"Nehemiah's Calling"

Sermon, 1.18.2009."Nehemiah's Calling" Rev. Erik Bonkovsky Nehemiah 1:8-11

What are the characteristics of Nehemiah's calling?  Nehemiah's calling:

  1. Is dependent on his circumstances.

    Nehemiah is among the Jews that have been scattered away from their homeland.  What skills does he have; what is he able to do for Israel?  His role as an Israelite is to return to Jerusalem and pour himself into the efforts to rebuild the city.

  2. Is revealed through prayer.

    It becomes very apparent to Nehemiah what it is that he needs to do, and in this case he didn't see a vision or have a prophetic dream.  His calling is revealed to him through prayer, as a product of weeping and fasting and praying for days.  He tunes himself into God completely, and not to outside distractions.

  3. Reshaped his life and his priorities.

    Nehemiah holds the position of cupbearer to the king of Persia, a high position within the king's court.  He has rank, esteem, and a future there, and yet he drops it at a moment's notice to devote his life to restoring Jerusalem.  When God calls us to a task, do we give up money, status, comfort, etc. to follow it?

  4. Has God's glory as its primary purpose.

    The essence of what Nehemiah is saying is very sincere, and it's easy to tell from his prayer that he wants only to glorify God.  This is further exhibited by the fact that following this calling doesn't really benefit Nehemiah.  It's going to be hard, and it's going to involve years of labor and frustration and dealing with hard-headed people.  So it's only for the glory of God that he embarks on this journey.  Nothing else is to be gained!

Whenever we read the Old Testament, we have to resist the temptation to apply it directly to us.  We have to look at it through the lens of Christ.  And Jesus' life also fulfills these four points about Nehemiah's calling, as summed up in the verse Luke 22:42: Not my will, but yours, be done.  While Nehemiah's mission ultimately fails as Israel turns its back on God if he turns his back for a moment, the enduring message is that Christ has not failed.

Nehemiah's whole purpose, then, is to the point us to Christ and the message of his calling and sacrifice.  Good works are not a measuring stick or an impossible standard that we have to live up to.  We have been called out of a life of bondage, and we don't have to jump through hoops for our parents, our spouse, or friends, etc.  If we truly believe that we are saved, we will stop acting like slaves, and the grace that we become sure of will lead us to good works as well.