Father's Day 2023 (Kool-Aid and Other Poisons)

Have you ever wondered what to give someone for Father’s Day?
If you think about Mother’s Day, the classic gifts are: flowers, fancy tea, a card, or a framed piece of kid art. You know, Mother’s Day gifts make sense. Except when someone completely throws convention to the wind and gives a tent peg.
What do you give a dad? That’s when it gets harder....
Traditional gifts are ties, socks, slippers, handkerchiefs , luxury chocolate, dad's favourite drink, garden tools or DIY tools. And they throw all these things together, because no one really knows what to get a dad!
Why is that so?
Could it be that dad’s aren’t being dads? In today’s culture, through media and other means, men are painted as either stupid or absent. And so many men drink that kool-aid. So, what do you give a guy who is stupid? And what do you give a guy who is absent. Some random piece of junk, because you don’t know what else to do.
Contrary to what our culture tells us, God designed and commissioned men to lead. He created Adam first and gave him the first law, so that he would pass it on to Eve. Throughout Scripture we see men called to lead and the detriment when they don’t.
But, how do we do that? Today, thinking about leadership and the Kool-Aid of our culture, I want to talk about a man who was a servant and who drank a different kind of drink.
He is described simply in one sentence:
Nehemiah 1:11 NIV
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.” I was cupbearer to the king.
His name was Nehemiah.
Will you pray with me?

Who was Nehemiah

Who was Nehemiah?

He was a cupbearer

He was a cupbearer to the King of Persia, Artaxerxes. Now, the cupbearer position is rather a difficult position. When I was a kid, I heard about the cupbearer and I thought he was just a servant. The king is thirsty, he calls out: Cupbearer bring me some lemonade. And the cupbearer runs to the kitchen grabs some lemonade and brings it to the king. When the king goes on a trip, the cupbearer brings the kings favorite cup.
I didn’t know.
The cupbearer is one of the kings trusted servants. Yes, he was in charge of getting the king a drink when he was thirsty. But, he was supposed to taste it. First, to make sure it actually tasted good. No king wants to drink lemonade that is too sweet. But, second, the cupbearer tasted to the drink to make sure that it wasn’t poisoned. He was number one on the king’s anti-assassination team.
So, to be a cupbearer to the king, one had to be trustworthy. No king wanted his cupbearer to be someone he couldn’t trust.
To be a cupbearer to the king, one had to be responsible. He had to take his task seriously, making sure to take that sip every time. He couldn’t be absent-minded. He couldn’t be lost in thought.
To be a cupbearer to the king, one had to be careful. Someone else’s life was in your hands. You didn’t give your job to someone else. You took care because life was on the line.
Which brings me to the last description: to be a cupbearer to the king, one must put his life on the line for someone else every single day. Every time he raised his cup and took the sip, he was putting his life on the line for someone else.
This is Nehemiah.
But not only was Nehemiah a cupbearer.

He was a wall-builder

He was a wall-builder. Interestingly. The same traits apply across cupbearing and wall-building.
Nehemiah was sitting, with the king’s cup in his hand and his brother comes back from visiting the home land, Jerusalem.
Nehemiah questioned them wanting to know about the remnant, those who were not taken into captivity.
Nehemiah records:
Nehemiah 1:3–4 NIV
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.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
So, he set about to change that situation. He wanted to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem to bring safety to that people, just as he brought safety to his king every single day.
To be a wall-builder, one had to be trustworthy, because he carried letters and resources from the king.
To be a wall-builder, one had to be responsible. He had to accomplish what he was going to accomplish in a timely manner and within budget.
To be a wall-builder, one had to be careful. The wall had to be built to specifications so that it would hold. He had to create alliances between people. He had to hold others to task.
To be a wall-builder, one had to put his life on the line for someone else every single day. There was a period of time when Nehemiah and half the crew worked, while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and armor. He didn’t have to, but because he cared about his people, about his family.
So, he raised his glass and took the sip.
Yes, Nehemiah was a cupbearer. Yes, he was a wall-builder.
But, I want to dig deeper. That is just is jobs. Who was he? What about him made him such a good cupbearer and wall-builder?

Who was He?

He knew his God

He knew his God. What gives someone the strength to lift a glass of possible poison and take drink? Well, there is the possibility that if you don’t you will be killed by the king. Sure, there is that. But, I don’t think that is the foundation of Nehemiah’s actions.
He was a man who knew his God. He knew He knew the promises. He knew the faithfulness of his God who had spoken through the prophets.
Daniel 12:2 NIV
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Isaiah 26:19 NIV
But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
He knew that death was not the end for him. He had confidence in his God, which allowed him to pick up the cup and take a sip.
This confidence carried him into wall-building. When he heard the sad news about Jerusalem, he wept and prayed.
When approached by the king about his sorrow, and he was going to ask the king for help. He first prayed. When he was in Jerusalem and facing opposition, both verbal and physical. He first prayed. He prayed. He praying. Over and over again, he prayed.
He knew his God. So, he could lift up the cup and take the sip.

He knew his situation

Not only did he know his God. But, he knew his situation.
As cupbearer, he had to be aware of everything related to his position. He had to know those on staff. He had to know possible enemies of the king. He had to know drinks and poisons.
And, I am sure that he did, because Nehemiah was a researcher. He like to know the task in front of him, gaining all the knowledge before making a plan and then acting.
When he traveled to Jerusalem, he did not notify anyone in Jerusalem what he was doing, instead, he snuck out at night to see what was going on.
Nehemiah 2:13–16 NIV
By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Once he knew his situation, he developed a plan and called others to work. He raised the glass to his lips and took a sip.
Not only did he know his God, and know his situation, but he knew his role.

