Week 1 – Nehemiah 1:1-11
Instead we want to ask, “How does God at work through Nehemiah help me understand God at work through me?” When we read of broken Jerusalem, how does that help us see our own city? When we read of God blessing Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild a people, how does that help us lock arms with one another now? And when we see God deliver Nehemiah from opposition, how does that embolden us to hope in the same God and press on in the work he has given us today? Throughout these six weeks we want to make ourselves entirely available, in body, mind, heart, and soul, to the outworking of God’s plan of redemption, a plan that he was working through Nehemiah and is working through us right this very second.
This week we start with the problem. In chapter 1, Nehemiah hears about the sorry state of Jerusalem. The year is 445 BC and the timeline below should help you place what has happened up until this point. You’ll notice that several waves of exile preceded the climactic fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and at least one wave of return preceded Nehemiah’s undertaking. You can read about that in Ezra 1-4 because, fun fact, Ezra and Nehemiah are actually part I and part II of the same story. Also, while 141 years have passed between the fall of Jerusalem and Nehemiah 1:1 (for us that’s like the late 1800s), the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was the most tragic event in Jewish history up to that point.
So it’s not as if Nehemiah was the first person to open his eyes and say, “Look at poor Jerusalem!” or to come up with a plan to help, since Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra all beat him to both of those things. Instead, Nehemiah is, before anything else, simply heartbroken over the sad gap between God’s desire for his people and the current state of things. Hopefully that makes Nehemiah a little bit easier for us to relate to. He wasn’t some amazing hero with a unique idea. He was just personally moved by an enormous need, and out of that movement he set himself to leverage his unique life, and the unique position God had given him, to be a part of God’s plan. Again, it’s not about what Nehemiah wanted or was capable of. As we’ll see next week, King Artaxerxes could’ve shut him down in an instance, but he didn’t because God was at work here. Nehemiah’s story, and hopefully our story, is all about what God wants and what God is capable of.
• Why do you think Nehemiah weeps over the state of Jerusalem? (verse 4)
• What stands out to you about Nehemiah’s prayer?
• Why do you think Nehemiah feels compelled to confess his own sin? (verse 6)
• How do you think God is going to respond to Nehemiah? What can that tell us about God’s desires?
• How can this passage help us think and feel about the needs in our own city, neighborhoods, and workplaces?
• When we look at needs around us, how do you think God feels about them?
• What do you want God to do in you through our Abound series?