“Is There More to Your Life?”
Nehemiah 3 & 4

Last week we began the book of Nehemiah and we learned that Nehemiah started his narrative as an Israelite who had worked his way up in power and influence while in exile in Persia. As cupbearer of the king he also spent time as a student of the Scriptures and he interpreted life in the light of the Bible. He believed what he read in the Scriptures and he prayed for God to keep the promises that were written there. We read that the good hand of God was on Nehemiah and God made a way for him to travel back to Jerusalem and lead the Jews, who had previously returned, to rise up and rebuild the gates and walls. There was more to Nehemiah’s life than tasting wine and food and keeping the king alive.  
That’s the question of the day:
Is there more to our lives, than living and dying? 

Do we live for something more than our trivial agendas or making a name for ourselves? 
In order to answer that question, “Yes!” 
Whatever that “more to our lives” is, well, it needs to be worth it, don’t you think? 
If we are going to sacrifice personal luxuries and advantages we would expect it to be worth our while. 
This is where knowing God makes the difference. 
If we really were convinced of the truth, goodness and beauty of God on display in the gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaimed by the work of the church, there would be no question. 

I suspect therein lies the problem with the church today. 

We’ve been living in Babylon too long and have forgotten the truth, goodness and beauty of God and the gift of Jesus Christ. We have stopped studying the Scriptures in a way that reminds us of exactly who God is and what His plan is for His children. 

Nehemiah matched what he heard about the city of Jerusalem with what he knew about the Scriptures and there was a severe disconnect. Something had to be done. Nehemiah realized he could not be concerned and then sit in luxury in Babylon and talk about his concern. 
What good would that do? He needed to sacrifice his cushy living and venture to Jerusalem and share his convictions and offer his gifts and talents. Oh and by the way, building walls was not one of them. 
In today’s Scripture we read the people’s response to Nehemiah’s call to action. Chapter 3 is organized around the rebuilding of the gates and walls. Nehemiah demonstrated his leadership abilities by organizing each family that lived by the wall to work on their section. The chapter begins describing the process with the gates north of the temple and moves counterclockwise around the city. Can you picture how the wall must have looked? With different families building different sections, each section had to look a little different. However, we read that they worked with the same goal in mind, it needed to be a strong defense. In the family of God work must be done the same way, with a common vision and mindset, “the mind of Christ,” as Paul described in 1 Corinthians 2:16. When believers are able to offer their distinctive gifts to the work of God, working together in one accord, God is honored and believers are encouraged. Win, win.
Chapter four begins with more opposition from those we heard from in chapter 2, Sanballat, Tobiah and a new guy named, Geshem. At first they were displeased that Nehemiah had come from Babylon to help out. Their displeasure progressed to anger, now that the wall was being rebuilt, verse 1,

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed.”

Why would they be angry by seeing the city become whole and protected? Unless, for some reason, by doing so their personal interests were going to be negatively affected? Which was exactly the case. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem profited from the weakness and vulnerability of the Israelites. Two conflicting agendas. Nehemiah was seeking the good of others. Sanballat and Tobiah were seeking their own advantage at the expense of others. 
Nehemiah, followed the golden rule, do unto others as you want them to do unto you. Sanballat and Tobiah, do unto others whatever brings the most to themselves. This included being angry and mocking. 

This behavior can be seen on a daily basis. It begins at an early age, we learn that if we are bigger, if we want it, we are able to take what we want from our smaller siblings. How often do we hear of someone bragging how smart they are by benefiting financially from someone else’s ignorance or need? Pilfering pleasures at the expense of someone else by exalting yourself over others because they are disadvantaged happens today without much opposition. The Sanballats and Tobiahs of this world are alive and well, notice their tactic in verse 2 & 3, 
“He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

Verbal intimidation. The oldest trick in the book when it comes to seeking to maintain an advantage over someone. Bully them with a goal of making them afraid.  
The truth is, scoffing requires no courage. Those who scoff are bullies. This was downright childish and selfish, the opposite of Christlike. 

Who should we imitate? 
Nehemiah? Or 
Sanballat and Tobiah?

Notice, Nehemiah doesn’t even give them the dignity to respond to them. Instead, in verses 4-5 Nehemiah talks to God, 

“Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.”

And he keeps on building, verse 6, 

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”

This infuriated the mockers. They weren’t about to sit around and let goodness proceed unchecked. They became so mad, verse 8,

“They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.”

Physical violence, a common next step, following mocking. The mockers decided that somehow they had to be stopped. Nehemiah and the Jews were only seeking to build walls for their protection. A natural thing for anyone to do. Once again, rather than respond to the enemies, Nehemiah and the people of God pray and appoint guards. Look at verse 9:

“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”

With Nehemiah’s knowledge of the Scriptures, perhaps they prayed something from the Psalms, like 
Psalm 5:10,

“Punish them, God; let them fall by their own schemes. Drive them out because of their many crimes, for they rebel against You.”

Or, Psalm 104:35,

“May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more.”

All of this managed to challenge the faith of the people of God. Faithless talk from within began, verse 10,

“Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
Enemy talk from the outside, verse 11, 
“Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”

And faithless talk from round about, verse 12, 

“Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”

The people seemed too weak, the task seemed too big, and the people recognized that they could not do this by themselves. They were right, but what they failed to remember was that they were not doing this by themselves. God had promised to enable the effort, and the good hand of God was upon Nehemiah.

Nehemiah’s responded to this in verses 13-14, 

“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Nehemiah does not fret or flee. He knew he was on a mission for God, with God. He determined where the weakest links were, reinforced them and called on the leaders to remember the Lord. With that, they kept right on working, with their swords by their side. Diligent and prepared for anything. 
Are there things in your life that you fear? Pray and then, Take action! Are there doubts lurking in your mind about your ability to do what God has called you to do? Take your eyes off your inability and fix them on the One for whom nothing is impossible. 
Once you have put your trust in the greatness of God, do the next thing. Look at your weak points and reinforce them. You may even need an armed defender. Paul describes this armed defender in Ephesians 6, 
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Nehemiah provided a model of valor, and this valor exemplified by Nehemiah is a forward-looking Christlikeness. 
Nehemiah was a student of the Scriptures, a prayer warrior, one who loved God and His people, who sought the good of God’s people at great risk to himself, who showed great courage and boldness protecting God’s people and trusting God, and who lived for the high cause of God’s kingdom. 
As in the example of Christ, may there be more to our lives, may we too study the Bible, pray, and lay our lives down to protect others. Each day is a gift from God. Let’s take that gift, offer the agenda on our calendar as a living sacrifice and live like a child of the King. 
Lord’s Supper