Stephen Caswell © 2000
Pray for Strength /-- Phillips Brooks/
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people!
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.
Then the doing of your world shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle.
Everyday you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.
/ *This is how Nehemiah prayed!*/
The setting for the Book of Nehemiah is 444 bc.
There were three different groups of Jews that returned from exile.
In 538 bc Zerubbabel lead a group back following Cyrus' decree.
They faced great opposition from the Samaritans living in Judea.
They began to rebuild the temple in 536 bc and finally completed it in 515 bc.
Later in 458 bc, Ezra lead a second group of exiles back to Jerusalem.
He was a priest who taught the Law.
Ezra did much to reform the people spiritually.
Fourteen years later Nehemiah lead a third group back and rebuilt the walls.
The Book of Nehemiah deals with this return and the struggle to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
The name Nehemiah */means the Lord comforts./*
Nehemiah certainly brought the Lord's comfort to Israel.
Nehemiah was certainly a man of action since he accomplished much in spite of great opposition.
But this was because Nehemiah was a great man of prayer also.
Chapter one divides into two main parts.
The Report From Jerusalem & II.
The Response Of Nehemiah
The Report From Jerusalem
The Concern Of Nehemiah/
*Nehemiah 1:1-2* /The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.
It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem./
In the twentieth year of the Kings reign men came from Judah to Shushan in Persia.
The King reigning at that time was Artaxerxes, who began his reign in 464 bc.
Therefore the year was 444 bc.
Hanani, Nehemiah's brother was among these men.
Shushan was in Persia.
The Kings of Persia would spend the winter in Shushan because the climate was comfortable there.
But it was very hot in summer.
Although many Jews had returned to Judah under Zerubbabel and Ezra most remained in exile.
The Book of Esther describes some of their history in Persia.
Nehemiah was committed to his people and very concerned about them.
Even though they were hundreds of miles away they were often in his thoughts and prayers.
Verse 2 tells us that he asked two questions about the situation in Judah.
He asked them concerning the /Citizens/ and the /City./
Nehemiah had access to some information because of his position in the royal court.
But he wanted information that was first hand.
They answered him in verse 3.
*Nehemiah 1:3a* /And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach.
The Citizens Reproach/
Firstly the citizens were in /great distress/.
The words */great distress/* mean */affliction, adversity /*or*/ trouble./*
Life in Judah was very difficult.
The Samaritans were constantly provoking them.
The word */reproach/* means*/ shame/*, or */rebuke/*.
Because of their constant adversity they were not able to accomplish much as a nation.
This in turn brought shame upon them.
The City In Ruins/
*Neh 1:3b* /The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”/
The wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its six gates burned with fire.
This was the main reason for the distress and reproach felt by the people.
Without a city wall, Jerusalem was defenseless.
They were constantly open to enemy attacks.
Life was very uncertain and there was no real peace.
The people had been rebuilding the walls but were stopped by Artaxerxes who had been pressured by Rehum, his commanding officer there.
*Ezra 4:12-17* describes this.
The Samaritans sent a letter to the King claiming that the Jews were rebuilding their walls so that they could rebel against him.
The King then ordered them to cease rebuilding.
Because of his position in the court Nehemiah must have been aware of this letter and the kings subsequent response.
However he probably didn't know the outcome in Jerusalem.
After hearing an accurate report on Jerusalem, Nehemiah felt deep regret and despair.
/There are so many needs in the Christian Church but how can we help when we are so far away?/
By being informed.
/Are you like Nehemiah, anxious to know the truth even about the worst situations?/ Nehemiah was concerned for his people all along.
But when the opportunity to find out specific details came he grabbed it.
He was concerned for their physical and spiritual well being.
/Are you concerned for the needs of the Church overseas?
Are you concerned enough to ask about them?
Is your interest born of concern or idle curiosity?
Are you receiving prayer letters from mission agencies?
Are you burdened for them and the work?
Do you give financially to help them?
Do you care?
The Response Of Nehemiah
He Wept Before God/
*Nehemiah 1:4* /So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven./
1. Sat Down
The first thing that Nehemiah did was to sit down and weep.
It was customary for the Jews to sit down when they mourned (Ezra 9:1–4; 2:13).
Unconsciously, Nehemiah was imitating the grieving Jewish captives who had been exiled in Babylon years before (Ps.
Being seated revealed his humble position.
It showed that he considered himself to have been brought down low.
Nehemiah humbled himself before God.
2. He Wept And Mourned For Many Days