The Certainty Of A Servant” Nehemiah 2:11-20 9/30/01


SI: Burden for broken people, prayer, answers—open doors, just the beginning


INTRO: A friend was shortstop on his little league baseball team.

Whenever he fielded the ball, one of two reactions

either panic and overthrow the ball

or freeze and do nothing

Coach told him—don’t panic and don’t freeze, pause, decide what to do, do it

what quality was that coach trying to instill?

certainty, readiness—being sure-footed and steady even under pressure


There is a spiritual quality that is essential for you to be a productive

servant of Jesus Christ

especially important in as you bring the rebuilding power of Gospel

to broken people and places

That quality is not named in this chapter—but illustrated in the life of Nehemiah

certainly of God’s call that gives him a readiness

reminds me one of the pieces of spiritual armor in Ephesians 6

feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace”

Being able to say:

I know God has called me here,

I know God listens to me,

I know God will keep His promises to me—

So when things get hard I’m not going to panic and overreact

and I’m not going to freeze and do nothing

move ahead with certainty and do the will of God, and follow His call


Personality plays a role in this—foolish to think it doesn’t

Nehemiah has an assertive and driven personality

but not talking about a personality trait—talking about a spiritual quality

applies whether personality assertive or timid

You to exercise and use this quality not by looking inside yourself,

drawing on your personality strengths (not the power of positive thinking)

but by looking outside yourself, above yourself to the living God

By looking at the Lord, gain this certainty and receive power to act on it His call

A number of benefits, three apparent in this passage

MP#1 The certainty of God’s call enables you to look at brokenness without

being overwhelmed.


Look at how this worked in Nehemiah’s life.

Cupbearer to the king—living in luxury and comfort of palace

had a conversation with his brother, presented with spiritual/physical needs

burdened and began to pray, Lord, let me talk to the king about this

Lord orchestrated conversation, answers all of Nehemiah’s prayers

in no time—letters of passage, requisition letters, honor guard, governor

in a whirlwind sets out on 800 mile journey to Jerusalem


Finally arrives, after resting for 3 days, goes out to inspect the walls

plan is to survey the southern walls of the city

would have already seen the northern walls, direction arrived

northern walls completely broken down—place Nebuchadnezzar broke through

140 years earlier

now looking at southern walls and gates—hoping to find something to build on

this would be the best place to start the rebuilding

Goes out at night to make this survey

just a few trusted men, he is the only one riding—secrecy important

why? will address in a moment, political, right timing


Put that aside for a moment and put yourself in Nehemiah’s shoes

Jew who is in Jerusalem for the first time, city of David

here after a string of tremendous answers to prayer

moonlit evening in the Middle East, wind blowing from desert

Nehemiah sets out through the ruins of the Valley Gate

Round the southern tip of the city, starts up the Kidron Valley,

looking for something to build on

devastation is so thorough, finally has to get off horse/donkey, go by foot

then turns around and comes back


Nehemiah had prayed for God’s will, witnessed answers to his prayers,

then finally, after all these spiritual highs he finally gets a look at what

God has given him to do—and it is awful



Just because God has burdened you for a person or place

doesn’t mean going to be easy

oftentimes, after the excitement of those early answers to prayer

after God has opened the initial doors,

after you say, wow, look what God is doing here

realize—this is an overwhelming task,

brokenness beyond what I imagined


So what sustains Nehemiah?

Why doesn’t he panic and overreact? I’m going back to Susa, secure there.

Why doesn’t he freeze and do nothing? I’ll keep to self and ride out term.

Thing that sustains him is that he is certain of God’s call.

Listen to the way he speaks of it in verse. 12

what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem”

Don’t you love that?

My God has called me to this broken place—why should I be overwhelmed?


Where does this certainty come from? I think we have already seen the answer.

See it back in chapter one—glimpse of Nehemiah’s private prayer life

a man who knows God, praying is like breathing for him

certain God has called, certain God has put on his heart because he knows God

knows God because he has spent time with him

Because it is really God’s calling and not just Nehemiah’s imagination,

it lasts in the face of terrible brokenness.


Let us suppose that the Lord calls you to minister to a broken person—

may be a person in your family, may be someone God puts in your life,

or maybe it is a troubled marriage, someone has sought your counsel

after those initial exciting providences, exciting answers to prayer,

realize, the needs here are so deep, the brokenness is so profound

What will sustain you? What will keep you from slowing backing away?

Certainty that God has called you to be his servant. That God laid on heart.

that certainty doesn’t just come out of the blue, comes in context of a relationship

part of a life of prayer and fellowship

Think for a minute about our Lord Jesus Christ—

came to own, own received not, hard hearts, shallow disciples, but came to do his

Father’s will, set face like a flint to Jerusalem

MP#2 The certainty of God’s call enables you to identify with broken people.


Look at how this worked out in Nehemiah’s life.

After this midnight tour, sees the devastation, realizes how bad it is,

gathers together the Jews living in the city and says—

You see the trouble we are in . . .”

In Chapter 1 Nehemiah is praying for the people in far-away Jerusalem

now he is identifying with them

this is the point at which he publicly embraces his call—no going back


The Nehemiah goes on to say, “Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem—

and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

something has clicked,

Nehemiah really begins to see clearly what God has called him to do


This is not really about rebuilding walls and gates

these broken walls are a symptom of a much greater problem,

the Jews need to put their lives back together, their spiritual lives in total chaos

For 140 years Jerusalem has been filled with rubble

for 70 years, since the first Jews returned from Babylonian exile

every day they have been stepping over rubble.


