The Heart Of A Servant” Nehemiah 1:1-4 9/2/01

SI: A lot of ground have to cover to get all we can out of Nehemiah

lots of history—have to understand history of Israel, what got to this point

lots of prophecy—warnings and promises of restoration

going to slowly cover all that in coming sermons, can’t do all here

INTRO: Ten years ago young man named Mo Leverett moved to

New Orleans with his wife

rented tiny duplex across the street from Desire Street Housing Project.

They were, at the time, the only white people in the neighborhood

Not a nice place—this is a broken part of the city

around the huge, crumbling brick housing projects

gutted warehouses, razor wire fences, graffiti, piles of dirt and broken glass

Brokenness deeper—social brokenness, crime, drug dealing

moral brokenness, family structure has disappeared, no moral restraints

deepest of all, spiritual brokenness, people do not know God

The Leveretts believed Christ had called them to be His servants in Desire St.

also believed that Jesus Christ died to redeem broken, sinful people,

restore them and rebuild into men and women God created them to be

Believed that this rebuilding power of Jesus Christ would flow out of people

restore relationships, rebuild neighborhoods

create a fellowship of people who love Christ and are guided by His Word

After graduated from Reformed Seminary, ordained Louisiana Presbytery

to do this work

Ten years later—a testimony of the rebuilding, redeeming power of Gospel

men and women brought to faith—church planted, Desire Street Fellowship

$3 million outreach center, gym, 10 classrooms for tutoring, business training

Urban Theological Institute”

school to teach spiritual leaders from the community—article about local man

Institute student Richard Johnson, one of Mr. Leverett's first disciples, says a lesson on the "Noetic principle" (man's blindness to sin) caught his attention: "The principle applies to the projects: There's no family foundation for children to see here. All we had were guys and women just having sex and selling drugs. That's all our kids see and they don't see any wrong in it. In our community you are respected if you are a great athlete, a big drug dealer, or a murderer."

During high school, Mr. Johnson says, he respected his older cousin, a drug user who eventually shot his mother seven times. Mr. Johnson believes he was destined for similar destruction until "Coach Mo" became his new role model: "When he first walked on the field, we were like, man, somebody's going to jail. Because a lot of the guys on the team were selling drugs and we thought he was a cop. Coach Mo wasn't just another fly-by-night white dude. He stood firm and he coached, he preached and he loved."

Dressed in baggy jean shorts and a black jacket, Mr. Johnson stands behind a wooden podium as some 100 high-school students file into the gym for a Tuesday night Bible study. Boys with spray-painted nylons tied around their heads and girls wearing lots of gold jewelry chat noisily. But the audience grows quiet as Mr. Johnson explains the concepts of original sin and undeserved grace.

Reason wanted to tell about Mo Leverett’s work,

easy to visualize the brokenness of big city housing project,

overwhelming obstacles to rebuilding,

catch a glimpse of the rebuilding power of God,

establishment of His church

This is exactly what the book of Nehemiah is about

power of God rebuilding broken people, broken relationships, broken lives

establishing a community of people who love God, guided by His Word

Book also about God calling one man—Nehemiah—to be his servant

Nehemiah hears distressing news about people in Jerusalem,

trouble and disgrace” “wall of Jerusalem broken down, gates burned”

senses a call to bring the redeeming, rebuilding power of God

to a broken place and broken people, overwhelming obstacles

Leaves city of Susa travels 800 miles to Jerusalem

where spent next 13 years rebuilding walls, rebuilding people, rebuilding church

Nehemiah is a very talented and driven person—lot of his personality shows

more than any other OT person, will enjoy that

but don’t let this distract you from hearing Christ’s call to you:

Are you willing to bring Christ’s rebuilding power to people and places

broken by sin? Are you?

Will Jesus call me to housing project in New Orleans? He might.

but probably has you right where wants you, in Cullman, this place

right here, broken people, broken relationships, broken lives, broken spirits

None of you have the personality and talents of Nehemiah—but not important

must have the same heart Nehemiah had, the heart of a servant

Three traits all servants of Christ must have.

MP#1 You must be concerned about people’s spiritual condition.

Nehemiah in Susa (Shushan) winter capital of Persian Empire

Kislev—Hebrew calendar, our November and December

If reading chapter one for first time, most interesting thing about Nehemiah

last verse: “I was cupbearer to the king.”

explains why Nehemiah in Susa, cupbearer for Persian King Artaxerxes

some time in November/December of 20th year of Artaxerxes

Nehemiah learns that one of his brothers, Hanani, some Jews

have come from far away Jerusalem

Immediately questions them—tell me about the Jewish remnant there,

tell me about Jerusalem

Nehemiah a very important man in Susa because cupbearer

(little later will talk about what that meant, everyone would have known him)

not preoccupied with himself, very eager to hear about his fellow Jews

What Nehemiah expected to hear—people secure, growing, walking in way of Lord

a little background—13 years earlier man named Ezra left Persia and returned

many Jews went with him

Ezra a scribe, going to teach law of Moses, raise moral and spiritual climate,

people began to rebuild walls

Nehemiah expects to hear that this is going well—worship and life flourishing

So when hears it is all trouble and distress—oh no, same old story

people must have turned backs on God, suffering consequences

walls and gates broken down, very concerned—for physical safety, economics

Wall more than a wall, spiritual symbol of God’s people set apart,

walking in God’s way

Nehemiah so concerned for their condition—physical and spiritual

sets in motion events that will change course of life drastically for next 13 years

A character trait of Christians to be concerned about people’s spiritual condition.

spiritual people—filled with, walking with the Holy Spirit

Paul—“we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”

a deeper interest when dealing with people

So Christian ask questions, just like Nehemiah asked questions.

want to know about the spiritual health of people,

spiritual climate of a church, neighborhood or city

Person who did this perfectly Jesus himself.

