Our sermon series is:

Nehemiah - Rebuilding

Nehemiah is a great Old Testament book. It’s not very long, just 13 short chapters, and it’s very quick and easy to read. On the face of it, it’s an autobiography of a man named Nehemiah who moved from a very senior job in a royal palace to a city in a different region in order to rebuild the city walls and gates which had been destroyed about a century earlier. He enlisted lots of workers and succeeded in completing the rebuilding of the walls and the gates, in spite of his workforce being threatened, harassed and mocked by those who said it could never be achieved. Once the walls had been completed, he went on to oversee the return of people from exile to the city and the return of worship in the temple.
However, look a bit deeper and it gives us a model for how, as Christians, we should approach the tasks of rebuilding and renewal in any situation, whether that be in our life, family, church, work, or society. It is particularly relevant at this moment in time as we are looking towards coming out of the covid-19 pandemic and rebuilding our lives.
Nehemiah was a devout man of God. He had an in-depth knowledge and understanding of God’s character and the Scriptures, and he always put prayer first, frequently praying for help and guidance in each situation. He showed compassionate concern for others, disciplined prayerfulness, spiritual confidence, resourceful service, moral integrity, and resilient faith. He applied biblical principles to his life, and had an exemplary lifestyle. 
On another level, the book is a terrific resource for those in leadership, which of course is all of us! (We all lead ourselves and we may also be leaders of others in our day-to-day setting). Nehemiah modelled many qualities of a good leader; he recognised that he was under greater authority, he showed great compassion for others, he displayed transparent integrity, he had a vision for something great, he was aware of his own vulnerability, he had the ability to inspire others, he recognised the necessity and advantages of delegation, he did not baulk at adversity, he had sensitive adaptability, he was prepared to make personal sacrifices, he had the ability to recruit dependable colleagues, he anticipated the next challenge, and he was tenacious.[1]
In Nehemiah’s day,  the building of a city was seen as the pinnacle of a society’s success[2] . It defined them as ordered, civilised and cultured, and was the evidence of prosperity and life. For the people of God at the time, Jerusalem was symbolic of God. The walls and gates were particularly important as they not only gave the city its security but also they were its visible face to those outside, and the gates controlled what entered and left.
As Christians, each of us has our own walls and gates, showing the world our faith and controlling what we receive from the world and what we give out to it.
We have all suffered damage in many ways from the Covid pandemic; loss of liberty, loss of community, not being able to see and hug our loved ones, loss of our normal way of life, loss of income or job, or very sadly the loss to coronavirus of someone we knew. We need to rebuild. As we look together at the book of Nehemiah over these six weeks, let’s thank Jesus for His unfailing love (Romans 8:38-39), learn from Nehemiah’s example, seek God’s plans for us to rebuild our lives (see Jeremiah 29:11), and trust that His plans will succeed (Nehemiah 2:20).

[1] The message of Nehemiah. Raymond Brown. IVP. 1998. ISBN 978-0-85111-580-1.
[2] Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Ryken, J.C., Wilhoit, T.L.3. IVP. 1998. ISBN 0-85111-753-8.

Week 5: Sunday 9th May
Compassion and care for the poor and needy

Read Nehemiah 5:1-19
This week we read of the poverty being suffered by the Jews living in the area as the work to build the wall and gates was progressing. When Nehemiah heard about this he became very angry and took action to help the people. He gave them money and food, bought back as many as possible of the Jews who had been sold into slavery, and organised a large meeting at which he persuaded the officials to return the taxes, the land and the property they had taken from the people. He became governor of the area, and as governor he stopped the taxes taken by previous governors, did not acquire from the people any more land, and gave away his food to the people.
  1. What strikes you about this passage?
  2. Who was causing the poverty amongst the Jews (v. 1)? How does this relate to the law at the time (Deut. 23:19-20)?
  3. What were the problems that caused the outcry (v. 1-5)? Why were the people mortgaging their fields instead of working in them (v. 3)? 
  4. Why was Nehemiah very angry when he heard the outcry (v. 6)? Why did he ponder the problems in his mind before acting (v. 7)?
  5. Why did Nehemiah not operate in the same way as previous governors (v. 15, 18)?
  6. Nehemiah was consistently sacrificial in his care, his time and his giving for the poorest in his society, in spite of being focussed on rebuilding the wall and gates. What can we learn from his compassion and his example? What action are you going to take?

