September 2015


Introduction

The book of Nehemiah talks about how he led the 3rd group of Jewish exiles to return to the land of Israel. He led the exiles to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem. The Jews were able finish the wall in 52 Days.

This is by no means an easy feat. for they must overcome troubles from within the Jews as well as other opposition. Nehemiah was able to complete a the work that is deemed impossible by others. There are a few factors that contributed to his success in rebuilding the wall.

In our previous post, we have studied 2 of factors that contributed to his success

1st Factor : He realised his commission and he prayed to God to help him  (Part 1)
2nd Factor : He was able to seize the opportunity and he was well prepared.  (Part 1)

Let us study the 3rd factor of his success.

3rd Factor : Nehemiah visited the ground to gain a personal understanding

“And I went out by night through
the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well
and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the
walls of Jerusalem which were broken
down and its gates which were burned
with fire.  Then I went on to the Fountain
Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was
no room for the animal under me to pass.
 So I went up in the night by the valley,
and viewed the wall; then I turned back
and entered by the Valley Gate, and so
returned.”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:13-15)

Neh 2:11 tells us that when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, he was there for 3 days. He must have heard of the comments from the people and read the many reports about the walls of Jerusalem. But those were not good enough,

For people tend write down the things they wanted to be recorded. Their observation and comments may be biased, These report only provided a superficial understanding to the problem and it may be incomplete. Even if the report is complete, it will only provide a one sided view of the problem

If one desires to understand the true situation one need to have a deep understanding of the problem. Then it is possible to come up with a practical and workable plan. That is why Nehemiah visited the walls personally.

You can see his night journey over here

https://i1.wp.com/www.bu.edu/mzank/Jerusalem/mp/periodic/nehemiah.jpg

Neh 2:13 tells us the places he had visited and he went out from the Valley gate, and he visited the serpent gate. Some commentaries felt that the serpent gate got its name because after the destruction of Jerusalem, that area now becomes a dwelling place for reptiles. Then he went on to the dung gate. Which is leading to the valley of Hinnom where all the refuse were dumped there.

These are all places that no one likes to visit, but Nehemiah took the effort to inspect the damage of the city wall. He is willing to go even if it means meeting with danger.  He did it not because he did not want to believe in the reports or the comment of the exiles. But because he wanted a personal understanding of the situation before he start planning.

Neh 2:14 tells us that he visited the fountain gate and the Kings pool. Even though they sounded like nice places, but it looks as if it was blocked and there was no place for his animal to get past. These are problems that are potential roadblocks and will impact the timeline to finish the work.

From here we know that planning involves understanding the whole situation and it involves identifying any potential problems that may hinder the work. In order to plan properly, one need to have a personal understanding of the situation.

The Importance Of Planning For Faith

The same thing can be said when we are trying to build up our faith. For faith requires planning as well. For Jesus once said

“For which of you, intending to build
a tower, does not sit down first and
count the cost, whether he has enough
to finish it lest, after he has laid the
foundation, and is not able to finish, all
who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This
man began to build and was not able to finish’?
  Or what king, going to make war against
another king, does not sit down first and
consider whether he is able with ten thousand
to meet him who comes against him with twenty
thousand?” – Jesus (Lk 14:28-31)

Jesus is not teaching us how to build a tower or to go to war. But he made used of this example to illustrate a simple point

“whoever of you does not forsake
all that he has cannot be My disciple.”- Jesus (Lk 14:33)

Sometimes in our lives of faith, we would encounter problems and obstructions. Sometimes it discourages us to the point that we wanted to give up on faith. Many a times this happens because we failed to consider the cost at the beginning.

If we want a house, we would need to consider the entire building process, we need to draw up the plans for the building as well as to engage a quantity surveyor to estimate the cost and the building materials needed. We want all to go according to plan and unless if we meet with the acts of God like an earthquake or a flood. Everything should fall according to plan.

The same can be said about going to war. From here we can see that men had put in a lot of effort to plan for their lives on earth. Likewise, we need to plan for our faith as well. For we are bound to encounter opposition and obstruction in our faith. Many of them will come from our friends and family. They may  stop us from following God.

If we only began asking ourselves “What are we to do now?” Then we have failed to plan for faith since the beginning. This is something we already knew and Jesus had already warned us.

We need to consider if we are willing to pay the price for keeping our faith. We need to know the cost, and consider, whether to follow God or to submit to our beloved. Both direction require us to give up something, which is why we need to consider it.

