23 Sep

Scroll to the bottom for thoughts/discussion questions!

One-sentence summary: Nehemiah, a Jewish cupbearer in Persia, hears of the state of Jerusalem and the broken-down wall, and he asks and receives permission to go and rebuild it; although the enemies of the Jews try to stop them, the Lord helps them, and they prevail.

As Nehemiah is in Shushan, one of his brethren comes with men from Judah, and Nehemiah asks him about the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem, and the man says that the survivors left from the captivity in the province are in great distress and reproach, and the wall in Jerusalem is broken down and its gates burned with fire. When Nehemiah hears, he sits down and weeps and mourns for many days. He is fasting and praying before the God of heaven, and He asks the Lord to listen and see and hear his prayer for his people and his confession of their sins. He reminds the Lord of His word to them through Moses, that if they disobey and are scattered by the Lord, if they will return and repent, He will gather them again and bring them back to the land He chose. He asks the Lord to bless and prosper them and grant him mercy. He says he was the king's cupbearer.

In the 20th year of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah takes wine and gives it to the king. He had never before been sad in the king's presence, so the king asks him why he is sad. Nehemiah becomes afraid and says that he is sad because the city of his fathers lies in waste and its gates burned with fire. The king asks him his request, and Nehemiah prays first, then asks to be sent to Judah so that he may rebuild the city. The king answers with the queen beside him how long his journey is to be and when he will return, and Nehemiah gives him a timeframe and also asks for letters to the governors of the region, allowing him to pass through, and a letter to the keeper of the forests to give timbers to make beams for the gates of the citadel to the temple, and for the city wall and his own house. The king grants his request because the Lord's hand is on him. Nehemiah gives the letters to the governors, and the king sends captains of the army and horsemen with him. Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem and is there three days. Then, he arises in the night, telling no one what the Lord has put in his heart to do in Jerusalem, and he rides by night to the well and the refuse gate and views the broken walls of Jerusalem and the  burnt gates. The officials are unaware, and he has not yet told the Jews. Then, he implores the Jews to build the wall in Jerusalem so that they may no longer be a reproach. He shares with them how God's hand has been on him and what the king said, and they agree to the work and begin rebuilding the wall. However, some officials laugh at them and despise them, saying they are rebelling against the king. Nehemiah says the Lord Himself will prosper them, and that they (the officials) have no heritage or right in Jerusalem.

Many men work on the wall and fortify the city.

When Sanballat, a Persian official, hears they are rebuilding, he is furious and indignant and mocks the Jews. He says to his brethren and the men of Samaria, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day?" Another official replies that even a fox could break down their stone wall. Nehemiah says, "Hear, oh Lord God, for we are despised. Turn their reproach on their own heads and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!" So the people continue building, and the wall is joined, "up to half its height, because the people [have] a mind to work." When Sanballot and the other officials hear the wall is being rebuilt and the gaps are being closed, they become angry and conspire to attack the city and create confusion. But the people cry out to the Lord and set a watch against them day and night. Judah says the strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish, they are not able to rebuild. Their enemies decide that they will come and kill them and cause the work to cease. The Jews who come near them tell them ten times that the men will come at every side against them, so Jeremiah sets men around the wall and arms them with swords, spears, and bows, and he tells them not to fear them and to "remember the Lord, great and awesome," and to fight for their people and their houses. When their enemies hear that they are aware of the plot and that God has brought it to nothing, the people return to the wall and to their work. From that time on, half work construction while the other half stand guard. Those who carry materials hold a weapon in one hand, and every builder has his sword girded at his side as he builds. The man who sounds the trumpet stands beside Nehemiah. Then, Nehemiah tells the people that the work is great and extensive and that they are separated from one another when they are working, so whenever they hear the sound of the trumpet, they are to rally, and that God will fight for them. So they "labor in the work," and half of the men hold the spears from morning until evening, and some watch through the night. Everyone sleeps in his clothes and only takes them off to wash them.

There is a great outcry of the people against their Jewish brethren. They complain that they must borrow money and even sell their own people. Nehemiah becomes angry at hearing this, and he rebukes the nobles and rulers. He tells them they are exacting usury from their brethren. He calls a great assembly against them and says they redeemed their Jewish brethren according to their ability and ask if they will sell their own brethren. He says what they are doing is not good, and they should walk in the fear of God because of the reproach of the nations. He tells them to stop the usury and restore the land, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and the money, grain, new wine, and oil they have charged their brethren, and they agree and say they will require nothing from them. Then, Nehemiah calls the priests and asks for an oath that they will do according to the promise. He shakes out the fold of his garment and says, "May God shake out each man from his house and property who does not perform the promise," and all the assembly say, "Amen!" and praise the Lord. And each man does according to his promise. Nehemiah is appointed governor in Judah for twelve years, but he does not eat the governors' provisions, whereas the former governors laid burdens on the people and took from them oil and wine. However, Nehemiah does not do this because of the fear of God. He also continues the work on the wall, and the people do not buy land. He has his servants work, and 150 Jews and rulers are at his table besides foreigner who have come, and much food is prepared daily. Yet, he still does not demand the governors' provisions because the bondage has been so heavy on the people. He asks the Lord to remember him for good according to all he has done for the people. 

Thoughts/discussion questions:

What walls do you need built- or rebuilt- in your own life? Ask the Lord to protect and fortify you while you are doing the work and believe that He will. 

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