Bible study: Nehemiah
The people of God, created by Him and given a name, were designed to thrive in both their relationship with God and their surroundings provided by God. Bountiful provisions and ease had weakened them until the time ran out on their obedience and God’s chastisement ran its course and bondage fell on them. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah pick up the story of the Jews return to the land following 70 years of captivity, with Ezra’s account of Nehemiah detailing that final phase of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem.
What should be a encouraging time is overwhelmed in despair, disillusionment, and fear. The walls of Jerusalem lay in ruin and the scene would be no less difficult for us if Washington DC or other National monument such as the tomb of the unknown soldier were in a similar state of disrepair. The area around Ground Zero is nearly hallowed ground for a nation who took the terror attacks of 911 as exhibit A in the extremist war on America.
That’s the scene that we first encounter in Nehemiah one and which moves the heart of Nehemiah.
A BURDEN FOR THE HEARTS OF OTHERS:(1:1-5)
In seeking to know the condition of his fellow Jews, Nehemiah gets an ear full. One might wonder what prompted him to ask?
What connects us with those who share a common heritage? Matthew Henry comments,
"We should enquire especially concerning the state of the church and religion, and how it fares with the people of God; and the design of our enquiry must be, not that, like the Athenians, that we may have something to talk of, but that we may know how to direct our prayers and our praises. (From Matthew Henry)."
Our interest in the spiritual condition of others is not borne out of pride or gloating but genuine concern for the welfare and productivity of those with whom we share a connection with Christ.
The Depth of the matter
Disappointment usually builds itself towards despair. Despair seldom descends in a vacuum but is the product of previous pain, failure, or defeat. The discouragement and despair emanating from the Jews and Nehemiah was likely due more to the ridicule and suspicion heaped upon them from their earlier attempt to rebuild the wall than anything they saw from the wall itself. The giants in their eyes had names and voices (Ezra 4:7-23), and were calculating in their intent to steal away the joy and independence from the hearts of a newly freed people.
The difficulty exists in turning a corner and pressing on from the crisis of the past.
Where is this evident in our own culture?
I can tell you of the countless women who came through the doors of Lakeshore Pregnancy Center, unable to love God the Father because of the pain and selfish sexual pleasure forced upon upon them by their own physical fathers.
For men, it presents itself is a loss of identity and their own masculinity. Men crave to be respected as strong and capable; even praised for their successes. The lingering pain of an earlier defeat in men’s lives is debilitating…
Unearthing my father-in-laws early school grade cards has revealed a young man struggling in his academics and social skills and not afforded the help and encouragement that might have kept him from a lifetime of self doubt and self-imposed isolation from relationships that may have made him more successful in relationships with his wife and kids.
Nehemiah understood his role as intercessor and the reach of sin to make its pain felt in his own life.
Similarly understood by another leader of the OT: Daniel — (Dan. 10:2)
Why is that significant?
What conclusions might you draw about this practice for our own day?
THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN:(5-10)
THE PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN: (5-10)
Coming face to face with God’s greatness reveals our own weakness. The lack of leaders with perspective and vision may be due to the lack of Spiritual insight stemming from an inability to see God clearly thus preventing us from seeing ourselves cleanly.
With no clear view of God to shape our understanding of the world, we use our elevated view of ourselves to evaluate all that we see and do.
Matthew Henry: if thou wilt not appear for thy people, whom wilt thou appear for?’ ’ See Isa. 63:19.
THE HOPE FOR AN INTERCESSOR:
THE HOPE OF AN INTERCESSOR:
See: Our best pleas therefore in prayer are those that are taken from the promise of God, the word on which he has caused us to hope, Ps. 119:49.
THE REAL ROLE OF A CUPBEARER.
THE ROLE OF A. CUPBEARER
A wide range of responsibilities:
1. Well trained in court etiquette (Dan. 1:4-5)
2. Handsome: Dan. 1: 4,13,15
3. A wine taster for sure. old parable, " the wine belongs to the master but credit for it is due to his cupbearer.
4. Able to lend an ear at all times.
5. Great influence with the king and controlled access.
6. It had to be one who had the unreserved confidence of the king. Case in point: Xerxes, father of ArtaXerxes killed in his own bedchamber by someone of similar access. Good help is hard to find.
What to take from this?
1. The godly in any group must understand and value our heritage, history, and connection to God.
2. We can view ourselves rightly unless we maintain an unobstructed view of God.
3. Unresolved past circumstances are often a reason for a lack of present success.
4. The best corrective for disillusionment and despair is authentic honesty and personal accountability.
Mark J. CongrovePastor, Bethel Baptist church
facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjcongrove