Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah 7: With God – A Setback is a Set Up for a Comeback.

In chapter 7 we see a list of names and a specific count because God wants us see something about Himself. He spends 64 verses counting and naming these people. It is clear from this repeated list that God wants us to take notice of His counting of people.

The walls are completed. The gates restored. The enemy is turned back for the time being. Now what?  Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 we are ‘to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. We are to put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. We have taken note of how the enemy uses different strategies.  Paul then tells us in Ephesians 6, after we have done everything – to stand. Stand where? Stand how? To stand guard; to stand for the truth; to stand and watch; to stand and pray.   We must have on the full armor. The armor is provided for our prayer life for it is prayer that releases the power of God.

The city of Jerusalem over 2500 years ago was similar to many of our cities today in the 21st century. War had damaged the physical city- it was an eyesore. Broken walls, burned gates and most of all – a people once proud of their city  are now described by Hanani as being in great trouble and disgrace. They are ashamed of what they were once proud of- living now in squalor and fear because their city and lives are in ruin.

Some of our cities or at least parts of our cities and towns appear to have been the victims of war, don’t they?  And our government has declared war at various times: war on crime, war on drugs, war on pornography, war on poverty, war on hunger, the war on terror, the war on pollution, the war on greed  and the list goes on and on. Yet we do not seem to be winning any of these wars. Terror and fear grip our cities and towns. It  enters our homes with each broadcast of the nightly news.

We begin to feel like foreigners in our own country. It is as if we are in exile, held captive, dispirited with each round of storms, wars, economic ups and downs. We are like aliens living in a country, a city not our own. But then we remember- we are citizens of heaven. No wonder Abraham was looking for a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11)

“ This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters  . Increase in numbers, do not decrease. Also seek peace and prosperity of the city into which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it , because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them, declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “ When 70 years are completed in Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity..’ ( Jeremiah 29)

Did you notice who carried the people of God into exile?  God.

Do you see who will take them out again?  God.

Do you see what the people must do? We are to plant, to increase, not decrease. To Call upon God, pray to God. Seek Him with all our hearts.

God is the answer to all our questions, the solution to all our problems.

And God has promised us-  HE IS COMING BACK!

Have we as God’s people forgotten one of the great stories of the Bible? The story of Joseph. God wanted us to pay attention to this story- it is a compelling story that dominates the last section of the first book, Genesis.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ends up in Egypt where a series of events leads him to become the second most powerful person in Egypt. Joseph sums up these events in a verse we must not forget:  “ Don’t be afraid.( speaking to his startled brothers at his revelation) Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50)

Do you not see this theme that reoccurs all through the Bible and history?  A SET BACK IS A SET UP FOR A COME BACK.  That is what Romans 8:28 is about- that is what Jeremiah 29 is telling us.

God is in charge. He is over all things. Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without His knowledge. God always does what is best for the most people, for the longest period of time by the best possible method. He assures us of this. But in the mean time, and times can get mean, God has instructed us what we are to do. We are to increase in numbers, not decrease. We are to seek peace and prosperity in the city in which we are in exile.

Some people do not respond to God’s setbacks as a set up for a comeback do they?  They pout and grumble and get angry with God. They will spend the rest of their life wandering in the wilderness.

God wants our cities and towns to honor Him. He wants for us to have cities and towns that provide prosperity and peace. Cities and towns are nothing but collections of individual people and families. They need each other. Cities are walls, gates, temples, churches, businesses and homes. Cities would not exist without people and people cannot exist without cities.

The actual work that Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem needed to do to rebuild the walls and restore the gates only took 52 days, less than two months. It began with one man who became concerned enough to volunteer to be a part of the solution. This led to a construction project. As the walls went back up- the enemy began to attack. We observed the strategies of the enemy and the determination with which Nehemiah resisted being distracted.

Now we look at the steps that must be taken to protect the people and the work that has been done.



God will raise up leaders. Leaders must inspire others and provide assurance.  We face an important election in 2012 when we will be electing leaders for such a time as this. Leaders who will guide us through fearful times.

These leaders must have assistants and this is what Nehemiah will show us- how to do this God’s way. Look at two of Nehemiah’s appointments:  His brother, Hanani. (Nepotism, you might think, but no it is a matter of trust.) A leader needs people he trusts, who are God-fearing, faithful and dependable. Next Nehemiah appoints Hananiah the commander of the citadel. Look at his resume: he was a man of integrity, and feared God more than most men do. Men pleasers make poor leaders, God pleasers make excellent choices.

Next look at the good old common sense, Nehemiah exhibits. We need leaders with common sense who can reduce the complicated to the simple. He appoints gatekeepers with instructions when the gates are to be opened and when they are to be closed and barred. For what good is a gate if it is not guarded. What good is a wall if gates are open during the night and left unguarded.  Nehemiah also set up neighborhood watches, enlisting those who would be watchmen on the wall.

Do you see the commons sense wisdom here?  The very people who worked so hard to rebuild the walls, many of which were in their own neighborhoods, next to their homes are now motivated to protect that which they have worked so hard to rebuild and restore. When people have sacrificed and invested their time and efforts, their blood, sweat and tears, you can count on them to protect it. This is the heart-treasure principle. Where your heart is – your treasure will be also. This people put their hearts and souls into this rebuilding project.

