An ancient looking stone building that appears to be a castle or fortress is surrounded by a wall with blue sky and palm trees.

Nehemiah 11: Seeking God’s Will

Every time when we seek God’s will, we invite His blessing, direction, and favor in matters big and small. 

Nehemiah 11:  Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.

And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah, and his brothers, men of valor, 928. Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.

 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin,  Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, ruler of the house of God,  and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, and his brothers, heads of fathers’ houses, 242; and Amashsai, the son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, and their brothers, mighty men of valor, 128; their overseer was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.

And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni; and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God; and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, who was the leader of the praise, who gave thanks, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brothers; and Abda the son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. All the Levites in the holy city were 284.

The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172. And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his inheritance. But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants.

The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required. And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s side in all matters concerning the people.

And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its villages, in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom. The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were assigned to Benjamin.

How often do you seek the will of God? Do you seek God’s will in decisions like dating, marriage, going to school, finding a job, relocating to a new place, and other day-to-day life situations? For example, this morning when you woke up did you ask God what is His will for you today? Or does your life run on autopilot, and you only go to God and seek His will when you face a difficult situation?

When my wife, Sarah, was pregnant for the third time, we began to seek God’s will because we had considered having four children, but this time, it was very hard on her physically. The night before she went to see her doctor, I took her out for Thai food.  We agreed that perhaps it was God’s will for us to only have three children. We both smiled and said that unless His will is to give us twins, we would be happy with three kids. The next day when she went to the doctor, she was told that we were having twins. 

Every time when we seek God’s will, we invite His blessing, favor, and direction in all matters of life no matter how small or serious they may seem.We don’t want to miss his blessing, favor, and direction by only seeking His will in difficult situations.

 In Nehemiah 11, Nehemiah’s day-to-day decisions show that seeking God’s will in thoughts, prayers, and decisions was his top priority. What is your top priority when you make decisions? Is it to get the job done or to get the job done according to the will of God? 

In Chapter 1, when Nehemiah heard about the condition of God’s people in Jerusalem he did not jump into action, he prayed, fasted, and mourned for four months because He wanted God’s will to be done and not his. 

In Chapter 2:4 when the king said, “What are you requesting?” the verse says, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Even in that short brief moment he was looking for God’s direction to answer the king because seeking God’s will was his top priority, not just what the king could do for him. 

Therefore, Nehemiah’s people went from sitting on ruins in chapters 1-2 to building the wall in chapters 3-6, building the people of God in chapters 7-10 to building the city of God in chapter 11. 

Now, Nehemiah 11 describes the steps they took to repopulate the city within the walls and how there too the priority was to seek God’s will.

If we begin with seeking God’s will in all matters of life no matter how small or serious they may seem, we can avoid difficult situations that cause us to seek God’s willWill in the end. Why? Because even though we will never know what the future holds, we can always trust God’s promises that He holds the future. 

What does it take to seek God’s will? In Nehemiah 11, we learn three principles. Seeking God’s will requires a willingness to go whenever God calls us, serve wherever God sends us, and offer whatever God asks of us.

Going Whenever God Calls Us

First, seeking God’s will requires a willingness to go wherever God calls us. Verse 1 says, “Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem.”

Who are these leaders? These are the political, social, spiritual, tribal, and family leaders of Israel who willingly returned to a desolate land—the promised land— after 70 years of exile in Babylon. 

Why? Because long before Israel even knew about the rising world power Babylon, in Isaiah 36-39, God told Israel that Judah would go into captivity in Babylon and that God would raise Cyrus the king who will send them back to Judah. 

God literally named Cyrus to be the man who would do God’s will 150 years before any of this took place. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel all prophesied God would raise the Medo-Persian king, Cyrus, to invade Babylon. Through Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years of captivity, God also promised deliverance. 

In God’s timing, the first group of people willingly went back to Judah under Zerubbabel in 538 BC to rebuild the temple because worship of God was the heart of God’s will for them. 

The second set of leaders went to Judah with Ezra about 80 years later with the intent of spiritual restoration and religious reforms. 

The third group went willingly with Nehemiah. 

Then the next verse says, “And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns.” 

They cast lost for three reasons:

First, they cast lots to repopulate Jerusalem. Nehemiah 7:4 tells us that there were not enough people in the city to protect and develop it.

Second, they cast lots o follow the tithing principle. In Chapter 10, the people agreed as a nation to tithe, and now we see their tithing: 10 percent of themselves to support the city of God for God’s plan and purpose

Third, they cast lots to seek God’s will. In the Old Testament, casting lots was used in Joshua 14:2 to determine the allocation of the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel, and in Jonah 1:7 to determine if Jonah was the cause of the storm. 

Other passages in the Bible also discuss casting lots, but Proverbs 16:33 says it best, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Growing up in Pakistan, we faced many false court cases. At one time my dad had 125 court cases against him, us, his church, and his elders. My dad would pray and fast for victory in those cases, but then he would do a silly thing. 

