Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 4 - Nehemiah 1

Today's reading in our daily plan is Nehemiah 1. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Background on Nehemiah's situation:
    • It has been roughly 1000 years since Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and 500 years since the height of the nation of Israel, namely the reigns of King David and King Solomon.  You can read more about that in the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings.
    • About 85 years before this, Babylon had conquered the capital city of Jerusalem, and deported almost everyone that had standing in the city: landowners, nobles, learned men, etc.  
    • 15 years before this book starts, Babylon had allowed roughly 50,000 Jews to return to Jerusalem to begin the process of re-building the city.  You can read about that history in the book of Ezra
    • So, when Nehemiah receives word about the state of Jerusalem, he is receiving it from some of the people who used to be in captivity, but have returned to rebuild Jerusalem
  • Nehemiah is told about the state of the city of Jerusalem and the news isn't good.  The city walls still lie in rubble and the people live in fear.
  • This news breaks Nehemiah's heart.  He mourns for many days.
  • In humility, Nehemiah turns to God for support and answers.
  • We learn that Nehemiah holds a very high position in the kingdom.  He is the cupbearer to the king, King Artaxerxes I.  That means the king trusts Nehemiah with his life.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • It's important to note that even though Nehemiah had never lived in Jerusalem, he still recognized it as a symbol of his God and when something reflecting his God lies in ruins, it greatly upset him.
  • The reason torn down walls was a big deal is that the walls provided safety and security to the people of Jerusalem.  Without functioning walls, any gains made in rebuilding homes, the temple, businesses, etc. could all be outdone by bandits, thieves, and attackers.  They could never make the temple (the physical representation of God on earth at the time) beautiful again as anything of value would quickly be stolen.
  • When Nehemiah hears of this, the first thing he does is turn to God.  He begins fasting and praying feverishly for God to show up.
  • At the end of the chapter we get a glimpse of why God had chosen Nehemiah as he was in a position to actually do something about the news he received.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • When you get bad news, where do you turn?  Do you turn to God and seek him or do you try and fix it yourself?
  • Where do you see injustice in this world that could be prevented if more Christians did what they were supposed to do?
  • Where has God placed you that you have the position to do something about the things of this world that upset God?  Maybe God has put you exactly where you are because he needs you to work for him.