Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Nehemiah - "Rebuilding Jerusalem"|
INTRODUCTION TO NEHEMIAH
Israel were swept into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. It appeared the end of the nation, but then “the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia ” (2 Chron 36:22 & Ezra 1:1) and suddenly, change, exiles return and the Temple is rebuilt. Time passes! So what was the time frame for what happened?
Exile & Rebuilding
In Ezra we find the rebuilding of the Temple . The meeting place with God is the first to be rebuilt but then some seventy years pass and Jerusalem still largely remains in ruins. There was obviously quite a it of coming and going between Jerusalem and the exiles back in Babylon and so when new comes to Nehemiah of the state of the city, his heart is moved and our story starts.
Part 1 "Prayer, Preparation & Planning" Neh 1 & 2
In this first part we'll see how Nehemiah is moved by the news of the state of Jerusalem and eventually ends up there to plan the rebuilding.
Chapter: Nehemiah 1
Passage: Nehemiah 1:1-4
A. Find Out:
1. Who wrote this book? v.1a
2. Where was he, and when? v.1b
3. Who came from where and what did he ask? v.2
4. What did they say about the returned exiles and Jerusalem ? v.3
5. What was Nehemiah's response? v.4a
6. So what did he then do? v.4b
1. From the historical table above, how many years has passed since the Temple had been completed?
2. What was that state of Jerusalem ?
3. Why do you think Nehemiah responded as he did.
The Jews had first returned to Jerusalem under Cyrus about 537BC and hard started rebuilding the Temple (see studies on Ezra). This had been completed in 516BC Ezra had gone to Jerusalem in 583BC and brought reforms but now, about seventy years after the Temple had been finished and 13 years after Ezra had gone there, news comes to one Nehemiah in the city of Susa (a major city in the south-west of what is now Iran), in the twentieth year (v.1) of King Artaxerxes (see also 2:1).
The news was brought by one of his brothers and some other men (v.2a) who had obviously travelled back to Jerusalem and now returned to Susa . So Nehemiah is interested to know what is happening back in the homeland in Jerusalem and enquires of them (v.2b).
The answer that he gets, is that things are not going well for the Jews back in Judah and Jerusalem (v.3a). Throughout the period of the book of Ezra there had been local opposition and this presumably carried on, and because the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down and the gates burnt (v.3b), the occupants of Jerusalem were prey to marauders. This news wrecks Nehemiah's heart and he weeps (v.4a) and then fasts and prays for some days (v.4b)
1. In the West, Christians are a minority (remnant).
2. How do we feel about that?
Chapter: Nehemiah 1
Passage: Nehemiah 1:5-11
A. Find Out:
1. How does Nehemiah address God who does what? v.5
2. On whose behalf was he praying? v.6a
3. What does he confess? v.6b,7
4. What does he ask the Lord to remember? v.8,9
5. What does he say of them? v.10
6. What does he ask the Lord to do? v.11
1. How does Nehemiah reassure himself at the opening of this prayer?
2. Upon what is he relying in the middle of it?
3. What has he obviously got in mind, therefore, at its end?
In response to what Nehemiah is told by those who had been to Jerusalem , he weeps, fasts and prays (v.4) and we are now given the gist at least of this prayer, but whether it was repeated in various forms over those several days is not made clear.
He starts by acknowledging the Lord's greatness but also recognising that God expresses His love to those who love Him and obey Him (v.5). God's love is there for everyone, but it is only apprehended, so to speak, by those who respond to God.
He asks the Lord to listen to his ongoing prayers (v.6a). This is a picture of a man praying with all his heart and that doesn't mean just a quick prayer but prayers than go on day after day. He acknowledges (implied at least) that God has dealt righteously with them for they had failed the Lord and been disobedient (v.6b,7), i.e. they deserved it.
But, he goes on, he remembers that Moses spoke of both judgement (v.8) AND restoration possibilities (v.9). These people – both in Jerusalem and here still in exile are still the Lord's people (v.10) despite what He's done with them (implied). Thus he asks the Lord to hear and consider his request that the Lord would give him favour with the king (.v11). It may not be spoken, but he obviously has in mind asking for help for Jerusalem and maybe the return of more exiles.
