Accepting a Challenging Task

Key Verse: “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.”
—Nehemiah 2:18 New International Version

Lesson Scripture:
Nehemiah 1 and 2

WHEN THE BABYLONIANS took the Israelites captive to Babylon, they devastated the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and the city gates. After the seventy years captivity ended, many returned to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple. Nehemiah was of a family taken captive and had a responsible position in the court of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. About eighty years had elapsed since Cyrus had permitted the people of Israel to return to their land and to rebuild the Temple.

Some of Nehemiah’s relatives returned from Judah to Persia and he asked of their welfare and the welfare of those who were left behind in the Babylonian captivity. The news was not good. Marauding bands of other nations found those living in Jerusalem an easy prey for spoiling and stealing their goods. The city’s walls were broken down and its gates destroyed by fire, leaving no defense against enemies. (Neh. 1:1-4) This news saddened Nehemiah greatly, and he could not control his feelings as he served the king as cupbearer the next day. His sad countenance prompted King Artaxerxes to ask Nehemiah what made him so sad.—Neh. 2:2

Nehemiah told the king the news he had heard about the deplorable condition of Jerusalem, the home of his forebears. The king asked, “For what dost thou make request?” (Neh. 2:1-4) Before Nehemiah answered the king he “prayed to the God of heaven.” He then asked the king for permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls and gates. The king asked him how long all this would take, and he gave him an estimate. The king not only gave Nehemiah permission to go, but wrote letters to the governors of the land Trans-Euphrates to give Nehemiah safe conduct, and also to the keeper of the forest to permit him to get timber for the gates. The king also sent a military escort with Nehemiah to insure him a safe journey. The enemies of Israel were not pleased to hear of Nehemiah’s commission.—vss. 5-11 (NIV)

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he did not tell any of the nobles or priests about his plan. First, he inspected the gates and walls by night and confirmed what had been told him about the ruinous state of the city. Next, he assembled the officials and other important people to tell them of God’s blessing upon him and what the King had said about his plan to rebuild Jerusalem. As in the words of our Key Verse, their response was very positive.

The enemies of Israel came when they saw the work started and derided Nehemiah. He told them plainly that they had no share in this project.—vss. 12-20

Two particular lessons may be derived from this account. One is that none of us should attempt undertaking any project without prayer to God. The second is based on the importance of a city of old times with walls. The Scriptures say, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” (Prov. 25:28) If we do not have self-control we are like a city without walls. It is possible for every passion to take control of the person who lacks self-control.

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |