UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Used with permission: Character by Character compiled by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge. Copyright © CWR (www.cwr.org.uk).




Scripture passages referenced and linked in this lesson are written out for your convenience on this page.

UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Character by Character

Lesson 7: Nehemiah


Scripture passages referenced and linked in this lesson are written out for your convenience on this page.

Nehemiah: “Jehovah comforts”

A tender heart

Nehemiah chapter 1 (click the link to read the passages)

four-month period of prayer and fasting

Nehemiah was a cupbearer—or, in modern language, a butler—at the court of King Artaxerxes I of Persia, a position of honour and influence. He hears from his brother that Jerusalem’s walls are in ruins and the inhabitants greatly discouraged.

Immediately Nehemiah enters upon a four-month period of prayer and fasting, during which time he identifies with the whole Jewish nation, and intercedes for them. Like Ezra, his contemporary, he confesses the sins of his people and takes their backsliding into his own heart. He particularly prays that God will give him favour with King Artaxerxes when he approaches him for permission to visit the ancient city in order to help restore it to its former glory.

For thought and contemplation:

Although other means are often necessary to bring about God’s purposes, prayer must always be primary. Communion with God will best prepare us for our dealings with others. It is still true that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV).

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” (1 Peter 4:7, NIV)

A fearless request

Nehemiah 2:1-10

the king graciously invites Nehemiah to make any request he wishes

A cupbearer in ancient times was expected to always be cheerful in a monarch’s presence, and when the king notices Nehemiah’s sadness, Nehemiah fears for the consequences. He explains to the king that his sadness arises from the news he has received concerning the city of Jerusalem, and the king graciously invites Nehemiah to make any request he wishes. After a quick prayer, Nehemiah ventures to ask the king’s permission to go to Jerusalem and undertake the work of rebuilding the city’s walls. The king grants his request, provides him with letters of authority and Nehemiah sets out with an armed escort on his long journey.

For thought and contemplation:

Despite Nehemiah’s comfortable position in Persia, he felt deep sadness over the broken-down walls of Jerusalem. In some places, the walls of God’s Church need rebuilding, too. Does this cause you sorrow and pain? Or do business or pleasure so engage your attention that Zion’s welfare means nothing to you?

“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria… (Amos 6:1, NIV)

A courageous spirit

he conducts his survey under cover of darkness

Nehemiah 2:11-20

Upon his arrival at Jerusalem, one of the first things Nehemiah does is to survey the extent of the damage to the walls and gates of the city.

Gathering together a small band of men, he instructs them to tell no one of his plans to rebuild the city walls until after he has completed his inspection—this being the reason why he conducts his survey under cover of darkness.

he later announces to the Jewish leaders

When he later announces to the Jewish leaders that he has come to rebuild the ruined city walls and that he has God’s blessing and King Artaxerxes’ approval, everyone is keen to proceed with the work. Sanballat and Tobiah are highly displeased, and do everything they can to hinder the project.

For thought and contemplation:

If God has called you to do a special work for Him, then you must come to terms right away with the fact that at some time you will face opposition. Don’t be discouraged by this, for the stronger the opposition the bigger the opportunity. Satan never opposes anything that is insignificant.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete…” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

An undaunted will

Nehemiah chapter 3 and 4:1-11

The propaganda war waged by Sanballat and Tobiah

As the Jews worked steadily under Nehemiah’s inspiring leadership, the walls of the city slowly begin to rise once more. Sanballat and Tobiah continue their opposition by pouring scorn on the builders and criticising every move that is made.

The propaganda war waged by Sanballat and Tobiah is unsuccessful, however, and Nehemiah and the workmen give themselves even more wholeheartedly to the task in hand.

mount a guard to keep the enemy under constant observation

A further attempt is made to halt the work of rebuilding when some of Jerusalem’s neighbours plot a concerted attack. The Jews pray to God for protection and mount a guard to keep the enemy under constant observation.