1. When we pray, remember who we are addressing.
2. God works on relationships (covenants). Remember that.
Chapter: Nehemiah 2
Passage: Nehemiah 2:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. What was Nehemiah doing and why? v.1 (also 1:11c)
2. What did the king pick up on and what did Nehemiah feel? v.2
3. What reason did Nehemiah give? v.3
4. What did the king ask and what did Nehemiah do? v.4
5. What did Nehemiah ask for? v.5
6. What was the king's response? v.6
1. Why might appearing happy be important for Nehemiah's job?
2. Why do you think Nehemiah prayed in this passage?
3. What hinged on this conversation?
Nehemiah has prayed and fasted and now we come to see him performing his role in the royal court. To understand what went on we need to realise the dynamics of royal life in those days. First of all Artaxerxes was a very powerful figure. Powerful men have enemies and so kings we always vigilant in respect of what they ate and drank and so often had others taste their food or wine first. Also the demeanour of the servant was significant for a servant who felt rebellious and was plotting against the king would probably show it in his face.
Thus when Nehemiah next comes to bring the king his wine (v.1) the king picks up on his sad countenance (v.2) which makes Nehemiah fearful (v.2c) that he might be accused of plotting against the king. He decides to be utterly truthful and explains about Jerusalem (v.3) It is probable that he said more than the few words in this verse, and so the king, not responding negatively, asks what he wants (v.4a). This is where it gets even more tricky because he is basically going to ask to leave the royal court and that may be misinterpreted and so he prays (v.4b) for he needs the Lord's help.
Having prayed, he asks the king for leave to go to Jerusalem (v.5) to arrange for it to be rebuilt, which could also be misinterpreted but after an initial question he agree to it happening (v. 6)
1. Wisdom from God is often the key to changing circumstances.
2. The ‘favour of the Lord' also changes people's hearts.
Chapter: Nehemiah 2
Passage: Nehemiah 2:7-10
A. Find Out:
1. What also did Nehemiah ask for, and why? v.7
2. And what further, and why? v.8
3. With what result and why? v.8v
4. What further provision was he given? v.9
5. Who were not happy about this, and why? v.10
1. What did these requests suggest about Nehemiah?
2. Why do you think it says the hand of God was on him?
3. Yet what ‘clouds on the horizon' were there?
Nehemiah has been moved to tears, prayer, fasting, and then approaching his king on behalf of Jerusalem . The king has agreed to him going and so now Nehemiah thinks about the practicalities. In all ways he shows himself a good planner.
He first asks the king for letters to the governors of that area to ensure he is given safe passage through their lands (v.7), Getting there safely is the first problem to be overcome. But once he is there, he is going to need materials in large quantities, timber for beams and doors to all the main structures that had been burned down in the city – the army fortress near the temple, the gates in the city wall and for his own residence (v.8).
Note that he attributes the king's approval to all this down to the hand of the Lord being upon him (v.8c)
Next he sets off, complete with a protective army force and goes to the governors of the area with the king's letters to ensure safe passage all the way to Jerusalem (v.9)
However, when the word gets out that he is coming ,and why his is coming, there are those who are not happy that someone is coming to maintain the welfare of the Jews (v.10), Sanballat, who appears to be governor of Samaria (see 4:1,2) and Tobiah an Ammonite official, obviously friends. We will see more of them as we progress.
1. God lays the vision on our hearts; we then need His wisdom to do it.
2. Planning will not avoid the fact that there are often people against us.
Chapter: Nehemiah 2
Passage: Nehemiah 2:11-18
A. Find Out:
1. How long did Nehemiah wait before taking action? v.11
2. When did he go out and with whom? v.12a
3. What had he not done? v.12b
4. What did he do? v.13-15
5. Who knew of this and why? v.16
6. What did he then tell them and with what response? v.17,18
1. Why do you think Nehemiah held back speaking of his purpose?
2. How does his night time tour confirm this?
3. How was he able to convince the officials?
Nehemiah stayed in Jerusalem three days before he made a move (v.11), possibly just to rest after the journey there, possibly to get a feel of the place. He says nothing of his intentions (v.12,16) perhaps because he first wanted to see with his own eyes the extent of the task. Again, perhaps to keep his intentions secret and not raise false hopes until he was clear in his own mind what needed doing, to goes out by night (v.12a) and surveys the extent of the destruction (v.13-15).
