Remember, Ezra and Nehemiah originally were one book
Now we are continuing the story
It is fascinating that Nehemiah is written in FIRST PERSON
Fr. Mike was struck to pray for our enemies, whoever they may be in our lives and doesn’t know why
Jesus comes back to that so often, that we have to be DIFFERENT
We have to not want to take vengeance on our enemies
We have to be able to say, “Ok Lord, I want you to save their lives. I want you to make them holy.”
Not to say that we don’t want JUSTICE
But we do pray for GRACE in their lives
That is what Proverbs 20:22 says, “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will help you.”
That does not mean God will overlook or deny justice
It does mean that we take a back seat and say, “It is not my job to repay evil for evil.”
We can work for JUSTICE
Know what I’m saying?
IT’S A CHALLENGE OBVIOUSLY
Especially when we have that opportunity to take vengeance on somebody
Even in our normal speech that is one of the things that can happen
We might not have massive enemies
The people that we wrestle with, fight, and take vengeance on the most are the PEOPLE THAT WE LIVE WITH
They are the people that we promise to love FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES
We realize, “Wait a second! With my WORDS I just took vengeance on them. They said something to me earlier. They did something that was annoying to me. What I just did was I decided to be annoying to them. I decided to be mean to them with my words.”
We can make it really abstract and say, “Those enemies are out there somewhere.”
We realize, “Wait a second! I am most often most cruel with those people who I am the closest to. And I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think that’s something to repent of and say, ‘God please help me.’”
Maybe Proverbs 20:22 means talking to your kids, parents, spouse, friends, the people you talk to everyday
MAN OH MAN!
Proverbs 20:21, “An inheritance gotten hastily in the beginning will in the end will not be blessed.”
Kind of like people who win the lottery and have had their lives devastated after winning it
They haven’t necessarily been blessed by winning, but they have been hurt
Ok then onward to Zechariah
Today we got to hear some INCREDIBLE WORDS
Zechariah Ch 12 is Jerusalem’s Victory
Zechariah 12:7-8, “And the Lord will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah. On that day the Lord will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem…”
This is important for us
Because in The Book of Nehemiah they are putting up walls around themselves in the city
It’s not the same thing
Ok it’s kind of the same thing
But not necessarily the same thing (now my brain hurts...🤪)
That Zechariah is prophesying about
In the end of Zechariah Ch 12 we have Mourning for the Pierced One
This is also quoted in The Gospel of John Ch 19
Zechariah 12:10, “...they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plains of Megiddo.”
Ok so who are we talking about?
THE LORD JESUS!!
THE ONLY CHILD
THE ONLY SON OF GOD
THE FIRST BORN OF ALL AGES, OF ALL CREATION
Here is this INCREDIBLE PROPHECY
Could you imagine as Zechariah and his listeners are hearing about the PIERCED ONE they would wonder, “What is that?”
Maybe that’s the Jewish people experiencing suffering
It becomes incredibly PERSONIFIED and INCARNATED in JESUS CHRIST!!
That prophecy that is ultimately made COMPLETE in JESUS ON THE CROSS out of LOVE for you and for me
We know it’s one thing to hear these prophecies and think, “Wow! That’s amazing! Here is Zechariah writing hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus and he’s saying this and that’s fascinating, it’s powerful.”
Then we realize, “Why was Jesus pierced through in the first place?”
OUT OF LOVE FOR YOU!!
BECAUSE HE HASN’T GIVEN UP FOR YOU!!
OUT OF LOVE FOR FR. MIKE!!
BECAUSE HE HASN’T GIVEN UP ON FR. MIKE!!
IT’S SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO HEAR THESE WORDS AND REMEMBER THEM
BECAUSE IT IS SO EASY TO FORGET THEM!!
JESUS ACTUALLY LOVES YOU!!
