Nehemiah

Why Is Your Face Sad?

There is, within the world of Christianity, an unwritten rule that says we're always to be happy. "Life is good," we're expected to say–even when it's anything but good. The realities of sadness, anger, depression, and uncertainty are not allowed for the Christ follower, and if you feel them creeping in, well then you must not have enough faith.

But what do you do when sadness is the only reality you can muster? 

When depression makes sense

In Nehemiah's story, the nation of Israel is a wreck. Their sin has led to trouble, shame, and exile. Nehemiah himself is a wreck. When he learns of the deplorable reality of his people, he can't help but mourn and weep for days (Nehemiah 1:4).

The story continues, and after months of patiently praying, Nehemiah's moment finally comes for his prayers to be answered, but this doesn't change the fact that he's still deeply depressed over the exiled condition of his people. Nehemiah is in fact so overwhelmed with sadness that his face can't help but show anything else. King Artaxerxes asks, "Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?" (Nehemiah 2:2) 

Nehemiah responds, "Why should not my face be sad..."

The reality of life is that sometimes deep sadness, depression, and anger is all you have to give–and it's okay. Sometimes sin (your own or someone else's) has wrecked your world so bad that depression is the only response which makes sense. This was certainly the case for Nehemiah.

Hear me on this: your sadness, depression, anger, and uncertainty with life doesn't make you a mediocre Christian, and it doesn't make you any less a child of God.

Hope For Joy

Jesus was a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). When he witnessed the death (the ultimate sting of sin) of his friend Lazarus, he wept (John 11:35). Before his crucifixion he was so overcome with agony that he was sweating drops of blood from his forehead (Luke 22:44).

"It is good" was not Jesus's cry from the cross. 

His cry from the cross was, "it is finished." The work Christ came to fulfill is done, and by faith in this work, everlasting joy is yours.

In his finished work, your joy is solidified. It's no longer dictated by the circumstances you face, but by the circumstances he faced. This doesn't mean you won't ever again face difficult circumstances. It also doesn't mean that all the rest of your days will be lived with a smile on your face and a skip in your step. It does mean, however, that you have hope for a future joy.

The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus means you have a future day of unimaginable eternal joy awaiting you. That eternal joy, though still marred by sin, begins now, and it will be fulfilled when you finally stand before King Jesus face to face. Standing before him, you will not be asked questions about a sad face. Instead, your King will look at you and say, "Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into my rest."  

Because of his work, tears, sorrow, and ultimate victory, it will be good once again!    

Nehemiah

Yesterday, we started our series through Nehemiah. As it looks right now, this is going to be a 16 part series. For our time together, we looked at two points: Nehemiah's Context, and Nehemiah's Call. If you missed it, you can head over to our sermon page and give it a listen.

In this blog post, I want to list some of Nehemiah's key themes, as well as look at why this is an important book for us in our current context.  

Nehemiah's Key Themes

There are four main themes that we'll see over and over through Nehemiah. They are:

  • Nehemiah's doctrine of God.
  • Nehemiah's passion for Scripture.
  • Nehemiah's experience of prayer.
  • Nehemiah's experience in leadership.

There are certainly many more sub-themes that we'll see throughout the book, but these are the key themes which drive everything else. As you read through Nehemiah, watch for these themes. Nehemiah was a man with an incredibly high view of God which the church today can certainly learn from. He was a man devoted to God's word–it is clear that the whole of his life was informed by Scripture. He was a man who prayed–on just about every page of this story is some mention of prayer. He was a strong leader–there are few people today who can rally people behind a vision the way we'll see Nehemiah do it. 

Nehemiah's importance

One of the questions many have asked is, why Nehemiah? On one level the answer is simply, why not? We believe all of Scripture to be God's word and profitable for our maturing and health as followers of Jesus. The other reason to study Nehemiah, is that it is incredibly relevant to our time as a church, and culture. For example:

  • Nehemiah had to deal with the discomforts of change. God called him to a task 800 miles from where he had likely lived his whole life, and the task was going to be anything but easy.
  • Nehemiah had to deal with fierce individualism.
  • Nehemiah lived in a culture where the social injustices were extreme because many favored their own materialistic possessions over caring for the community at large.
  • Nehemiah lived in a pluralistic society. God's Word, commands, and people were marginalized.
  • Nehemiah's people, the Jews, though steeped in the religion of Judaism, knew very little of God's actual word. The same holds true for much of the church today.

As you can see, many of the issues Nehemiah dealt with are the same issues we deal with. Raymond Brown, in his commentary on Nehemiah, summarizes it well saying,

"Nehemiah lived heroically on the frontier between two worlds: human life as God intended it to be and as people have chosen to make it."

The gospel in Nehemiah

All of Scripture is ultimately about Jesus. Nehemiah is certainly no different. As we study Nehemiah, we need to always keep the reality before us that, though Nehemiah is the heroic figure of this story, he's simply a shadow of the Great Hero to come about 400 years later. Jesus would be born into human history and he alone would have perfect passion for God's holiness, the perfect view of Scripture, the perfect experience of prayer, and be the perfect leader. Jesus alone is our great intercessor and he alone can fully redeem and restore us back into a right relationship with God because he alone lived a life free of sin. He died the death we deserve, rose victoriously from the grave, and is continuing to make a people for himself.

I'm praying we learn much as we work through the book of Nehemiah, and I'm praying you are served well as we learn together about a people redeemed to redeem the nations!