them to build.

As the work starts, there is opposition.  Satan never wants you to serve the Lord.

Nehemiah 6

:1-9 More trouble

:1 …(though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)

The walls are up but the gates aren’t finished.

:2 Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.

OnoOwnow – “vigorous”; city in Benjamin. 19 miles north of Jerusalem. A good place for assassination.

mischiefra– bad, evil

Lesson

Distraction

Their intent was to probably assassinate Nehemiah, but it came off as if they simply wanted to talk, a long ways from Jerusalem.
Even if they didn’t kill Nehemiah, perhaps his absence for a couple of days would discourage the people.
The trouble is being distracted from what God has called you to do.
This is one of the reasons why we don’t finish the things we set out to do. We get sidetracked.

:3 I am doing a great work…why should the work cease

Lesson

Priorities

Nehemiah knew what he needed to do.
He wasn’t going to be distracted from what was important.
Illustration
Procrastinators Creed...

1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.

2. I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or to find excuses.

3. I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.

4. I shall meet all of my deadlines directly in proportion to the amount of bodily injury I could expect to receive from missing them.

5. I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations.

6. I shall never forget that the probability of a miracle, though infinitesimally small, is never exactly zero.

7. If at first I don't succeed, there is always next year.

:7 …saying, There is a king in Judah

Some have suggested that Malachi may have been prophesying at this time and that Sanaballat was twisting Malachi’s words about the coming Messiah.

(Mal 3:1 KJV) Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

Lesson

Threats and Lies

The danger was that if the Persian government thought that Nehemiah was setting himself up as an independent king, then they’d have to put down the revolt with force.
Sometimes the enemy will try and stop us by lying.
I’m sorry, but have you heard any of this stuff that the Iraqi Information Minister has been saying?  He’s quite a good actor.  He can say the most amazing lies and not even flinch.

:9 …Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

Lesson

Prayer

Again, Nehemiah prays.

:10-14 False Prophets

:10 … Shemaiah …Let us meet together in the house of God…

Shemaiah[email protected]‘yah – “heard by Jehovah”. The name “Shemaiah” is quite a popular name in the Old Testament. It appears 10 times in the book of Nehemiah alone. Though it’s not too clear whether any of the other Shemaiah’s are the same as this guy, it is a popular name among the priests.

If this guy was a priest, that would make sense why he wants to meet Nehemiah in the Temple.

Lesson

Fear

The idea was to make Nehemiah be so afraid that he would be assassinated that he would run and hide in the Temple and never come out.
The problem is that Nehemiah would never get any work done hiding in the Temple.

:12 …I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

prophecy[email protected]’ah – prophecy; specific and genuine; false

Lesson

False prophecy

There is a danger that comes once we come to the point of believing that God can still speak through people today.
The danger is that prophecy can be abused.
Some people may have good intentions, but the ideas that come out of their mouths are not God’s, they’re their own ideas.
Other people may not have good intentions. Some people will use the “prophecy” thing as a way of getting others to do what they want.

This would seem to be the case with Nehemiah and Shemaiah.

Illustration

I read an article in Newsweek (03-21-03) that described some of the ways that Elizabeth Smart’s kidnappers may have kept her from running away:

…His ploy may have been to exploit her religious beliefs. As an excommunicated Mormon, Mitchell could speak her language. His references resonated with the Scriptures that Elizabeth would have learned in Primary classes. Changing her name (she initially told police she was “Augustine”) and dressing her in white robes were acts that mirror sacred Mormon practices. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wear long, white robes in the temple, and they are given new names (not used outside the temple) when they wed. As a predator, Mitchell would have been uniquely able to spin his own blend of perverted Mormon doctrine in persuading Elizabeth to become his “second wife.” (The LDS church has considered polygamy ground for excommunication since 1890.) Mitchell would have made her believe that he was “not only her savior, but her spiritual leader, husband, father and lover,” says John Llewellyn, a polygamy expert and former Salt Lake City sex-crimes investigator. Elizabeth, an obedient child, would have been particularly susceptible. “She was a remarkable girl, but with a passive personality,” the family’s Mormon bishop, Dave Hamblin, said two weeks ago, “which has led to some of these issues with not being able to get away.”

