Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times. Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce for use, but not for publication.


Last week we talked about the good scribe Ezra. A faithful Jew in Shushan named Nehemiah also became concerned about those in Jerusalem. Nehemiah held the important job of cupbearer to King Artaxerxes trusted Nehemiah as a friend. And when he learned Nehemiah was worried about his people, he wanted to help. Nehemiah had not even been born when the first captives went back with Zerrubabel about a hundred years before. He must have heard many exciting stories about the new temple and God’s promise to bless them all again - - and, more than likely, he knew Ezra and some of those in his company. Imagine Nehemiah’s distress, then, when his brother from Judah brought bad news to the palace one day.

“The survivors who are left… are they in great distress and reproach.” reported his brother and the men with him. “The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”

Nehemiah was so upset he sat down and wept. For several days he mourned and fasted before the Lord, praying for His mercy and for favor with the king so he could get help for his people. God’s answer came later as King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah why he was so sad. When Nehemiah told him about Jerusalem, the king gladly sent letters providing for his safety and for wood to build the temple and the wall, along with some of his soldiers.

Once he was in Jerusalem, Nehemiah saw his job would not be easy. A secret night tour around the city showed his brother had told the truth. Not only was the wall and its gates in awful shape - - huge piles of rubbish would have to be removed before everything could be repaired.

But Nehemiah was not afraid of hard work. He told the leaders how the Lord had given him favor with the king. “Come, and let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. “Nehemiah urged, “that we may no longer be a reproach.” How happy Nehemiah was when they replied, “Let us rise up and build!” So the good work was begun.

When their enemies heard the Jews were rebuilding the wall they tried to stop them. But Nehemiah replied the Lord was helping them - - and that the Samaritans and others had no share in Jerusalem.

However, a Samaritan named Sanballat continued to harass them, mocking, “What are these feeble Jews doing?… Will they complete in one day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish, stones that are burned?” An ammonite named Tobiah joined him, sneering, “Whatever they build - - if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall!”

Nehemiah would not stop the work to answer their enemies. Instead, he prayed to God, saying, “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their reproach on their heads!” And his people went on working until all the gaps were filled in up to half the wall’s height.

Now Sanballat and his cronies began making plans to fight the Jews. Some were afraid, but Nehemiah told them, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”

From that day on half the people did the work while the other half stood guard with swords, spears and bows. Those who carried materials had weapons in one hand and supplies in the other, and each of the builders wore a sword at his side. Nehemiah also ordered the men to stay inside Jerusalem at night to guard the wall. Each one slept with his clothes on, taking them off only to be washed.

When Sanballat and the other men saw the wall going higher, they tried to trick Nehemiah into leaving the work so they could harm him. But he would not listen. Instead he asked the Lord for help, praying, “My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to their works…”

Finally, after just working fifty-two days, the wall was finished. How happy they were! When the nations around them saw it, they realized the work had been done by the God of Judah - - and that they were helpless before Him.

Talking it Over:

1. What can we learn from the way Nehemiah responded to his enemies? What should you do when people say bad things about you? Try to get you to stop working for God? Read about Jesus’ example in 1 Peter 2:19-24.
2. Ask an adult to help you learn about the message of the prophet Malachi. What does it tell us about the Jews forgetting God again?
3. The last two versus of the Old Testament repeat the prophecies of a later time. Then the Lord would send a prophet like Elijah. What would happen to the hearts of the people at that time?

Memory Verse:

“So we built the wall…for the people had a mind to work.” Neh 4:6
How do we need to be like those who helped Nehemiah rebuild the wall around Jerusalem?