Pastor Skip Heitzig: Well, turn in your Bibles tonight to Nehemiah Chapter 1, as we survey go through the Bible this year. Nehemiah Chapter 1 through 13 tonight we're going to cover by God's grace. Tonight, I don't know what you are going through but I know that God does. And before we pray or before we can do our Bible study, let's just pray for those who are around us. Heavenly Father you know exactly what we have been facing this week, the issues of our year, our month, the relationships that we are in, the ones that we are struggling with, the things at work that are bothering us, even issues in our own souls and our own lives, maybe things that nobody else knows anything about, but you know them deeply, intimately. And Lord just as we are saying that Your love is wider than the ocean. It's vast, it's everlasting and it's based upon the covenant of sending Jesus Christ to be the atonement for our sins, His blood shed for us or we approach You on that basis. And we pray Father that You would touch and heel and minister to those here in the congregation tonight, even through these words of Jeremiah, as they brought revival years ago, revive our hearts. But we thank You also for those watching on the internet live, those listening by radio. We thank You for Your family that has gathered here tonight in this place. Bless, as You said in Your word, You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You in Jesus' name. Amen! My father was a builder when I was growing up. He was a man who had vision to see a piece of raw land and think what it could become. Sub-divisions, shopping centers, housing tracks, in fact, I remember a phone conversation just to show you how old this is, we were in Southern California, I was growing up, my dad was on the phone and as he was thinking about developing and building, he was having a conversation with a friend of his and he said, "I can predict the day, someday in the future when homes in Los Angeles will be at least $50,000." Now in those days, you know it wasn't B.C., $50,000 sounded outrageous, but you couldn't buy a garage door for $50,000 in Los Angeles. Things have changed. And I remember that he had a vision for developing a piece of property in Orange County, he wanted to buy it, it was all lemon groves, it was called Lemon Heights at the time. And he wanted to buy it from Orange County and build homes on it. And at that time the county didn't have the forethought or the foresight to think about what could become. So he said, "Here's my plan, I want to buy the lemon groves, I want to tear down the lemon groves and I want to build homes." And Orange County said, "If you tear down the lemon trees and build homes, you'll devalue the property." And at that time maybe they were right, but he was thinking with vision way down the line. Now those homes are incredibly priced. Well, Nehemiah was a builder. He goes from cup-bearer to construction builder in Jerusalem. He is not in Jerusalem, at first he is in a far away place of Persia, but he also had incredible vision of what could become, what could happen with the city of Jerusalem. Now Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra, the last guy that we read about last week, but Ezra had been in Jerusalem already 14 years. Nehemiah leads the third and final group from the captivity back to Jerusalem; remember Zarubabel and then Ezra and now Nehemiah brings the third and final group back to rebuild the city. Now building is one thing. Rebuilding something is another thing. In fact, I would say, it's a lot harder to do a rebuild then just to build from scratch. And to rebuild a city that has been broken down is a daunting task. I remember, the two weeks that I spent at Ground Zero after the Twin Towers fell and I remember the whole city felt this sense of despair. I mean, you see that pile of rubble and it's such a daunting task to think of removing it, let alone rebuilding something all over again. And there were firefighters and there were city workers and politicians, all of them absolutely dismayed as they thought about their future. So Nehemiah goes back to a city that is very similar thinking that way. Well, there are three basic themes in this book, three basic themes and they are all divided in sections. Chapter 1 through 7 is the first section; Chapters 8, 9 and 10, the second section; and then Chapters 11 through 13, the third section. Chapters 1 through 7, the first theme, is rebuilding a city's protection, rebuilding a city's protection. They have been back for a period of time they built a temple, but though they have a temple they don't have walls to protect the city. So what good does it do to have worship if you don't have the freedom and the security to worship? So he wants to come back and rebuild the walls, rebuild the city's protection. Number two, the second theme is Chapters 8, 9 and 10, that is, reviving a city's passion, reviving a city's passion. Nehemiah believes that worshiping the Lord is essential. Don't just put up a building, just don't put up walls on the streets, make sure that people have the right heart felt activity of prays and worship, and everything is in place. And then the third and the final theme is Chapters 11 through 13 and that is resettling a city's population. You are going to find an interesting problem towards the end of this book. They have a city, they have walls, they have buildings; they just don't have people. Not many people came back, even