The Pastor’s Study
The Work Opposed
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Nehemiah 4:1-14. Perhaps you have heard of “psychological warfare.” It’s used to psyche out, or demoralize a person or group. In what ways were Sanballat and Tobiah practicing psychological warfare in verses 1-3? List their specific verbal attacks and describe how each was meant to dishearten the Jews during their work of rebuilding the wall? What was their goal in these attacks?
2. How did Nehemiah and the people respond to these attacks (verses 4-5)?
3. What was the nature of their prayer? In the space below, write an outline of the prayer? Have you ever prayed a prayer like this? Why or why not? Do you think this sort of prayer is ever justified? Is it only an “Old Testament” prayer, or is there also “New Testament” warrant for such a prayer?
4. When the taunting didn’t work, what was the next plan of attack against the Jews? How did the Jews respond and what else did they do as a precaution (verse 9)? Was this wise? Was it unfaithful? Shouldn’t they have just trusted God? Why or why not?
5. It must have been discouraging enough to have their enemies undermining their work, but what happened next must have really brought them to a new level of discouragement. What happened and by whom, according to verses 10-12? In what additional ways would this undermine the work?
6. Sanballat, Tobiah, and company plotted to attack Jerusalem to prevent the completion of the wall (verse 11). How did Nehemiah respond to coming attack (verse 13)? In addition to arming the people, what do you think the strategy was in grouping the people by clans (families)?
7. What did Nehemiah say to encourage the people (verse 14)? How would appealing to family members impact the people? How would you be encouraged in the midst of the frightening prospect of a battle (or any other difficult task) if you knew you were doing so for those you loved most?
Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that says, “Let Go, and Let God.” In what ways is that good advice? In what ways is that bad advice? Is there any doubt that Nehemiah trusted God? What is the biblical evidence for your answer? What else did Nehemiah make use of?
How do you typically respond when your hopes, dreams, efforts, etc., are undermined by others? By those who are against you? By those who are closest to you? What does this intentional or unintentional “psychological warfare” do to your spiritual, emotional, and mental state? Why?
Share an experience of a time when you were undermined by another person and how you responded? What would you now do differently? In what ways does the devil seek to discourage us in our walk with Christ? How can you respond to his attacks?
This chapter is long and consists of many names, locations, and responsibilities being performed. It would be tempting to skip it. However, even the lists in Scripture have much to teach us. If you have access to a study Bible, find a map of Jerusalem during Nehemiah’s time and observe the various walls, gates, and other locations mentioned in this text.
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Nehemiah 3:1-5. Who were the ones listed to first begin the work of rebuilding Jerusalem? What might be the significance to listing this group as the first ones to “rise up.” In the space below, list the various groups of people and what each group did.
2. There was one group listed that did not work. Who were they and how does the sentence describe them? What might have been some reasons they did not help with this building project?
3. Read Nehemiah 3:6-14. In the space below, list the various groups of people and what each group did. Locate on a map the areas in which they worked. What do you think the importance of those places was?
4. Read Nehemiah 3:15-32. In the space below, list the various groups of people and what each group did. Locate on a map the areas in which they worked. What do you think the importance of those places was?
5. Lists like the one found in this chapter can make for slow and complicated reading. However, there are lessons to learn here. What would you say are three important lessons or principles you could take from this chapter and share with others?
6. Read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:3-8. What are the similarities between what Paul is teaching and what you observed in Nehemiah 3? Why is this important?
7. From your answer above, what can your church learn about how to serve itself and its community? What are three points you could share with your church’s leadership team?
8. Verse 5 says the Tekoite nobles would not help. In question 2 you explored why that might be the case. Now think about your church setting. Are there some who only “take” from what the church offers but do not “give back?” It would be easy to get angry with such people. Instead of getting angry, write down some reasons they may not be helping. What are three ways you could encourage them to help serve the church and help the church serve?
9. In verse 28 we learn the priests repaired the wall near their own homes. We will learn later that Nehemiah assigned families to work on, as well as protect, the walls near their homes? What is the wisdom of that?