But in order to make this choice,m we need to understand the situation fully.

That is why Jesus said it earlier

“If anyone comes to Me and does not
hate his father and mother, wife and
children, brothers and sisters, yes, and
his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”- Jesus (Lk 14:26)

There is a price to pay for discipleship. Jesus is not saying that Christians cannot love their family  and their life. But their love for their love ones must not supersede their love for God.

We need to consider the difficulties and challenges we will face as Christians and we need to make that resolve to follow God. If we have counted the cost and considered carefully, we will move forward with our faith at all cost. For we have made that decision to follow Christ.

Let us resolve to follow Jesus and serve him no matter what happen.

The Reason behind Nehemiah’s Secrecy

“And the officials did not know where
I had gone or what I had done; I had
not yet told the Jews, the priests, the
nobles, the officials, or the others who
did the work.” – Nehemiah (Neh 2:16)

Here it tells us that Nehemiah had not told anyone behind his plan to rebuild the wall. Why is there a need for him to be discreet?

Nehemiah remain secretive in the beginning not because he was trying to exclude his brethren from the work of rebuilding the wall. But rather he knew of enemies who wanted to attack them and obstruct the work.

Neh 2:10 reads

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah
the Ammonite official heard of it, they were
deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek
the well-being of the children of Israel.” – Nehemiah (Neh 2:10)

Nehemiah’s arrival had alerted both Sanballat and Tobiah and it made them uneasy. Nehemiah was not being secretive because he is weary against his brethren but he was weary against the enemies who may obstruct his work.  Nehemiah did not want any trouble from them.

These people are not ordinary people, they have a huge political influence and they can affect the work and clause distress to the Jewish exiles.

Historical sources had indicate that Sanballat the Samaritan is the Governor of Samaria while Tobiah is known as a servant to the King.  They are politicians who have influence over the King. That is the reason behind his secrecy.

He choose not to tell anyone because he did not want anyone to know his plan yet. He needs to remain quiet before he makes his official announcement

This is something e ought to learn from as well. For sometimes if we declare our intention too early, we will run into unnecessary obstruction and problems. That is why we need to learn when to speak and when to be quiet.

4th Factor : Nehemiah encourage the Jews To Work For The Lord

After visiting the site for a personal understanding, Nehemiah was able to come up with a practical plan that could work. But a plan is only a plan until someone works on it. In order for the plan to be executed, he needs to encourage his Co-Workers to join in.

That is something that is difficult. It is easy to come up with the plan but it is hard to get the support of everyone to carry out the plan. But Nehemiah was able to encourage everyone to work, he stirred up the zeal of the Jews.

There is a difference that separates good teachers from the ordinary teachers and a differentiating  factor between exemplary teachers and the greatest teacher.

An ordinary teacher impart knowledge, a good teacher is able to explain knowledge, an exemplary teacher could demonstrate knowledge, but the greatest teacher inspires his students to achieve great things.

Nehemiah is like the greatest teacher. He inspires the Jews to work and he stirred up their heart to serve God. It is easy to teach, explain and demonstrate knowledge. But it is hard to inspire others to do the extraordinary.

The author of Nehemiah have summarised the key points of his exhortation and we can learn from it.

1st Pt : Nehemiah reminded the Jews Of their Responsibility

“You see the distress that we are in,
how Jerusalem lies waste, and its
gates are burned with fire. ”-Nehemiah (Neh 2:17 )

Nehemiah describes the situation as “the distress that we are in”. Nehemiah included himself as part of the Jews living here and suffering reproach. We know that Nehemiah came from Shushan which is in Iran and he did not suffer any physical reproach back at home.

But he came to Jerusalem because he is a child of God and part of the people of Israel. He regarded their suffering as his own suffering and he wanted to help them to get out of the distress.

Today if we belong to the house of the Lord, whenever we see a wall of Jerusalem broken down, it is our duty to rise up and rebuild the wall. We cannot just stare at it and wait for the wall to be repaired automatically. For only outsiders would choose to watch and mock at the damaged wall.

If we belong to the household of God, we ought to join in to the work and not mock.

Today the walls of truth that protects the church are being attacked, we cannot just stand there while the truth is being attacked. Our response tells us if we are members of God’s household or a mere outsider.

2nd Pt : Nehemiah reminded the Jews Of their dignity as people of God.