though there were three different returns, Jerusalem was a ghost town. So he is going to resettle the city's population. Well let's look in Chapter 1:1, and the first seven chapters, rebuilding a city's protection. "The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, it came to pass in the month of Kislev in the twentieth year that I was in Shushan the citadel." That's about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf. It's in Persia, ancient Iran. "That Hanani, one of my brethren", and we'll find out in Chapter 7 that he was actually one of Nehemiah's brethren, an actual blood brother, a blood relative, "came with men from Judah and I ask them concerning the Jews who had escaped who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem." "And they said to me, "the survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem is also broken down and its gates are burned with fire." So it was "When I heard these words that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven." Down on Verse 11, at the end of that prayer, "Oh Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man for I was the king's cupbearer." This man that Nehemiah speaks of is none other than a guy named Artaxerxes Longimanus. Artaxerxes Longimanus was the guy who succeeds king Ahasuerus you go, you lost me. Artaxerxes was hard enough, Ahasuerus is even worse. Ahasuerus will be the name that will be mentioned in the next book, the Book of Esther. After Ahasuerus dies, Artaxerxes who is the son and the stepson of Esther, takes the throne. And he gives a very important command, I wish we had more time, but he gives the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem which sets the time clock for Daniel Chapter 9:25, the Prophet Daniel in captivity gave the exact date that Jesus the Messiah would come to Jerusalem and present Himself as king, to the exact date, 173,880 days. He predicated the Messiah would show up and He did and it's been historically shown. Don't have enough time to get into that, but we will when we get to Daniel. So he was the king's cupbearer. Now as we briefly mentioned on Sunday, because we use this text to begin our study. The cupbearer was the personal secretary or assistant to the king of Persia. He had to be cultured; he had to be knowledgeable in the law, conversant in politics. He had to be handsome in appearance and he was very close to the king and very trusted. And so he has an end with the king and he hears what is happening in Jerusalem. There is a great old saying that says, "Large doors swings on small hinges". Large doors swings on small hinges. Those little conversations that you have with people, you don't know what they are going to yield. You are at the grocery store, you are in line, somebody asks a question and one piece comes together with another piece, leaves it somebody else or to leaving that person right there to Christ, you just don't know what could come in a natural normal set of events. And so here it happens that the cupbearer of the king happens to hear what's going on in Jerusalem and he happens to be the cupbearer, so he is close with the king and one thing leads to another, which will lead to the rebuilding of this city. So briefly, he hears what goes on, he sits down to weep. He then responds by kneeling down to pray and finally he stands up to work, he is going to go before the king, because he feels that since the city has broken down, God will use me to fix it. When Saul of Tarsus was on the way to Damascus and he got knocked off of his high horse, literally and figuratively he said, "Who are you Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." And then Saul of Tarsus asked a question that I wish every single Christian would ask, "What do you want me to do Lord?" Some people never really get around to asking that in a meaningful way, "Lord, what do you want me to do, what is the rest of my life supposed to be like?" Lead me, direct me, guide me, how can I be part of your plan on the earth? Nehemiah was of that sort. So Chapter 2:1, "It came to pass in the month of Nisan", again, this is the month not the car. This is around March or April, the spring of the year, "in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king." Now watch this, "I had never been sad in his presence before. Therefore the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick?" This is nothing but sorrow of heart. So I became dreadfully afraid." Now you might read that and be tempted to go, Oh! What a nice king. No, he is dreadfully afraid, because it was considered the highest crime for a cupbearer to be sad in the king's presence. It could mean capital punishment. They could cut your head off. And here was the idea. In a Persian Court, they did not want to give the king any reason to be sad. They didn't want to have him asking questions about something that would be bad or sad. They wanted to keep all sadness away from the king in his court. And also if you are working for the king he wants happy people. It's like if you work at a restaurant or for a company, you don't take your personal baggage into your job or you won't last long. For instance, if you are a waiter or a waitress and you go up to your table and you go, Hello! What do you want? Here's the menu. You naturally go, what's wrong? Well, I'll tell you what's wrong, I lost my job. You just don't do that there and it was even more so a crime in a Persian Court. That's why it says, "so I