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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Up Against the Wall (Part 3)

Preparation first involves waiting on God.

Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11

What do we expect from God?

When we pray about a situation or a person, should we expect God to operate in our time frame, and in the ways we understand to bring the fulfillment we think is best? Or, are we prepared to do what God calls us to do in the way and time He calls us to do it?

Notice in Nehemiah 1:1, Nehemiah receives the report about Jerusalem from Hanani in the month of Chislev. Then he prays. And, in Nehemiah 2:1, when he finally makes his request to the king its the month of Nisan. According to the Hebrew calendar, Chislev corresponds to our December; and, Nisan corresponds to our April. That's 4 months of prayer and fasting! In our world of instant everything, its very hard for us to pray and wait on God. We’re very hasty and  impatient creatures.

The Second thing that preparation means is, commitment. It means being available for God to work in us and through us in His way.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the King (Nehemiah 1:11b). The cupbearer tasted the wine before the king drank it, tasted the food before the king ate it. If someone tried to poison the king the cupbearer would die.It was a position of intimacy and trust. The cupbearer had to be with the king during confidential discussions. It has been suggested that, apart from the queen, the cupbearer had the greatest influence on the king. So, there was no one else in the kingdom in a position to speak to the king about Jerusalem the way Nehemiah did. God had placed Nehemiah there for a reason.

In 2:8, after his conversation with the king, Nehemiah says that he was successful. Why? “Because the good hand of my God was on me.”

Unlike our current times, I have read that in ancient Greece, to prevent foolish politicians from proposing idiotic laws, lawmakers were asked to introduce all new laws while standing on a platform with a rope around their neck. If the law passed, the rope was removed. If it failed, the platform was removed. Hmm......

How committed are we to God’s plan of action? Its easy for us to complain about our boss, to gossip about people in the church, to back stab people in the community, to gripe and moan about the way things are when none of these people are with us.

How many of us are prepared to act, choosing to do what God calls us to do, in the way He wants us to do it?

It is hard. It wasn’t easy for Nehemiah either. In 2:2, coming before the king he says, “I was very much afraid.” In 2:4, when the king asks him what he wants Nehemiah answers by saying that he prayed to God for- “HELP!”

It wasn’t easy for Nehemiah. It isn’t easy for us. When we are up against a wall we need to be prepared, choosing and being committed to do what God calls us to do.

The Third and final part of preparation is PLANNING. The tone and wording of Nehemiah’s speech would have to be very careful. Nehemiah has thought this all out.

Verse 2, the king asks Nehemiah:  “What’s wrong?” “The city of my father’s tombs is in ruins.” Notice he mentions tombs, something the king can relate to. Verse 4: “What do you want to do?” “To rebuild it.” Verse 6: “How long will it take?” And, Nehemiah gives him a definite time period.

He had thought out everything he would need. He was a 1,600 mile round trip through hostile territory to fix the walls of a city. A city the rulers of the area would rather have in ruins. He asks for letters to the governors of the provinces that he would have to pass through. The letters with the king’s signature would guarantee safe passage. He needed supplies, so he asked for letters of requisition, - asking for timber from the king’s own forest.

Nehemiah knew what he was going to say and how he was going to say it, long before he was called on to say it.  He had the answers to the kings questions and a plan to be put into action. Praying in faith is not a substitute for careful planning.

God honors orderly thinking. Jesus said, “When a man wants to build a tower, does he not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Or, what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:28,31)

We should learn to think our issues and plans through before we commit ourselves. We need to be prepared for what we're getting into.

With God, praying and waiting is always an adventure. It is never passive. It is always productive, a time of preparation. A time to think through our commitment to God’s purposes. Time to evaluate the resources He’s given us. Time to consider the possibilities and how they can be realized. So that in God’s way and in God’s time we will be ready to move as He leads us forward.

No human being could have opened the heart of the king to Nehemiah‘s request, but, God did. God brought Egypt to its knees before Moses. God preserved His people through Esther.

He wants to work in our lives, with the people and situations we face. Will we pray? Will we prepare?
Expecting God to move us forward in His time and in His way?


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