Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Nehemiah Rebuilder, Restorer of Israel in faith to Yahweh January 27, 2019 Trinity Lutheran Chestertown, Md

[for the audio of this sermon, click on the above link]

Shamah O Israel, Yahweh Aloheny, Yahweh Ahar

I greet you in the name of our king Artaxerxes ruler of all Persia, all the kingdoms of the world. I was the cupbearer of great Artaxerxes, may he live forever. The cupbearer is a very important servant of the king. You might think of it as being sort of the king’s “food-taster”, I had other responsibilities for the kings security and supervised a staff that was responsible for his security. Artaxerxes took me into his confidence and looked to me for advice.

My name is Nehemiah, I am the son of Hack a liah. My family was brought here from Israel after they were conquered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians were then conquered by the Persians, King Cyrus, and we have been in captivity by the Persians since then. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel he decided to move many of the prominent people and families to Babylon and that is why we have been in captivity here for seventy years. But as Yahweh promised we are now being given the opportunity to move back to Israel and reestablish the land that Yahweh promised to Abraham almost two thousand years ago. Israel had become very evil and had drifted away from Yahweh and because of that Yahweh enabled Nebuchadnezzar to conquer Israel and exile most of the Israelites. It was through Yahweh’s power that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, the Babylonians were used by Yahweh as a stick to beat us and turn us back to Yahweh and away from our evil practices and evil “gods”.

While we have been captives we have been treated with respect and given much freedom. We have come back to Yahweh as a result of the captivity, and as I said, we are now going back to Israel as He promised. Yahweh has brought us back to Him and we return to Israel as His people, dedicated to Him and to His Word.

When I was in Shushan one of my brethren Ha nan i came to see me. He had just returned from Jerusalem as part of the process of Hebrews returning to Israel. Not all of us intend to return. Like me, many of us have been born here, we have never even seen Jerusalem and have been allowed by the Persians to make good lives here. Many of us have become successful in business, and have become prosperous, started families, our roots are now here. Many like myself, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have been raised to positions of great authority and power, so for many of us it does not make sense to leave what we have gained and established here to return to Israel and to start over again.

As I was saying Hanani came to me after he returned from Jerusalem and what he told me was very troubling. He said: “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” (Neh 1: 3)

Please understand what this means, you simply cannot have a city that has no walls and gates. There are many threats, armies can simply march in and take whatever they want, our food, clothing, animals, all the things we depend on to live. There are many groups of bandits and marauders who will do the same thing. These walls protect us and our families. Our wives and children can be easily kidnapped and sold into slavery. If we expected to return to Jerusalem and successfully reestablish our lives, reestablish the society that Yahweh intends for us, we needed to have protection.

I did not know things were in such terrible condition. “…when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” I will tell you some of my prayer: “…Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love you and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that you may hear the prayer of your servant which I pray before you now, day and night, for the children of Israel your servants and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You… We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name. Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom you have redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.  O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name: and let Your servant prosper this day; I pray and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Neh 1: 5-11)

Since I was the King’s cup-bearer and had great influence with the king, I felt that Yahweh was guiding me to go to the king and ask him for his help. I took wine to the king, let’s face it, it’s not a bad thing to do something to loosen the king up before you ask him for his help. I had a very sad expression on my face and the king asked me why, this wasn’t what I was usually like. “I became dreadfully afraid and said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?’

The King understood completely why I was so upset and concerned. I asked him if he would give me letters so that I could travel to Israel and that the governors of the provinces, on the way, would provide for us and give us protection. The king also gave me “a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king’s forests, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, [and] for the city wall…”(Neh 2: 8) Artaxerxes also assigned some of his army officers and horsemen to go with us to Israel for protection and guidance.

When we got there it was as bad as I had been told. To make matters worse there were men in Israel, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite  and Geshem the Arab who found out that we were coming and weren’t  happy about our plans to rebuild the defenses of the city. These men were governors of the regions around Jerusalem and were perfectly happy with the way things were, they saw me as a threat to their rule and they did everything they could to keep us from restoring the walls and gates of Jerusalem.

After they saw that we were serious and making progress on our work they decided that they were going to do more than laugh at us, that they were going to attack us and drive us back to Persia so things could be the way they were. They saw us as a threat and decided they were going to remove the threat, us, before it became serious.