became dreadfully afraid". "And I said to the king, "May the king live forever."" It's a good thing to say when your life is on the line. May the king live forever, because I want to live forever. "Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place my Father's tomb lies in waste and its gates are burned with fire?" Now do you remember, in Proverbs 21 it says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord and like the courses of the rivers, he turns it wherever he wishes." It's never more true than in what we are about to read in Verse 4, "Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" Bingo! Door wide open. So what do you want? Yes, now notice this. "So I prayed to the God of heaven." Now obviously, the kind of prayer that he prayed was -- let's call it a popcorn prayer -- he shot a quick one up. It wasn't a lengthy prayer. In that position he said, what do you want, and he thought Lord, help me now, give me your grace and then he talked. You see, you can imagine how it would if he would have paused when the king said, now what is it you want? And Nehemiah said, Lord, God I besieged the Father of heaven and earth. The king would suspect this guy of treason and it wouldn't work. So he didn't have enough time for a lengthy prayer however; the longest prayer recorded in the Bible will be in the book of Nehemiah. But at this time, it's just a quick one, like open door. But before I go through it, help Lord, help. "And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my Father's tombs that may rebuild it." Now please notice, Nehemiah's approach to the king. He is very submissive. He reverences and respects the position of the king. He doesn't say, King, I am here to tell you that I am going to Jerusalem whether you like it or not, dude, because I am following God. He didn't do that, he didn't have an attitude. Though he trusts God and though his highest authority is God and though as in the book of Acts it says, we must obey God rather than man, still please notice, the respect that this man has for his earthly authority. And I believe that Christians should have utmost respect for earthly authorities. The Bible tells us to respect the king, to pay taxes, to respect those who collect from us, for those who are employers, for spiritual care, those who care for our souls. Sometimes people have an attitude and they have an attitude in the name of God. That's what disturbs me the most. Why were you speeding, going 30 miles over the speed limit? I am not under the law. Well, you are going to get a ticket anyway; I don't care what you are under. Or well, I want this ministry to provide such and such and if you don't, I'll go and start my own church right down the street. There is a respect all throughout the Bible for the authority that God has over us, especially those who care for our souls. So he is very, very cooperative with the king and asks very nicely. So Nehemiah, eventually in this Chapter arrives in Jerusalem. There are two men that we mentioned a little while ago, Sanballat and Tobiah, they are agitated at it. So Verse 11, "I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days." Now again, Ezra is already there, he has been there 14 years. Nehemiah comes, they probably meet, they probably embrace, they catch up, if they knew each other. I am sure Ezra was happy to see him. "Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me and told no one what my God had put in my heart to do with Jerusalem, nor was there any animal with me except the one on which I rode." Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem, doesn't say a word, doesn't show everybody his plan, doesn't show everybody his card, so to speak. See I am here, because I prayed, God sent me, the king cooperated and I am here to build the city. Didn't say a word and for a few days he just looked, he inspected. He wanted to see what he is up against, he wanted to formulate before the Lord a plan, and then he would share it with people and he does share it. Listen to what A.W Tozer, what a great author, if you have never read his stuff, get a hold of it. A.W Tozer said, "Aimless activity is beneath the worth and the dignity of a human being." The great weight of exhortations these days is in the direction of zeal and activity. Let's get going, is the favorite watchword for Gospel workers with the result that everyone feels ashamed to sit down and think. And so many people just, we have got to go, we got to go. Well, where are you going and what are you doing? I don't exactly know yet, but I know I got to go. Well, just stop, sit down, think it through, pray it through. Get a God given plan then go for it. He does, he rallies the people, Verses 17 through 20, and as he does Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab are again agitated, and they laugh at them. Verse 19, "When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite Official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us and said, "What is this thing that you are doing, will you rebel against the king?"" "So, I answered them and said to them, "The God of heaven, Himself will prosper us. So, therefore we, His servants, will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."" So Nehemiah comes, prays, thinks about it. He has got a vision; he has got a common goal, and he goes for it, right? So when you have got a vision and you have a goal and you rally people together and you are on the same page for