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The Grand Finale

The Grand Finale poster

In accordance with his agreement with the Persian king, Nehemiah had returned to the court upon the completion of the building of the wall. Twelve years later, seeking renewed permission, he returned to Jerusalem. The last chapter of this amazing record in the Word of God reveals to us the unswerving loyalty of Nehemiah to his God, right through to the very end.

I came to Jerusalem and I understood…” (verse 7).

Those few words are the clue to the whole zeal and character of this man Nehemiah. He came to Jerusalem, the place from which all divine strategy in the world was yet to be conducted, the center of God’s operations, the Holy City, and there he understood—he saw clearly God’s purpose for His people. He saw that God’s intention was to reach the multitude through the few, that God is not concerned with crowds, but with channels, and that the channels must be clean and pure.

Nehemiah was the last historian of Old Testament times; only four hundred years more and then the Messiah would come. He knew that God wanted His people to fulfill His purpose in the world. He understood also their failure, and this chapter tells us the tragic story of what had happened.

You recall that the people had met in a great convention to worship God. They had made a covenant with the Lord, and the stage seemed set for abiding blessing. But no, the same sins which had ruined their national life before their captivity had attacked again and overcome them.

What were they? They were three in number. In the first place, there was the mingling with other nations—failure in separation. In the second place there was a desecration of the Sabbath day—failure in service. And in the third place there were marriages with heathen people—failure in sanctification.

On Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, he found all of these things being practiced. Tobiah, the Ammonite, their bitter enemy who had opposed constantly the building of the wall, was comfortably housed in the court of God’s house; the very man whom Nehemiah had told that he had no part nor lot in Jerusalem. Furthermore, all sorts of business and traffic were going on on the Lord’s day. Worse still, one of the sons of the priests had married the daughter of Sanballat. There were three cheers in hell and once again the enemy was strongly entrenched in Jerusalem. 

But with Nehemiah back on the scene, things began to move! All Tobiah’s furniture was thrown out on the street, and himself with it.

The gates of the city were shut on the evening before the Sabbath day. Some who dared sell their goods outside the wall were warned off with the threat of a sound thrashing from Nehemiah. The record tells us that “from that time forth, came they no more on the sabbath.” I should think they didn’t!

Those who were guilty of unholy alliances with outlandish women suffered at the hands of Nehemiah. He “contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them and plucked off their hair”—what a man!

Perhaps you think he was too severe. Not at all! He understood, for now he knew that God’s purposes depend upon a holy people. God must have them at any cost; He must have the few who were truly clean and right with Him that the world might be reached. God is still the same today, and through the few He needs to reach the world. Don’t you long to be among that number?

Let me put the words of this text on the lips of One of whom Nehemiah is only a picture. He came to Jerusalem and He understood. Yes, two thousand years ago Jesus Christ came: He understood the purpose of His Father, and also He understood the failure and sinfulness of man.

The Old Testament was full of promises which were broken. The Lord Jesus came that the New Testament might be full of promises made by God which would be kept. He came that the Holy Spirit might dwell in us to give us victory, and to make up pure channels through whom He can reach the lost. He went away for a while, and today He comes to make your heart and mine, the center of His operations, the place of all His activities, for He alone understands the purpose of God for us.

But what does He see? Does He see failure in separation? What “Tobiah” has wormed his way into the center of your life and sits there comfortably enthroned where the Lord Jesus ought to be? What furniture is cluttering up the temple which the Holy Spirit ought to fill, and causing loud cheers in hell? Is it not a fact that in so many instances Christian people have so little room for the Holy Spirit because they have allowed so many other things to crowd into their lives?

How much room is there in your life for the Holy Spirit? Is the whole trouble that Tobiah and his furniture clutter up the place? Then they need to be thrown out, lock, stock and barrel.

What about your bookshelves? Would the divine approval be upon all that is there? What about your clothes closet? Did you pray before you purchased all its contents? Would it all be something upon which the Lord would smile? Is it designed to attract to yourself or attract to Jesus? What about your record collection? Would He be satisfied with all that is there? Or would He have to put His finger upon something that would be thrown out?

My dear fellow Christians, if you mean business for God in these desperate days, I suggest to you we need an examination of every part of our lives that the furniture with which the enemy clutters them up might be thrown outside. Oh, that we would learn to make room for God to work!

But again, has there been a failure in service? What traffic goes on in your heart which destroys that Sabbath of rest and peace? What thoughts invade that temple of your body? And what about your service for the Lord upon His day? Is not that one of the great tragedies even in conservative Christian circles in this country? We attend Sunday school and church, but we give the rest of the day to television, to boating on the lake, to picnics, to excursions, to anything under the sun except faithfulness to the house of God. Some just never think of their responsibility to invite a friend who does not know the Lord to the house of God for the evening service. Is there breakdown there in your life?

What about failure in sanctification? Tell me, is there some unholy alliance in your life which threatens to destroy your testimony? Do you cherish some friendship that is clearly outside the will of God because it is contrary to the Word of God? What daughter of Sanballat has captured your affection and stolen the loyalty of your heart from the Saviour Himself? I wonder what “outlandish” man or woman has taken you from Him? What Delilah has taken away your spiritual strength?

How many, many times a young man or woman has entered into marriage out of God’s will with a partner who is not a Christian, and has said, “I’ll win her or him for Christ when we are married.” But it never works that way, and almost without exception the result is disaster.

If you would live godly in this world, you will have to break somebody’s heart, believe me. Very frequently, in order to obey the will of the Lord, the heart that you break is that of someone dear to you, perhaps the heart of your father or mother, some member of your family, your sweetheart. That is what Jesus said would happen—Luke 12:51–53.

Better break anybody’s heart than break the heart of God! In any event, how blessedly true it is that to obey the will of God results ultimately in blessing in the lives of those who at the moment of decision we seem to hurt. To refuse to accept the path of God’s call, to lower the standard in Christian life in order to make things more easy in terms of human affection is always disaster, not only to ourselves, but also to those concerned. But to go through with the will of God, and to do that which seems to be ruthless and even unkind, in order to obey God at any cost, is ultimately the way to win others for the Lord.

These are no times for half-measures. Has there been failure in your separation, failure in your service, failure in your sanctification? Is there great glee in the regions beneath, because the channel which God intended to use in your life is choked? Yes, the Lord Jesus comes to the Jerusalem of your heart and He understands. Would you let Him throw out the idol, silence the traffic which disturbs the peace and rest of your heart? Would you be willing for Him to break off the unholy alliance?

Remember the God of Nehemiah is our God. Disobedience to Him always brings punishment. Sin brings slavery, but repentance always brings the outpouring of His mercy and blessing. And the Holy Spirit filling the life that has been emptied of furniture always brings victory, for He is the Victor. To be quick in understanding the fear of God and will of God is always to be merciless to everything that is contrary to the will of God, no matter how much it hurts.

Do you notice in this chapter that three times over Nehemiah prayed that the Lord would remember him? I do not think for a moment that he expected to buy God’s favor because of his faithfulness to the Lord. But rather, being himself one who trusted the Lord, Nehemiah humbly asked that the work that he did might come under remembrance before God.

I think this is a very wonderful thing, that every one of us may remember the word of our Lord Jesus, “He that has been faithful in a few things shall be ruler over many.” To serve Him here for a reward is not our motive, but it is a tremendous strength in the battle to know that one day there is a “Well done” awaiting us if we have been faithful to Him.

As I look back upon this classic book on Christian service, the Book of Nehemiah, I see a man who was faithful to the very end. And, of course, that is what counts: not how I begin, but how I end.

I am reminded of the verse in the sixth chapter of Ephesians as translated by Weymouth (v. 13), “Therefore put on the complete armor of God, so that you may be able to stand your ground in the evil day, and having fought to the end, to remain victors on the field.”

Yes, that is what counts. We are all engaged in an intense spiritual warfare in which there will be no armistice until we reach heaven. Satan hurls all his fiery darts at the child of God who is abandoned to the will of God, and at the church which is concerned to have a soul-winning ministry. This will mean that in the course of the battle there will be grave wounds, much suffering and hurt, many things that grieve us and break our hearts, but nothing matters except that we should stand our ground and remain victorious on the field.

What a day it will be when the Lord welcomes us home! Indeed, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. We will understand then, as we can never understand now, that the very wounds which so often have been inflicted upon us have been the means of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus, and of making Him all the more precious to us.

Circumstances which we have resented, situations which we have found desperately difficult, have all been the means in the hands of God of driving the nails into the self-life which so easily complains. His dealing causes us to rejoice in the midst of affliction, “Knowing that our light affliction is but for a moment, and worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Just as one day Nehemiah came to Jerusalem and understood, and just as the Lord comes to the Jerusalem of our hearts and understands, so, praise God, we shall come to the heavenly Jerusalem and understand. We shall know then as we are known.