On his return, presumably next morning, he gets together with and the people, the priests, the noblemen and the officials (v.16,17), presumably at some public gathering and challenges them to rebuild the walls of the city and its gates (v.17b). To encourage them in this he then tells them of the king's response to him and no doubt the provision he had made to enable Nehemiah to come and do this (v.18a). Their response was to do it and so the work started (v.18b).
Perhaps we take this opportunity to note the significance of the rebuilding of Jerusalem . First the temple had been rebuilt, the meeting place with God. That had taken 21 years to complete. But the city was still wide open and vulnerable with its broken down walls and burnt gates and until it could have its defences and boundaries re-established it was both defenceless and lacking identity as a city.
1. Before going public with your vision ensure you are clear on it.
2. Choose your time and way of sharing carefully.
Chapter: Nehemiah 2
Passage: Nehemiah 2:19,20
A. Find Out:
1. Who now do what? v.19a
2. What do they ask? v.19b
3. What was Nehemiah's initial message to them? v.20a
4. What also did he declare about them? v.20b
1. How has opposition apparently increased? (compare 2:10)
2. How was their ‘attack' two pronged?
3. How was Nehemiah's answer two pronged?
We have heard previously that Sanballat and Tobiah were disturbed when they first heard that Nehemiah had arrived. Now, presumably when the word gets out what Nehemiah intends to do, they are joined by another simply known as Geshem the Arab (v.19). This would suggest that there are now through different groups with distinct interests in not wanting Jerusalem to become a powerful place again, a fortress in the middle of the land that is a rallying place for the Jews.
If we simply refer to this as opposition, for that is what it was, we see that the first tool they use is derision or mockery (v.19a). That was a standard approach of an invader to make the local inhabitants feel small. Another example of this was Sennacherib's field commander when he came to Hezekiah (Isa 36:4-). It is the enemy's strategy to undermine our confidence.
The second tool they use is the suggestion of rebellion (v.19b). This makes other people who might join you, draw back for fear that they too might be labelled a rebel.
Nehemiah's response is twofold. First he simply declares that God will give them success (v.20a), perhaps echoing the approach of David against Goliath (1 Sam 17:37). These foreigners will not have a part in Jerusalem , is his second challenge (v.20b) for (implied) this is the City of God for God's people. Perhaps not very wise not to mention they have the king's permission but he is now relying on the Lord not a king.
1. Be aware of the strategies of the enemy to undermine and create fear.
2. Trust in the Lord, not in men.
RECAP - "Prayer, Preparation & Planning" - Nehemiah 1-2
In this first group of 6 studies we have seen :
- Nehemiah hear of the state of Jerusalem 1:1-4
- Praying & fasting, seeking the Lord 1:4-11
- Questioned by the king for looking sad 2:1,2
- Arranging with the king how to go to Jerusalem 2:3-8
- Going to the local governor and local upset 2:9,10
- Waiting 3 days in Jerusalem 2:11
- Surveying the city by night 2:12-16
- Appealing to the leaders & start of work 2:17,18
- Opposition by Ridicule 2:19-20
Nehemiah is moved to tears and prayer and fasting by the news of the state of Jerusalem , seeks the Lord and then talks with the king about the possibility of him going to rebuild the city. He is granted permission and goes and then surveys the city by night and appeals to the city leaders to join in the project.
Already we see signs of opposition from those in Samaria who are upset when they hear what is happening, and then ridicule the work when it starts. This is just the beginning.
1. Will we allow God's heart to move our hearts over need?
2. Will we learn to seek God to achieve any progress in life?
3. Will we recognise that the enemy will be upset by our advances?
4. Will we stand separate as the holy people of God to do His business?
Thank the Lord for Nehemiah's example of a man moved by the state of God's people. Ask Him that you too may be moved by the state of the church today.
PART 2 : "Building & Overcoming Opposition" Neh 3-7
In this next Part we see the report of the building of the wall of Jerusalem . Understand that people are important in God's economy and He honours them with a mention in His word. We'll also see the opposition that continues to come against the project