Imagine if every day you walked out front door, yard and driveway pile of bricks

drive down 31, only one lane cleared, other three choked with rusted cars,

covered with kudzu, downtown half buildings broken down—all you had known

This rubble a symbol of their spiritual condition, they were in disgrace

they seem to have been abandoned by God

and they have gotten used to living this way


So Nehemiah comes, and he comes not just to rebuild walls but to pastor people

of course God always more concerned about people than about bricks and mortar

Nehemiah says, let’s end our disgrace as a people, let’s get right with God

Often takes Nehemiah-like people to call individuals and even whole churches

back from their disgrace

disgrace caused by years of wandering, disobedience, lack of discipline

years of just getting used to stepping over the rubble of lives

and thinking, this is just the way things are, spiritual life can’t improve

But the thing I want you to see is that because Nehemiah is certain of his call

he doesn’t hold himself aloof

he identifies with these broken people—let us rebuild, let us remove our disgrace

he knows his own sin

And he goes a step further—he says, let me tell you what God has done for me.

let me tell you about the gracious hand of God on my life,

how he changed the mind of a king—once forbidden rebuilding, now commands

not only knows his own sin, knows the wonder of God’s grace


What if Nehemiah had overreacted

Listen you people, you and your parents have had 70 years to rebuild,

you’ve had 70 years to get right with God—now get with the program

Let me tell you what you need to do.

going to start having Bible studies and prayer meetings and you better show up


Or what if he had frozen—thought to self

I will never be able to motivate these people, look at them, pitiful

no use even talking to them, just following sorry footsteps of parents

they are such a disappointing group

in both cases he would have held himself aloof from these people


You are going to be tempted to do the same

when you minister to broken people

tempted to either be judgmental or disappointed

If you are a Christian who has never really felt ruined by your sins

going to be judgmental

If you are a Christian who has never really felt unconditional grace

going to be disappointed

Only thing that will keep you from this and enable you to identify with them

is to be certain that God has called you to be His servant

As His servant you know the disgrace of sin—can say, let us remove our disgrace

And you too know the wonder of God’s grace—can say, look at God’s hand


How do they respond? “Let us start rebuilding.”




MP#3 The certainty of God’s call enables you to resist the enemy.


Look at how this worked out in Nehemiah’s life.

These three critics and enemies show up again—Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem

Three local officials

Sanballat in Samaria to the north

Tobiah in Ammon to the east

Geshem in Idumea to the south

Reason for their hostility is political and economic

Jerusalem in an important spot for trade routs—with city non-functioning

no competition for trade and tariffs

without city walls, of course able to threaten and take advantage

Now things are threatening them—new governor, worse, rebuild walls

Jerusalem will regain its status

Think this was the reason for Nehemiah’s secrecy.

knew that if these three men heard of the plans before Nehemiah himself

could present the plans to the Jews and encourage them to rebuild

might cause such fear that it would be impossible to overcome


But look at what they say to Nehemiah and the people.

First—the mock and ridicule, “What is this you are doing.”

Second—they accuse, “Are you rebelling against the king?”

want them to feel stupid and ashamed

want them to feel fearful and doubting


I have called this point—resisting the enemy

the enemy I am talking about is the devil—these three were real men

opposition was diabolical because resisting the work of God

hated the rebuilding power of God, spiritual and physical liberty would bring

Devil tries to weaken you in the same way—stupid/ashamed, fearful/doubting


In your ministry to broken people and broken places

may be times you come under this demonic accusation—

may come through the criticism of other people, may be insinuated in mind

devil wants you to doubt your place and give way to fear



Perhaps he says—how can you be of any help, how can you be used?

you have fallen into this same sin

throws in your face a reminder of your past failures and present flaws

make you think you are actually dishonoring God, doing more harm than good

May be times you come under this demonic mockery

what you are doing is foolish and worthless—person will never change

do you think you are a hero? wake up, wasting your time

tempted to become ashamed of the Gospel that has so changed your life

begin to wonder, am I just making a fool of myself


Because Nehemiah is certain of his call, he resists masterfully.

First, to the insinuation that they are rebelling against the king—

doesn’t even dignify with a response

because he knows he is not—sent by King Artaxerxes himself,

has those letters of safe-passage ordered by the king

Even more than that, knew that King Artaxerxes had written those letters

because of the sovereign work of the living God


Second, to the mockery he says, “The God of heaven will give us success.”

this may seem foolish to you but it is the Lord’s work

And he resists any temptation to compromise,

sometimes, when people mock the Gospel, tempted to say,

what do you think I should do, what should I tell this broken person

We his servants will start rebuilding but you have no part at all in this.”

can be no compromise to the Gospel message—old time, born again religion

can’t be mingled with any feel-good philosophy


In your ministry to broken people—may be accusation and mockery

devil wants you to doubt your place and be ashamed of the Gospel

I have been called to this place, imperfect though I am, have letters from king.

And I have a rebuilding message, will not dilute it—power of God for salvation

for everyone who believes






CONC: