Nehemiah – Celebration!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As we close our 6-week study of Nehemiah, it is time to celebrate! Many Jews have returned from the exile, the temple has been rebuilt, the wall rebuilt in spite of great obstacles, and the people have returned to the Word of God and consecrated themselves to follow Him. (Nehemiah – A Time of Consecration)

To celebrate this grand occasion, Nehemiah plans a huge processional. He calls out the Levites to come into Jerusalem—

… to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. Nehemiah 12:27

These were small harps, not sit-on-the-floor kind of harps like we have today. Think David-on-the-hillside kind of harp—one he could sling over his shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

Groups of singers had built villages around Jerusalem. They, too, were called in to practice and form two large choirs. The two choirs met at a designated gate and split apart. One choir led the procession going south along with Ezra and half the leaders. 

The other choir headed north with Nehemiah and the other half of the leaders. When the priests blew the trumpets, the procession began. Apparently, many (at least the choirs and leaders) processed on top of the wall. Others may have walked along side the wall. They planned to meet at the temple with all the wall builders and their families joining in.

I can just imagine the fun and excitement as the children skipped along, loving the vibrant musical atmosphere of singing and playing. Perhaps some women brought their tambourines as they danced behind the processional route.

Both groups finally met at “the house of God,” the temple.

And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Nehemiah 12:43

It is good to rejoice and be thankful, to celebrate wonderful happenings—weddings and anniversaries, birthdays and graduations, promotions, retirement, even in a quiet sort of way, we celebrate a life well-lived at the death of a dedicated loved one.

It is good to celebrate other accomplishments: learning to walk for the first time, learning to walk after an accident or surgery, moving a grade up from a C to an A, overcoming a sinful deed or an aggravating habit, having a breakthrough in a tedious project or completing a project, searching diligently for the Lord’s will then sensing that He has opened the door! Or even the simple joy of finally cleaning out a closet.

We may not have choirs and instruments or even parades at our victories, but let us determine to find something this week to celebrate and to give God thanksgiving and glory.

~ Joyce ~ 

  

 

 

Nehemiah – Obstacles

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Nehemiah rallied the wall-building troops with persuasive voice and authoritative demeanor. They divided up the work load and rebuilt side by side, neighbor next to neighbor. Even some from near-by towns came to join the project. 

As always, Satan reached out to overtake the good like a prowling lion. The obstacles began through three antagonists, one north of Judah, a second east of Judah, and a third trouble maker south of Judah, all who came to mock and ridicule.

But Nehemiah stood up to them.

“The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Nehemiah 2:20

The work began, priests and merchants, goldsmiths and commoners all reconstructing together. Once again, the antagonists complained and ridiculed vowing to join together in war against Jerusalem.

Nehemiah got word of their plan. Not to be undone, he posted guards day and night around the workmen. Each workman kept sword, spear, or bow with him at all times. Nehemiah prayed with them and stood by them. He reminded the workers—

“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

The workers stayed alert and continued their work, but later, instead of trouble from without, trouble started brewing from within. A famine, due to lack of grain, had set up a series of challenges. 

“We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy grain.” Nehemiah 5:3

“We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields.” Nehemiah 5:4

They complained that their fellow Jews had caused them to—

“…subject our sons and daughters to slavery.” Nehemiah 5:5

Nehemiah again met the obstacle directly. He called together the nobles and officials who had caused this situation and pointed out their lack of integrity. Their guilt was obvious.

They kept quiet for they could find nothing to say. Nehemiah 5:8

Nehemiah followed through by committing them to better practices.

These were only some of Nehemiah’s obstacles, but each time he dealt with them head on.

What a great lesson for us. We all deal with obstacles, things that set us back in some way. A wayward child who is plunging head long into dangerous territory; a health issue that is dragging us down, an aggravating kink in a major project, a gnawing flaw in a relationship. Name your issue.

Have you prayed about it? Have you grabbed the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God? Have you dealt with it head on? That would be Nehemiah’s strategy—not a bad idea!

~ Joyce ~  

 

 

 

  

Nehemiah – Planning and Action

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

God has given Nehemiah a concern for his Jerusalem homeland. He feels called to do something about the crumbling wall around the city.

During four months of prayer, God led him to make plans. Last week (Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity), we saw that King Artaxerxes dropped opportunity right in his lap. 

Since Nehemiah has been cooking up his plans, he’s ready.

“If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so they will provide me safe conduct until I arrive in Judah?”

Nehemiah thinks logically of what’s needed to get him safely there.

And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?

In his mind, he’s already there, thinking through what he will need. Planners do that! Nehemiah sees that God’s gracious hand was upon him because the king grants his requests.

Praying, planning, and then the action. Off he goes, beyond the Euphrates River, across the desert, to the land of Judah accompanied by the king’s cavalry, no less. 

After this grueling four-month journey, he rests for three days and makes plans to evaluate the crumbling wall. He purposely didn’t enter with a bang or even tell anybody why he was there. He plans to quietly assess the damage at night, by himself.

This is not a one-man job, so it is time to gather the troops. Here’s what we have recorded of his motivational speech to the priest, nobles, officials, and people:

“You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and it’s gates have been burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

He also gave them his personal testimony of how God’s hand was upon him with the king. The result?

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. Nehemiah 2:7-18

What a great formula for us when God lays a task upon our hearts—pray, plan, wait patiently for opportunity, move into action, rest, evaluate, share our own testimony of God’s hand at work, and inspire others to join in the task.

Tuck Nehemiah’s example away in your mind.

~ Joyce ~ 

 

Nehemiah – Praying Leads to Opportunity

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Last week, we found Nehemiah weeping, mourning and fasting over the devastation of the wall in Jerusalem. Four months later, he continues praying about the matter and senses that God is leading him to do something about the crumbling wall.

There’s a gigantic problem with this calling. Nehemiah is cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, a high and prestigious position. Only the king could grant such a request and the king’s already listened to complainers back in Jerusalem and commanded that all rebuilding stop. Double whammy! 

Nehemiah faithfully performs his duties to the king, perhaps even serves as an adviser in certain situations. He dare not point blank ask the king for permission to leave for an extended time to build a wall that the king himself  has already put to an end.

It’s hard for Nehemiah to be cheerful everyday when his heart is aching. One day as he serves the king, Artaxerxes asks him,

“Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” 

Fear strikes Nehemiah, nevertheless he draws in a deep breath and takes the plunge. 

“May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad when the city where my forefathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 

There, he said it. He holds his breath wondering how the king will respond. What comes next is more than he could have hoped for. The king asks,

“What is it you want?”

Hardly able to believe how this opportunity has been dropped in his lap, he shoots up one of those quick prayers. You know the ones, “Help me, Lord.” His face is flushed, his breath shallow, but he pushes forward.

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city of Judah where my fathers are buried so I can rebuild it.”

“How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” Nehemiah 2:1-6

“Whew!” I wrote in my Bible margin. Have you ever had an opportunity open up suddenly, one you’ve been mulling over for some time? You may have asked, “Is this really happening?”

Keep in mind that Nehemiah has been praying about this for four months. God provided the opportunity and Nehemiah took the plunge!

Oh the things He has for us when we go to Him in earnest prayer.

Can you share one of your aha moments?

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Nehemiah – Passing the Torch

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Let’s get back to a character Bible study as we “Search His Word and Seek His Heart.” I’ve been studying Nehemiah recently and finding some good stuff there.

First we need the setting. Nehemiah is not in Israel where you would expect to find a good Jewish man. No, the Babylonians came and swept the Jews far away from the land of Judah years before. Think Daniel in the lion’s den and King Nebuchadnezzar.

Fifty years later the Persian empire took down mighty Babylon under the Persian king, Cyrus. Though the Jews had settled into life away from their homeland, King Cyrus allowed the Jews to make the choice of returning to Judah.

Fast forward another seventy years during King Xerxes reign. Think Queen Esther. Many Jews did not return to Israel. The Jews who stayed had settled in over these 120 years, yet they were still considered foreigners. Remember how Esther was told not to tell King Xerxes that she was a Jew?

Fast forward another twenty-five years and we finally come to Nehemiah. Keep in mind that it has now been about 145 years since the exile of the Jews from Judah.

We find Nehemiah speaking with a brother who has been back to Jerusalem to see how things are going. Not a good report. The walls around the city were torn down years ago and in crumbles. The gates were burned.

How did Nehemiah respond? 

“I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God in heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4

Why would he care so much about that land and its desecration? It was far away and long ago. He had a good position in Persia. After all, he was cup-bearer to the king! But listen to a portion of his prayer.

“I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have not obeyed the commands and laws you gave your servant Moses.” Nehemiah 1:6-7

Then he reminds God of the instructions He gave to Moses years before.

“If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you turn to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.” Nehemiah 1:8-9

How did Nehemiah know about all this since the exile had been so long ago? How did he know about the ancient Scriptures? How did he have such deep feelings to the point of weeping, fasting, and praying?

It’s simple, it had been passed down from one generation to another, from father to son, grandfather to grandson, which brings me to ask, “What am I passing on to the next generation?”

~ Joyce ~