…The techniques Adkison says Mitchell used to keep her in the park—expounding on LDS doctrine and claiming personal revelation from God—would have been effective with Elizabeth as well because they echo fundamental Mormon beliefs. The church was founded after Joseph Smith, the church’s first prophet, claimed to have received a revelation from God in 1820. Mormons believe that modern prophets are also privy to revelation.

Illustration

Yesterday there was an announcement that Saddam Hussein was going to address the nation of Iraq.  It was a bit of a let down when his information minister read the statement.  But I found it interesting that Saddam has decided to resort to the “God tells me” routine.  The statement claimed that God was telling the people of Iraq to go and fight the infidel American invaders and that if they died they would definitely go to heaven because God would think their sacrifice was acceptable.

Do you believe what the statement said?  Why does Saddam Hussein (or somebody trying to speak for him), known in the Islamic world as a secular dictator, resort to the “Godspeak” routine?  Because he’s getting desperate.  He’s trying to keep what little control he has left on the country.

We too believe that God speaks through people today, but we need to be careful to also follow what the Scripture says regarding prophecy:
(1 Cor 14:29 KJV) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

We need to be careful to “judge” what is being claimed to be spoken for God.

Are the things being spoken consistent with the Scriptures? God does not contradict Himself.

Are the things the person says about God consistent with the Scriptures?

(Deu 13:1-3 KJV) If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, {2} And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; {3} Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

If there is a prediction, does the prediction come true?

(Deu 18:22 KJV) When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

Lastly, there is a witness that the Holy Spirit can give us concerning these things (but you have to be careful not to confuse your feelings with discernment)

(1 John 2:27 KJV) But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

God doesn’t take it too lightly when someone claims to be speaking for Him and He isn’t speaking.
(Deu 13:10 KJV) And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

:14 My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

More prayer.

Apparently there were others involved in this false prophesying.

This must have been tough for Nehemiah – there was more than one “witness”.

:15-19 Walls are finished

:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

The wall was completed on Sept. 21, 444 B.C. They saw this accomplishment as God’s doing.

:18 For there were many in Judah sworn unto him…

Tobiah had connections with important Jews through marriage.

Lesson

Compromise

The wall is up, but there’s a new threat, something that could cause much trouble, almost as if tearing down the wall.
Some of the Jewish leaders had allowed their children to intermarry with Tobiah the Ammonite.
Perhaps they had taken the tact of trying to marry the enemy rather than defeat him.
Now these relationships were going to cause Nehemiah trouble.
Illustration
We have a block wall in our backyard.  Many years ago (before our time), the neighbors sharing the wall built a wooden fence and the fence was screwed into our block wall.  The neighbors then allowed the vicious death-vine-of-Placentia to grow on the fence.  The fence has long since been completely overgrown by the vine.  When the winds came along this year, the vine (which as far higher than the fence) didn’t stand up too well to the wind.  The vines began to be blown over into the neighbor’s yard, pulling their fence with it.  And because the fence was screwed into our block wall, it’s started taking the entire top row of blocks with it.
When we have these “unequally yoked” relationships, we’re going to find that when the fence goes down, the wall can go too.
Be careful about attaching yourself to something that’s going to bring you down.

Nehemiah 7

:1-3 Guards set up

:2 That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.

HananiChananiy – “gracious”. We think this was Nehemiah’s literal brother.  This was the same “brother” that came to Nehemiah while he was serving the king in Persia and told him of the condition of Jerusalem.

(Neh 1:2-3 KJV)  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. {3} 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.

HananiahChananyah – “God has favoured

palace – the fortress that protected the Temple.

:3 Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot …

Rules were set up about how to work the gates.  Operating hours for the city.

Lesson

Keep the gates closed at night.

Makes sense for a city to stay protected.
We too live in a very dark world.
We need to be careful to keep the “gates” of our lives closed to the darkness of the world.
The “gate” is the place where you let things into your life, like your eyes, ears, nose, etc.

