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Scripture
Nehemiah 1:1-11

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to
yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.

Observation
Nehemiah 1:1-11
About 1000 years after Moses and some 400 years before J e s u s w a s b o r n , t h e
Babylonians had attacked and c o n q u e r e d t h e c i t y o f Jerusalem, taking many of the occupants into exile for generations. The ruined walls of Jerusalem left the city open to attack by her various enemies. There had been attempts to rebuild the walls, but they had not been
s u c c e s s f u l . R e c e n t excavations have revealed that the lack of a wall on the city’s eastern boundary led to the collapse of the terraces in that area. The city was crumbling.

Some of the deported Jews rose to important positions in the governments of the places where
they were deported to and settled. After seventy years they were given the opportunity to go back to their homeland. By now there were many of them, but only a very small percentage took up the offer and returned.

Nehemiah was in Susa in present day Iran. This was the winter residence of the Persian kings. He was a trusted servant of the king, Artaxerxes. Poison was a risk to any ruler and so a cup-bearer would taste the wine before the king drank it. In this way, the cup-bearer would be affected by any poison that was present and the king would be saved from the attempt on his life.

Nehemiah’s visitors had travelled from Jerusalem, some 1300 kilometres away. Nehemiah asked about the ‘Jewish remnant’ living in the city. This is the first time the word Jew is used in the Bible. Because Nehemiah was close to God he was saddened by the state of God’s city, even
though he had never been there. The inhabitants of the city were in constant risk of being
attacked and abused. Nehemiah was devastated. He knew something needed to be done, but he did not look for someone else to do the work required. Instead he did what he could, and wept, prayed and fasted, giving the matter to God.

From the first verse of the next chapter, we know that it was three to four months before
Nehemiah spoke to the king about the situation. (Whilst he spent 90-120 days in prayer, in the
end the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem took a mere 52 days.)

Nehemiah began his prayer by worshipping God. He revealed his complete dependence on the
Lord. He was aware that Artaxerxes had stopped the walls of the city from being rebuilt on an
earlier occasion (Ezra 4:18-22) and he knew that only God could help.

Nehemiah then confessed not only his own sins, but the sins of his people. He reminded God of
His promises to the Jewish nation (Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 30:1-10). Whilst he could not
be certain the nation had returned to God, he knew that he himself had, and having identified
himself with the nation’s national sin, he now claimed the promise for a national blessing as a
result of his prayers.

He ended his prayer with the request that God would bless him when he spoke to the king. He
did not ask God to fix the problem but to use him, Nehemiah, as the solution to the problem.
And so he waited on God before he took any action.

Icebreaker:
When have you found it difficult to ask for help? Why did you find it so hard? What
happened?

Application

  • Jerusalem had experienced shattering change when many of its residents were taken into
    exile. In the same way, the church has experienced a huge shift in the way it functions in
    the past 18 months. How can the church continue to reflect God to the world under its
    current circumstances?
  • What has changed in the way you, personally, worship and serve God since March 2020?
    Do you find yourself closer to God or have you drifted away from Him? Why do you
    answer this way? How do you feel about your relationship with God at this time?
  • How do you feel when you answer the above question? Could it be that God is ‘stirring
    your nest’ to take action in new areas of worship and/or ministry? Are you willing to
    change? Why/why not? How does your prayer pattern compare to Nehemiah’s? Spend a moment thinking of how you pray. Do you start with worship? Do you confess your own personal sin? What about the sin of the nation? (Who will confess it otherwise if those who follow Christ do not?) Do you remind God of His promises and continue to pray even if there seems to be no answer?
  • Who do you ask to pray with you and for you? How do you support others in prayer?
  • Consider your position in life – home, family, work, church, social life, community. ‘We
    are where we are for God’s glory.’ How is God using you for His glory here at this time?
  • How do your answers to these questions help you to see the role God has for you, and the
    vision He is giving you as you spend time with Him? What are you going to do in
    response?
  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

 

Prayer

Lord God, give us a greater vision. Strengthen us with Your power and give us Your Spirit of
revelation so we may be instruments whereby heaven may touch earth.

Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time,
and in regard to other needs of the group.

Service
This week, reach out to someone where you see a need. Take action. Talk through any new ideas or visions you have with one of the leaders of the church. Where is God taking you with this? Help your church to move forward into transformation and renewal. Report back to the group next week as to what happened.

Bibliography
Adeyomo, Tokunhoh, et al. Africa Bible Commentary. WordAlive Publishers, Nairoi, Kenya, 2006
NIV Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005

Nehemiah Chapter 1

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