Despite all obstacles, the walls continue to rise.

the walls continue to rise

For thought and contemplation:

Some Christians think that God should preserve His people from difficulties when they are doing His will, but the genius of Christianity is that God enables us to overcome all difficulties while accomplishing the work which He has set us to do.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

The Gates of Nehemiah

gates of Jerusalem

Picture of the Christian Life

The Sheep Gate (3:1) This speaks of the cross (John 10:11)

The Fish Gate (3:3) This speaks of soul-winning (Matt. 4:19)

The Old Gate (3:6) This speaks of our old nature (Rom. 6:1-23)

The Valley Gate (3:13) This speaks of suffering and testing (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

The Dung Gate (3:14) This speaks of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:16-21)

The Fountain Gate (3:15) This speaks of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39)

The Water Gate (3:26) This speaks of the Word of God (John 4:10-14)

The Horse Gate (3:28) This speaks of believers’ warfare (Eph. 6:10-17)

The Miphkad (Inspection) Gate (3:31) This was thought to be the judgment gate and therefore speaks of the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:9-15, 2 Cor. 5:10)

A diligent plan

Nehemiah 4:12-23

Israel’s enemies make their way into the city

Some of Israel’s enemies make their way into the city of Jerusalem with a view to damaging the morale of the workmen, and spread a rumour that there is to be a surprise attack.

Although Nehemiah has letters of approval for what he is doing, he realises that these do not preclude such an attack in this remote part of the Persian empire. He decides to keep half the men on armed guard while the other half work, and for all to carry arms.

a trumpeter beside him to sound the alarm

He works alongside his workmen, staying in the same clothes twenty-four hours a day, with a trumpeter beside him to sound the alarm in case of attack. His carefully laid plans are diligently followed, and day by day the work progresses.

For thought and contemplation:

Someone said that the Christian life is ‘a sword and trowel exercise’. Like Nehemiah’s workers, we must go about our task with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other. And why? Read 1 Peter 5:8 and you’ll see!

“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain… I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:1-2, NIV)

A wise response

Nehemiah chapter 6

He receives an invitation to a conference

Having failed to stop the building of the walls by ridicule, rumours and threats, an attempt is made by Israel’s enemies to get rid of Nehemiah himself. He receives an invitation to a conference, but refuses to attend, saying: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (v. 3, RSV). After this has happened several times, an open letter is sent to him accusing him of planning to revolt and set himself up as king, but Nehemiah boldly refutes their lies. Their plans once again having failed, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab hire Shemaiah to lure Nehemiah into a compromising situation in which he could be discredited as a coward—but he wisely avoids the trap (vv. 10-13).

For thought and contemplation:

Ever heard Satan saying to you: “Come down from those high standards… Be a Christian if you like, but don’t be so fanatical… Take things a little easier…”? Then give him this answer: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”

“…God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6, NIV)

A completed task

Nehemiah chapter 7

It takes just 52 days for Nehemiah to complete the tremendous task of rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem. Of course, the walls did not have to be built from ground level throughout, but it was a gigantic task nevertheless—especially when you consider the opposition and problems that beset the project.

complete the tremendous task of rebuilding the ruined walls

What a prayerful and inspiring leader Nehemiah proved to be! Having completed the task, however, Nehemiah does not rest on his laurels, but appoints godly men to supervise the guarding of the newly fortified city and its inhabitants. He then organises a census of all the families of Israel, so that he can better administer the life and development of the community.

For thought and contemplation:

Did you notice that the priests who could not prove their ancestry were dismissed from the priesthood? (v. 64) Nehemiah knew that unless the priesthood was pure, it would soon destroy the moral and spiritual fibre of the people. Pray for your pastor or spiritual leader right now.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2, NIV)

The lesson to be learned from Nehemiah

he had become preoccupied more with projects than with people

Without doubt, Nehemiah was one of the most energetic, shrewd and resourceful of all the Old Testament characters. Despite fierce opposition, he succeeded in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in only 52 days. This was his greatest contribution to the reconstruction of Jewish faith and worship and the inauguration of the post-exilic Jewish state.

Nehemiah was a deeply devout man, and the retention of his faith and patriotism amid the pressures of a heathen environment show that he possessed “the inner walls that protect the soul’s secret shrine”. His confidence that he was doing God’s work shone through in everything he did.

The main lesson to be learned from his life, however, is the importance of speedily referring each decision and crisis to God in simple, forthright prayer. And anyone who hasn’t yet learned that lesson will be prone to fear, anxiety and despair.

Used with permission: Character by Character compiled by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge. Copyright © CWR (www.cwr.org.uk).

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