whatever project you feel you ought to do, you are on your way right. No problem after that, right? No, get a clue, big problem. You have heard of Murphy's Law, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Well, there is a thing called Lucifer's Law and that is "Anything Satan can mess up, he will mess up." And if you decide at any time in your Christian life to get serious about God or to embark on a mission project or some former service, there is a battle. I don't say that to drive you away, in fact, I hope it will make you say, "Oh Really! Well, come on." I hope that will embolden you, but any time you decide to do service for the Lord, it's like a bull's-eye is has painted on your back, you are a target. Think of David, David, the Shepherd Boy. Life was good for David, the Shepherd Boy. David, the Shepherd Boy could go out and tend sheep and sing songs and write, worship, music, and it was great, till that Samuel guy had to come over. And say, David is the next king of Israel and took oil and poured it all over his head and this little shepherd boy was going, "Hmm". From that day forward, his life changed. From that day forward, he became the target of Saul, really the target of Satan using Saul to destroy God's lineage, but it wasn't until he stepped up to the plate to serve the Lord, that all of that happened. Well, Jerusalem is the center of God's program here on the earth. And Nehemiah could have decided to build anywhere in the Persian Empire, it wouldn't have been a problem as it was here in Jerusalem and it is a problem. Chapter 3: Let's give it a title; let's called Chapter 3, 'Extreme Makeover Jerusalem Style'. You know, this city had a privilege and it was a friend of ours that got to be the recipient where extreme makeover came, in four-and-a-half days, here in Albuquerque, they built the guy's home, a family's home; beautiful, wonderful gift. They go to Jerusalem, Nehemiah, from start to finish, completes the walls of the city, get this, in 52 days. 52 days, the whole wall of the city gets built. That's a record. Record time, it gets done. Now if you were to go to Jerusalem today and I hope some of you will, I know some of you will, because you have said you will, but if you do, you will see piles of stones in a lot of different places, walls too but piles of stones and will say, "Hey, those stones were stones that fell from 70 A.D.", when the temple was destroyed as predicted by Jesus. You will see them, they are still there, and you will marvel at it. It's really cool to go Jerusalem and see archaeological digs and piles of stones, but it wasn't cool back then. They weren't looking in holes and going, "That's really cool! Just like God predicted, the city fell." No, no, that meant their protection or lack thereof, they were very vulnerable here. But God promised of Jerusalem, He said, I will put my name there. Psalm, 87, the Bible says, "God loves the Gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." So God has a special interest in this city. And so, though they feel vulnerable, God has a plan and is going to enact the plan as He did through Ezra and Zarubabel, now through Nehemiah. So they build. They began on the North facing wall of the city and after they are done with the North wall, they move to the West wall and then the South wall and then the East wall, and in Chapter 3, there is a phrase that is used 16 times. It's the words "Next to". Next to, I could sum it up by saying this, here is a dude building, next to that dude is this dude, he is building here and next to him, is this family and next to them is this guy and next to and next to and next to, 16 times it's mentioned here, as they are building. 38 individuals and 42 groups are mentioned in Chapter 3 and are identified. And here is what I love about it. That is the body of Christ. We are next to each other and we have our part to do, we have our portion of the wall to build. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12, "The body is not one member but many members." It's a team. Moses tried to do all the work himself and his father-in-law, there in Exodus 18 watch Moses from morning till sundown, doing everything and he comes home at night and feel really great about it and his father-in-law Jethro said, "Moses, this is not good. You are going to worry yourself out, and you are going to worry the people out, you need a team, man." One person no matter how gifted, can never do the work, especially the work of ministry alone. You need people next to you and next to you and next to you. Let me just say, this church is really great about the next to concept. There are so many of you that are involved in different ministries and it's just from the bottom of your heart, you just love to do it. People notice it. I notice it. And we are so grateful for every one of you that volunteers, that ministers in some capacity, but for others of you, some of you still think that church is a spectator sport. I come and I watch. It's a filling station for me, I get filled up and then I leave and I need to filled up again and then I go and I get filled up. Well, that's good. I hope you do, but I hope it's more than that. Back in the early 60s, when Bud Wilkinson was coaching his football team in Oklahoma and he was being interviewed and the interviewer said, "Mr. Wilkinson, you are a very famous coach. Define football for us, define the sport of football", and Bud Wilkinson said, "Football is 22,000 people