:4-5 Nehemiah records genealogies

:4 Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein

They have a city with not too many inhabitants. 

Without enough inhabitants, they won’t have enough people to keep watch on the walls at night.

They’re going to deal with this problem in Nehemiah 11, casting lots to see who gets to live in Jerusalem.

:5 And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy

Why does Nehemiah want to track people by genealogy?

It seems that Nehemiah is going to eventually populate the city with people who are pure Jews.

The “register” is the list found in Ezra 2.

:6-73 Those who returned

This is a list of the people who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel.

This list is the same as the one found in Ezra 2:1-70.

Nehemiah 8

:1-8 The people gather to be taught

:1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate

There are going to be thousands (perhaps 50,000) of people coming.  This must be a large place to meet.

:2 upon the first day of the seventh month.

This is the beginning of the Feast of Trumpets, Sept. 27, 444 B.C.  The walls have only been complete for six days (Neh. 6:15).

(Lev 23:24 KJV)  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.

I’ve often thought that one of the purposes for the Feast of Trumpets was to remind the people of the upcoming feasts that would follow later on in the month.

:3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

from the morning until midday – 4-6 hours of church.

those that could understandbiyn – to discern, understand, consider; (Hiphil) to understand; to cause to understand, give understanding, teach

Why we primarily target our services to adults – to those who can understand.

The children’s classes can than teach the children at their own level.

attentive – not in the Hebrew, literally, “the ears of all the people were unto the book of the law”

:4 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood …

pulpitmigdal – tower; elevated stage, pulpit; raised bed

We think of a “pulpit” as something like a podium or a stand to hold notes. Here it seems to be more of something that put Ezra and his helpers above the people so they could all hear better.

:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:

all the people stood up – out of respect for the Scriptures

Lesson

Respect for God’s Word

I wonder sometimes if we don’t perhaps lack a little bit of the respect we ought to have for God’s Word.
I had a professor in seminary who came from an orthodox, Jewish, rabbinical background (Dr. Charles Feinberg). He was in his eighties and came across a little bit on the cranky side, but I remember taking the class because it was to be his last semester teaching, and it would be something you couldn’t pass up on. I remember at the beginning of the semester how he rebuked some of the guys in the class because they had put their Bibles on the rack under their desks. He then lectured us on the importance of holding God’s Word in reverence. Perhaps he was a bit excessive, but I still wonder if there isn’t some value in learning respect for God’s Word.
Suppose you received a handwritten letter from the President of the United States. How would you treat something like that? Would you treat it as a treasure? Would you wad it up and toss it in the trash? Would you make a paper airplane out of it?

We have a letter from God.

We have to be careful about not taking this to the extreme where we put our Bible in a glass case and never read it. I also don’t think it’s sacrilegious to underline things in your Bible. It’s a book to be used. And respected.

:6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

blessedbarak – to bless, kneel

Amen‘amen – verily, truly, amen, so be it

Illustration

Amen Preacher
Two elderly, excited Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, “AMEN, BROTHER!” When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, “PREACH IT, REVEREND!” And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROTHER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS...AMEN!” But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet, and one turned to the other and said, “He’s quit preaching and now he’s meddlin’.”

lifting up their hands – some feel that the lifting of the hands might be symbolic of receiving God’s blessings.

Others see it as a sign of surrender.  Others see it as a display of praise.

bowedqadad – (Qal) to bow down

worshippedshachah – to bow down; (Hithpael) to bow down, prostrate oneself

faces to the ground – humility

Lesson

Worship

I find it interesting that before the people are taught the Word, they enter into worship of the Lord.

:7 …caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.

caused … to understandbiyn – to discern, understand, consider; (Hiphil) to understand; to cause to understand, give understanding, teach

The people are still standing.  A long time.

:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

readqara– to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim

distinctlyparash – to make distinct, declare, distinguish, separate; (Pual) to be distinctly declared

gavesuwm – to put, place, set, appoint, make

the sensesekel – prudence, insight, understanding.  Some see this as translation:

(Neh 8:8 NASB)  And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.