JESUS WAS PIERCED THROUGH AND MOURNED OVER
Because he DETERMINED
He has DECLARED
THAT YOU ARE WORTH HIS VERY LIFE
YOU ARE WORTH HIS DEATH
So many people feel ALONE in this moment
But just recognize here is Zechariah writing HUNDREDS OF YEARS BEFORE JESUS
He says, “There will be a day of mourning because of the PIERCED ONE.”
THAT DAY ACTUALLY HAS ALREADY HAPPENED!!
In so many ways, to get to this point on Day 272 where YOU HEAR THESE WORDS
Where you get to hear the TRUTH that here is JESUS, GOD HIMSELF, who LOVES YOU TO THE POINT OF DEATH
You might feel DISCOURAGED
You might feel ISOLATED
You might feel ALONE
You might feel that you can’t even talk to God right now, even though you pressed play and are listening to His Word
BUT HE LOVES YOU!!
HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN ABOUT YOU!!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!
That’s part of what this BIAY community is
Even if it’s a virtual community
There are people online who pray with these reading every single day
They talk with each other every single day
There is a bunch of us who are not connected that way
WE ARE CONNECTED RIGHT NOW
WE ARE CONNECTED IN PRAYER
WE ARE CONNECTED IN WHAT IS DECLARED IN GOD’S WORD
So Fr. Mike invites you to receive God’s love right now
Zechariah Ch 13 talks about how if someone prophesies and then his mom and dad kill him, he is talking about FALSE PROPHETS
Just in case you were wondering
MAN OH MAN! DON’T BE A FALSE PROPHET!!
Onward to Nehemiah
It is VERY IMPORTANT
Remember we had Zerubbabel who was the first wave of return
Ezra was the second wave of return
Ezra is going to show up here in The Book of Nehemiah Ch 8
Now we have the third wave of return, Nehemiah
Under Ezra we had the rebuilding of Temple worship
Nehemiah recognizes that there are no walls around the city of Jerusalem
He tells the story The Call of Nehemiah
IT IS INCREDIBLE
Let’s skip a rock across Nehemiah Chs 1-2
Nehemiah had already visited Jerusalem maybe 15 years before this
Nehemiah asks, “Hey, you were in Jerusalem. How is it?”
He gets informed that the walls had not been rebuilt and the city is vulnerable and open to attack
Nehemiah’s response is AMAZING
Nehemiah 1:4, “When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days; and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
THINK ABOUT THIS!!
Nehemiah cares about the people of Jerusalem
Nehemiah cares about the city of Jerusalem
Nehemiah cares about the worship happening in Jerusalem
And when he hears that there are no walls around the city, HE SAT DOWN AND WEPT FOR DAYS
HE PRAYED FOR DAYS
HE FASTED FOR DAYS
So we have to ask the question, “Man, is my heart so hardened, or am I so unfaithful that when I hear bad news, my response NOT that I sit down and weep? It’s NOT that I immediately pray. It’s NOT that I turn to the Lord in fasting.”
A lot of the times we turn to the news
A lot of the times we turn to each other
A lot of the times we turn to SOMEONE ELSE
Nehemiah’s response when his heart is broken is that he TURNS TO THE LORD
Nehemiah has multiple prayers in Ch 1
THEY ARE SO GOOD!!
One of the things that Nehemiah does is he acknowledges it
He says, “We deserve this. Because you let us know, God. If we are faithful then we will have success. And we were not faithful. And it’s my fault. It’s my father’s fault.”
Then he goes on to say, “Please, give us a chance. Let me do something.”
Nehemiah 1:11, “...Now I was cupbearer to the king.”
DUN DUH DUH (dramatic music at the plot twist 😉)
So what happens next?
In Nehemiah Ch 2, he is in King Artaxerxes and the queen’s presence and he’s the cupbearer
The king notices that Nehemiah is sad
He had never been sad before in the presence of the king
The king says, “It’s not because you’re sick. Your heart is sick. What’s up?”
How Nehemiah unfolds this is INCREDIBLE
Nehemiah 2:3, “...Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lies waste and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then the king said to me, “For what do you make request?’”
THIS IS THE PATTERN FOR EVERY ONE OF US
We have a BIG ASK
We have SOME TASK
The king says, “What do you want?”