WEEK 4 - Sunday 2nd May
Confidence in the face of opposition

Read Nehemiah 4:1-23
When the building work was well under way, Sanballat, Tobias, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod were very angry and significantly increased their opposition to the scheme by ridiculing Nehemiah and the Jews, and by plotting to fight against them, kill them and put an end to the work. There was also opposition arising from the Jews involved in the work (v. 10) and from those living nearby (v. 12). Nehemiah responded by praying first (v. 4-5), inspiring them to keep going (v. 14), and then by positioning armed guards around the workers, setting up an alarm system (using a trumpet), and making arrangements for overnight guards.
  1. What strikes you about this passage?
  2. Why do you think Sanballat and the others were so angry about the building work progressing?
  3. For whom are Sanballat and the others fighting? In contrast, for whom is Nehemiah working (see also Nehemiah 2:10)? 
  4. How do you respond to opposition to your faith? How do Nehemiah’s responses inspire you?
  5. After seeing the threats to the rebuilding, the action Nehemiah took included equipping the people with weapons and putting them next to families (v. 13). Why did he do this? Opposition came from their own people as well as outsiders; how should you respond to opposition to your faith? Do you believe you will win? What weapons should you use (2. Corinthians 10:4-5, Ephesians 6:10-17)?
  6. The trumpeter stayed next to Nehemiah (v. 18), which indicates that he was on the front line where the work was going on and where the threat from the opposition was greatest. What does this say about Nehemiah’s leadership? Who stands with you on your front line? 

WEEK 3 - Sunday 25th April
Recruiting and inspiring the team, and starting the rebuilding. 

Read Nehemiah 2:13-18
After surveying the damage to the walls and gates, Nehemiah met with the people to explain the situation to them and to inspire them to join him in the rebuilding. The response from them was immediate, “let us start rebuilding“! Some mocked and ridiculed Nehemiah and his team, but Nehemiah declared that the rebuilding would succeed and he also stated that the people who mocked had no claim or historic rights to Jerusalem. 
  1. What strikes you about this passage?
  2. Why did Nehemiah start by talking about the trouble they were in (v. 17)? What did he mean by this? What did the walls and gates represent to the people?
  3. What are the walls and gates in your life? What state are they in? Who and what do they let in and keep out? In what way do they need rebuilding? How are you going to prepare a vision and a plan for this rebuilding? As a Christian, who can you talk to about it?
  4. Why was Nehemiah so sure that the plan to rebuild would succeed (v. 20)?
  5. If you have time, you might like to read chapter 3, which gives an account of who was involved in the rebuilding, and see the success of Nehemiah’s inspiration and leading of the team of builders. Why was he so successful in getting so much help?

WEEK 2 - Sunday 18th April
God-inspired vision and plan

Read Nehemiah 2:1-12

This week we see Nehemiah presenting King Artaxerses with his vision and plan, and then gaining permission from the King to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gates. 
  1. What strikes you about this passage?
  2. What does Nehemiah do first when the King asks him what he wants (v. 4)? What does this tell you about Nehemiah’s reliance on God? What would you do in similar circumstances?
  3. How had Nehemiah prepared for his meeting with the King (v. 4-8)?
  4. Why did the King grant Nehemiah’s requests (v. 8)?
  5. Where had Nehemiah’s vision and plan come from (v. 12)? Who gives you inspiration when planning for the future?

WEEK 1 - Sunday 11th April
Prayer first - knowing God and the Word.

Read Nehemiah 1:1-11
The story starts with Nehemiah, the kings cupbearer, hearing from his brother Hanani on his return from Jerusalem that its walls had been destroyed and its gates burned down. Nehemiah was clearly very upset by the news. He wept and then mourned, fasted and prayed for a number of days, culminating in a prayer which is recorded in verses 5 to 11.
The role of King’s Cupbearer was highly esteemed among the Persian people. He had direct access to the king and was familiar with being in a palace environment. The role was seen as being the next in rank to a prince.  
  1. What strikes you about this passage?
  2. Why did Hanani say that the survivors in Jerusalem were in disgrace (v. 3)? What has this got to do with the walls and gates?
  3. Why do you think Nehemiah responded so dramatically to the news (especially as it was old news; the destruction of Jerusalem had taken place around 100 years earlier)?
  4. What does Nehemiah’s prayer tell you about his knowledge of God and of scripture? How does it inspire you to read the bible?
  5. How was Nehemiah’s prayer structured? 

You can look up the notes from past sermon series by clicking here.