#9  “Book of Nehemiah” Series




TEXT:         Nehemiah 9:1-38


INTRO:       One of the greatest statements in the Bible is said by Jonathan, the son of King Saul.  In 1 Samuel 23:17 he said to David who had been his father's enemy; "I will be second to you." ... the rarest man in the orchestra of God is the saint who knows how to play second fiddle well!


It is the humble man who can recognize who God really is and who he himself really is!  Instead of just being discontent all the time for where God has you the humble man recognizes God's leading and is content where ever he is led … even if it means being second fiddle!


ILLUS:    A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility. -- Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 5989.


Humility has a healthy way to it, though at times it is first a painful way!  Humility is an honest appraisal of the past but with one difference, instead of mourning over the past it remembers it so the past is not re­peated again!  It is a look at the past with sorrow over errors, with the intent to heal the present and give wisdom and direction for the future!


HUMILITY is meant to be an active healthy role in one's entire life ... it should not end in self-pity, that is not true humility, that is humiliation!  Real humility is solution oriented in healthy directions!


PROP. SENT:    After a great time of feasting, Israel found itself fasting with humility! This great contrast from joy to sorrow however is not a trip into SELF-PITY, It was a trip into THE PRESENCE OF GOD to honestly see who God is and who they were ... to deal with the past in the present, and to keep from repeating those errors in the future!  It was healing oriented, not destructive self-pity!  It was a sincere attempt to change and look to God for help, not just wallow in self-pity and complain!


I.   HUMILITY    9:1-6


A.   Personal    9:1-3

1.   The humility of the Israelites had to be both corporate AND individual!

a.   While they agreed together to fast ... they each personally wore the apparel of genuine sorrow for that time period!

b.   This was not just another ritual ... it was serious business and the choice of each individual.

2.   As it turned out, the entire camp joined together to analyze the errors of the past!

3.   The key here was to EXAMINE the past and acknowledge the sins ... but not to the point of self-pity, it was to learn!

4.   When the past steals our joy and envelopes us with self-pity or self-hatred that is not the same thing as HUMILITY!

a.   Biblical humility by its very nature is healing oriented.

b.   Humility that is real restores the joy of the saint and restores the proper appreciation for who they are in Christ in spite of their failures, once they have been confessed!

5.   No one can make you humble ... you might be invited to be, but you must accept the invitation personally.

6.   This genuine humility revealed itself by the way the Israelites responded to the Word of God ... to separate themselves from all foreigners (not as an arrogant "we are better than you" type of separation) but because God's Word had told them to be DIFFERENT FROM THE WORLD!

a.   They maintained contact with other nations.

b.   They still did business with other nations.

c.   The point was to differentiate themselves from the pagan lifestyles of the world; the idea was to be the people of God the Word called them to be!


ILLUS:    Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration.  "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said.  "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom -- I'll do it.  I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.

   "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table -- 'Here's my life, Lord.  I'm giving it all.'

   "But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters.  We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there.  Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting.  Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

   "Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious.  It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time.  It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul." -- Darryl Bell, Maple Grove, Minnesota.  Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 4.


7.   This brings out a special point of real humility ... OBEDIENCE, regular constant obedience!


B.   Perspective     9:4-6

1.   It is interesting to note that they had spent 3 hours standing in place confessing their sins and those of their fathers!

a.   Notice they didn't start by confessing someone else's sins first!

b.   They started with their own sins first!

c.   It is always too easy and also arrogant to ask God to reveal someone else's sin to you and to secondly ask God for your side of the sin later!

d.   Real humility starts with MY faults before leaning on other's faults!

2.   The next 3 hours they spent listening to the Word of God ... a total of 6 hours in confession and instruction in the Word of God, along with healthy expressions of worship ... the second ingredient to proper humility ... RECOGNITION OF WHO GOD REALLY IS!


ILLUS:     True humility is not looking down on yourself but looking up to Christ. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).


3.   The leaders are with the people in this.

a.   First their own sins are confessed.

b.   Then the sins of the past.

c.   Then the character of God is affirmed by WORSHIP!

d.   Finally the characteristics of God are alluded to in a long list:

(1.  “You are everlasting to everlasting” ... God is timeless and forever!

(2.  The point: We are temporal now, and can't even guess the future ... but “You Lord are forever ... past, present, and future!”

(3.  This brought about a healthy respect for God, reverence for the Lord is critical to genuine humility!

4.   "You alone are God" ... this important affirmation was like saying “we are the second fiddle!”  We are not NUMBER 1!

a.   Notice their perspective, God alone made everything, we can't share the credit, and this alone brings out a certain healthy humility!

b.   Secondly they affirm something very critical ... even for today “YOU GIVE LIFE TO EVERYTHING...”  It is arrogant for man to take life casually or destroy it just out of convenience ... this really strikes home for our generation!

c.   God will bring down the proud ... and lift up the humble!


II.  HISTORY    9:7-31


A.   Provider!    9:7-15

1.   Who is it that really has provided everything we need?  GOD!

a.   How arrogant man is about his accomplishments, and rarely a word of acknowledgement about God's role in providing.

b.   Even simple acknowledgements like praying before a meal is going the way of the dodo bird, disappearing from families and homes around the world!

2.   Notice the constant repetition of “YOU” for God:

a.   “YOU FOUND”

b.   “YOU MADE”

c.   “YOU KEPT”

d.   “YOU SAW”

e.   “YOU HEARD”

f.    “YOU SENT”

g.   “YOU KNEW”


i.    “YOU LED”


k.   “YOU SPOKE”

l.    “YOU GAVE”



ILLUS:     It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 6020.


3.   GOD has done so much ... yet we really acknowledge so little!  The humble man doesn't forget history, especially what God has done in the past!

4.   God's past record of faithfulness WILL sustain the humble man!


B.   Pride!    9:16-31

1.   Notice the change in tone and identities here:  BUT THEY, our forefathers…”

a.   Now they look back at the errors of the past.

b.   But not in just an arrogant slap at their father's sins!

c.   They are looking back so as to learn something!

2.   This should be the reason we look back at our sins or mistakes of the past ... not to relive the GUILT of the past, but to RELIEVE the guilt and RELEARN for the present and the future!

a.   They recount the cyclical pattern of their fathers, thus they are not just pointing their fingers at a particular group of failures, but to a cycle of failing!

b.   They are careful to include God's faithfulness all during these failures too!



a.   To ignore God's love and forgiveness is to live in PRIDE!

b.   Pride is a form of self-reliance ... "I don't need anybody else" mentality!

c.   This is a real cultural problem for the western world!  We PRIDE ourselves on how independent we are, this isn't always a healthy pride ... this can be arrogance!

d.   The truth is we NEED GOD, AND ONE ANOTHER!

e.   God saw that when Adam was alone IT WAS NOT GOOD!

4.   What was the lesson then from the past? ... PRIDE had kept their fathers trapped in a lifestyle of sin that could only be shaken by repetitious captivities from other godless nations ... in other words, to HUMBLE Israel captivity was needed for them to see their need of God!

5.   Arrogance is a type of captivity ... a bondage that is worse than an isolated prison cell ... it isolates SELF!


ILLUS:     A few years ago, two men held up a bank in Dallas.  For reasons I do not know, only one of them wore a mask.  In ten or fifteen minutes they were captured.  Can you imagine one of those men standing before the judge and saying, "Your Honor, I admit I robbed the bank.  I admit that I did it.  But at least I went in there without a mask.  I was not a hypocrite.  Everybody saw who I was."

   That doesn't make it with a judge in Dallas.  So, if you want to play the game of Pharisee, you can play it from any position in the board.  This tax collector stood in the presence of God, and in the presence of God he kept beating his breast, saying, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." -- Haddon Robinson, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Us Guys," Preaching Today, Tape No. 80.


6.   Verse 29 contains the key statement – God had warned them but in their arrogance they had ignored the warnings.


b.   And arrogance was demonstrated when they didn't think they had to obey!


d.   Biblical humility is not so much what DENNIS MARQUARDT WANTS, BUT WHAT GOD WANTS!  Learning to understand the Word and following it is the heart of humility!


III.  HEALING!   9:32-38


A.   Promises!    9:32-35

1.   Something is coming into focus here: "NOW THEREFORE..." introduces a conclusion to all the comments that preceded this statement:

a.   God is an awesome ... great ... mighty ... God, WHO KEEPS HIS PROMISES!

b.   God is a sure bet!

c.   Life is a gamble without God ... and the odds are 0 if you bet against Him!