Nehemiah says, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
He doesn’t just say what he wants
He prays, “God, please help me.”
One of the things Fr. Mike loves about his students is as they begin their prayers, they acknowledge the fact that they don’t know how to pray
They say, “Come Holy Spirit, teach me how to pray” before EVERY PRAYER
It’s an acknowledgment of, “I’m going to talk to you, Lord, and I realize I can’t talk to you without your Spirit. I can’t even talk to you, God, without YOU, God.”
“Come, Holy Spirit, teach me how to pray.”
It’s like Nehemiah here and the king says, “What do you want?”
Nehemiah basically said, “Come Holy Spirit, teach me how to speak to the king.”
Nehemiah 2:5, “And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may rebuild it.’”
He reminds the king that he has been doing a good job
He doesn’t just say, “Oh, here’s what I want.”
He says, “If I’ve done a good job, and if I have found favor in your sight…”
The king asks how long he will be gone
Nehemiah knows EXACTLY what he wants
This is out of the blue
This is a request of King Artaxerxes because he notices that Nehemiah is sad
Nehemiah has already thought this through
He says that he’ll be gone this long (no specifics)
He needs letters from Asaph
He needs letters to the people beyond the river
He also needs permission to have some wood to rebuild some things
This next part is AMAZING
IT IS INCREDIBLE!!
Nehemiah gets to Jerusalem under armed guard
Remember, Ezra had to pray, “Lord, guide me with no guards.”
Well Nehemiah took some guards
Nehemiah 2:10, “But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.”
Whenever you try to do a WORK FOR GOD, there will ALWAYS be someone who OPPOSES YOU
They could be NAYSAYERS
They could be people who DON’T LIKE THAT YOU ARE DOING THIS
They could be people who DON’T LIKE YOU
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE OPPOSITION
Nehemiah inspected the walls in the middle of the night
Many older priests told Fr. Mike to WALK THE GROUNDS AROUND THE CHURCH TO SEE WHAT’S GOING ON
A priest can’t just say, “I trust the fact that the walls are still up. I trust the fact that nothing is leaking.”
YOU HAVE TO INSPECT IT!!
Nehemiah gets out there and walks around the walls
He does not tell anyone about it
Because he has not yet announced to the people of Jerusalem that they would be rebuilding the walls
He wants to INSPECT the project before he ANNOUNCES the project
THAT IS SO WISE!!
You have to have boots on the ground and eyes really looking at this thing in order to know what’s the project
Then Nehemiah makes the decision to restore the walls
People say that he is rebelling against the king
He doesn't reply, “Well the king gave me some letters.”
Nehemiah 2:20, “Then I replied to them, ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build…”
He doesn’t have to DEFEND HIMSELF
He doesn’t have to EXPLAIN HIMSELF
“Listen, God’s got this. God’s got me. And because you are opposing this, you will have no part in this.”
The Book of Nehemiah is a MASTERCLASS when it comes to LEADERSHIP and ABILITY TO LISTEN TO GOD’S WORD AND ACT ON IT VERY CLEARLY, CLEANLY, AND DECISIVELY
EVEN IN THE MIDST OF OPPOSITION
Nehemiah is going to experience INTERNAL OPPOSITION as well
WE ALL EXPERIENCE THAT!!
Not only EXTERNAL OPPOSITION
EVEN INSIDE THERE IS A BATTLE
Sometimes we get DISCOURAGED
We are going to see Nehemiah facing all those battles soon
Today we get The Call of Nehemiah and his prayers
This is someone who is going to do something INCREDIBLE
That incredible thing is just simply building some walls
He is doing it BECAUSE GOD ASKED
He is doing it AS GOD ASKED
For every one of us, THAT IS THE KEY
TO DO WHAT GOD ASKS AS GOD ASKS AND BECAUSE GOD ASKS!!
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
That is the SECRET OF LIFE
TO DO WHAT GOD WANTS BECAUSE GOD WANTS AND AS GOD WANTS!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE