We continue exploring the teachings of the prophet Zechariah. We then move to explore the story of Nehemiah. These narratives continue our discussion on cause and effect, trust, obedience, and God’s providence. How do these things work together? What is our proper response? The things God asks us to do are not trivial. The courage he calls us to is an important part of the cosmic story.
Let’s look at Zechariah 11:11.
So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.
Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.
What’s that talking about? It’s talking about Christ. What episode about Christ? Judas betraying him, right?
Skip back just a little bit; look at 9:9.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Who’s that talking about? Christ.
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
What day did Jesus ride on a donkey? Palm Sunday.
We’re going to look at the life of Nehemiah after we do our third point of trusting and obeying, and we’re going to look at Nehemiah as evidence of that.
Well, Nehemiah is under Artaxerxes, and during his tenure, the command is given to build the wall, rebuild the wall. 445 B.C. And 483 years later, Jesus rides in on this donkey. Just like Daniel predicted. 483 years, the prince is going to present himself and be cut off. It couldn’t get more precise.
And then he’s going to be betrayed. Look at 12:10.
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced—Who’s that? It’s Jesus, right. Is this at the cross that this is happening? It’s not. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son—
Look at the context in 12:9. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
This is in the next return. So we’ve got the first advent of Jesus, his exile, and then his return.
Notice where the battle is going to take place. Where does it say the battle is going to take place in verse 9? Jerusalem.
We’re used to thinking that this great, huge battle at the end of the world’s in Armageddon because in Revelation it says the armies shall be gathered together at Armageddon. And Armageddon is a great staging ground. It’s only about twenty miles north of Jerusalem and it would make sense with the valleys and everything that you’d gather there; but they’re actually gathering there to march on Jerusalem.
And something’s going to happen, and Israel is going to realize, we screwed up. We pierced the one who’s our Savior; and they’re going to call out to him.
—you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
They had that opportunity on that Palm Sunday, and they rejected him; and now he’s coming back.
What I’m hoping happens as a result of this series is you can pick up anything from 1 Samuel to Malachi and say, “I know where this fits.” That’s my hope because I think you’ll have just a lot more tangible benefit from these passages if you do this.
So then we look at Zechariah 14:2.
For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem;
The city shall be taken,
The houses rifled,
And the women ravished.
Half of the city shall go into captivity,
But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
I don’t know exactly the specifics about this, but listen to the rest of this:
Then the Lord will go forth
And fight against those nations,
As He fights in the day of battle.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
As I’ve emphasized with prophecy, let’s don’t get too hung up on trying to construct a scenario. The basic idea here is there’s going to be a battle, the nations are going to come against Jerusalem, and it’s going to be really bad for Israel. And then Jesus is going to come back.
It’s almost like—remember those old movies where all is lost and then you hear the Cavalry charge trumpeting sounds. I think the reason we like that is because that’s really going to happen, except I don’t—it’ll be interesting. I think God has enough of a sense of humor that if you grew up in our era, Gabriel’s trumpet may sound like that. It’s a possibility. It’s a distinct possibility.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.
Then you shall flee through My mountain valley,
So there’s this massive problematic battle; and, all the sudden, there’s a way of escape, and the people escape. Really amazing.
This is a little part of a really big plan where Jesus is going to restore the kingdom to Israel.
In Acts chapter 1, after Jesus had risen, and for forty days he appeared to various people, five hundred at one point in time. In Acts it says he spoke to them concerning the kingdom of God.
Remember in Matthew 4, from that point on, he spoke to them concerning the kingdom of God.
He was giving them a political platform. The political platform, though, had two steps; and the first was let’s start with the inside. Repent for the kingdom is at hand. Change your hearts. If you’ll change your hearts, then the external form will be of benefit to you.
If you don’t change your hearts, the external form will not be of benefit to you.
They didn’t change their hearts.
So we’re now in this interlude. And what does God want us to do? Be a temple of the Holy Spirit and have our minds renewed and our hearts changed and have living water flow out from us.
We have this amazing period where we can be like these guys and play a little role in a huge plan because we’ve been grafted into this whole story, just like a wild olive branch on an olive tree.
You’ve got this principle of cause-effect.
You’ve got the providence of God. I don’t know how it could be any clearer. If all these things in the past have happened so amazingly, you know, 70 years, Jeremiah, it’s fulfilled a hundred years before. Cyrus, this Persian king’s going to do my bidding. From the point in time when the wall is said to be built, 483 years later, the prince comes and is cut off. How much more will the risen Jesus make sure that everything else that’s going to happen is going to take place?
Nehemiah, trust and obey
And what are we to do? Well, the example of what we need to be doing comes from Nehemiah. Let’s look at that as our very last thing here. Nehemiah, right after Ezra, so we’ll go back here. Ezra, Nehemiah.
Now Ezra, by the way, does go to Israel. He mainly cleans up the priestly functions and gets them to start obeying the law and stuff like that.
And then Nehemiah pops up. And Nehemiah is, like Daniel, a worker in the court.
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.
It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked 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.
And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We’ve all sinned!
We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.
Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; This has happened. but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen—
Here’s a guy who understands cause-effect, right? He understands this principle of cause and effect. I know that choices have consequences, and we made bad choices, and we suffered the consequences. We deserved it. I know that. I’m sorry. I did it too. I repent.
But I also know in your providence that you promised that if we would do otherwise, that we would be restored.
Now, Israel’s never rejected in any of this. God’s plan for Israel is never rejected. It’s never changed. It’s just the blessing, whether they’re blessed or not. And in order to be blessed, they have to stay, where? According to the Covenant? Where do they have to be? In the land.
And when they go out of the land, problems happen. And when God’s going to really ravage them for their disobedience, he takes him out of the land.
Then he ends his prayer.
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.
Now, being a cupbearer—I am not sure exactly how all this works, but he’s sort of the butler with the king. So, you’re in the presence of the king a lot. And, apparently, these ancient kings, part of their belief was just being in their presence should make you happy.
So if somebody came into the presence unhappy, it was on pain of death, because you’re saying, “You’re not really the king. The king makes me happy.”
Well, Nehemiah goes into the king and is sad; and the king says, “Why are you sad?” And he’s really afraid. And what does he do? Whispers up a prayer. “God help me.”
Again, he believes in providence. And he says, “The tombs of my fathers are ravaged. We don’t have a wall.”
And the King says, “Go build it.”
So, he does it. He goes back and builds it. Massive resistance again. Same kind of thing that happened with Zerubbabel. And here’s sort of how he ends up. Let’s just look all the way to the end. We’ll skip to the end and look at chapter 13, and we’ll see how he ends up in Nehemiah’s heart.
And this is kind of the trust-and-obey thing. So the third point is the people trust and obey.
When we trust and obey, when we do our little thing as part of the big plan, God is really honored by that, and he is happy with us. That’s what he asks us to do. And he’s the one that gives the rewards that matter.
Let’s look at Nehemiah 13:10. This is after Nehemiah had come back and built the wall and overcome all the resistance and all that sort of thing. Nehemiah says—because he’s now kind of the boss man in Jerusalem—
I also realized that the portions for the Levites had not been given them; for each of the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone back to his field.
He then goes in and contends with people and says, “Hey! You’re not giving money to the temple for the Levites to do their job. So dig in your pockets and get the money going!”
”There’s good news and bad news. The good news is there’s plenty of money in this room to do this. The bad news is it’s still in your pocket. Get your hand in your pocket and start funding.”
That’s the first thing he says.
And he says in verse 14, Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!
Now, why do you think he’d need to say that? What kind of reaction do you usually get when you tell people, “You’re stingy! And you need to start giving money”?
Is that a happy message?
Nehemiah says, “Hey, we got to get some money going here.”
Look at 13:17. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah—Nobles are most influential or least influential? Most influential. —and said to them, “What evil thing is this that you do, by which you profane the Sabbath day?
Did not your fathers do thus, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Don’t you understand cause-effect here? Yet you bring added wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”:
What they were doing is buying and selling on the Sabbath day. So he commanded the gates be shut so people couldn’t transact business on the Sabbath day.
The second thing he does is shut down part of your profit stream.
And he says in verse 22,
— Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!
When you start shutting down revenue streams of the most powerful people, is it usually well received?
“Remember me, O God. I’m doing your work here.”
And then the third thing he does is in verse 23. In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.
Verse 25. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, you will not do this anymore!
Not exactly the persuasive tactics we would use.
Verse 29. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood. And the very last sentence, Remember me, O my God, for good!
When you start taking away women from men, how do they feel about it?
So Nehemiah stood in the face of potential death from the king for being willing to make a petition because he had a burden. And then he went and he stood in the face of tremendous opposition, and he got people to build the wall, to take away the reproach. And that command started the clock of Daniel that starts the whole countdown for the rest of human history. And, basically, what he’s doing is saying, “Remember me God. I did my job.”
None of these things seem like they’re all that big, but he did what God asked him to do.
When we obey in the little things, it’s part of God’s big plan
What has God asked you to do? Do you think it’s trivial? It’s not.
There’s a cause-effect in the universe. God weaves it all together into a great plan because he’s providential. He has it all put together. And there’s a huge plan. But it involves every little pebble of every trust and obedience that we do.
And what we’re supposed to do is whatever job God’s given us to do, do it with courage, no matter what.
You’ll probably have people contest you if you really do what God’s asked you to do. We’re supposed to be innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes. So we want to go about this in an optimum fashion.
But people probably won’t like it. And what we have to do say, “God, remember me. I’m doing the work you gave me to do.”
Trivial things and a big plan makes everything we do matter.