2.   There had been a pattern in the past, one of cycles of disobedience and an unwillingness to learn from this constant cycle!

a.   Nothing can be sadder than someone who continues to make the same errors again and again!

b.   You can see them go from church to church to church ... always its the church's fault, and perhaps at times it is, but a pattern emerges that produces an arrogance and bitterness that eats the joy right out of the heart of that saint!

3.   However, God is faithful ... even to the misguided saints ... and when they truly become humble God is able to let them see and understand ... and break the cycle!


ILLUS:     Toward the end of his life, Albert Einstein removed the portraits of two scientists -- Newton and Maxwell -- from his wall and replaced them with portraits of Gandhi and Schweitzer.  He explained it was time to replace the image of success with the image of service. -- Christianity Today, August 12, 1988, p. 72.


4.   In fact, knowing that God is so faithful in itself is often enough to break the bitter heart, even the arrogant spirit ... God's promises are yea and amen, and they bring healing to a hard heart!


B.   Petitions    9:36-37

1.   Now that they have learned from the past errors they are humbled to see the reality of their present status!

a.   The beam in their eye is now obvious!

b.   Genuine humility is finding its way and its process in them!

c.   The past now is past and what ugly realities about their fathers they saw they now see in themselves!

2.   So they break out with petitions ... but not just for blessings, for more things; they break out with prayer that God will forgive their failings, not just their father's -- their sins!

3.   With this they acknowledge their total dependence upon God for their ultimate security!

a.   Our security does not come from our jobs.

b.   Or our bank accounts.

c.   Or our country.

d.   Or our positions.

e.   Or our breeding.

f.    Or our family name. etc.

g.   The humble man of God recognizes that when the final call comes it is God that gives us our sense of security!


ILLUS:      During construction of Emerson Hall at Harvard University, president Charles Eliot invited psychologist and philosopher William James to suggest a suitable inscription for the stone lintel over the doors of the new home of the philosophy department.

   After some reflection, James sent Eliot a line from the Greek philosopher Protagoras: "Man is the measure of all things."

   James never heard back from Eliot, so his curiosity was piqued when he spotted artisans working on a scaffold hidden by a canvas. One morning the scaffold and canvas were gone.  The inscription?  "What is man that thou art mindful of him?"  Eliot had replaced James's suggestion with words from the Psalmist.  Between these two lines lies the great distance between the God-centered and the human-centered points of view. -- Warren Bird in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.


4.   Their petition ends with, "WE ARE IN GREAT DISTRESS!"  9:37


C.   Pledge     9:38

1.   What do they do after petitioning God for help and recognizing their utter dependence upon Him for forgiveness and help?

a.   They don't sit around and wait to see what God is going to do!

b.   The humble heart says, “ok, what do I need to do now?"

2.   They respond while waiting for God to help them out of their distress by making a pledge to God ... not a foolish one, pledges carefully thought out and based on the lessons of the past!


ILLUS:      God uses broken things.  It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to produce rain, broken grain to give bread and broken bread to give strength.  It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.  It is the broken Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever. – Source Unknown


3.   This pledge would be their promise to walk with God, the leaders took the role of being the example in this!

a.   This pledge however was an individual choice, anyone could sign.

b.   All were invited to sign, but it still would be an individual choice!

4.   This is still true with God.  Your pastor can't get you into heaven, and you can't use him as an excuse for why you won't make it either!

a.   Each man and woman will have to face God and their choices made here and now will affect the outcome later!

b.   The arrogant heart will say, "I have no need of God, I can do it alone."

c.   The humble heart will acknowledge his sin and find forgiveness and be healed of the old nature and be created new in Christ ... never to go it alone again!

5.   Why not walk with the best ... it doesn't get any better than God!

6.   Sign your name in the book of life with the rest of those who have learned from their past sins, and turn to the one who forgives all sin and renews your heart and mind!  COME TO CHRIST; join the covenant of God's people!  YOU CAN BE HEALED OF GUILT, SIN, AND A SENSE OF NO PURPOSE.  GOD'S JUST WAITING for your pledge!


CONCLUSION:   Real humility is a great healer -- for it brings out the honest good and bad of our human nature and recognizes God's truly Holy nature!  It also is honest about history -- with the result of inspiring us in our hearts to live righteous lives in the present and future, to learn from the past!  God loves the truly humble heart, it is the true strength of a spiritually dynamic walk with God.  How humble are you?