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Week 2-Lesson Objective

By the end of this lesson:
-we will EXAMINE why Nehemiah decided to restore the wall of Jerusalem and reform/revive the Sabbath law,
-APPRECIATE Nehemiah’s feelings and behavior in restoring the wall and reforming Jewish worship,
-and IDENTIFY ways to restore worn parts of the faith community and revive traditions that honor God.

Assignment #1

Instructions: Watch the IN FOCUS video then click the GO button to answer the opening question.

Assignment #2 Focal Scriptures and Background Text

Instructions: Read the Focal Scriptures and Background text, then click the GO button below to answer the questions. 

FOCAL SCRIPTURES

Nehemiah 2:11-15

Nehemiah 2.png

NASB (1995)

NIV

BACKGROUND TEXT

Nehemiah is the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I of Persia, an honorable and prestigious position of great trust. While serving in this position, Nehemiah receives visitors from Jerusalem and asks them about events going on back home (Nehemiah 1:1–2). They give him a very discouraging report about the disgraceful condition of the people and the deplorable state of the city. The crumbling walls had left the city, the Temple, and the people vulnerable to attack and gave their enemies cause to ridicule. Although Ezra was an excellent spiritual leader, the people lacked political leadership. They needed someone to motivate them, show them where to begin, and direct their activities. On receiving this news, Nehemiah weeps and grieves for some days, fasting and praying. He knows he has to do something about the city’s crumbling infrastructure, but what and how? 

After prayer, Nehemiah is still very distressed, and the king asks what troubling him (2:1–2). By God’s grace, Nehemiah obtains permission from the king to go to his native country and rebuild its walls and gates. Nehemiah left the comfort of a king’s palace to return to his ancient homeland to challenge his countrymen to get busy and reconstruct the walls. Armed with letters of safe passage and a full military escort provided by the king, Nehemiah faced the almost 1,000-mile trip to Jerusalem. 
 

In this week’s lesson, the Word Made Simple is Portion from Nehemiah 2:20. The word means a specific piece of land. The Hebrew word is Kheleq which means “an inheritance” or a tract of land. This word is very important in Israel’s history and for understanding the biblical context. When the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt, the Lord promised them an inheritance in the Promised Land. The inheritance was not only spiritual blessings but also portions of land. When Moses delivers his final address in Deuteronomy, he allots the portion for each tribe as assigned by the Lord. Joshua leads the Israelites in possessing their portions of land, and he divides the portions according to the tribe. This method of dividing land was common among many nations in the ancient world, and Israel’s portions of land were no exception. Managing and protecting their portion was how families ensured there would be an inheritance for their children and subsequent generations. Nehemiah is declaring that the Promises of God decreed these portions of land to Israel, which legally and spiritually belonged to the Jews who were returning from exile. We have a portion as well, although our inheritance is not made with earthly hands. Our portion is an eternal share of the inheritance of eternal life and the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Assignment #3 Search the Scripture and Discuss Meaning

Instructions: Read the Focal Scriptures, Background text, and Assignment 3, then click the GO button below to answer the questions. 

The People, Places, and Times

Nehemiah. Our only knowledge of this great builder and statesman comes from the book that bears his name. The man, whose name means “God has consoled,” was born in exile, which began when Babylonia conquered Jerusalem in 587 BC. Nehemiah grew up in the faith of his fathers, and he loved Israel. Since no mention is made of a wife and since he served in such a high position to a foreign king, he was likely a eunuch.

Nehemiah was well-qualified for the task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. A true Israelite, he labored for the purity of public worship, the integrity of family life, and the sanctity of the Sabbath. He was a courageous and Godfearing man who labored selflessly and served with unswerving loyalty to God. After the work had begun, the wall was finished in only about two months.

Persia. Persia’s status as a world power was obtained through a succession of military conquests. Cyrus’s victories instituted the empire, and the expansions of Darius’ reign spread Persian control from the northern coast of the Aegean Sea to the Indus River valley and from the Caucus Mountains to Egypt. The Jews, who had been taken into exile by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, were allowed to return soon after the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylonia. 