in the grand stance who desperately need exercise and 22 people on the field who desperately need rest." He said, that's football. Well, that's sort of funny but that's sort of what it is. And those guys who out watching, hooting and hallowing, slamming down their beers and they should probably lose a little of that weight, and these guys are working, working, working, and sweating and they need to rest; a lot of times church is that way, a lot of spectators and a few people doing the work. One of the things I appreciate is so many of you do the work, and if God is prompting others of you to do an active service, get on board and be next to and work next to. Chapter 4 and 5, there is more opposition. Verse 1, "But it so happened when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant and he mocked the Jews." This is opposition by ridicule. "And he spoke before his brother and the army of Samaria." I think he wants a military, a war campaign. "And he said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish, stones that are burnt?"" Now you answer that question, will they revive those stones? They certainly will. Eventually, it will be done. So Nehemiah hears about that and he prays and in Verse 6, "So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work." Now it's not done yet, it's not finished but it is joined together and it's about halfway a built. But he fights the battle in prayer. Now Chapter 4:10, there is more opposition. They are discouraged at this point, "Then Judah" the people of Judah who came back and said, "The strength of the laborers is failing"; now watch this, "and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall." Boy! That's a change. Couple of chapters ago they were saying, "Yes, let's rebuild that, we will do it, we are with you." They called the pile, piles of stones. Now they are believing the lie of the enemy, like in Verse 2, when they said, "Will they revive the stones from the heap of rubbish?" Now, that's the language the Jews are using, "This is just a pile of rubbish." No, it's not. These are stones that will be your wall. Why do you now see those stones as rubbish? Because they are borrowing the language after hearing enough of it from their enemies, they are being discouraged because of it. Well, Nehemiah responds, prayerfully but deliberately, he breaches the holes that are in the walls, where it's vulnerable, he encourages the people. While he does that, the enemy say, let's attack them, they won't know what's happening, we will just come in suddenly and get them. Verse 14, "And I looked and I rose, and said to the nobles, to the leaders, to the rest of the people, do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes." "And it happened when our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had brought their plot to nothing, and that all of us return to the wall, everyone to his work." Chapter 5, there is more opposition. You think in more opposition, boy, this is a fight, well so is the Christian life to some degree, isn't it? "Fight the good fight", Paul said, "Endure hardship as a good soldier". Paul wrote to Timothy, at the end of his life, "I have fought the fight, and I finish the course." So yeah, it's slow and there is opposition, there is ridicule, there is discouragement. And now in Chapter 5, there is another form of opposition and that is greed. The taxes have been raised, people are out of money, there is famine in the land. Any loan officer in Jerusalem was charging exorbitant interest rates. Nehemiah finds out and he rebukes them and he corrects the problem in this chapter and sets up stringent accountability measures for the economic woes of the people. So, finally through more opposition, the wall is finished. Chapter 6:15, a key verse in this book, "So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, that's in October, in 52 days." And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it and all the nations around us saw these things they were very disheartened in their own eyes for they perceived that this work was done by God. Chapter 7 identifies the leaders, a list of the citizens are also there for the different land allotments. So that's the first part of the book, Chapters 1 through 7, rebuilding a city's protection. The second part 8, 9, 10 is that revival or revitalization of a city's passion that is worship. I would call Chapter 8, 9, and 10, I am going to give it another title, ready, 'The People, the Bible and a Water Gate Revival'. That sums up these Chapters. The people gather, they bring out the word of God, the People, the Bible, they are at the Water Gate; not the 1974 Watergate Hotel scandal with Richard Nixon. This is a different Water Gate; this is a real gate of a city next to the water supply. The People, the Bible and a Water Gate Revival, and these people have now finished the construction, that's done. Now it's time for consecration. Ezra enters the scene now. He has already been there, as I mentioned. 