Message Begins at 22:50

When a Burden is All You Have to Offer

Planting Date Palms: Nehemiah #1
Nehemiah 1:1-11
January 24, 2021

All I Have Is A Burden

My favorite meal is pinto beans, crackling cornbread and fried okra. To me, this wonderful combination has the capacity to make hungry stomachs hush their growling all over the world. But if I had a burden to take pinto beans, crackling cornbread and fried okra to the ends of the earth, I’d have to hand it off to Paula Dean because I can’t cook. All I have is a burden.

My favorite synchronized dance is the Electric Slide. To me, the only way to teach a group of people to smile and laugh at each other at the same time – without killing each other – is to do the Electric Slide. But if I had a burden to to take the Electric Slide to all the smilers and frowners to the uttermost parts of the world, I’d have to recruit Richard Simmons because I can’t do the Electric Slide. All I have is a burden.

If given the task by our Lord to enlist date palm planters to provide spiritual shade and fruit for generations to come, I’d make sure to recruit preachers that didn’t sound like hicks from the sticks so that people would listen. The last people on earth I would choose to do that would be a bunch of uneducated and unsophisticated Galilean fisherman.

But God’s much different from me, He has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame those who profess to be wise about planting date palms. He seems to always pick the most unlikely of arborists to plant his spiritual date palms. I want to introduce you to one of those unlikely arborists today. His name was Nehemiah. He was not a preacher. He was not a teacher. He wasn’t even in the ministry. All he had was a heavy burden to over to offer the Lord. And that was good enough for God. He used it to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

1. What a Burden Is (1:1-3)

A stirring in the soul, planted by God, about something that takes divine intervention to solve.

1The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

God Burdens You At the Right Time

(1) Kislev is an important time period in the Jewish calendar; it’s the month of dreams; visions; revelations; and burdens;

(2) It’s the time period that Noah, whom God burdened to build an ark, witnessed the Flood rains cease.

(3) It’s the time period that Moses, whom God commissioned to give His laws at Mt. Sinai, witnessed the completion of the Tabernacle.

(4) It’s the time period in between the Testaments that they witnessed the “abomination of desolation” by the Greeks in their temple.

(5) It’s the time period Nehemiah develops a burden, planted by God, to do something about a ruined situation: rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

That Starts As a General Concern

Nehemiah questions his brother because:

(a) he was a product of the exile;

(b) He’s in stranger in a strange land;

(c) with family members still in the land;

(d) what he didn’t know was the extent of the situation for what it really was.

And Moves to A Specific Burden

(1) In this case, through the words of Nehemiah’s brother;

(2) Walls of Jerusalem are broken; and the people of God, your people, are in great trouble and disgrace.

(3) They were in danger with no city walls and they were sneered at: the Holy Spirit was being blasphemed. His people were mocked. Someone has to do something.

The Problem

Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes, not a general contractor. He knew nothing about rebuilding walls


If the burden that God gives you doesn’t require divine intervention to solve, then your burden, isn’t big enough or doesn't exist. It's just a concern. Don’t confuse concern with a burden.

2. How a Burden Can Paralyze You (1:4)

Too overwhelming or too hasty

4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah could have been overwhelmed

(1) the immensity of the burden could have been so great that he couldn’t do anything except throw up a blockade.

(2) Where do I start? Who am I?

Or he could have been hasty

(1) Commit himself to a cause without thinking it through;

(2) It’s a flash of emotion to do something, anything;

(3) That arises out of a need.

But he chose earnestness instead

Earnestness until the overwhelming sense of need became a specific burden in his soul.

And continued until he wasn’t overwhelmed or could act in a way that wasn’t hasty

(1) Nehemiah does nothing but pray for months;

(2) Kislev is November/December on our calendar;

(3) He doesn’t act on it until Nisan; which is March/April on our calendar.


When God was determined to do something about a broken situation, he found a man who wouldn’t have just a flash of emotion and then let it die. He prayed. He mourned. And he fasted. For months.

3. How to Act on Your Burden Properly (1:5-11a)

Start at the Right Place

5 Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

Where Nehemiah Didn’t Start

(1) Organization, though the effort would have required organization.

(2) Resources, though the project required resources.

(3) Recruiting Talent, though the project required recruiting talent.

Where he Did Start

Sin, the Root of Why the Burden Existed

(1) Why are their wars and conflicts? Sin.

(2) Why is their famine and disease? Sin.

(3). Why are governments riddled with corruption? Sin.

(4) Why is the mission of the church not fulfilled? Sin.

(5) Why do children born in Christian homes that rebel against God?


It’s time we start at the right place. We’ve sinned as the Body of Christ right here in America specifically because we’ve only planted date palms that we can sit under. Not for future generations. If we had, we wouldn’t be where we are.

4. What God Teaches You In Your Burden (11b)

Full-time ministry isn't required to plant date palms future generations can sit under.

I was cupbearer to the king.

Three individuals that played a role in the Post-Exile (Return to Israel)

(1) Zerubbabel, the Prince;

(2) Ezra, the Priest;

(3) Nehemiah, the Cupbearer

Who God didn’t call to rebuild the walls:

(1) Zerubabbel, the Professional Prince of God’s People;

(2) Ezra, the Priest for God’s People;

Why God called the Cupbearer

(1) Honest, praying man who held the Kings highest trust;

(2) Therefore, he wasn’t susceptible to bribery; (3) He knew nothing about walls. All he had was a burden born in anguish. And that was good enough for God...because no one else did.