He knew his role

I should say: When I use the word “know” I am speaking of it Biblically. English has only one word with a whole range of meaning. Most of the time, Biblically, know is intimate knowledge through experience. It is used for the consummation of marriage in bed. It is used for God’s relationship with us, and should be used of our relationship with him. Know: intimate knowledge through experience.
Nehemiah knew his role. He knew his task as a cupbearer and he performed that role impeccably.
He knew his task as a wall-builder and he performed that role to the end. Through the book that he wrote, about his experiences in Jerusalem, he records 11 prayers. Two of the last are:
Nehemiah 13:14 NIV
Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.
Nehemiah 13:22 NIV
Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
He knew his role, to build the wall of Jerusalem, and he performed it.
He raised his glass and took the sip.
This is Nehemiah.

Who are you?

Let’s talk about you. Technically, this is Father’s Day, but I can’t just limit this to fathers. The role of a Father is a specified to a family, but it is the same role that a man has in whatever sphere he is in.
The role of a man is to be trustworthy. People look up to us to have integrity. To live and speaking truth.
The role of a man is to be responsible, guarding the trust that has been put into our lives. Ultimately, we will answer to God for how we stewarded or didn’t steward those under our care.
The role of a man is to be careful. To realize the power that we wield, using it to uplift those around us, pointing them to God, not tearing them down.
The role of a man is to put our lives on the line for someone else every single day.
Technically, I am not just talking about physically putting our lives on the line, which does happen. Men are supposed to be pictures of Jesus Christ:
Ephesians 5:25 NIV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
Jesus died that we might live. Every day, men are to show Christ, by dying that those in our care might live. Dying to ourselves, our desires, our priorities, our comfort, that our wives, our kids, everyone under our care, might live, fully live.
To be the picture of God to a group of people who will not know God any other way.
It is challenging to be a man, a father, in our society, to be a trustworthy, responsible, careful, self-sacrificing man.
In the face of that challenge, not knowing what the result will be, men, will we raise our glass, with Nehemiah and take the sip, even if it leads to our death?
How do we do that?

By Knowing our God

First, by knowing our God. Men of Calvary Bible Church. Do you know Jesus? Do you intimately know him through experience. Or do you only know him through facts and histories. Facts and histories don’t cut it.
I think about what Jesus said:
Matthew 7:21–23 NIV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
What is the will of the Father in Heaven:
1 John 3:23 NIV
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
It’s not enough to know the facts about Jesus. We must come to him in humility and acknowledge that we need him. That we are sinners and our sin separates us from him. And we trust in his sacrifice on the cross alone to save us.
Men, have you done this?
But, once we do this, we need to walk with him, we must have a personal daily relationship with him. I find it convicting that Nehemiah, whenever anything happened, the first thing that he did was pray to God.
We as men like to fix things. We like to think that we can pull things off, that we know what the best course of action is. It’s all lies. It’s all our pride.
Men, instead of being known by family and friends that we know how to fix things, or that we can lead well, we should be known as someone who has the humility to lean on God, to turn to him.
A question that I really want to ask some people: You say that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, that you know him. Does your family know? Could they tell by the time you spend with God?
Once we know God and we pursue that daily walk with God, we can grab that glass with confidence and take the sip, come what may.
How can we raise our glass and take the sip? By knowing God.

By Knowing our situation

Once we know God, we get to know our situation. Nehemiah went out in the middle of the night to survey the pitiful pile of rubble that was the wall around Jerusalem. He found about the people who were actively opposed to his work of building the wall. He got to know the people within Jerusalem who would be building the wall. He discovered the materials and the process. He developed a plan.
Jesus said, in the context about counting the cost of being a disciple.
Luke 14:28–30 NIV
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
There is wisdom in knowing the situations we are in. Fathers, men, are to know the situations they are in. What is going on in your wife’s life. What are her emotions and why? What sins does she struggle with?
What about our kids? What are they going through? What are their struggles and temptations? Where are they in their spiritual journey and why? How do they view us as a dad?
Are we in a spot spiritually that we need to be, or is our spiritual decay affecting them?
Basically, where are the walls falling down in our family and culture, where is the poison coming in?
Knowing, we can grab the glass and take the sip.
We know our God, we know our situation.

By Knowing our role

Finally, we know our role.
What is our role? The same as that of Nehemiah: We put our lives on the line to protect those under our care. Nehemiah did it for his king and for the people of Jerusalem.
We as men do it for those in our sphere, to protect them spiritually, to help them build the walls, to take the cup of poison from their lips.
How do we do that?
Well, we have already assessed our situation. Now, we jump into the task.
Paul writes, after he speaks of us dying so that our wives might live, he says:
Ephesians 5:25–26 NIV
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,
In a picture of Jesus, we get to lead our wives to him. We are called to lead our wives to him, in humility, knowing our own sin and brokenness, we get to come with them to Jesus to find help and healing, strength and encouragement. Pray with your wife. Read the Bible with your wife. Encourage her in her faith.
So that the poison won’t come: Grab the glass and drink it.
Paul writes in Later:
Ephesians 6:4 NIV
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Just as we lead our wives spiritually, we are called to lead our children spiritually. Seeing the walls broken down, we help build them up. Trying to protect them from poison, we test the drink first.
This is our role. We are cupbearers to our family. We are wall-builder.
Men, do you know Jesus? Do you know your situation? Do you know your role.
Then, do it. Raise the glass and take the sip.
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