Westney Heights Baptist Church ~ January 14, 2007


Nehemiah 8:9-10 ESV And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.  (10)  Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."


The people of Jerusalem were a troubled people. Their nation had been in captivity in Babylon and Persia for the past 70 years. The holy city of Jerusalem, which had been destroyed, was in the process of being rebuilt in the face of strong opposition. The surrounding peoples were ridiculing them, lying about them to the king and doing what they can to prevent Jerusalem from being re-established. And now, just when they began to re-discover the book of the law of their God they were confronted by the awful reality that they had sinned. But when Nehemiah and the Levites encouraged them to rejoice:


Nehemiah 8:10 ESV Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.


the people responded by rejoicing in the Lord and celebrated the Feast of Booths, commemorating His deliverance of their fathers from Egyptian captivity.


Nehemiah 8:12-18 ESV And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.  (13)  On the second day the heads of fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.  (14)  And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,  (15)  and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, "Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written."  (16)  So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.  (17)  And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.  (18)  And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.


There are two thoughts that I want you to remember from this passage:


1 – The people of Jerusalem were rightly convicted of their sin and rightly wept on that account


2 – When told that they were to rejoice in the Lord they gladly celebrated His deliverance.


Upon asking those present to share an experience of rejoicing in God in spite of troubles or where they felt that they did not deserve the joy of the Lord the following responses were given:


1 – J. H. spoke on an event at his first congregation where a death had occurred and the family, while saddened at the loss of a son, were able to rejoice in the faithfulness of God even in this tragedy.


2 – T. O. raised his trip to Pennsylvania shortly after the massacre and the overwhelming peace found within the Amish community.


3 –  J. R. reminded us of the final verses of Habakkuk and Habakkuk's decision to rejoice in God in spite of things going wrong.


4 – K. O. commented on the ability of those who had been wounded to forgive (referring to the massacre in Pennsylvania) and the grace of God poured out upon that community through the hands of others, such as area hospitals offering free care to the injured.


Troubles are either:


Result of love – to cause growth, improved love for God, strength of faith


2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  (8)  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  (9)  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  (10)  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Result of sin – its consequence or correction


Hebrews 12:3-7 ESVConsider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  (4)  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  (5)  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  (6)  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."  (7)  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?


Result of evil – oppression by the enemy and temptation from our own evil desires


1 Peter 4:12-15 ESV Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  (13)  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  (14)  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.


Troubles are never the result of God forgetting about us. NEVER! The Bible contains so many assurances of His eternal care for His children that we cannot legitimately doubt His care for us. In fact, it can be argued that the Bible is a love story, from start to finish giving details of God’s infinite love for us. Observe from the following passages the depth of His care for us, each of us, in whatever situation we are:


Deuteronomy 31:6-8 ESV Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you."  (7)  Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it.  (8)  It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."


Proverbs 3:1-6 ESV My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,  (2)  for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.  (3)  Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  (4)  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.  (5)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  (6)  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.


Luke 12:22-31 ESV And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  (23)  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.  (24)  Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  (25)  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  (26)  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?  (27)  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  (28)  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!  (29)  And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  (30)  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  (31)  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.


Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  (7)  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  (6)  So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"


It cannot be otherwise than that God cares for us. Using the example that Jesus used, since God cares for the birds and the lilies which, though fleeting, surpass even Solomon in glory then He will care even more for us who bear His image. If this is true then the troubles of this life are not indicative of His lack of concern for us but are instead opportunities for us to realize the abundance of His concern and the depth of the enemy’s hatred. Hard to understand but true nonetheless.


Jesus is very clear that we should not allow our concern for this life to overwhelm our concern for God’s kingdom. He is adamant to the point where we are told not to even concern ourselves with clothing, food or shelter. This may seem a ridiculous idea, especially in this era of concentration on mortgages and retirement plans, but it has been followed in the past with astounding success. George Muller, founder of several homes for orphans in England during the 19th century, relied completely on the grace of God to provide for his charges. He did not solicit funds nor did he beg, he simply trusted God to provide his need and the need of those for whom he cared. In his book “Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians” J. Gilchrist Lawson has this to say of George Muller:


Greatest of all Muller's undertakings was the erection and maintenance of the great orphanages at Bristol. He began the undertaking with only two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket; but in answer to prayer and without making his needs known to human beings, he received the means necessary to erect the great buildings and to feed the orphans day by day for sixty years. In all that time the children did not have to go without a meal, and Mr. Muller said that if they ever had to go without a meal he would take it as evidence that the Lord did not will the work to continue. Sometimes the meal time was almost at hand and they did not know where the food would come from, but the Lord always sent it in due time, during the twenty thousand or more days that Mr. Muller had charge of the homes.


Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians... by J. Gilchrist Lawson. Anderson, Ind.: Warner Press, 1911


Ultimately, over the course of his service, George Muller received 1.5 million English pounds. This was at a time when a pastor’s salary would have been 75 pounds, annually, so in rough numbers George Muller received approximately one billion dollars, or almost 15 million dollars a year. All accomplished by trusting God to provide for his needs.


When we have troubles, whether great or small, our first question is often “Now what do I do to get out of this mess?” and then we proceed in our human wisdom to resolve the trouble. We worry about troubles and all too often allow our worry to drive all other thoughts from our minds. Worry is a distraction. Worry distracts us from the joys of life. Worry distracts us from the glory of God. Worry distracts us from Godly living. Worry distracts us from our faith. Jesus said that no amount of worry could change our height or lengthen our life. He told us to trust God to meet our needs, whatever they are, and to carry on with Godly living. “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus said, “and all these things will be added to you.” What things? The things we need to live: Food. Drink. Clothing. He told us that our Father in heaven knows that we need these things even better than earthly fathers know the needs of their children. He actually made that comparison that if earthly fathers, being evil, care for their children, how much more is our perfect God going to care for us.


We have been presented the facts of God’s love for us just as the people of Jerusalem were re-assured of His love for them. What we must do now is respond to that love in the same way. We must rejoice in God just as those of Nehemiah’s day rejoiced in Him, and for the same reason. God loves us and because He loves us there is nothing that cannot be overcome.


Acts 4:24-31 ESV And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,  (25)  who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, "'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain?  (26)  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'--  (27)  for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  (28)  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.  (29)  And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,  (30)  while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."  (31)  And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.