Nehemiah’s word seems to be asking the people “Did you not see the wall of Jerusalem lies wasted and the gates being burned? ”Have you heard how Jerusalem had become a reproach of others? How could you remain indifferent and not take any actions? Are you numb to the reproach? Have we lost our dignity as the people of God?

If one is stranger in the city of Jerusalem, then its walls have nothing to do with us. But if we are a member of Gods household, we will not remain indifferent to the problem. We will be filled with sadness and indignation

That is why he said

“Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem,
that we may no longer be a reproach”-Nehemiah (Neh 2:17 )

For if one continue to do nothing, the wall will never be repaired and God’s name will continue to be a reproach to the people. When the wall is completed we will not be a reproach for others.

3rd Pt : Nehemiah gave testimonies to encourage them

“And I told them of the hand of my God
which had been good upon me, and also
of the king’s words that he had spoken
to me.”- Nehemiah (Neh 2:18)

Nehemiah tried to encourage the faith of the people. He told them how the hand of God had been good upon him. His main point is not about how God made him great before the King of Persia but to tell them that God had began his work. He had move the Persian King to send him back to Jerusalem,

That is one of the greatest obstacle they face, if it is not overcome, the work would be obstructed.  God help Nehemiah and allowed the King to send him back to Jerusalem, it is a sign that God had began his work.

Nehemiah reminded them that they need to have faith that God will help them complete this work. For the King is concern for Nehemiah and he knew of the distress of Nehemiah, he wrote a decree to send him back to Jerusalem and even granted him resources to rebuild the wall.

Nehemiah’s point is, if a gentile King like Artaxerxes is concern about the walls of Jerusalem. How could the children of Israel be indifferent to it. That is why they need to rise up and build the wall.

4th Pt : Nehemiah reminded them of their rights and heritage.

“The God of heaven Himself will
prosper us; therefore we His servants
will arise and build, but you have no
heritage or right or memorial in
Jerusalem.” – Nehemiah (Neh 2:20)

Nehemiah said to  Sanballat, Tobiah and Gershem that they were the servants of God, they must rise and build this house. For it is their heritage, their right and their memorial in Jerusalem.

Unless one is not a part of the City of Jerusalem, he had no portion, right or memorial over there. It is not their work to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. That is why they need to rise and build the walls.

Conclusion

When the people heard the words of Nehemiah. They understood and they replied to Nehemiah “Let us rise and build” and they started working

We know that they took 52 days to complete the project.

We have heard the exhortation of Nehemiah as well. We have seen the wall of our Jerusalem been broken down and is in ruins. We need to rise and build the house of God as well.

We had studied 4 reasons behind the success of Nehemiah. Let us rise and rebuild the city walls of our Jerusalem.

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So far we have studied 3 of the last will of King David.

1. The 1st will is to be strong and keep Gods commandment
2. The 2nd will is to judge and execute Joab the commander
3. The 3rd will is to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai (Part 3, Part 4)
4. The 4th  will is to judge and execute Shimei the Benjamite (Part 5)

In part 5, we have studied the character of Shimei. We talk about  how he is a man who bullies those who are in trouble. We have studied the sins of Shimei and understood that his sin was because he had cursed the Lords anointed.

After that we went on to discuss David’s responses to the curse of Shimei. We understood the need to confess our sins and to face the consequences that resulted from our sin. 

Now let us look deeper into the wrongs of Shimei and why he must be judged.

Shimei Distorts The Truth As He Cursed David

Let us consider the curse of Shimei.

“Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty
  man, you rogue!  The Lord has brought
  upon you all the blood of the house of Saul,
  in whose place you have reigned; and the
  Lord has delivered the kingdom into the
  hand of Absalom your son. So now you are
  caught
in your own evil, because you are a
  bloodthirsty man!”- Shimei (2 Sam 16:17-18)

From here we can read of how Shimei distorts the truth. He had turn what is good into something bad. Shimei have treated what is bad as good. He accused David of being a bloodthirsty man.

He accused David of shedding the blood of Saul and claimed that God had judged him for that sin and gave his kingdom away. He claimed that David is caught in his own evil. His words appears true on the surface.

For it is fact that Saul had died and David became the king of Israel. It is also the fact that Absalom rebelled against him. There were many who supported the rebellion of Absalom. On the surface it appears as if David had killed Saul and had usurped his throne. It appears that Absalom is doing the same to David. 