14 years, he is the spiritual leader, Verse 1 of Chapter 8, "Now all of the people gather together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate. And they told Ezra, the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had commanded Israel." Now some of you in a few months are going to be walking through the streets of Jerusalem. So just remember in your mind Water Gate and when you are there, ask, where is that Water Gate? We can show you the area. There was one source of water that Jerusalem had in those days called the Gihon Spring, right there in the Kidron Valley. And that was at the very lower portion, the Southeast section of Jerusalem in the Kidron Valley, opposite the Mount of Olives. There at the Gihon Spring, is where the Water Gate was built. So, water could be carried into the city. "So Ezra", Verse 2, "the priest brought the law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month." First day of the seventh month, the month is Tisri, the first day is New Years, Jewish New Years. It is Rosh Hashanah and he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday. Now just think about that. They gathered together, let's call it a church. It's a Bible study time. The guy reads the book for a few hours, it's not like, honey, Ezra is already been going 45 minutes, I think he's done now. He goes on and on and on, all day long from morning till midday. Before the men and women and those who could understand and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the Law, probably a six-hour worship service. Verse 8: "So they read distinctly from the book in the Law of God and gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading." Here is the model for expository preaching. You read the words of the Bible, you explain the sense of it, you go to the next, you read that portion of the Bible, you give the explanation or the sense, that's expository preaching, that's what these priests along with Ezra did. "And Nehemiah who was the Governor, Ezra the priest and the scribe and the Levites who taught the people, said to all of the people, "This day is holy to the Lord, your God, do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law." "And he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord, do not sorrow for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Now what's happening here? Well, here is what's happening. As Ezra is reading the law, the first five books of Moses, right, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. By the time, he gets to Deuteronomy, right around Chapter 28, Chapter 29, Chapter 30. As he reads the blessings, if you obey you will get blessed here, if you obey you will get blessed there and then he reached the cursing, if you disobey, if you turn away, if you walk away from the law, here is the curses that will happen. As they heard that they realized how far they have fallen. They are under conviction, the Bible convicts them, and they get really sad, but it's Rosh Hashanah, it's New Year, it's the time they should be in full celebration. So that's why, he says, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, for this day is holy to the Lord our God, do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." What I want you to keep in mind before we move on and finish up the book is the effect of the simple teaching of the Word of God. Even the reading of the Bible can be enough to bring revival, in fact, there has never been a true revival in the history of the world apart from the Word of God. It's what revived under Josiah, the King of Judah. It's what revives here during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the sixteenth century; the reformation was the revitalization of the Word of God, as people were reading it once again. I was in India one time and a man sent to his friend, he wanted to say we are having a revival, but you know the accent in India is very different. He said it, and so I could hear it and it was in English but he said, we are having a Re:Bible. And I thought, yes, a Re:Bible, bring the Bible back, and when you will have a Re:Bible, you will have a revival. And they have a Re:Bible out there at the Water Gate, and when the people hear the Bible, there is revival in their hearts. Chapter 9:1, "On the twenty-fourth day of this month", and the people are still sensitive twenty-four days later, "the children of Israel were assembled with fasting in sackcloth", that's from morning "with dust on their heads", as a sign of distress "than those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all the foreigners and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers." "And they stood in their place and read from the book of the law of the Lord, their God for one-fourth of the day and for another fourth, they confessed and worshiped the Lord, their God." So three hours they are reading the scripture, three hours they are confessing their sins and worshiping. They are declaring their dependence. This is a declaration of dependence upon God. Now Chapter 9:6-38 just glance at it. That is the longest prayer recorded in Scripture. It is Ezra's prayer, the longest prayer recorded in the Bible is his prayer and we are not going to go through it. But as I read through it, what stuck out my mind is how much Ezra had studied the scripture and it was based upon what he knew of their history in the Bible, because there are quotes from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, all the way through, this guy had a grasp on that Biblical History and it's reflected in his prayer. Here is what I am getting at. "I hope, I pray, I trust, that you are developing an appetite for Biblical Truth, an appetite for Biblical Knowledge that you hunger and thirst after, that you might be filled with it." Like Jeremiah who said, "Your words were found and I ate them, and they were the joy and the rejoicing of my heart." You know it's great, every time I am having