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Monday, November 19, 2012

Ezra and Nehemiah Part 3

       Rebuilding the ruins of the Temple, the City of Jerusalem and the walls of protection around it will not be the work of one man. Jews and Gentiles and both men and women will work “as one man” in unity to rebuild. It will be a corporate effort with Ezra, the priest and Nehemiah, the ruler as the leaders. The rebuilding will not be without opposition, however. The devil and his demonic host are always trying to abort the purpose and plan of God through His people. The first thing Nehemiah did was to ask one of his brothers who came back to Babylon from Judah about the condition of Jerusalem.   
Nehemiah cared about God's people and God's dwelling place. When he was told that the wall of protection around Jerusalem was broken down and its gates burned, Nehemiah wept and then prayed. Then Nehemiah confessed the sin of the Israelites. He identified with their sin. He reminded God of His love for those who love Him and obey His commands. He also reminded God of His promise to Moses that He would scatter the Israelites for disobedience but would regather them to the place God had chosen for His Name--Jerusalem. Nehemiah's hope was in God and His Word of promise.
       Nehemiah asked God for favor before the King. Nehemiah could have ignored the condition of Jerusalem and remained in his comfortable and highly-regarded position in the palace but he didn't. Jesus too left His position of glory with His heavenly Father to come to earth to save humanity from the ruins of their flesh and rebuild them into vessels of service and honor in the heavenly Father's kingdom. Because of Jesus' shed blood that washes us clean, we can come boldly before the throne of grace with our petitions. God's Hand will be upon us to do the work He has called each believer to do for His Kingdom.
      As Nehemiah was doing his duty as cupbearer to the king, the king notices that Nehemiah had a sad countenance. King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah why he was sad. Nehemiah tells the king that the city where the fathers of Israel are buried is in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem because He knew that it would soon be in ruins because of the peoples' rejection of Him. Nehemiah asks for the king's favor to let him go to Jerusalem to rebuild that which is in ruins. Nehemiah also asked that the king protect him as he journeyed to God's holy city of Jerusalem. Because God's Hand was upon Nehemiah, the king grants Nehemiah permission. Nehemiah had the favor of both God and man! Nehemiah had obviously been a faithful servant to the king and had Godly character. The king grants Nehemiah his request to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the ruins.
      As the book of Nehemiah shows, Nehemiah was a bold and courageous leader, a motivator, encourager and a team builder. He was also not afraid of opposition because he knew that “the God of heaven would give us success.” Neh. 2:20 Nehemiah's strength and boldness was not in himself, but in God. Nehemiah knew that His strength, direction and help comes from the Lord. Nehemiah would give God the glory. And no one who opposed or discouraged would stop Nehemiah and his willing servants from accomplishing the work God had called them to do.
      As soon as the leaders of Israel agree to start rebuilding the ruins, the opposition came. The enemy of our souls does not like the Body of Christ unified! Sanballat, the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab came mocking and accusing.
  • Tobiah -- the re-establishment of Jerusalem would threaten his political power and authority.
  • Sanballat – Governor of Samaria that dominated trade. The rebuilding of Jerusalem would also threaten his power.
  • Geshem – powerful ruler established by the Persian Empire – his power would also be threatened.