In Depth

1. Survey the Situation (Nehemiah 2:11–15)

Although he has the full support of the king, Nehemiah does not immediately rush into action or expose his plan to the people (2:11–12). Instead, Nehemiah secretly inspects the wall to assess the damage and estimate the work needed to rebuild it. After staying in Jerusalem for three days, Nehemiah embarked at night on a survey of the damage. The walls of Jerusalem were in such a state of ruin that rubble and debris had strewn the valley floor so that he could not even ride his mount through it. During his late-night ride, he finds that the reports he had received were true: The walls of Jerusalem and its gates are in ruins. Nehemiah says nothing to anyone until he first explores the extent of the damage for himself. We can take a page from Nehemiah’s playbook when we are facing recovery in our own lives. First, we have to acknowledge the truth for ourselves. Then—and only then—should we tell others.

2. Call the People to Work (vv. 16–18)

Nehemiah calls a meeting of the city leaders and discloses why he has come to Jerusalem. Nehemiah appeals to the leaders’ pride in Jerusalem as God’s holy city. Next, he appeals to their love for God and their desire not to bring Him shame. He acknowledges God and His divine guidance in the plan to rebuild the wall. Then, he tells of King Artaxerxes’ support. Nehemiah uses the pronoun “we” rather than “you” or “I.” Wise leaders understand they must identify themselves with the need to motivate others to assist them. This reminds us that a Christian can’t live an independent life, because we are called to function in the community of believers. The religious, political, and other leaders overwhelmingly accept Nehemiah’s plans. Collectively, they say, “Let us rise up and build” (v. 18). Nehemiah challenges and inspires the people, and God strengthens them to complete the work. Spirit-led projects carried out under spiritual guidance succeed when measured by God’s definition of success.

3. Respond to Opposition (vv. 19–20)

Anytime people start the process of recovery, they should expect to meet with some resistance. The Scriptures tell us that Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem tried to stop Nehemiah’s rebuilding effort. All three were political leaders from the Persian provinces surrounding Judah to the north, south, and west. Understandably, they did not want Jerusalem to become a strong and well-defended city, because trade routes and economic advantages would shift in favor of Jerusalem. Hence, their attempt to stop Nehemiah was politically motivated. 

Nehemiah could have argued that what he was doing had higher political backing. Instead, Nehemiah simply stood on the promises of God. He did not waste a minute of his precious time or energy trading insults with them; he simply spoke the truth. Nehemiah tells them that the land has been given to the Children of Israel, and Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem did not have any right to even be in the land of Jerusalem (v. 20).

Whenever we are attacked by circumstances contrary to God’s Word, we need to speak the Word to our tormentors and ourselves. We can do this in boldness and rest in God’s promise that we now have a share of that great inheritance when Jesus returns and God’s kingdom finally comes. Nehemiah worked carefully to bring the Israelite leaders on board with his plan to rebuild. Why not try to make these foreigners into allies?

Lesson Conclusion and Steps for Application

Liberating Lesson

Many American communities are crumbling around the people who live there. Slumlords, a lack of funding rooted in historical inequities, and unethical policing practices account for much of the problem, but cleanliness and maintenance are problems the residents can solve. Should a church’s vision for its community include upkeep and maintenance? What are some ways the church can motivate members to clean up and maintain their neighborhoods? What are some ways the church can pressure the cities’ leaders as Nehemiah did so that they take action?

 

Application for Activation

In today’s lesson, we read that once Nehemiah safely arrived in Jerusalem, he went around inspecting the city walls at night and conducted a thorough survey of exactly what damages needed to be repaired. If we are truly concerned about rebuilding parts of our lives, we need to prayerfully assess what will be required. This week, make this a target of prayer in your own life. Be honest with yourself. Ask God to show you.

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