Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bible Study Notes in Nehemiah- Introduction and Chapter 1

Nehemiah 1

-Introduction: Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, writes this intriguing narrative of the events that led to the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem post the Babylonian captivity. A contemporary of Ezra, Nehemiah finds himself leading and organizing a monumental project to secure God’s holy city. He starts out in Susa, but soon leads the third wave of exiles back to their homeland to rebuild the city walls. Nehemiah’s return is dated at 445 B.C. with this writing taking place between that time until around 432 B.C.. Some have indicated that Ezra helped edit the work, but it is primarily written in Nehemiah’s first person qualifying the work as uniquely his. Nehemiah is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament and is a brilliant display of faith renewal after a time of discipline for God’s people. A key passage in the text is Nehemiah 6:15-16, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. When all the enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” The themes of the book include, but are not limited to, the following: 1) Vision- Nehemiah got a sad report on the condition of God’s holy city and was burdened to do something about it. He first sook the LORD in prayer and then took decisive action to fulfill what God had commanded him to do. Without vision the people perish, or go unrestrained (Proverbs 29:18). 2) Prayer- Both Nehemiah and Ezra are shown to respond to their troubles by seeking the LORD first and foremost. When problems arose in the process, immediate prayer was the prescription followed by courageous action to their revelation from God. 3) Leadership- Nehemiah demonstrated incredible leadership skills in navigating tough terrain and coming through in record time. He was spiritually competent and capable to head God’s call upon his life’s work. He exhibited careful planning, teamwork, problem solving, influence, and extreme courage to get the job done with the respect of his followers. He did the extra things it takes to be successful with faith as his guide. 4) Problems- Nehemiah faced slander, scorn, and real threats from the enemy outside. He also faced the fears, conflicts, doubts, complaints, and discouragement from within his own group. He did not quit in the face of adversity. 5) Repentance/Renewal/Revival- Even with the rebuilding of the Temple and walls of the city, God’s work was actually incomplete until the hearts of the people returned to Him. Ezra instructed on God’s Word, the people listened to him, they responded appropriately to the sin in their lives by confession and recommitment to the LORD, and they removed the idols for total reform. Let’s learn all the principles God has for us as we study the book of Nehemiah, “the wall builder.”

(Ideas extracted from “New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible.” Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1995, pgs. 790-791)

-Chapter 1: Authorship is specially given in the first verse of this work. Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah provides these words for the reader through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now it happened in the month of Chislev (to our calendar it would be November or December), in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes reign, that Nehemiah was in the capital of the Persian Empire in Susa. Hanani, one of his brothers, and some other men from Judah arrived where he was in Susa. Nehemiah promptly asked them how the Jews who had escaped back to their homeland already and those who had remained and survived the captivity were doing in Jerusalem. He also wanted to know the condition of the holy city. Their response was very discouraging. They told him of how those who had survived the captivity were in great distress and reproach. They told him of how Jerusalem itself was in shambles with walls broken down and its gates burned with fire. When Nehemiah heard these sad words, all he could do was sit down and weep and mourn. He did this not for just minutes or hours, but for days. He was fasting and praying before the God of Heaven as a broken man hurting for his homeland (Nehemiah 1:1-4).

-His prayer gives us insight as to how great a man this Nehemiah was. He beseeched the LORD God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps His promises and does so with lovingkindness for those who love Him and obey His commandments, to give His Ear attention and to open His eyes to see that His servant was praying to Him for change. Nehemiah was praying before his LORD night and day on behalf of the sons of Israel (intercession). He let God know that they all were, in a respect, His servants and His prize possession. He confessed their sins as a nation, which they had done against a holy God. He acknowledged that they had acted very corruptly (or wickedly) against their Maker and had transgressed His righteous commandments, statutes, and ordinances willfully, which their father Moses had received from the LORD. He remembered the promise that God would indeed scatter His flock among the peoples of the world if they disobeyed His precepts, which had now happened. But, Nehemiah also petitioned the LORD to recall that He had prophetically declared, “If you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My Name to dwell (Deuteronomy 30:1-4, Nehemiah 1:9).” He reminded God that the people of Israel were His servants, His people whom He had redeemed by His great power and strong Hand. Finally, he begged the LORD once more to have an attentive Ear to his humble prayer because he solemnly revered His Name. Then, Nehemiah asked the LORD to give him success and compassion before the king that he was about to engage. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, and had a request (Nehemiah 1:5-11).

*Application* Leadership starts with our acknowledgement that there is a higher Authority above us and that we must answer to Him in every respect. It also starts with a burden to make this world a better place for those we love and cherish. This is where we find Nehemiah, and where we should find ourselves when God calls us to do something that may seem impossible. Pray, pray, pray. Intercede for those you care so much for and confess all sin. God is loving, God is kind, God hears and sees everything that is on our heart. Take it all to Him and make your requests known before the throne of Heaven (Philippians 4:6).

Verse to Memorize: Nehemiah 1:5

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