Moved with compassion to heal people physically, never stopped there.

Bleeding woman—touched and healed, not enough—who touched me

trembling came forward so could say—daughter, faith has healed you

His conversations probed spiritual condition

Nicodemus—not content with an intellectual conversation, are you born again

Woman at the well—gently questioned, confronted needs exposed

Reason why Nehemiah had this concern—because own heart

touched by the Messiah who was yet to come, taste of blessings of knowing Him

What Nehemiah had just a foreshadowing of—you have in fullness

Life and ministry and power of Jesus Christ

As a servant of Jesus Christ you must be concerned about people’s spiritual condition

natural to be concerned about physical needs, emotional distress,

psychological problems, relationship problems

that’s just being human, even sympathetic non-Christians see those things

Christians sees all those needs and brokenness but then goes deeper

asks the deeper questions—what is this person’s spiritual condition?

You know what I’m talking about, have heard Christians talk that way.

A death, woman grieving over loss of loved one—is she a believer?

matters, concern, know how to pray

Troubled marriage. Do these people know Christ? Walking with him?

something bigger here than a troubled marriage

Do you do that? Do you think that way? Do you have those concerns?

I hope so.

This is what makes our church fellowship strong, make Covenant Groups

more than just a social time—when gather, concerned about spiritual condition

want to ask the right questions

MP#2 You must be grieved by the brokenness of sin.

vs. 4 “When I heard these things I sat down and wept.”

Nehemiah not detached—huh, that’s too bad

deeply grieved, actually weeps

hears this bad news, consequence of a broken relationship with God

knows how beautiful and right things could have been, sin has ruined

See the very same trait perfectly displayed in Jesus Christ

shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”

at the grave of friend Lazarus with Mary and Martha

Jesus wept” what is so puzzling, in few moments raised Lazarus from dead

why weeping? weeping over the ugly consequences of sin, death came from sin

separation from God always brings a curse

Another time Jesus wept—overlooking Jerusalem—O Jerusalem

hardness of the hearts of people there, hard toward him

knew that hardness would bring war, famine, destruction

This trait of being grieved over the brokenness of sin—sets Christians apart

lots of people, all people weep over the troubles of life,

especially if it is their own life that is broken

tears in themselves don’t mean much

But a Christian grieves because, like Jesus Christ, he/she sees more clearly,

feels more keenly the beauty of life as God intended it to be

sees the ruin of sin and the suffering it causes

Important to note that even though Jesus wept, was not a crybaby

crybabies weep and cave in, think things are hopeless

Jesus wept but he never caved in, fearlessly pushed ahead to do Father’s will

knew that by doing Father’s will, effects of curse of sin pushed back

So great about Jesus Christ—man of sorrows and acquainted with grief

looked at people, looked at cities, moved to tears over brokenness of sin

but never crushed by it, never hopeless, never a crybaby, grief moved Him

to follow Father’s will

by doing so, brought the rebuilding power of God to earth by death on cross

flowing through people, through history, will build and grow till last day

The first and last time you will see Nehemiah weep in this book

grieves but doesn’t give up—hears God’s call

puts his hand to the plough and doesn’t look back

knows God has called him to bring rebuilding power to broken people

determines to go to Jerusalem

Remember Richard Johnson?

most of life unmoved by the brokenness of sin, hardened to it, participating in it

then, came to faith in Jesus Christ, suddenly eyes opened

looks at young people, growing up without any moral compass, aimless

grieved—but not hopeless, not a crybaby, moves to bring Christ to them

Are you grieved by the brokenness of sin?

MP#3 You must believe that Jesus Christ alone can bring wholeness to broken lives.

For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”

Nehemiah immediately turns to the Lord in prayer.

next week we will study his prayer, remarkable prayer, one of many in book

read chapter 2 will realize prayed about this for 2 months

Nehemiah does not think for a minute that he can, on his own, fix this problem

this is important when you consider Nehemiah’s position as cupbearer

historians agree—cupbearer a very influential position

drank from king’s cup, ate from king’s plate—guard against poison

a man who was completely trustworthy—most important trait

Cupbearers also handsome, cultured, well-educated, able to handle court politics.

king’s closest servant, his butler—had the king’s ear

even though a servant, he had tremendous power if politically savvy

Nehemiah—you will notice—has a fix it kind of personality

he is a man of action, incredible persistence

OK, problems in Jerusalem, let’s get the ball rolling

But this is not at all the way that Nehemiah responds—

before he lifts a finger or says a word, turns to God of heaven

pleads his case to the Lord, begs for His help

Knows that if God is not in it, nothing he does will help.

But is God is in it, nothing can stop him

This is really the true heart of a servant—person who turns to Christ

heart moved with spiritual concern for a person

heart is grieved over brokenness of sin

but before you jump in and try to solve things you pray

O Lord Jesus, I know that you alone can rebuild this broken person,

broken relationship, this broken life

O Lord, do it, and if it pleases you, please use me

And I will do things your way and in your time—nothing more or less

Reason that Christians believe this—because they have experienced it

have known own blindness to sin, how Jesus came to them

redeemed them, rebuilt them into the people God created them to be


Are you willing to be the Lord’s servant in bringing His redeeming,

rebuilding power to people and places that are broken by sin?

Know many of you are already doing that—Nehemiah will encourage, strengthen

Perhaps burdened but don’t know what to do or say—Nehemiah will give path

Some of you are oblivious, too wrapped up in self—Nehemiah challenge great call