Back to the exercise of thinking of this chapter in terms of your own church. Put together a lesson you could teach to your church’s leadership, youth group, or Sunday school class. What would be your main theme? What are three take-away principles you could share with them? Using this chapter and the words you read from Paul, put together a lesson plan. Then pray for God to provide an opportunity for you to bless some folks with your lesson.
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Nehemiah 2:9-20. What do you think the purpose of sending the officers of the army and horsemen with Nehemiah was? What would their presence mean to the governors of the province Beyond the River?
2. Why were Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite displeased to discover that Nehemiah and his party were seeking the welfare of the people of Israel? To help you answer this question, read 2 Samuel 10:1-11 to learn more about Israel’s past relationship with the Ammonites. Do people in power usually want to decrease their power and influence? Why? What sort of threat would Nehemiah and the welfare of the Israelites be to these men?
3. Why did Nehemiah sneak out at night to inspect Jerusalem, and with only a few men? What was he seeking to learn? What did he learn?
4. Why did Nehemiah withhold his purpose about his investigation from the Jews, priests, nobles, officials, and the rest who were to do the work? Do you think this was a wise plan on his part?
5. What report did Nehemiah give the people when he addressed them in 2:17? What was the plan he announced to them at the end of 2:17?
6. He also gave them some motivation for this plan. What were his motives (2:17-18)? Why did Nehemiah say they had been suffering derision? He also said he had the approval to two significant people. Who were they? What effect would telling the people of that approval have on them?
7. How did Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem respond to hearing of this rebuilding project? Why were they upset? What did they ask Nehemiah at the end of verse 19? They knew he wasn’t doing what they accused him of because of all the officers and soldiers who came with Nehemiah. So why do you think they raised that accusation against him?
8. How did Nehemiah respond to them? He seemed to know their real motivation for being upset with the rebuilding of Jerusalem. What was that motivation?
Have you ever tried to hold onto a position or authority from a less-than-pure motivation? What were your reasons for doing so? Or, perhaps you have been a perceived threat to someone else’s position and/or authority. How did they respond to you? How did you respond to them? Were you able to deal with them in a godly manner? Dealing with interpersonal conflicts is an important skill to acquire for many different relationships we have in our lives. What are three principles you can learn from Nehemiah’s experience with these three men? Talk with one other person about what you learned from this lesson.
Grace and Truth,
Last week I sent out the first lesson on our study of Nehemiah. There were a lot of questions and it must have felt like drinking water out of a fire hydrant. One wise brother recommended that I assign the questions according to the day of the week, to help us move through them a little easier. That was a good recommendation and that's what I have done for today's lesson. And, just as a reminder, after you have had a chance to reflect on these questions alone, why not talk about these questions, and your thoughts, with others.
Have a great week.
Your brother in Christ,
Lesson 2: Nehemiah 2:1-8
Questions for Reflection
Wednesday: Read Nehemiah 2:1-8. Four months has passed since Nehemiah 1:1. Based on what you learned last week (1:4) and from this week’s reading (2:7-8), what had Nehemiah been doing in preparation for his request(s) of the king? A cupbearer to the king was a high office and gave the office holder regular access to the king. From the verses in this lesson, what kind of relationship do you think Nehemiah had with the king? What are some reasons for your answer?
Thursday: Nehemiah claimed he had never been sad in the king’s presence before. Now he finds himself in unfamiliar territory. Why had his countenance changed before the king? The king noticed the change. Why do you think Nehemiah became afraid when his sadness had been recognized by the king?
Friday: How does Nehemiah address the king as he begins his response (2:3)? Why did he answer in this way? As he continues he doesn’t name Jerusalem but appeals to his ancestral connections to his homeland. Why do you think Nehemiah made his appeal to the king in such a way?
Saturday: The king realized a request was coming. Nehemiah prayed (to himself, presumably) as he got ready to make his request to the king. Have you ever faced similar circumstances? Perhaps you were talking to someone going through a great trial. Or, maybe, you were about to have a very difficult conversation with someone. Have you ever prayed silently to yourself for the other person or yourself, even while continuing the conversation? Can you give an example of such a time? How did God move in and through you in that situation?
