The Bible | Part 16.1

By now, you probably know the drill. If you are new, this series, as you may have deciphered, is an outline of the entire Bible, book by good ol’ book. If you want to truly know your King, you can follow this link to read all of the current portions to date!

Previously in Ezra… In Ezra we fast forward through 70 years of Babylonian captivity, and we come to the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia and conqueror of Babylon, who, stirred up by the Lord himself, released the people of Judah so they might rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. So the line of David returned to Jerusalem under decree of Cyrus, and they immediately rejoiced. Within the first year, they rebuilt the altar, and the next year they started rebuilding the temple of the Lord. As time passed and the building continued, the surrounding nations took offense and tattled, forcing the Israelites to stop construction. But, guided by the Lord, they soon continued, despite opposition. After this, Ezra the scribe/priest returned to Jerusalem with a second wave of Israelites who were documented in great detail and number as the first. Ezra proceeded to guide the nation in the way of the Law, finding particular issue in unequally yoked marriages.

BEFORE READING MORE – It would be ideal if you read the chapters to be discussed prior to looking through the outline! This week we are covering Nehemiah 1 – 7.

NEHEMIAH – The cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes was called by the Lord to go back to Jerusalem and restore a seemingly wayward and discouraged nation of captives who had returned under the time of Zerubbabel and Ezra. Most notably, the city and freshly rebuilt temple were open to enemies because the surrounding walls had not been rebuilt. So Nehemiah worked hard to organize the Israelites to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in record time (only about 52 days!) and, as governor, worked in conjunction with the priest, Ezra, to renew the nation’s understanding and passion for the book of the law of Moses.

    1. Nehemiah 1 -2 | Nehemiah was convicted and prayed for wisdom – He petitioned to King Artaxerxes – He returned to Jerusalem and reviewed the condition of the city walls and mobilized the people to begin rebuilding – The other officials were disturbed at the rebuilding of the walls: It is wonderful to see the call of Nehemiah because he seems to have been placed in a particular position that would be used mightily for the advancement of the nation of Israel in their years after returning to Jerusalem from Babylon. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the King of Persia, Artaxerxes, but his heart and conviction for the Lord was made extremely clear when he heard of the squalor of the Jewish remnant that returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra.

      When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. | Nehemiah 1:4

      His concern for others was an indication of His intimacy with the Lord, and his conviction moving forward was notable as he fasted and prayed for days! Oh how I desire to have the same heart towards the Lord’s will!

      Lord let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man. | Nehemiah 1:11

      And so Nehemiah was able to humbly use his position to the King of Persia to petition him to aid in the Lord’s purpose.

      The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king… | Nehemiah 2:4-5

      With great humility and dependence on the Lord, Nehemiah petitioned King Artaxerxes, and we see the Lord’s sovereignty wonderfully on display as the King not only obliges but also blesses Nehemiah with earthly authority, resources, and protection. The Lord’s hand was not shortened in answering Nehemiah’s prayer. So Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and began to quietly survey the ruins of the city. He mobilized the people to begin the repairs as necessary, amongst opposition from nearby officials of other nations.

    2. Nehemiah 3 – 4 |The people were efficiently organized to start rebuilding the walls – Their diligence and success brought much opposition: In chapter 3, we see a detailed list of the people who were tasked with rebuilding the various portions of the walls nearby their homes. The organization, unity, and heart of the people  caused work to progress rapidly, and it caused leaders of the surrounding nations (Sanballat and Tobiah) to mock and scorn in anger:

      And he (Sanballat) said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobias the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes what they are building – if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” | Nehemiah 4:2-3

      But, undeterred, Nehemiah leaned further into the Lord and prayed for protection against those that despised them, and the Lord revealed the enemies plot to stop the work. In response, Nehemiah made the necessary arrangements to protect the people. The process of rebuilding the walls while staying protected is wonderfully similar to our task as believers today. After salvation, we go through a process of working out our salvation; a process of sanctification as we live here on this earth. Picturing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem as equivalent to the renewing of our minds from the corruption of sin, we are able to see a wonderful example of what we need to do in order to mightily and efficiently rebuild the walls around us! There were those who stayed at constant watch, those who rallied the troops to a specific location, and those who rebuilt:

      From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other… | Nehemiah 4:16-17

      We need to employ all strategies with our brothers and sisters to effectively build up our own intimacy with him and the intimacy of the church body as well! Don’t ever leave your weapons behind!

    3. Nehemiah 5 | Nehemiah continued his reformation by stopping monetary oppression – He displayed the love of the Lord by not lording his authority over those serving him: Beyond his ability to protect the people from physical harm, Nehemiah continued to have vision to address the monetary oppression of the people of Israel. He used his position during the rebuilding of the walls to also reform the unfair taxing and selfishness of officials over their Jewish brothers. Then, as an example and because of his fear of God, he ensured that he would not lord his authority over the people just as the Lord desires of us all (1 Peter 5).
    4. Nehemiah 6 | Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem continue to despise Nehemiah and conspire against him – The wall is finished in 52 days: When the leaders of the surrounding nations—Sanballat, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab—heard of the wall and that all gaps had been filled, they again attempted to conspire against Nehemiah, calling him to a meeting in a desperate bid to ambush him. Nehemiah denied their requests consistently and focused on the task given to him by the Lord. They continued to conspire against Nehemiah, even hiring a prophetess to lure him away, but Nehemiah’s devotion to the Lord and resolve was so stout that nothing could take his eyes off his calling. Ultimately, all of this opposition fell flat, and the walls of Jerusalem were finished in just 52 days! The rebuilding of the walls was a testament to the power of God, and the surrounding nations knew it:

      So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. | Nehemiah 6:15-16

      The renewal of your mind too is a testament to the power of God in your life! Be faithful and stout, and focused on the work the Lord has called you to, and your presence will strike fear in the enemy because of His life within you!

    5. Nehemiah 7 | Hanani and Hananiah given charge over the city – The number and genealogies of the returned people were listed – The people returned and lived in their own towns: After the completion of the walls, Nehemiah appointed his brother Hanani and Hananiah, another high ranking official, charge over Jerusalem because of their faithfulness. Nehemiah then assembled the people, who were few, and reviewed the genealogy of the returned exiles. They totaled 42,360 not including their servants. As they all gathered together and were numbered, the heads of the people gave gifts, and they dispersed to their respective towns.

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