The workers were becoming tired and there was still much work to do, so much debris had to be removed so that we could start rebuilding the walls. We had to continue to work on the walls, that would be the only way we could assure that we would be safe. But in the meantime, we had to station men armed with swords, spears and armor behind the men who were doing the work. The men doing the work also had weapons near to them so that if there was an attack they would stop working and fight to defend the city. Well Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem didn’t attack us, but they tried another way. They tried to get me to come down to meet with them, they were accusing me of rebellion against Artaxerxes and were going to report to the king that I was trying to start a rebellion against him. They even paid Shemaiah to try to convince me that he had a prophecy from Yahweh that I was in danger and that he was going to protect me. He actually intended to kill me if I went with him.

Finally after 52 days and all sorts of conspiracies the wall was finished. It was time to give glory to Yahweh, to give thanksgiving and to celebrate. I as governor of Jerusalem had done my job to rebuild the walls and give the people returning to Jerusalem protection and a chance to rebuild our society and prosper in the land that Yahweh had promised to our father Abraham. Now our priest and scribe Ezra was called before the people to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So he did, standing on a platform above all the people of Jerusalem and from the first hour until the sixth hour of the day, every day for seven days he read to the people. They were all attentive and remained six hours to hear God’s Laws. When Ezra began reading the people would lift up their hands and shout Amin, Amin. At the same time we celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and we feasted for seven days. On the 24th day of that month everyone gathered together and made a public confession of sins. We all joined together and confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness and the Levites ended by standing up and said: “Stand up and bless the Lord your God Forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything  on it, the seas and all that is in them, and you preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You… (Neh 9: 6)

Finally on the last day, led by all of the priesthood, we renewed the covenant made with God and took an oath that we would observe all the commandments of the Lord, our Lord and His ordinances and statutes. We would not marry with those who are not of Israel, we would not work on the Sabbath, that we would give our money and food to support the work of the house of our God.

Now God has sent His Son as He had promised from the beginning. We are not saved under the Law, but in the grace of Jesus. God delivered us and helped us to rebuild Jerusalem, now He has delivered all mankind through His Son Jesus. We now trust Him who died for our sins and gives us eternal life. Just as Yahweh did for us when He returned us to Jerusalem, so all of us who are in Jesus will be returned to the resurrection in the New Jerusalem.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin

Where are you being guided to in Jesus? First St Johns, York, Pa. October 26, 2014