     Rulers do not like their power and authority threatened! This was obvious with the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes whose power and authority Jesus threatened. These three rulers joined ranks against Nehemiah and his laborers. They were unable to stop the work, however, because God was with Nehemiah and the laborers who were doing God's work. Nehemiah boldly puts them in their place by telling them that the God of heaven will give His people success and that these three foreigners “have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” 2:20
      Nehemiah, God's chosen one and the wise leader, assigned all who were willing a portion of the work. God had supplied the men and women to do the work, but Nehemiah chose the leaders who would build each section of the wall. Men and women of all walks of life participated in the rebuilding of the wall of protection around Jerusalem. Their“mission” was more important then their “position!” Jews and Gentiles, males and females worked together as one to rebuild the wall of protection around God's dwelling place and repair its gates. The Body of Christ's mission is also far more important than any one individual or group! The early disciples of Jesus served daily “in one accord” and singleness of heart as they began establishing Christ's Temple in the hearts of His followers. Because of this, the Lord added to the church daily. (see Acts 2:46--47)
      Jesus does the choosing and the Holy Spirit does the anointing of those He will use to lead and build His Church. The fivefold ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are Christ's gift to His Church “to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph. 4:11-13 Jesus, the Sent One of God, sends these into His Body so we can reach the fullness of Christ. The fivefold ministry is Christ's gift--but a gift must be received and opened in order for it to be effective in the Body. There is no tragedy like the tragedy of an unopened gift—especially the gift of salvation and eternal life through Jesus. Every member of Christ's Body has a work to do for His Kingdom. We are to invest and multiply our gift not let it die and be buried! We must be sure that we are all willing to work and be in our right position so the Body of Christ will operate effectively. Jesus will choose wise leaders who not only know the Word of God and are full of faith in God, but also can recognize and place the other members of the Body into their right positions as Nehemiah and his leaders did. If someone is not being used in their gift or operating outside of his or her gifting, the Body will not operate correctly and fully. Just as every part/member of our natural body works together harmoniously to maintain life, the spiritual Body of Christ must also operate with every member using their callings and giftings to maintain spiritual life. A Church that does this will be a Church that is operating in God's order and will be very successful. If there are people in the Church that just attend and don't use their gifts, the Church will be lacking. Jesus saves us for a purpose—to do a work for His Kingdom. He wants every person to be using their gift/gifts harmoniously with the others to breathe spiritual life into others. (see Romans 12:1-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-29) The walls and gates around the city of Jerusalem in Nehemiah were completed by everyone doing their part--progressively and in order.
      God is calling the Body of Christ to rebuild what has been torn down. We must work together “as one man” in “one accord” with one purpose. The wall of protection around Christ's Body must be rebuilt and its gates repaired so it will be set upon a hill – high place –and the Light of Christ will shine brightly in these dark times. The Anointed Word of God is our wall of protection. When we know the Truth and remain within its boundaries, our light will shine brightly and we will be a wall of protection around His temple and city. Like some of the nobles didn't support the work in the days of Nehemiah, some Pastors won't support the work within the Body because they don't believe there is any need of repair. The Body of Christ has been weakened by untruth, tolerance of sin and a struggle for power. There is need of repair! Be reminded that Jesus warned that many would fall away from the Truth.
      The names of the gates around the earthly Jerusalem has the journey of believers and the progression of a deeper walk with the Lord hidden within. Nehemiah and the faithful remnant will rebuild and restore these gates.


      The first gate to be rebuilt is the Sheep Gate. The High Priest and his priests “went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place.” This is the work of our Great High Priest Jesus and His fivefold ministry – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Jesus is the Supreme Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. Therefore, He will choose and anoint those who will fill these positions in order to build His Temple in the hearts of mankind. The Sheep Gate is mentioned first and last. (see Neh. 3:1; 12:38)The rebuilding goes full circle. The Sheep Gate is the first repaired and the last one dedicated. The first is last and the last is first! This gate was the starting point and the finishing point. The sheep offered for sacrifice in the temple came through this gate for slaughter to be used in the atonement, sin and trespass offerings. Jesus is the Lamb and the Sheep Gate. It all begins and ends with Him at the cross! He is theFirst and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He is the full circle of the Word of God. He is also the atonement, sin and trespass offering for all who believe in Him. Jesus said, “I am the Door of the sheep.” John 10:7 No one can enter the heavenly New Jerusalem except through the shed blood of the perfect Lamb of God chosen of God not man.
