【Sermon】Man Who Pleases God (1): Nehemiah


Dear brothers and sisters, today I am going to preach a topic: Man who pleases God. Today I will take a guy called Nehemiah. He is a wonderful guy. If you refer to the writing of Nehemiah, you will see that he is a great leader. A lot of leadership training uses Nehemiah as an example. The story of Nehemiah started long before Nehemiah. In his time, the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God were still in desolation. The gate was burned and everything was in ruins. People could not stay in the city at all. These are the people who survived the exile and were sent back to Jerusalem in great trouble and disgrace. The wall was broken down, and its gates were burned with fire.

Let me give you a historical background. When the country was invaded by Babylon, about 2600 years ago, that was the time of Daniel. Daniel was taken captive in Babylon. And God prepared 70 years for the Israelites to repent. After 70 years, God sent the first batch of people to Jerusalem. The king was somehow used by God to worship the God of the Israelites. Because the king wanted to worship God, he sent back a big batch of people led by Zerubbabel. The leader, Zerubbabel, became the governor of the province of Judah. Zerubbabel was sent back to Jerusalem, and he was sent to build up the temple and the city. That was also the time of a prophet called Haggai. We often think the Bible is written in chronological order, but it is not. The Bible, from Genesis to Malachi, is not in chronological order. The sequence of the books is different from the events.

Haggai existed at the same time as Zerubbabel. Do you know what is in the book of Haggai? He criticized the people who came back to Jerusalem, led by Zerubbabel. That is the time when they went back and built the city, and the temple, and restored the worship of God. But after 70 years, the city walls were broken down, and the gates were burned with fire again. The high priest no longer had an organized manner. The worship and everything were in ruins. It was a horrible situation.

The Christian life mirrors Israel's history

Long before this, ever since the Israelites came out of Egypt and invaded the Promised Land, they had a cycle where they abandoned God. When they lived well, they abandoned God. Then they experienced 20-40 years of suffering and captivity by neighbouring countries. The history of the Israelites is very similar to the Christian life of today! It is a good mirror for you and me to look at our lives with. Once in a while, we abandon God and we go on our way. We think that is natural. But then we suffer, and we come back to God. We look for God not because we are living well, but because we have so many problems that we cannot solve. And that is why we look for God. After your problems are gone, slowly you will live well and start to enjoy life. Then you will move away from God and worship God. Worshipping God will become a routine, one of the matters in your life.

Ever since the Israelites were invaded by Babylon, they were not a country anymore. They were conquered by the neighbouring country. Can you imagine? A nation owned by God, conquered by a neighbouring nation. Is God still powerful? God brought the country to destroy the nation of Israel. This is how it works. Do you know Jeremiah? If not, I encourage you to flip through the Bible, and there is one book written by Jeremiah. He was living 2600 years ago. He prophesied that the country would eventually be invaded by the Babylonians.

Now, 2600 years ago, there was no more Judah, no more Jerusalem. They became part of the Empire of Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that 70 years later, God would give them a chance to come back to worship God. But they did not go along with the plan of God. God wanted to bless them, bringing them back from exile. But they came back and were concerned with their own lives. The temple of God was still in ruins. This is typical. Everyone is busy with their things, so they put God's things aside. They managed to restore the temple a little bit, but it was not like the temple of Solomon.

After all this, it was gone again. By the second time, 70 years later, the king sent one more batch. Ezra, the author of the book of Ezra, was sent back. That is 2600 years ago. Zerubbabel was 2530 years ago. After 2460 years ago, Ezra was sent back to Jerusalem again. Ezra was a teacher of the law and an expert in the Bible. Again he went back, but Jerusalem was still in ruins and very broken down. Nehemiah served the king. This was a very powerful position. In his book, he was a cupbearer, serving wine to the king, and anyone close to the king was very powerful. Over ten years later, Nehemiah sent someone to Jerusalem to report back, and they said the city was still in bad shape.

If you please God, he will pave a way for you

What I am trying to share with you is why Nehemiah is so concerned about Jerusalem and the temple of God. Because he is a man who pleased God. How can he advance his career and become a powerful person in the Persian Empire? He is close to the king and very powerful. If he was sent anywhere by the king, he would surely become a governor. A governor is like the emperor of the province, a very powerful figure. He was so successful, not because he was suddenly concerned about Jerusalem, or the temple, but because he thought about these things from a very young age. That is why God paved the way for his career advancement.