Please click on the above link to hear the audio of this sermon

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are led by and follow the Holy Spirit said … AMEN
Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians tells us that: “…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:12) Those who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ are constantly being guided, are constantly being charged to walk, to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Marge and I were moved to pick up our lives in Massachusetts to go to St Louis for a season, complete education and then to be led to where? We didn’t know, but as things unfolded and we were faithful, we were guided to be in York, Pa. Dr Jerry Kieschnick asked me, as I received my call papers if I knew where York, Pa was? Not really, but in our faith we didn’t question where York was, we were led here and have been made a part of this great family in Jesus here in York.
On this Reformation Day, we remember Dr Martin Luther, posting the 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on All Saints Day. As I’ve said before, Dr Luther wasn’t looking for some kind of showdown, too many times we see him depicted as a Christian version of a gunfighter at the OK Corral. That was not his intent. He was a brilliant man who never stopped studying, as he studied, the more he realized that there were problems with the doctrines that the Roman church was teaching. He was a teacher at the time and the more he had to deal with these doctrines, the more he felt led to start a journey of inquiry. He never anticipated what would happen as he nailed his document to that door. His whole intention was to raise these issues in a genuinely collegial sense. He wasn’t looking for a brawl, a battle, but I have no doubt that God led Luther to do this in order to raise issues about God’s church that demanded discussion. The Roman church, at the time, chose not to discuss those issues. Luther wrote: “In the year 1516. I began to write against the pope. In the year 1518 Doctor Staupitz released me from obedience to my order and left me alone at Augsburg when I had been summoned before Emperor Maximilian and the pope’s legate, who was then at the place. In the year 1519 Pope Leo excommunicated me from the church and so I was released a second time. In the year 1521 Emperor Charles excommunicated me from his empire and so I was released a third time. But the Lord took me up.”1
Many times when we are led to leave, by God, we’re told to leave by the world. Luther has the distinction to be told to leave three times, you think you have it rough, you may be told to leave your work, your school, wherever, because of your Christian beliefs, but probably only once. Luther got “shown the door” by the head of the Augustian Order where he had lived and served as a monk, by the head of the Roman Catholic Church and then by the head of state of the largest empire in the world. Luther could honestly say that he had been thrown out of better places then most people. Sometimes to be thrown out of places that are just frankly not good to be in to begin with, is a badge of honor. No one wants the shame of being publicly asked to leave, but afterwards you realize that being thrown out was the right thing, was something that needed to happen in order to glorify God, then so be it and God speed.
It is then usually a case of not just being led somewhere, but also a commentary on being thrown out of somewhere. Jesus told His disciples that they would be thrown out of houses and towns; “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5), each of the Synoptic Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels, do not tell all of the same events or sayings, but apparently they were all so aware of the fact that they would get tossed out of places, that they all made a point of relating this direction of Jesus. Did that mean that they had failed, or were somehow not completely adequate disciples? No, it could well mean that Jesus was making sure everyone knew that they had a chance to hear the Gospel, if they rejected it, well too bad for them, Matthew 11:23-29: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” If any place had its chance it was Capernaum. Jesus had been led there, most of the disciples lived and worked there, all sorts of miracles and preaching went on there. What happened? Luke 4: starting at verse 17, do you remember what Jesus did? After reading Isaiah He declared that He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me…” Jesus was the anointed of God, the Messiah. Their response? Woe, wait a minute there, this is Joseph’s son, He’s saying that He’s the Messiah? No, I don’t think so. Jesus responded, yea, kinda figured, because no prophet is acceptable in his hometown, and that is when the people in the synagogue tried to hustle Jesus down to a cliff to throw Him off of it. Yea Jesus got run out of Dodge, but did that make Jesus find a corner to sit and cry? “They threw me out of my hometown, wah, what will I do?
Sometimes we are moved as Paul described to the Thessalonians. Now Paul had certainly been moved around by the Holy Spirit, a lot of places we don’t know about. But he tells the Thessalonians: “…like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2: 11). The Greek word Paul used peripate,w like the English can mean how we conduct ourselves and to also literally walk. No doubt Paul expected that some of those in Thessalonica that he was preaching to would be led on their own literal walk or journey.
Luther was led on a walk, to initiate that walk he was thrown out of somewhere else. The door was closed on him at the monastery he was at the church he preached at and even the country he lived in. Clearly God was using an exclamation point to emphasize that it was time for Luther to step out in his Christian faith. That wasn’t Luther’s perception, no doubt he was otherwise comfortable and at home where he was. God emphatically moved Luther so that Luther was left without any choice. He had to pursue the issues that he raised. These issues weren’t going to be in terms of some hypothetical debate, something that maybe would result in changes or maybe not. No! God didn’t leave any room for Luther to maneuver, there was only a straight line and that was to see through the establishment of a church that would faithfully preach the Word of God. A church that would be faithful to Scripture, God’s Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The question before you is this: Are you truly listening to what God is saying to you? Are you faithful in prayer, not the kind of prayer that’s “OK God listen up, this is what I need from You and what I need You to do!” But prayer that is also asking and seeking God’s will in your life, where he wants you to walk to? I doubt that most, if any of you, are being asked to pick up and leave York. Dick and Gloria have already gone and returned from their mission trip in Liberia. But, God might be guiding some of you to short term mission in Africa, Haiti, Guatemala, or maybe to Helen Thackston charter school, your next door neighbor, the man or woman in the cube next to you at work, to a young man or woman who may be making bad decisions and needs someone to turn them to Jesus. You might have to walk across the world or across your lawn.
Ya, here we go, take out that journal and pray over it and listen for God’s guidance. Where is He directing you to and who is He directing you to witness to or to serve, to faithfully build a relationship with in order for them to come to know the love of Christ? What comfortable place are you being asked to move out of? You may have to stand up against the powers, but the Holy Spirit will give you the words.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.