Some of the people may only understand Aramaic, so they are translating from Hebrew to Aramaic.

caused them to understandbiyn – to discern, understand, consider

Lesson

Expository preaching

We have a definition here of “expository preaching”
1 – Read the Word. The message ought to be based on the Word of God
2 – Give the sense. Make sure that the sense of the passage is clear. Are there things that are hard to understand? Are there words or phrases that might be misunderstood?  Perhaps there needs to be “translation”.
3 – Cause them to understand. I think this is taking #2 one step further. I think part of the responsibility of the teacher is to make sure that there’s a connection going on. What’s the point of the whole thing?

:9-12 The people taught how to respond

:9 …the Tirshatha…For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.

the TirshathaTirshathaTirshatha-governor; a title used by the Persian governor in Judea

Lesson

God’s Word brings conviction

It would seem that the people were weeping because of the conviction brought by the Word.
Specifically, the conviction is coming from the Law, because that is what Ezra and his helpers are reading.
The Law shows us our need for a Savior:

(Gal 3:24 KJV)  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

God is at work in the peoples’ hearts as they hear the Word.

:10 … for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

holyqadowsh – sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart

sorryatsab – to hurt, pain, grieve, displease, vex, wrest; (Niphal) to be in pain, be pained, be grieved

joychedvah – joy, gladness

strength ma‘owz – place or means of safety, protection, refuge, stronghold

(Neh 8:10 ICB)  “…The joy of the Lord will make you strong."

They are to have a party and share good things with those who are in need.

Lesson

A time to be joyful

This doesn’t mean that the people are never to mourn over their sins and repent.  They will be doing that in a couple of weeks.  It’s just not the right time.
This is supposed to be a time for joy because they have finally completed the wall.
Not joy just for joy’s sake (like, “Don’t worry, be happy”)
Sometimes you have to put your sadness away and give praise to the Lord.
And you just can’t say, “Well I don’t feel like it right now”.
This is a part of worship.  We need to praise Him whether we “feel” like it or not.
(Heb 13:15-16 KJV)  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. {16} But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

These are the same things the people were commanded to do.

Sometimes praise is a “sacrifice”.

Lesson

Strength in joy

There is joy in God’s presence.
(Psa 16:11 KJV)  Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
We gain strength from the Lord as we learn to praise Him, whether or not we “feel” like it.

:11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.

Lesson

Emotions are a choice

We may not want to hear this, but I think that most of our emotions come from our will.  We make a choice to be happy or sad.
The people have been sad, but they are encouraged and they turn the day into one of joy.
I think you have a choice of how you are going to feel right now.
(Prov 15:15 KJV)  All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.

Do you want your day to be “afflicted”, or one of a “merry heart”?

:12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

mirthsimchah – joy, mirth, gladness

:13-18  Tabernacles is celebrated

:13 And on the second day were gathered together …

Perhaps one day wasn’t enough.

Some have suggested that at some point the Feast of Trumpets grew from a one day celebration to a two day celebration.

Missler’s idea of the “last trump” – the trumpet blast on the second day.

Some have suggested that this is what is meant by:
(1 Cor 15:51-52 KJV)  Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, {52} In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

:14 And they found written … Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:

The Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth)

(Lev 23:34 KJV)  Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.

They’ve got a little less than two weeks before Tabernacles.

:17 for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun …

Jeshua – Joshua, the leader who brought the people into the Promised Land.

The Feast of Tabernacles had kept a couple of times since the time of Joshua.  It had been kept in the time of Solomon (1Ki. 8:65), but apparently not in the same fashion.  Perhaps they didn’t do the “booths” thing.

:18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God…a solemn assembly…

It was like a big huge retreat.  They studied the Word for seven days.

solemn assemblyatsarah – assembly, solemn assembly; assembly (sacred or festive meeting); assemblage, company, group

from atsar – to restrain, retain, close up, shut, withhold, refrain, stay, detain

Does this carry the idea of the people gathering together and being quiet?