So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
Notes to the Leader: This lesson covers some interesting history. It is about a wealthy man, Nehemiah, who leaves his life of power and prestige, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is the perfect example of the Christian life. He believed that you should depend upon God with a strong faith, work hard physically on God’s behalf and keep a sword strapped closely to his side just in case someone came along and tried to interfere.
As Christians, we are called to do the same, have strong faith but get off the couch and work in our church and communities. Most importantly, we are called to defend God’s plan and be willing to stand up for it. This does not mean fight with other God-fearing people or to take issue with the beliefs of other religions. It means that when God’s plans and desires are clear, we need to defend our efforts against those who seek their self-interests in place of Godly work.
This study has plenty of time at the end to let your group discuss personal experiences. This is excellent practice for learning how to share one’s faith.
What to you think about this statement? “Pray like everything depends on God; work like everything depends on you.”
Does it sound biblical?
Do you agree or disagree with it?
Section One: The Walls of Jerusalem
Notes: The walls that Nehemiah directed residents of Judah to erect in August of 445 B.C. encompassed about 90 acres. Forty one building crews worked on forty two different sections of the wall (two miles in length).
Have someone in your group read Nehemiah 3:1-6
The northern wall was the easiest route of attack upon Jerusalem. These workers were the most exposed to the threatened trouble from hostile neighbors (see Nehemiah 4).
What is common between today’s churches and the nobles of Tekoa?
- While there are many in our churches who labor for the good of the Church, there are always those who consider themselves either too important, too busy, or without sufficient skills to lend a hand. The Church today needs people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Have someone in your group read Nehemiah 3:7-14
This was the longest part of the wall and it was located on terrain that was easy to work on. It is concluded by this scripture that the western wall was not damaged as much as the shorter northern wall.
Have someone in your group read Nehemiah 3:15-32
This was the section of the wall loaded with rubble and the steepness of the valley increased the difficulty of work.
When you read Nehemiah 3, what relevant facts can you conclude about the people, their attitudes and the task that they had undertaken?
- These were ordinary people of all social levels and not skilled tradesmen.
- A high priest (v. 1)
- Merchants and goldsmiths (v. 32)
- Noblemen worked beside commoners (v. 18)
- Daughters worked with their fathers (v. 12)
- Residents of Jerusalem worked next to commuters from surrounding towns and villages (v. 17)
What can you conclude about Nehemiah?
- He was a masterful motivator and administrator (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
- He new how to use existing leadership to delegate and accomplish a large and complex task. (Elishib, the high priest, directing the construction of the Sheep Gate (v. 1), rulers of Judah coordinating labors of their people (vv. 9, 12, 14-19).
Section Two: Resistance to the Plan
Have someone in your group read Nehemiah 4:1-6
This was not the first resistance to the rebuilding of the walls. In Ezra’s time, the issue was mostly over religious differences of neighbors. Sanballat, however, considered Nehemiah and the Israelites a threat to his personal authority and power.
How did Sanballat try to de-rail the work of Nehemiah?
- He mocked their ability to persevere, their disposition toward worship rather than work, their ambitious timetable, and their use of old materials (v. 2). Further ridicule was offered by Tobiah who poured out more sarcasm claiming that the hastily walls would be so flimsy that a featherweight fox would knock it over in passing (v. 3).
When we are faced with personal ridicule such as Nehemiah and the Israelites, what actions can we take to make sure we persevere and succeed?
- The effectiveness of ridicule depends on whether the listeners believe it.
What was Nehemiah’s response to the ridicule?
- Nehemiah prayed that God would turn back the evil plans of Sanballat (v. 4) and Tobiah against them and that God would punish their sins (v. 5).
- Nehemiah also refused to be distracted and kept focused on his work (v. 6).
In what way do we as Christians bear similar ridicule today?
- The important work of God will usually provoke spiritual opposition from friends, the world, the flesh, and Satan. Some of this opposition is difficult to deal with and it does hurt. However, we should be encouraged by Nehemiah’s example and understand that ridicule alone is harmless and must be resisted.
Section Three: Causes for Worry
Have someone in your group read Nehemiah 4:7-15
The leaders of four opposing nations gathered to plot military action and cause general trouble for Jerusalem (v. 8).
Do you think that these four nations were bluffing? (see Nehemiah 2:7-9)
- Nehemiah did have written permission from Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem.
What was Nehemiah’s response to the threats of trouble?
- Nehemiah had no trouble getting intelligence (v. 12)
- At the rumors of imminent attack, he posted a 24 hr guard (v. 9)
- The threat changed from that of an all out war to one of sneak attacks (v. 11)
- His G2 kept him informed of impending raids (v. 12)
- For a long time, he halted construction (v. 13)
Nehemiah’s instructions to his leaders were: (a) don’t be afraid; remember the Lord; and fight for your homes and families (v. 14).
Was Nehemiah successful?
- Yes, eventually the enemies got discouraged and left. Then he put all of his people back to work on the wall (v. 15).
Why was Nehemiah successful?
- Nehemiah had trained himself and his people to turn to God and then turn to action (read Nehemiah 4:4-6)
Now revisit the very first question asked in this study, “Pray like everything depends on God; work like everything depends on you.” Based on Nehemiah’s response in 4:4-6, would Nehemiah agree or disagree with the statement?
Section Four: Winning
Have someone in your group read Nehemiah 4:16-23
What did Nehemiah have to do to win this struggle for God?
- Half worked and half stood guard (v. 16)
- Workers kept their weapons at their sides (vv. 17-18)
- Nehemiah kept a trumpeter at his side to call people to a trouble spot (v. 18) This was to keep those from fear of isolation (v. 19) and everyone could converge at the spot of trouble to fight (v. 20).
- Nehemiah and the leaders filled every hour of daylight (v. 21)
- The governor ordered all of the workers to stay in Jerusalem every night for protection and defensive purposes (v. 22)
- Nehemiah and his brothers set the example by sleeping in their clothes (v. 23)
- The defensive strategy of the workers became part of their offensive strategy. They worked harder and harder. This was no doubt exhausting but exhilarating too. Great accomplishments seldom come easily.
Many of these builders were discouraged by the size of the task (4:10) and frightened by the incessant opposition (4:11-12), but they kept their eyes on the Lord and their hands on their swords. These were ordinary people. They prayed and built (4:4-6). They prayed and posted guards ((4:9). They remembered the Lord and prepared to fight for their homes and families (4:4). Together, with the Lord, they won.
What was the hardest spiritual work you ever did? Were you reluctant to start at first? Was it worth it?
- Use this as open discussion to encourage your group to share experiences. This is the real lesson, practicing the sharing of one’s life experiences.
Why do people tend to avoid spiritually difficult challenges?
- Again, let the discussion explore personal experiences.
What happens to the church when we do?
- Building a church, spreading the Good News of Scripture, are not easy. Yet, the only conclusion one can come to is that if we all avoided difficult challenges, there would be little personal growth.
Bible Truth Being Taught
By trusting in God and united together, people can overcome seemingly impossible obstacles.
To look for security in God’s power expressed through His united people.