If you go with your strength, you can try it. Some people are successful by their strength, but others are not. However, if you are a man who pleases God and is concerned about the concerns of God, he will pave a way for you. And I have this kind of experience as well. When I was ready to take over the role of my boss, he resigned, and I was able to take his role. After I kept on developing myself, one day, my superior resigned again. Then I was again promoted to his position and took his role. Let's say you and I are peers. After that, I was promoted and became your boss. That is life.

Nehemiah was promoted many times and had a very successful career advancement until he became the cupbearer to the king. He became the person the king trusted so much. The man who pleases God was started long ago, ever since he was young. Nehemiah was not the only one, Daniel was too. He was the second-in-command of the whole Empire of Babylon, right under the king. He was promoted to that position in the favour of God. If you want to be a man who pleases God, you will have to follow the example of Nehemiah and Daniel, no matter where you are. No matter if you are in your own country, or you are an alien in another country. Both ways, you can be a powerful person.

God prepared Nehemiah this way. But one question pops up. How come, after so many years, Jerusalem and the Temple were still in ruins? How can that be? What is the issue behind this?

Today I will share with you things about Nehemiah. I will share a little bit with you about what was happening in that place and what was happening with the people. This is a lesson for us to learn. How come the people were bullied? How come people were in that kind of situation? Although the Israelites came back with Zerubbabel, now the situation is quite discouraging. Why is that so? The book of Haggai and Malachi, it’s exactly telling us the reason, those people were only caring about their things. Let’s open the book of Nehemiah and read.

2. Bible Verses: Nehemiah 2:1-9

“ In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.”

3. Prayer

Lord, look at the church today. Lord, we pray for the churches today. Your temple is still lying in ruin. Lord, empower us and give us the heart that concerns your temple, concerns your church. Lord, you raise us so that we can have favor in your eyes. Lord, we have this heart for you, so use all of us, everyone to become a man who pleases you, Lord. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.

4. Background of the Verses

Because the city of Jerusalem was lying in ruins, Nehemiah showed a sad face in front of the king. And when the king saw it, he asked, “Why do you have a sad face?” Nehemiah answered, “Can you send me to the place to rebuild the city?” Then the king granted his request because it was part of his territory. And the king also wanted the city to be in proper shape and to be properly managed. This king was also the same king who sent the previous man Ezra to the place. The king was very concerned about that place. He was also wondering why the place was still in ruins after sending Ezra. That’s why he sent Nehemiah to the place.

Nehemiah was doing something very challenging. Can you imagine, from Zerubbabel to Ezra, then to Nehemiah, why is it so challenging to build a city up? It’s because there were a lot of enemies and people that were trying to stop the Israelites from rebuilding the city. Then somehow they managed to bully the Israelites. These are the things that popped up in our minds. Why was it so difficult to build the city? And who were the people who burned the city gate? Who were the people who destroyed the city wall? There must be some people out there going against it. It was a very challenging job. Nehemiah knew about this, so he requested the king to send him to that place. You have to remember that, for someone who wants to do this, you have to confront many enemies. You may offend people, and you may somehow deal with a lot of unknown enemies. All these people can be very powerful. And whether Nehemiah could fix the problem or not depended on his wisdom. He asked for a very challenging job! What would happen if people created all kinds of rumors? The king will be concerned and might worry that he would rebel. Then Nehemiah would be in great danger.

But Nehemiah gained the favor of the king. Whenever he faced a tough situation, he prayed before God and God helped him. Let me assure you, God is a lot more powerful than any enemy, if you want to do something, you really can do it. This is the background of it.

Now, why was the city in desolation? Why was the temple in ruins? And why was worshipping God so challenging? What had the priest been doing? These are the big questions. Later on, when we study the book of Nehemiah, we will finally figure out the issue. The high priest was supposed to lead the Israelites to worship God, but they were associated with enemies who were against worshipping in the temple of God and building a wall of Jerusalem. In chapter 13 verse 28, the high priest, Eliashib somehow got into intermarriage with the enemy Sanballat. And he also had a connection with Tobias, who was the local power. He was very powerful and wealthy. He monopolised the local businesses. Although they were not the governor, they were very powerful. That's why the temple of God was lying in ruins, and worshipping and preaching the word of God has ended. The high priest somehow inter-connected with those powerful people and they allied.

