The book of Nehemiah continues the story of the Israelites’ RETURN to their Promised Land. Whereas Zerubbabel and Ezra brought people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and restore the Law, Nehemiah returns with a final wave of Israelites to rebuild the walls surrounding the city. Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries, both sent back to Jerusalem during the reign of the Persian king, Artaxerxes. They work alongside one another to rebuild God’s people according to His Law and to rebuild the walls of His city.
As was the case for both Zerubbabel and Ezra, Nehemiah faces challenges in the process of rebuilding the wall. But the Lord is faithful in bringing to completion that which He called Nehemiah to do. In just 52 days, despite opposition, Nehemiah and the Israelite people complete the work of rebuilding the city’s walls. Once finished, Nehemiah takes a census of all the people who have returned to Jerusalem.
The book finishes with Ezra reading the Law, the celebration of an important Jewish feast, a prayer of confession that reminds the people of the Lord’s work beginning with Abraham, and a dedication of the walls. But the final chapter of Nehemiah reminds us that in spite of this joyous moment for the people of Israel, all has not been made perfectly right. They are still sinful and in need of a Savior who will finally and fully fulfill the covenant promises God made to Abraham. Though the people are home in a rebuilt Jerusalem, they need hearts that are made new. That can only happen through the long awaited Messiah, and it will be over 400 years until He arrives in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem.
Old Testament Movement
THE RETURN OF THE ISRAELITES
Nehemiah 4, 6:15-16
Fellowship of Believers
Miraculously, the exiled Jews are allowed to return. They find the city of Jerusalem in shambles and defenseless with no wall of protection. God calls Nehemiah to lead his fellow Jews to restore their homeland.
The people begin to work. But with obedience often times comes opposition. The Samaritans, led by Governor Sanballat, begin to ridicule. “What are these feeble Jews doing?...Can they bring the stones back to life from these heaps of rubble -- burned as they are?” Discouraging words can slow down or even stop obedient actions. However, because of Nehemiah’s encouragement, increased protection, reminders of God’s power, and the drive and strength of the Jews working together, the wall is completed. Here, the value of the Fellowship of Believers is apparent. We need each other. Let that be true for your family. Pull in close to your church and small group for help and guidance as your family ministers together in a hurting world.
- What were the people trying to build? Why was that important for their city?
- What are some of the things Sanballat said to discourage them?
- What steps did Nehemiah take to keep the work from stopping?
- What are some ways that you could follow Nehemiah’s examples when you are working to accomplish something that God has put before you to do? Are there others in your church family that you could encourage?
Activity 1: Prayer Wall
To highlight value of prayer, one family dedicated a wall in their home to prayer. Family, friends and small group members write requests/prayers directing on the wall using Sharpie marker. The wall reminds them to stop and pray. Then, when a prayer is answered, they write "thank you" below it. Alternative: use poster board or marker board.
Activity 2: Watch Nehemiah story
Google search: "What’s in the Bible? Nehemiah story" on Youtube.
Activity 3: Snack Activity
Supplies: gummy bears and rectangular sugar wafer cookies (white, pink, and chocolate). You may need icing or peanut butter for “glue.” Put gummy bears in the center of the plate. Using cookies, build a wall around them. As you eat, discuss how you can help others, both in your family and those outside your family.
Activity 4: Craft idea
Google search: "Children’s Bible Lesson Nehemiah Rebuilds the Wall."
Small Group Discussion
- What principle is there to follow?
- Do you believe God will respond to your repentance?
- How does Nehemiah’s story encourage you to press into the Lord?