Read chapter in full: www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=ESV&search=Nehemiah+001
In the fifth century BC, many Judeans were returning from exile to the southern part of the land of Israel. They faced great difficulties: their capital city and temple had been destroyed, foreigners had moved in, and they were no longer ruled by their own king. But the books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah insist that God’s people can still fulfill his purpose. They must form a unique society centered on the worship of God in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. (These books are really one long book, telling a continuous story; one can see, for example, how the end of 2 Chronicles overlaps with the beginning of Ezra.)
The book presents a sweeping chronicle of Israel’s history, beginning with a long genealogy or ancestor list. Going all the way back to Adam, it situates the people of Israel among the nations and reminds them of their calling. Special attention is given to Judah, ancestor of the royal line of David, and to Levi, ancestor of the priests and temple attendants.
The second main part describes the kings who ruled in Jerusalem down to the time of the exile. David receives more attention than others, but many details of his life told elsewhere are left out. The focus is on his military campaigns and his elaborate plans for the temple in Jerusalem. The reason is clear when we see that David was not permitted to build the temple because he was a warrior. God wanted a man of peace to build the place where all nations would come to pray. The honor therefore fell to David’s son Solomon. More space is devoted to him than to any king besides David, describing his construction of the temple and the splendors of his reign.
The final part of the book relates the experiences of the returned exiles. The memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah, leaders of the second generation of returned Judeans, are incorporated into the history. These leaders helped create a distinct community by forbidding intermarriage with the surrounding peoples, and they directed the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Included here is a description of a great covenant renewal ceremony led by Ezra and Nehemiah.
An important theme of the entire history—which can appropriately be called a temple history—is that pure worship is offered on God’s terms, not ours. God has chosen Israel to welcome the nations into true worship. Through all the ups and downs of history he is working to bring this purpose to fulfillment.
CHAPTER 1 (ESV)
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father's house have sinned.
- The wall of Jerusalem was broken down. The broken city wall exposed God’s chosen people inside to external invasion. Reflect that as God’s people, do you face similar challenges? Your life is God’s temple, carefully look at the brokenness of your inner life and the trend of the world. How will you face the various challenges?
- When encountering huge challenges, Nehemiah did not act immediately but rather sat down and wept and mourned for days, and he continued fasting and praying. This showed his sadness for the sins of the people and his desire for the Israelites to be re-strengthened by worshipping the only true God. Nehemiah’s prayer was full of power because his prayer consisted of praises, thanksgiving, repentance, dedication and specific supplication. After we pray sincerely, we will know what are the difficulties and that God will help us and guide us to the right path with His mighty power. After Nehemiah prayed, he knew how to begin. When facing the challenges today, are you willing to pray sincerely as Nehemiah did?
Thank God for helping you to examine your life and living through the Book of Nehemiah. Ask the Heavenly Father to let you clearly see your deficiency and brokenness. If you obey and rely on God, His mighty arm will help you rebuild the city wall of your life to resist the various temptation and challenge from the world. Open your heart to God and face your weakness. Ask God to heal you, rebuild your city wall, and make you a vessel pleasing to the Lord.
Broken Vessels - www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiyYoe678yI