      The repairers of this gate also repaired the wall as far as the Tower of Meah and the Tower of Hananel. Hananel means “God's mercy.” Meah mean“hundred.” Jesus told a parable about 100 sheep. He would leave the 99 in the care of the under-shepherds to go after the one lost sheep. (see Luke 15:3-7) Jesus in His grace and mercy will seek and find the lost! 100 is a complete number. Jesus came to earth to seek and save those who are spiritually lost. All must come to Jesus for salvation and eternal spiritual life. Because of the living sacrifice of the Lamb of God, we must willingly become living sacrifices to Him. He will use us to seek and save those who are spiritually lost and also build His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
     Near the Sheep Gate is the pool of Bethesda where the sheep to be used for sacrifice would be cleansed. Bethesda means “house of outpouring or overflowing water.” This represents the water of the Holy Spirit and the Anointed Word that cleanse believers. It also represents a house of God filled with the Anointed Word and Spirit. It was the blood of Jesus that made us holy so the Holy Spirit could be out-poured on all who believe in the Lamb of God that was slain. The Holy Spirit will teach us and lead us into all Truth. John 5:2-3: Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. The blind, lame and paralyzed believed that this pool had miraculous power. The sick, blind and lame would sit by this pool outside the temple waiting for the Angel of the Lord to stir up (move)the water. A person would have another put him or her into the moving water and they would be healed. Followers of Christ are to bring sinners to Christ and His living water so they too can be made whole. The five covered colonnades represent grace. We must be covered by the grace of God in Jesus if we are to be made spiritually whole and well. The living, moving water represents the Anointed Word— the Word anointed by the Holy Spirit.
      One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:3-6 This man, like all of us, was lame (sinful)since birth. We are all lame because we are sinful. We must want to get well. Only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can make us whole. “Sir,”the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” v7 This invalid was looking to man for his help! Jesus didn't tell him to get into the water. He merely used His powerful, anointed Word to give hope to the hopeless. "Arise, pick up your bed and walk." 5:8 When this invalid obeyed Jesus' Word, at once he was healed and got up and walked uprightly. It is the Anointed Word that helps raise us up so we walk uprightly with Jesus. The Jews right away quoted the Law about working on the Sabbath, but this man said a Man told him to pick up his bed and walk. He didn't even know who this Man (Jesus) was but the power and authority of His Word moved him to obey it. This invalid obeyed the Word of Jesus, not the Law! The Jews wanted to bring him back to the Law, but this invalid obeyed Jesus because he experienced the results of doing so firsthand! It was later in the Temple that the healed invalid realized who Jesus was. In the temple, Jesus told the man to "stop sinning." Jesus always mixed grace with Truth because He is both. Jesus knows that sin puts us in bondage. There is no freedom in it, so He told the man to stop sinning. Jesus loves us enough not to withhold Truth no matter how uncomfortable it may make us feel!
Believers enter the Temple of God through the Sheep Gate (Jesus)and are cleansed by the Word of God anointed by the Holy Spirit under the covering of grace. At the Sheep Gate in the wall around Jerusalem, the sheep were inspected to see if they were without spot or blemish. Believers are the righteousness of God in Christ. Because Jesus was without spot or blemish (sinless),those who are “in” Him are also without spot or blemish. After cleansing all of our sin when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, Jesus and the Holy Spirit want to remove our individual sins so we will walk more like Jesus in His freedom and others will see His Light in us.
      Nehemiah inspected the wall and gates of Jerusalem and saw that they were in ruins. After the Sheep Gate and the portion of the wall as far as Hananel (God's mercy) was repaired, they consecrated it. In other words, by God's mercy the Sheep Gate and this portion of the wall was repaired, sanctified and set apart for God by the High Priest and priests just as believers are sanctified in Christ by God's mercy and set apart for God in our Great High Priest and King Jesus. The grace and mercy of God and the blood sacrifice for sin is first. Then sanctification.  It is in Christ that we are complete as the number 100 indicated. 
      The Fish Gate will be repaired next.

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