But anyone familiar with the stories in 1 Samuel will know that it was Saul who disobeyed God. God rejected Saul as the king and during that time David had not came into the picture yet.

Saul Lost his throne because of God’s judgement and God had chosen David to be King in his place. When Saul knew that David will eventually replace him, he sought to kill David. By doing so, Saul had went against the will of God once again.

Even though David had the chance to kill Saul twice, David spared him again and again, Saul was eventually killed at Mount Gilboa in a battle against the Philistines. Even after his death, David did not take revenge on the house of Saul.

The bible recorded that David was King of Judah for 7 years, and he ruled Israel for 33 years. After the death of Saul there are many tribes who still supported the house of Saul. They rebelled against King David and refuse to acknowledge him as king. David did not assert his authority as the Lords anointed nor did he use his power to subdue the house of Saul. It took another 7 years before the other tribes understood the will of God and made David King.

David is not a man who lusted for political power, he did not force the people to support his claim to the throne. He gave them time to accept him.

There are all facts known by Israel but here we see Shimei twisting these facts. He accused David of shedding Saul’s blood and he even used the name of God as he distort the truth.

Understanding David’s Rationale For Judging Shimei

In the previous post, we saw David enduring the cursing from Shimei, and he did not put up a defence before him.  For he know that the facts could speak for itself and the truth cannot be hidden.

“You can fool all the people
  some of the time, and some
  of the people all the time, but
  you cannot fool all the people
  all the time." -Abraham Lincoln

Even though one could distort the truth, but the truth will be revealed in the end.

For we know that David eventually returns to Jerusalem to reclaim his throne. We have also seen that Shimei was eventually judged by God. For Shimei was executed by King Solomon. The bible gave an interesting narrative about the execution of Shimei.

“You know, as your heart acknowledges,  
  all the wickedness that you did to my 
  father David; therefore the Lord will 
  return your wickedness on your own 
  head.  But King Solomon shall be blessed, 
  and the throne of David shall be established 
  before the Lord forever.” – Solomon (1 King 2:44-45)

“So the king commanded Benaiah the 
  son of Jehoiada; and he went out and 
  struck him down, and he died. Thus 
  the kingdom was established in the 
  hand of Solomon.” – Author Of The Book Of Kings (1 King 2:46)

Shimei was killed according to his own sin. After his death, the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.

Shimei is a man who distorts the truth and can bring damage to his country. If a nation is filled with people who distorts the truth, there can be no peace. His words can spark of rebellion and civil war creating unrest among the people.

David’s command to execute Shimei is not  a mere pursuit of vendetta against Shimei. For the existence of  Shimei will undermine the security of the kingdom of Israel. He is someone who will not help build up a nation but will be a threat to the peace and security of the country.

Concluding The Study Of Shimei The Benjamite

Shimei is a man who set his heart to follow King Saul. Even though Saul was dead, he continues to follow blindly and continued in his hatred for King David. His support for Saul was so great that he even went to the extent of distorting the truth about David.

He disregarded the fact that it was Saul who went against the commands of the Lord, he disregards the fact that God had chosen David as King over Israel. He did not think about the damage that the house of Saul had did to Israel.

He choose to follow Saul blindly and went against King David, even if it means going against the will of God.

That is why David have to execute him , for there will be no security with him around. It was only after his death that the kingdom of Solomon was established.

Today we are like King David. We have our weakness and we sin against God. But we must emulate David to confess his sin and repent before God. When David repented and return to God, God gave him peace. This is the reason why we continue to respect King David as a man after God’s heart 

Let us not be like Shimei who followed blindly  and distorts the truth. For men like Shimei  will bring harm upon the kingdom of God. We know that he was eventually judged by God and was executed by King Solomon.

Let us learn to respect and emulate a man like David, let us learn to respect God and be loyal to the house of God. Let us be weary of a people like Shimei. Let us not be the Shimei within our own church and our own community.

Concluding The Series Of Study

I hope that this series will change how we read 1 Kings 2:1-9. It will help us  understand the will of David better. 

Here are the links to all the blog post under this topic

1. The 1st will is to be strong and keep Gods commandment
2. The 2nd will is to judge and execute Joab the commander
3. The 3rd will is to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai (Part 3, Part 4)
4. The 4th  will is to judge and execute Shimei the Benjamite (Part 5 , Part 6)