Thursday, October 10, 2019

1888 Message Study : Nehemiah

OCTOBER 12, 2019



Years ago, I listened to a man from the PR department from Loma Linda University who addressed the issue of leadership styles. The idea, according to him, was this – there was the notion that leaders could be discovered by finding common practices of successful leaders. With data gathered they believed it would be possible to learn the principles of leadership in boys (girls also, I assume). By discovering leadership indicators in them, the researchers believed they could groom those children into leadership roles in the church by the time they reached maturity.

However, while studying the subject of leadership they came to Ezra and Nehemiah. Here the study abruptly ended because of these two different men who were opposite in leadership styles. It was decided there was no "cookie cutter approach" in the discovery of leaders. In other words, they discovered there are no distinguishing characteristics for successful leaders. The lesson learned was this – leadership is not found in "one size fits all" because of individual differences in leadership styles.

Let's consider a few significant differences in the two leaders— Ezra and Jeremiah— both of whom were used by God to accomplish His work at Jerusalem in the rebuilding of the city, the temple, true worship practices and self-government by His people.

Artaxerxes sent millions of dollars in several tons of gold and silver (over 100 million of dollars in today's currency) with Ezra to be used for rebuilding of the temple and its services.

Ezra fasted and prayed to God (Ezra 8:21). He wanted to depend solely on God and to not dishonor Him. So, he wanted no military escort but depended on God's protection while traveling to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:22). When he got there and saw the spiritual condition of his people, he plucked out hair from his beard and wept (Ezra 9:3).

Beginning with verse 4 to the end of the chapter we observe Ezra's corporate prayer with weeping over the sad state of affairs in Israel. As a result, people were deeply moved by his actions and wept with him (Ezra 10:1).

Let's now turn to Nehemiah. He asked for letters of authority from Artaxerxes the king of Persia and travelled under military support provided by the king (Nehemiah 2:9). After arriving in Jerusalem, he let no one know of his secret walk around the broken-down wall of the city. And this in the middle of the night. The next day he revealed his plan to rebuild the wall. This was marked with success in spite of heathen opposition.

Instead of pulling his hair out, as did Ezra, he pulled the beards of Jewish leaders, and cursed those who were openly sinning (Nehemiah 2:9).

These two leaders, with different leadership styles, worked together in God's cause for finishing His work with the city, the wall and the people. Both Nehemiah and Ezra along with the Levites taught and encouraged the people (Nehemiah 8:9-18).

There is no single pattern here for leadership. These men were two different kinds in personality and style. God chose them to further His work on the earth. There were others God used such as Moses and Joshua. The disciples of Jesus teamed up in pairs to spread the gospel. Peter and John were opposites and as were Paul and Barnabas. All were used to spread the gospel.

During the dark ages the Waldensians would send out gospel workers in pairs. And in the time of the Reformation God put Philip Melanchthon and Martin Luther together. In the revival in England a couple of hundred years later the Wesley brothers came on the scene.

During the beginning of the Advent Movement there was William Miller and Joshua Himes working together. This pair is especially worth considering because these two had major theological differences. Miller was a strong trinitarian and Himes was a strong anti-trinitarian, but they worked together in the blessed hope of the coming of the Lord. In the following generation God raise up A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner with a heaven-sent message that motivated many to revival and reformation.

Returning now to Nehemiah who first served in the royal palace of Shushan, Persia. Shushan was the favorite winter residence of Persian kings. Nehemiah gave the winter month of Chisleu (which corresponds to November/December of our day) as the time when he heard bad news about conditions in Jerusalem. This was some 13 years after Ezra's exodus to Jerusalem. The gates of the city had been destroyed by fire; walls were broken down; the redeemed Jewish people from Babylonian captivity were "in great affliction and reproach" (Nehemiah 1:3).

The cause of the problems in Jerusalem was an alliance of three nations whose leaders were dedicated to stopping Jerusalem from being rebuilt. Satan motivated those leaders attempting to defeat God's promise to Jeremiah regarding the fulfillment of 70 years of Jewish captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11).

Later, in answer to Daniel's prayer regarding the return of his people to Jerusalem toward the end of the time specified by Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2), Gabriel assured Daniel that God commanded Jerusalem to be "built again, and the wall, in troublous times." (Daniel 9:25). In God's command to restore Jerusalem, Gabriel also proclaimed the good news regarding the coming of Christ – "Messiah the Prince." It took three Persian kings to fulfill God's command to free His people, to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, in addition to the gospel promise of salvation in Christ within the specific time frame of His public ministry from A.D. 27 to 31. This was during the last week of the prophetic 70 weeks (490 years) as recorded in Daniel 9:24-27.

The decrees of the three Persian kings who carried out God's command is summarized in a single verse (Ezra 6:14). Those kings responding to God's Spirit were Cyrus (537 B.C.), the first one to make a decree to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. However, that work was later stopped until king Darius (520/19 B.C.) read the order of Cyrus, and so made a second decree regarding God's work in Jerusalem. The work of God was stopped again because of lawsuits in the Persian system of law by heathen legal doyens in Palestine who were skilled in Persian jurisprudence. Those lawsuits were brought about by the alliance of the three heathen nations that bordered three sides of Jerusalem.

Finally, the third decree by Artaxerxes (457 B.C.) completed God's command to rebuild Jerusalem and to re-establish God's remnant in that city. Gabriel's instructions to Daniel in chapters 8 and 9 were God's decree that specified two of the most important dates of this world's history, namely A.D. 31 and 1844. These are two specific years in which Christ was to be crucified on earth, and then later would begin His closing work of redemption during the great anti-typical day of atonement in the second apartment of heaven's temple.

One other time of distinguished importance (although not given in Scripture) is the year of 1888, in which God's last remnant was given the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry message of Christ and His righteousness in the time of the end. This message will blot out the records of confessed sin in the heavenly sanctuary and will cleanse the minds of God's remnant people on earth in the very near future when it is fully believed in heart and mind by His people. This message was prophesied by Joel as the former and latter rain where it is called the message of the "Teacher of righteousness" "according to righteousness" in Joel 2:23, KJV, margin.

The coming of the Messiah and His crucifixion depended on the fulfillment of the command of God regarding for the restoration of Jerusalem. No wonder the devil stirred up the heathen to stop His work in Jerusalem. The enemy of God and man must have trembled in abject terror when he heard and read the prophecy of Christ as recorded in Daniel 9:25-27. He determined to stop God's promise, but he utterly failed. The plan of redemption was fulfilled in Christ. The redemption of man and the eternal security of the universe were made absolutely certain because of the crucifixion of Christ on the cross of Calvary and His resurrection from the dead. The stakes were high. They were higher than what Nehemiah knew, although when he learned of the disasters in Jerusalem he was deeply grieved. He wept. He prayed. He fasted. His prayer is found in Nehemiah 1:5-11.

What happened in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra will happen in the last days of earth's history with greater intensity. The issue will not be about Jerusalem that now is, but it will involve the last remnant who will fully respond to God's grace and who will be protected by the God who inspired those leaders of old.

~Pastor Jerry Finneman