Nehemiah 1

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Getting Started

Welcome to the Bible Reading Plan! We are so glad you are joining us for this journey through all ten chapters of Nehemiah over the next couple of weeks. Each day, you will read one chapter of the Bible followed by a short devotional, answer a few questions, and if you want, record any observations or insights using the interactive comments section. We believe God will use this resource to grow our knowledge and affection for Him. We know God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Sign up with a friend, your Life Group, or your family, and let’s dig in!

Make sure to download our Harris Creek App and turn on push notifications, or visit us at biblereadingplan.org and sign up to receive the BRP in your inbox. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram (@harriscreek) for some fun, creative ways to interact with the readings. 

Let’s Go, Church!

Nehemiah Preview

The book of Nehemiah is the sequel to the book of Ezra. Originally one long book, the two were eventually divided and named for the main character in each book. Nehemiah picks up right where the story of Ezra leaves off, spanning the period between 445-431 BC. When we meet Nehemiah in chapter 1, he’s serving as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. Being a cupbearer meant more than just serving wine; Nehemiah was a trusted advisor and right-hand man to the king. As the book unfolds, Nehemiah assumes two other roles: wall-builder and, eventually, the governor of Judah. 

This book will take us on a journey. Along the way, we’ll be encouraged and spurred on by Nehemiah’s faithfulness. He lives and acts in a prayerful, faithful way throughout the story. We’ll see moments of revival where it seems like everything clicks for God’s people and they repent and turn from their sins. But we’ll also see the dangers of what happens when we simply go through the motions without having truly transformed hearts. Nehemiah ends on a somber note as Nehemiah feels discouraged by the actions of the people he thought were authentically pursuing God.

This story doesn’t have a fairytale ending, but that’s what makes it feel real. We have likely all felt the same discouragement as Nehemiah. We have also likely been the stubborn ones who wandered from God and returned to our old habits and patterns. We can likely resonate with all the characters in this book to some degree. As we read, grab a journal and take good notes. Figure out what you can take from each chapter of this story and apply to your life today. There are so many things we can learn about God and ourselves through the lens of this book. As we read Nehemiah, start each day with prayer, asking God to open your heart to what you need to learn today. Thanks for reading along with us! 

Read Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah’s Prayer

The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:

Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

I was cupbearer to the king.

Go Deeper

As the book of Nehemiah begins, we’re immediately introduced to the title character. As you likely noticed, Nehemiah is speaking in the first person, which gives us a glimpse into who he is and how he was feeling. Unlike Ezra, who was a priest, Nehemiah is an Israelite serving in the Persian government. At the end of this chapter, he tells us that he is the king’s cupbearer, which indicates to us that he’s highly thought of by King Artaxerxes. The cupbearer was so much more than someone to serve wine; they had to be trustworthy and functioned as a confidant and an advisor. 

Nehemiah is an excellent case study in leadership. While he may not have been the king, he still had a great deal of influence to steward well. When he heard of the trouble in Jerusalem and the state of the broken down walls, he wept and mourned at the news.  While that’s a fairly normal response to troubling news, notice what Nehemiah did next. He devoted himself to prayer. Before anything else happened–before he hatched a plan or sprung into action–Nehemiah immediately took the situation before God. 

Nehemiah’s prayer ends with him asking for favor in the eyes of the king as he prepares to ask King Artaxerxes for permission to go rebuild the walls. Notice how he refers to the king as “this man” in his prayer. Even though the king was extremely powerful (in human terms), Nehemiah knew that God was the one who held all of the power. As we read the book of Nehemiah, we’ll see that prayer is extremely normal for him. In fact, Nehemiah’s prayers make up 11% of this entire book. How different would our lives look if 11% of our recorded words were prayers asking God to intervene? As we go about our day today, let’s be people who bring every request in front of God. Instead of automatically trying to formulate a course of action or trying to fix it ourselves, let’s devote ourselves to prayer in the same way that Nehemiah did.

Questions

  1. Why was Nehemiah so burdened by what was going on in Jerusalem?
  2. Nehemiah was in a position of influence. Where are your spheres of influence today? 
  3. How often do you take situations/requests/problems in your life directly to God in prayer? Do you find yourself routinely trying to fix the issues on your own? Why?

Did You Know?

Nehemiah is the last of the historical books in the Old Testament. While Esther follows Nehemiah in the canon, the events of Esther actually take place in the time period between Ezra 6 and 7.

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3 thoughts on “Nehemiah 1”

  1. Unlike Nehemiah, who paused, wept, fasted, mourned & prayed to God over the condition of Jerusalem and the exiles, I’ve been guilty of hatching a plan first and then asking for God’s stamp of approval. Nehemiah models humility even though he is in a position of prominence in the King’s service. Today, I’m pausing to recall God’s character mentioned In Nehemiah’s moving prayer: Great, awe-inspiring, gracious, covenant-keeper, attentive, redeemer, powerful & compassionate. Let’s inform whatever mountain we are facing how big our God us! I’m learning that striving in prayer is the most important work I will ever do. How encouraging that no matter where we are or how far we’ve drifted away from Him, we are able to return by repentance & obedience. Thank you, Father, that through your Son, we are reconciled to You!

    1. I love what you said here, Ella. I too am guilty of hatching my own plan and then asking for God’s approval and guidance after the fact. I love how Nehemiah turns to God right away, confesses his sins and those of his people and recalls the promises of God. What a shining example of what it looks like to be mindful of a personal relationship with the Lord, leaning in and being fully dependent on Him!

  2. This is awesome we need to stop trying to fix situations on our own and stop running ahead of God, as when we do this usually means we have to come right back to Him and start from scratch. When we trust God we are patiently seeking Him to work out things in His own timing. Trust in God is the key
    ingredient as Nehemiah demonstrated.

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