Nehemiah 1-2, 4
Sometime after the Jews began to return from Babylon to the land of Israel, a man named Nehemiah caught the eye of King Artaxerxes, the emperor of Persia. He became the mighty monarch’s personal cupbearer—the man who tasted the emperor’s wine and guarded his sleeping quarters. Artaxerxes no doubt also consulted him for advice and wisdom.
The very fact that Nehemiah occupied this role in the king’s court demonstrates his sterling character. This pagan king would never trust a man who did not exemplify total honesty, trustworthiness, and outstanding wisdom. Nehemiah was this kind of man because he never abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He had a great love for the Lord and committed himself to keeping the laws of God in spite of his pagan environment.
As you read through the Scripture, choose from the following questions to guide discussion in your group. Don’t feel that you need to talk about all of them.
Read Nehemiah 1
- What life situations that we face can feel as though our “walls” are broken down and our “gates” are burned with fire?
- When things are crumbling around them, what kinds of things do people tend to do instead of praying?
- Nehemiah asked his brother from Jerusalem about the people and the place (v. 2). What did he learn about each (v. 3)?
- What does Nehemiah’s prayer say about God (vv. 5-11)?
- What do you learn from Nehemiah’s prayer about God’s promises (vv. 8-10)?
- Why did Nehemiah spend so much time on praise (v. 5-6a), confession (vv. 6b-7), and the promises of God (vv. 8-11a) and so little time on asking for what he wanted (v. 11b)?
- If you wanted to pray more like Nehemiah, what would you have to give more time to? What would you need to give less time to?
- What are some things you could do to focus your mind and your heart on a special prayer need over an extended period of time?
- Why do you think God wants us to persist in prayer? Why doesn’t He just answer immediately if it’s in His will?
Read Nehemiah 2
- In verses 2-4, Nehemiah wore his emotions on his sleeve and the King could tell something was bothering him. Nehemiah took the opportunity to act. Nehemiah was risking a lot in this situation. During this time period, servants were not to appear downcast in the presence of the King, so as not to make the King sense that there was any dissatisfaction with him or his kingship. But this was time to act. Think of all that is at stake for Nehemiah. What do you think drives Nehemiah to be willing to act, putting all the comforts of his current circumstances in jeopardy?
- In Nehemiah’s case, there was something that needed to be done. It was right and necessary. Can you think of a time when there was something that needed to be done and it was right and necessary and yet it caused some fear and anxiety?
- What propels you to do the right thing even when it may cost you greatly?
- Sometimes we are so accustomed to dysfunction in the Church and in the world that we become numb. The people, of course, can see that the city is in disarray, but Nehemiah arrives on the scene to say, “Wake up. Look at this place. This does not honor God.” Can you think of something in our world, a wrong that needs to be righted, and yet we seem to have accidentally accepted it as normal?
- When we become disturbed about something, how do we know if this is something that God has given us a burden for or if it is simply a personal preference? How do we know when to take a stand for truth or when to spend more time deliberating?
Read Nehemiah 4
- Think of the steep challenge the people of God face. First, they are asked to risk their livelihood to participate in the rebuilding of the walls. As we know from the rest of Nehemiah, evidently this was extremely challenging work done by a people already facing financial and physical hardship. But now, Israel’s adversaries have threatened to halt the work by taking their very lives. All of a sudden, we see where we really fit in this story. To this point, we may have liked to identify ourselves with Nehemiah, the courageous adventurer insistent on restoring the city for God. If you compared this with your own life, are you usually the Nehemiah who courageously proceeds forward in faith? Or are you like the people, who said “There’s too much rubble. We won’t be able to do it.”?
- As Christians, God calls us not only to obey his commands (John 14:15), but to resist the devil (James 4:7), reject false teaching (2 John 7-9), and contend for the faith (Jude 3). How does Israel’s position here remind us of the Christian life?
- When we step outside our own American context, we recognize that our brothers and sisters around the world face far greater physical persecution. In an honest heart-assessment, would you be willing to die for your faith?
- In Nehemiah, we learn that it takes the whole people of God to do the work of God. What do you believe to be your primary spiritual gifts? How are they being used within the Church to strengthen the family? Where are they being used outside the Church to share the truth and love of Christ with our neighbors?