Man Suffering In Fellowship with God
For a few minutes, then, let us look at Nehemiah's concern.
This man had a true appreciation both of how things ought to be and of how they actually were. We will never get anywhere as instrumental in the purpose of God until those two thing are clear in our hearts - how things actually are, and then how things ought to be, how God would have things if He had them according to His mind, His heart, what things would be like if they did reflect and express the purpose of God. You and I will never get very far, if we get anywhere at all, in our relationship with God, until we are seeing something of the real state of things in contrast with the mind of God - until we have seen really what God wants, what God really has His heart set upon, exactly how things would be if they were according to His will.
Then, of course, we must see the contrasts, the conflicting factors, the nature of the situation as it is not according to God's mind. Nehemiah was such a man. He looked, he formed his judgment upon the data: he saw on the one hand, what God would have; on the other hand, how different things were from what God would have. There are, of course, many people who can be very critical of Christianity, very critical of the Church, who have quite a lot of mental appraisement and judgment of the situation, who in a very superior way talk down about the bad conditions which exist among Christians and in the Church, and who can give themselves quite cheaply to deploring the state of things.
Nehemiah was not of that kind. Nehemiah was not just negative; Nehemiah was positive, he was constructive. He was not only the one who could say, ' Now, look at the situation - look how different it is from what God intended and what God willed - see this and see that and see the other thing.' Not only was he able to do that, but he was able to bring forth a positive remedy and to show how the thing could be changed to provide a way for recovery. He was a man of positive vision. There are so many people who take a negative line, and when you ask them what ought to be done, what is the thing we must do about it, they have nothing to bring forward. It is all negative - and very plentiful, at that! - but there is nothing to present or provide. Nehemiah was not that kind of man. He was fully acquainted with the situation; he knew just how deplorable it was. you notice several times he speaks of it, but he had the remedy. He was a positive man and a man of action, because he was a man of vision. He was not just 'visionary,' in the negative sense: he was a man of action in relation to what he saw. And that, dear friends, does present us with a challenge. I have no doubt but that most of us could point the finger at things which are not according to God's mind among His people, in His Church; could point out how different things are from what we can see they ought to be - how bad this is and how bad that is. Oh, that is easy and that is very cheap - to criticize and to listen to criticism and to agree with it, to take it in, and to nurse the complaints, to keep them alive. But it is another thing altogether to be able to come forward and say, 'Look here, this is not good, this is not as the Lord would have it, and this is what we ought to do. This is the thing that the Lord would have done, this is the thing to which we must give ourselves, to change this situation.' I venture to say that we have no right to criticize and judge and condemn if we have not got a remedy, if we have not go something positive to put in the place of what we see. So let us be quiet if we cannot provide something better, but the Lord save us from having to be quiet just because we are negative, and make us active because we have got vision.
I ask you: How true is this in your own case? What vision have you? Do you see what the Lord has ever meant, has ever intended? - what really is in His heart, what He would have, and how He would have things? Do you see just exactly how things would be if the Lord had His way and reached His end? Do you? Are you able to see how different things are from what the Lord would have, and then are you so exercised in your heart, as were these men and as was this man, that you say, 'Something must be done about it, we must get to work, by the help of God we must change this situation' - believing that it is God's will that it should be so? Are you of that kind? Well, that is the appeal of this book.
The Features of Nehemiah's Travail
Let us spend a little while in looking still more inwardly into this travail of Nehemiah's. What were the features of his travail? I have been trying to understand him, to read him, to get into his heart, to get behind his cry, behind his sorrow, his burden in his distress. As I have done so, it has seemed that these are some of the things which lay behind this travail of his.
(continued with # 3)