That’s the problem of the churches today. The churches are somehow influenced by the value of this world. They do like the way of this world and they comprise what they need to do. They do that like a business. In the temple of God, a lot of Israelites came to worship and gave sacrifices. They have a lot of problems in their life. That’s why they hoped to get their problems to be resolved by going to the temple and sacrificing to the Lord they serve. But the priests made it a kind of business, a big business. Because the priests can not do the business by himself, they connected with the local businessman and monopolised the place. This was the kind of situation when Nehemiah came to this place. He had to confront the high priest and many wealthy, powerful people there. They controlled the economy in the place and Nehemiah was facing that kind of situation. But why did the churches lie in ruin? And why did God not work in that place? It’s simply because of what the high priest has done.

Let me read this for you, Open the book of Malachi chapter 1 verses 6 to 9:

“6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name.“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’7 “By offering defiled food on my altar.“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.”

Malachi was a prophet at the same time as Nehemiah. The priests were all associated with the local businessmen who were making money from all those who wanted to give sacrifices to the Lord. Can you imagine that kind of business arrangement? This was the same issue they were facing when Zerubbabel led a whole team of Israelites from exile to go back to Jerusalem. From that time a prophet called Haggai was doing the same thing. Why the Israelites live under a curse? Because they only looked at their own house.

This is the same situation in church today. If the church promotes family, the family will be living well. But who will worry about the church? That’s the same issue as to why the temple of God was lying in ruins. Everybody looked at their own life.

Why did the priest offer defiled sacrifices to the Lord? Because they kept the good ones for themselves. They exchanged them. Can you imagine that kind of arrangement? When someone brought cattle, the priests worked with local businessmen to exchange it for a crippled or defiled one. Then they offered these crippled and diseased animals to the Lord. The good animal was brought to the market to make money. Behind the scenes, they worked with priests and pastors, and they shared the profit equally. They ran it like a business. So the business aims to make money, but the Temple of God aims to draw problems of people. So, there's a conflict, they have a money-making business and that’s why the Temple of God lays in ruins because even the priests are not doing their job, the Temple of God suppose to draw problems for people, but the high praise, looking after the Temple of God, is eyeing for the business, eyeing for the money-making things.

Let me bring you back. And this man, the man who pleases God, concerns about the Temple of God. The priests are looking at the money and money-making business through the sacrifice, but the man who pleases God is aiming to restore the worship of God and looking at the Temple of God and trying to draw people’s problems. All depend on one thing. What do you live for?

As a man who pleases God, you need to have the guts to deal with challenging problems. This Nehemiah went to the place and caused the kind of problems and stopped the money-making businesses because there are a lot of people making money through the temple, the praise, the high priest and the businessman somehow formed alliances, they are associated, they got intermarriage, and they get all this, and you got to fight against with these people. All these people want to put Nehemiah to death. They really want to kill Nehemiah. Facing life and death.

If you don't have a gut, you cannot serve God. Serving God means you got to offend a lot of people. You need to have that gut. If you read this Nehemiah and a lot of the local people, we call local bullies, local powerful figures. They try to send letters to Nehemiah to intimidate him. They caused him fear. Let Nehemiah perceive fear in this kind of project, and they try to invite him for food. Basically, they want to kill him. And they send a message saying, “We want to kill you. You better hide somewhere, hide in the temple.” Even the prophet at that time, the local prophet, also have relationships with all these people. Nehemiah is facing a complex issue.

If you want to be a man who pleases God, you go to ask yourself, do you trust in God? Do you want to fight against this? If you want to serve God, you are going to restore the order of the temple, restore the order of Jerusalem, restore the order of the church, and bring the church back to the proper shape, back to the way of God and you will offend a lot of people somehow. One way or the other, some people will hate you for no reason, but the reasons all come from the spiritual world. If you are a man of guts, who has guts, then you will be able to please God.
When I started the church, I’m facing a lot of challenges, if I do not have guts, I will not be able to come to today, and some people will threaten the pastor in one way or the other, whether you compromise or you don't compromise. The key point is if you do not have guts, you will be easily threatened, and you are not going to please God.