the opportunity to give a Bible study here and I say turn to in your Bibles you hear that -- you here the Bible, the pages it's like, I have told you before, I would like to record it. It sounds so good. I have been in churches before where I was the only person in that church with a Bible, the only person. The pastor was quoting from the Bible, nobody brought their Bible, I opened it and was following along, but they had been so trained and conditioned to not look at the Bible. One of the reasons we want you to bring your Bible, one of the reasons we could but we don't project the words up on the screen of the Bible is because we want you to look at it in your own copy of the bible so you know where it is. So, next time you are going through a trial and you go where is that Verse? Well, I think it's in that book and I know it's on the right-hand side of the page, about midway down, you become familiar with it. That's how it works. If you just see words on the screen, you will never know where it is in your own copy, so bring a Bible, read it everyday and see the words for yourself. Now Chapter 10 is a list of 84 names. I am not going to read them. Beginning with Nehemiah, includes priests, Levites, leaders, those who were affected by Ezra's great words in his great ministry of reading the law and now they commit together to obey it. So Chapter 10:29, these, all those names that I am not going to read, have fun with them, "They joined with their brethren, their nobles and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God's law, which is given by Moses, the servant of God and to observe and to do all the commandments of the Lord, our God and His ordinances and His statutes." It brings us to the third and final section, 11 through 13. This is the resettling of a cities population. Okay, here is what's happening. A massive relocation program will happen in these chapters. There is a problem. There is a problem with Jerusalem. Okay, the wall is up, the temple is up, they are safe, but here is a problem. There are more people living outside the City of Jerusalem, in little towns around Judah, than living inside Jerusalem. So it's like the huge ghost town. Hey! We built this cool city, nobody is here. So what Nehemiah asked people to do, get this, is to tie the people, not money, people. One out of every ten people, probably by lot has to move from their little town around Judah and go into the City of Jerusalem to revitalize that town, a mass relocation. Verse 1, Chapter 11, "Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities." So Chapter 11 lists those families inside and outside, Chapter 12, the priest and the Levites who returned. Now, what we have been waiting for the whole book, the dedication service, they consecrated all to the Lord, it's the great hoedown of Nehemiah. And the emphasis of this dedication is joyful praise. Now think about those two words that I just said, 'joyful praise'. I love it when I see God's people engaged in joyful praise. They love Him and they are not afraid to tell Him that they love Him. And they are not afraid of the person sitting next to them, who sees them love Him, they don't care. It's joyful praise. In this section singing is mentioned eight times, Thanksgiving will be mentioned six times, rejoicing seven times and musical instruments will be mentioned three times. Chapter 12:27, "Now at the dedication of the wall of the Jerusalem, they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgiving and singing with symbols and stringed instruments and harps." Verse 43" "Also that day they offered great scarifies and rejoiced for God had made them rejoice with great joy. The women and the children also rejoiced; so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard far off." They would read the songs, that's how they are worshiped in Israel, at first came about. They would read the songs of David or Isaiah. And as the songs were being read or chanted and usually chanted antiphonally, in other words, one group would sing a part, the other group would sing the other part. There was a group of musicians who would accompany them with music, in fact, the idea of a song is a poem set to music and so they worship with great joy. Loud, they were loud. It was heard of far off. What's that noise, oh, it's that church over there in Jerusalem, making all that noise, joyful praise. Listen to what Martin Luther writes about joyful praise, he said, "Next to Theology I give to music the highest place and honor." He called music the 'handmaiden of theology', and second only to Theology. Also he said this, words of Martin Luther, "How has it happened that in the secular field there are so many fine poems and beautiful songs while in the religious field, we have such rotten, lifeless stuff." I imagine, when he said that, he was controversial and he said this, "If any man despises music, as all fanatics do, for him I have no liking, for music is a gift and a grace of God not the invention of man. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity and other devices." Well, it's as if Martin Luther was there the day they had this dedication because that it epitomized what he just said. Joyful praise unto God what He had done. Now the last chapter is divided into the three sections and basically Nehemiah takes care of three problems. Problem number one, supporting the Levites, they had not been adequately supported by the people as the Bible required. Number two, the Sabbath was being broken. They were selling stuff, moving stuff in and out on the Sabbath. And number three, there was an intermarriage problem with the Heathen of the land. All three of those were taken care of and those Verses to note, Verse 14, 22, and 31 and all of them is a prayer. He takes care of the problem and he says, remember me O Lord for doing this and remember me O Lord for doing that and then remember me O Lord for doing the third thing and that's the Book of Nehemiah. Now if you were to stand on the Mount of Olives and look right over at City of Jerusalem, Mount Zion, The Temple Mount, it's still there today, the outline of the great temple courtyard from the time of Herod the Great. And you stand on the Mount of Olives and just to imagine as you look over that city, what happened there in the history, what will happen there in the future, and you realize the center, the epicenter of God's program is taking place, has taken place, and will take place there in Jerusalem. Let me sum it up for you this way. The City of Jerusalem is the geographic center of the earth Biblically. Once again, Jerusalem is the geographic center of the earth Biblically. I grew up, seeing maps of the world and right on the center of the map was the United States of America, of course. We draw the map, we are on the center, not Biblically. Jerusalem is the geographic center of the earth Biblically. How do I know this? Ezekiel Chapter 5, God says, "Look I have set Jerusalem in the midst, in the middle of the nations all around." More than that -- Oh, by the way, in the Bible, when it says, North, South, East and West, it's all relative to one city, Jerusalem, everything relative to that. That's the foundation pin. So it's the geographic center of the world, of the earth Biblically. Number two Jerusalem is the salvation center of the earth spiritually. The only place for the salvation of mankind that was ever purchased is right outside the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem, the only place. Jesus said to women of Samaria, we know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews, of the Jews. You don't get salvation by believing in any religion, or figure, or city, of system, but the Christ who died at the City of Jerusalem. Number three, Jerusalem is the prophetic center of the earth, or better put, the storm center of the earth prophetically. Every politician still knows that what happens in Israel, what happens in Jerusalem is monumental. China, yup that's important, they are gaining economically, but what happens in Jerusalem is of utmost importance. And the Bible predicts that the nations of the earth will gather against Jerusalem in the end times. But Jerusalem is the glory center of the earth ultimately. Whatever you hear on the news, whatever problems are going on in that part of the world, know that it's not going to always be that way and if you think, yeah it's right, we have got to elect the right person and they will fix all the mess over there. Well, if you believe that, see me in four years. I want to have a long talk with you, about where to put your trust, because no one is going to fix that mess in the Middle East, no one except one person, the Prince of Peace. There will only be peace in the Middle East; and I am not just saying that facetiously because it sounds like a cool thing to say, it ain't going to happen, you will never see peace and if you see a peace contract, it won't last very long. A lot of them were signed, broken, signed, broken, broken, broken, signed, broken for generations, but ultimately, it will be the glory center. I close with what Isaiah the Prophet said, "It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house", the very place Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah went to rebuilt, "shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills and all the nations shall flow into it." "And many people shall go and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem." That's the future. That's the future. Heavenly Father! Thank you for letting us see in a glimpse a great city, a city that every Jew scattered throughout the world thousands of years ago, understood that place is the place where God said He would cause His name to dwell in. That place is the place the Father said, He prefers above all the dwelling places anywhere. And then we remember the Psalm said, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." "If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy." We are also told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and we do that just now. We pray for its peace. We pray You would give leaders wisdom around that region. We pray that You would give wisdom to world leaders and those who are helping to formulate a plan but Lord in praying for the peace of Jerusalem, we know that ultimately we are praying for the return of Christ, for whom the Bible says, "Will bring peace ultimately to that land." And when He does, when He rules from that city upon the earth, there will be peace not only in Jerusalem but everywhere. And so Lord, we wait and we say even so come quickly Lord Jesus. We anticipate Your return. Until then Lord, help us live lives dedicated and consecrated to you as Nehemiah and Ezra were telling the people to do. I pray that we build up the walls of our lives, secure the gates, and return us Lord, revive in us a holy passion of joyful praise in Jesus' name. Amen!