He would say, if such and such traffic light is green on his way to the court that means God has granted him victory.  If not, then he needed a plan to avoid arrest. 

Today we do not need to cast lots because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and His Word guides us when we seek God’s will in all matters of life no matter how small or serious they may seem.

What is the application?: If we believe God controls time and every detail of our lives, then we should be willing to go whenever God calls. His time is always the best time. 

We may be impatient, but God is neither slow nor late to fulfill His will for those who seek His will. It’s not just about what God wants, it’s about when He wants it. 

 Serving Wherever God Sends Us

Second, seeking God’s will requires a willingness to serve wherever God sends us. Verses 2-4 state, “And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah.” A list of names follows.

There are two ways to look at a willingness to serve wherever God sends:

First, people willingly offered to live in Jerusalem so the rest of the community praised them for their voluntary sacrificial service unto God. 

Two, which many Bible scholars believe, is that when the lot was cast people had the option to say no, but when they chose to say yes people praised them for willingly submitting to God’s will to relocate to the city of Jerusalem.

It’s no different than when members of my church volunteer to serve or I ask some of them personally to serve and they say yes, both of which I appreciate..

In verse 3, “there were those who lived in the towns of Judah” means those outside the city gates and the protection of the wall. There were dangers living in the city but also living outside the city.

When I accepted the call to be the pastor at this church, the hardest thing was not leaving my previous church or our rent-controlled apartment in midtown Manhattan. The hardest thing was leaving the city. I did not know, and in many ways still do not know, how to live outside the city. 

Those of us who were born and raised in a city understand the difference between city life and suburban life. Whether the move is voluntary or involuntary, it requires a certain level of sacrifice and, most certainly, willingness. 

For me and my family, we wanted to serve wherever God wanted to send us. In His sovereign will, God chose to send us here. We could not have picked a better mission field, a community to serve, ora place to raise my family than this area.

The application is this: until and unless God sends you somewhere else, believe in God’s sovereignty. Know that wherever you are, you have already been sent, so serve willingly.

Offering Whatever God Asks of Us

Third, seeking God’s will requires a willingness to offer whatever God asks of us. From verse 3 to the end of the chapter, we have a long list of names of those who willingly offered whatever God required of them whether that was going, serving, or sacrificially giving talents, tithing, or time.

The list includes all sorts of people, which means God needs all of us. Every one of us is crucial for God’s work.

Verses 3-9 lists the names of the lay families in Jerusalem, verses 10-14 lists priests in Jerusalem, and verses 15-24 lists Levites, gatekeepers, and temple servants in Jerusalem. All of these people had responsibilities for the needs of the city. For example, verse 6 says there were 468 valiant men in the city, verse 8 says there were 928 men of valor, and verse 14 says there were 128 mighty men of valor. They were offering their strength and courage to protect the city.

Similarly, the last set of verses, 25-36, lists names of villages and families outside Jerusalem. Why? Because they were providing the needs of the city.

If you commute to New York City, you see how many trucks go into the city to provide for its needs. That is what these villages were doing to sustain the city population. What is the takeaway?  God cares for every person that he has ever created, all of us have something to offer to God. 

It starts with being willing to offer whatever God requires because we are more interested in God’s will for us than ours.

Jonah’s story is a fascinating story. He disobeyed God and ran away to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh, because he did not want God’s will to be done. He wanted his will to be done. He wanted the Ninevites to perish, but God wanted them to repent and be saved. God allowed Jonah to run as far as he could, but if you know the ending of the story, he ended up fulfilling God’s will anyway. 

We can avoid difficult situations that cause us to seek God’s will in the end if we begin with seeking God’s will in all matters of life no matter how small or serious they may seem. But, that requires a willingness to go whenever God calls us, serve wherever God sends us, and offer whatever God asks of us.

I encourage you to seek God’s will in all matters no matter how small or serious they may seem.

We see a three-dimensional image of God’s will in the Bible, His  perfect, permissive, and prevailing will. 

God’s perfect will for everyone is to repent and be saved in Jesus. However, God’s permissive will allows every individual to exercise their free will. Nevertheless, God’s prevailing will always achieves God’s purposes because God is sovereign over everything, both the big and small details of our lives.

Remember that the will of God for you is not to make you rich or poor, healthy or sick. His will is to make us more like Jesus, for us to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, care for others like Jesus, and sacrifice like Jesus. Only in Jesus do we find the perfect will of God for us. 

When we accept Jesus, we willingly give ourselves over to His control. When willingly we give Jesus the throne of our hearts then Jesus rules over our desires and Jesus rules our thoughts. Jesus controls our decisions. Jesus controls our actions. Jesus controls our behavior. All of this starts by repenting of our sins and accepting the rule and reign of Jesus in all areas of our lives to see transformation.

Now the challenge is, are we willing to seek and willingly submit to the will of God in all matters, no matter how small or serious they may seem? 

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