Man Who Pleases God Does Solid Jobs

Nehemiah successfully rebuilds the city wall in 52 days. It’s amazing. So, this Nehemiah is a very good project manager. He delivers a solid work and Nehemiah delivers a solid work even with the threat from the enemy, with all kinds of enemies surrounding him, and some of them even included high priests themselves. Can you imagine this kind of situation? And yet, this Nehemiah organized the Israel people and gave each group of Israel people a segment of the city wall, and they're going to build it. In 52 days, they finished the project, now the city wall was rebuilt. After the city wall was rebuilt, he saw all those people’s problems and some of the people are already very poor. They have lost all their fields, mortgages, vineyards and their homes. To get money to survive, they have to pay the debt. Do you know what happened? Nehemiah solved all these problems. He asked the wealthy Israeli people to forfeit all the loans, and they help them to get back their vineyards, and get back their own fields so that they can continue to work on their own fields. And solved all the poverty problems. Because the rich people are trying to be richer, and that’s why they employ the poor people. The whole society works in this way, and Nehemiah goes by God's way. If people aim for the money and have all their minds going to the money-making ideas and businesses. They will not concern about the poor because they see it’s not their business. But it is God's business. God does not want to see people have no mercy on the poor people. I see a lot of pastors treat poor church members and rich church members differently. But in our church, shall we do some more solid groundwork to help people to get out of poverty? Like Nehemiah, deliver a solid work result. Train people up and bring them up so that they can get away from the curse of poverty. Let them come back to God, worship God and then God’s blessings will flow. Then Nehemiah becomes a very good example of who delivers solid work. Do you want to be a man who pleases God? There is a lot to learn.

Man Who Pleases God Aims to Restore God's Church

Today we somehow got an idea of what are we going to do with our church, and Nehemiah has set a good example. We will study a little bit more when we come to the Bible study about Nehemiah, the book of Nehemiah. A man who pleases God got to know the purpose of coming to this world. If your purpose to come to this world is to make money, then pass away, then the money will not make any sense. Not only that, it will draw the wrath of God. The wrath of God will come upon the people who have a very worldly life mentality. We have what so-called Destiny, but we got to deliver solid work results. That’s how it works. It's not something like, “Oh, life is meaningless, so we don't need to do anything. We don't bother this, don't bother that.” It's not the case. It's because life got no meaning and the meaning is inside the Lord itself, inside our God. God has a purpose for us, God wants us to be the blessings to many people. That’s why we still need to deliver solid work results. To train people up, bring people out of poverty and make people able to have the skills, have the capability to make a living. For those things, schools did not do well. Therefore, we will pick up the training. For the companies did not shift people’s mentality, as a professional, we will shift the mentality. That’s what the churches are supposed to patch up, and probably, we are going to do more than the schools and the companies do, more like a human resource company. And not only that, we are going to bring the people back to God to know the meaning of life and restore Destiny. That’s what we call the Doctrine of Destiny.


After studying Nehemiah, within an hour, within the limited time, we are not able to talk too much about Nehemiah, but Nehemiah is a good figure. I encourage all of you to study and read the Book of Nehemiah and understand why this guy is so pleased by God, and God bless him forever he did. You can see the hand of God is in him. How wonderful it is. I encourage all of you to follow this example, and for whatever you do, you can see the hand of God in you, helping you. How wonderful it is. The king is pleased with you and your managers, your boss and your teachers are pleased. How wonderful can that be? We are going to set God to be our purpose of life. It’s not because we have exams, and we put down God, or we have a business deal, and we put down our God. Not because I'm getting married and have a wedding ceremony, and I put down God. No, nothing can compare with the compromise of God. The Doctrine of Destiny is talking about we lay our life for God. We come to this world for him, we live for him, and we die for him. If this is the mind we set, I'm sure you will be the man who pleases God and forever you do, you will see the hand of God is with you. Do you want to see that happen in your life? Then follow the example of Nehemiah. May the Lord bless you. We'll see you next week.

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