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