I remember when I was rebuilding my life,( a life almost destroyed by alcohol), reaching the mile stone of achieving  30 days of continuous sobriety. I now had something I valued, that was precious to me. I would think twice before I took another drink, having worked so hard to not take a drink, one day at a time for 30 complete days.  I know how these people felt. They were proud of what they had accomplished. They knew it was their God who had helped them, had raised up an unlikely leader who inspired them and organized them to fight their fears with faith in Almighty God.

We need like-minded groups with the same love, same spirit and same purpose to encourage one another and take the steps to restore what has fallen into ruin. It has to be God’s people working together, taking on their part- contributing their time and talents to rebuild what had been destroyed. And in the same way, having accomplished the purpose and will of God, we must then continue to work together to protect what we have sacrificed to restore.

We need people to stand in the gap. We need people who will make it their duty, their sacred duty to guard the truths of God’s Word and  see  that it is not compromised. We need the faithful and dependable who will protect our freedoms and pass them on to the next generation. As God’s people we must be on guard.  The gatekeepers and the guards and the watchman on the wall must maintain their vigilance 24 hours per day. Why?   The parable of the tares in Matthew 13 tells us the enemy came in and sowed the tares(weeds) among the wheat while everyone was sleeping. It is time to wake up and be on guard.

More and more we see the persistence of the enemy who continues to insist on our acceptance of  the very things God says are not acceptable. We are to test everything by the Word of God. Yes, we are a pluralistic society and no longer just a Christian nation, as we are constantly reminded. But the Word of God is clear- we are to speak the truth in love.

You do realize we are to be different don’t you? That is why we are called a ‘ peculiar people.’ Are you beginning to see why God counts people?

You see- the reason we have these lists of names, this counting of people is really very simple. God is telling us with Him- PEOPLE COUNT. Always! “For God so loved the world (that’s people) , He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever(that’s people) should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)  And where will they spend that everlasting life? With God!

There are many religions, but there is still only One Name Under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. That name is Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Himself told us in John 14- He is the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except by Him.

Anyone or anything that says or teaches different is a lie and must be opposed.

Do you understand how important this group of people were 2500 years ago? They were the generation of those brave enough to come back and rebuild and restore what the enemy had destroyed. This generation was the generation who stood in the gap, and became the bridge from Israel’s past to their prophetic future. These were men from every area and tribe of Israel. They were from Bethlehem, they were priests, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and descendants of Solomon’s servants. From every walk of life- the priest, the layman, the rich , the poor and everyone in-between for they are all equal in the sight of the Lord, they all counted in His eyes. Genealogies were important to God because people are important to God. And that made genealogies important to the Jewish people.

Nehemiah wanted to re-establish the genealogy, for he wanted to remind the people of who they were and of their history. Citizenship and leadership are what make a nation, and a people. They are also what make up the kingdom of God. Citizens should be proud of their city, their state and their country. It is their history- their story of which they are proud.

A nation of citizens who do not respect their leaders leads to revolution and rebellion, which history and current events tell us happens with great regularity.

As Christians we are citizens of heaven. Our leader is God Almighty. His laws govern us. If however, we fail as one generation to teach the next of the sovereignty and goodness of our Heavenly Father, the relationship declines. People begin to want a flesh and blood king instead of God . God’s wisdom is questioned. His Word is doubted and the wall of protection begins to crumble. Gaps appear- gates are left unguarded and open and the enemy sneaks in while a generation sleeps and sows counterfeits among the genuine believers. The enemy finds the unlocked gate, the gap in wall, the area unguarded and slips in without any resistance.

Until one day, leaders will tells us- ‘we are no longer just a Christian nation.’

All  it takes is one generation to not guard the gates, to not stand watch on the wall. One generation who becomes less convinced, more compromised, more concerned about the things of the world than the things of God. Led by the flesh, rather than led by the Spirit.

And all of a sudden- we find ourselves in exile, captive and begin to wonder how did this happen? How did this setback occur? But when the setbacks come- don’t look down- look up for there is where our help comes from- the Lord.



Remember this: “ Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat- for He grants sleep to those He loves. (Psalms 127)

All through the Bible we see setbacks for a variety of reasons. But there is no greater perceived setback than occurred on that fateful Friday at Calvary. The disciples thought it was a setback from which they would never come back.  Peter, especially thought I will never be able to comeback from this awful mistake. Judas, overcome with what he had done- took his own life. Yet we know on that Easter Sunday morning, we saw what many thought was the greatest setback, become the greatest set up for the greatest come back. And HE  IS COMING BACK!


  1. This chapter honors the generation who was  willing to sacrifice to return to Jerusalem and do the work of rebuilding.  This generation stood in the gap. Are you willing to sacrifice to stand in the gap to insure the truth is passed on to the next generation?
  2. The verses from Jeremiah 29 tell us when we find ourselves in the condition of being in exile we are to – plant gardens, increase in numbers not decrease and seek peace in the city where you find yourself.  How are you doing any of these things? Is your church doing any of these things in your community?
  3. Nehemiah set up a type of ‘neighborhood watch’ to guard the city. We used to be a people who sat on our front porches at night and talked with one another. Today in the 21st century, we are an indoor, flat screen 500 channel television watching people with multi-media at our fingertips. We talk to people on Facebook and text each other rather than spending time with one another. How can we become a community of ‘front porch’ people and neighbors again?
  4. Have you recently suffered what appears to be a setback?  Then get ready for with God a setback is a setup for a comeback
Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14