Sunday: What are the things Nehemiah asked for in 2:5-8? What are some words you would use to describe Nehemiah’s requests of the king? What are some of the things you admire about Nehemiah’s response?
Monday: What can you take from this exchange between Nehemiah and the king and apply in your own life? What would that look like, practically? To what or whom does Nehemiah attribute the success of his requests before the king? Why is it important he did so?
Tuesday: Walking Points - Someone once approached a great theological scholar and said to him, “Five hours on your knees is of greater value than five hours in front of your books.” The scholar responded, “Ah, but five hours on my knees before my books is even better.” What do you think the scholar meant? How does that relate to what you have learned from Nehemiah? What area do you tend to emphasize more in your life, prayer or preparation (study)? Why do you think we need both prayer and preparation? What are two or three places in your life where you should either add prayer or preparation? How do you spend time with the King of kings?
Today will begin a new series on the Book of Nehemiah. This will be a little different from previous devotionals in that this is more of a study. My hope is there will still be a devotional quality to this and that these questions will help you dig into the text, provide you with opportunity for reflection, as well as offer you a few "rubber hits the road" application ideas.
Don't try to tackle all these questions in one sitting. Perhaps you can use them throughout the week t...o supplement your devotional time with the Lord. Better yet, share this lesson with some friends and discuss the questions together. I have had the blessing of studying and teaching Nehemiah a number of times and it never disappoints. It has wonderful wisdom and a God-centeredness to it that will enrich your life and walk with the Lord.
Questions for Reflection
1. Read Nehemiah 1:1-11. What was the bad news Hanani and the other Jews brought back to Nehemiah (1:2-3)? What was Nehemiah’s first response to this news (v. 4)? How do you usually respond upon hearing bad news? Is it easier for you now to turn in a “Godward” direction when you hear bad news than it was five or ten years ago? What in your life has made that transition toward God during difficult circumstances more or less difficult?
2. How did Nehemiah address God as he began in prayer (1:5)? Why do you think he addressed God in such a way? How is this similar or different from the way you approach God in prayer?
3. Write an outline of Nehemiah’s prayer based on verses 6-11.
4. Who does Nehemiah pray for? Why? What, in particular, does he start off praying about? Why do think he begins in prayer the way he does? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get straight to the point of what he wants for Jerusalem?
5. What is the value of confessing your sins before God in prayer? What is the “logic” of having a time of confession at the beginning of your set-apart prayer-time with God? Do you find it easy or hard to confess your sins? What makes it hard? What makes it easy? Do you find it harder or easier to confess your sins to another person than to God? Why?
6. Nehemiah repented not only for his own sins but also for the sins of Israel. What groups do you pray for on a regular basis (family, friends, small group, church, community, nation)? What things do you bring to God on behalf of these groups? Very often we pray for the health of others, but what other things can we pray for on behalf of the people represented in these groups? How does Nehemiah’s prayer guide us here?
7. What is Nehemiah asking God to remember in 1:8-10? Why? Nehemiah would know that God is all-knowing and doesn’t need to be reminded. What’s the value in making that request to God (see Exodus 32:13; Deuteronomy 9:27)?
8. Nehemiah has the obedience and disobedience of Israel in mind in his prayer (1:7-9). Knowing God responds to his people by grace, what role does obedience or disobedience play in the lives of God’s people today – individually and corporately? Does the “blessings and curses” motif in the Old Testament still have a place for Christians? What Scripture can you point to in the New Testament to support your answer?
9. How had God revealed his “great power” and “strong hand” in the past to deliver his people (Deuteronomy 4:34 and Exodus 7-15)? Why is it important for Christians to remember and recount those times in which they experienced God’s “great power” and “strong hand” in their personal history, as well as biblical history?
10. Read Nehemiah 2:1-8 and then answer this question: What did Nehemiah have in mind when he asked God to give him “success” and to “grant him mercy in the sight of this man?” (We’ll look more at that conversation in the next lesson.)
Write down 3-5 “big” experiences from your life in which God showed his power and grace. Spend some time right now expressing gratitude to God for bringing these memories to mind and for what he revealed to you about himself in those experiences. What did you learn then from those experiences? Looking back at it now, what can you learn today?
Grace and Truth,