Nehemiah is a man caught between two worlds. In the vast and affluent Persian empire, he has status and influence. As an Israelite, his people are scattered and fragmented—much like the ruins of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. However, Nehemiah’s heart is captivated by the vision of a better future. As he moves in faith, his passion ignites a nation to come together with zeal for the empire of God.
WEEK 1: A Troubled Heart
February 28 Nehemiah 1:1-11
WEEK 2: Answered Prayer
March 7 Nehemiah 2:1-10
WEEK 3: Rebels or Rebuilders?
March 14 Nehemiah 2:11-20
Mark 9:24 • Luke 12:27-32 • Psalm 107:28-30
Psalm 16:7-8 & 11• Deuteronomy 31:6 • Romans 8:31-34
I Will Look Up | Elevation Worship | Apple Music | Spotify
Psalm 57:7-11 • Isaiah 26:1-8 • 2 Samuel 22:26-31
John 15:13 • Romans 5:1-11 • Ephesians 5:2 • Galatians 5:13
Hebrews 4:12 • Philippians 3:8-11 • Titus 3:3-8
Psalm 91:1 • Isaiah 54:17
Psalm 73:26 • Psalm 27:1 • 2 Samuel 7:22
Mark 4:39 • Revelation 19:6-8
Isaiah 6 • Revelation 4:8 • Philippians 2:1-11
What a Savior | Hillsong Worship | Apple Music | Spotify
John 9:35-39 • Psalm 71:14 • Psalm 149:4
I Surrender | All Sons & Daughters | Apple Music | Spotify
Romans 12:1 • Luke 22:41-43 • Matthew 6:19-21
God You Are My God | Vertical Worship | Apple Music | Spotify
Zechariah 14:9 • Isaiah 2:2 • 1 Peter 1:18-20
Christ Be Magnified | Cody Carnes | Apple Music | Spotify
Psalm 34:1-3 • Romans 6:3-5 • Revelation 5:11-13
Yes I Will | Vertical Worship | Apple Music | Spotify
Psalm 130:5-8 • Philippians 2:9-11 • Isaiah 28:30
Man of Sorrows | Hillsong Worship | Apple Music | Spotify
Isaiah 53 • 1 Timothy 2:5-6 • Hebrews 5:5-9
Glory to You | Emmanuel Live | Apple Music | Spotify
Philippians 1:9-11 • 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 • Psalm 115:1-3
Only a Holy God | CityAlight | Apple Music | Spotify
Isaiah 6 • Revelation 4:8 • Philippians 2:1-11
This We Know | Vertical Worship | Apple Music | Spotify
Isaiah 55:8-9 • Hebrews 10:23 • Colossians 2:15 • 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 • 1 Peter 1:3-7
These daily readings will help prepare you for the upcoming teaching you will hear this weekend at Grace Church. These passages will create some context for the sermon by showing you Scriptures the author might be quoting and some passages that contain related ideas. Our hope is that as you follow this reading plan, it will help you become more defined and directed by Scripture.
Although as believers, we are exiles in this world, many of us have been thoroughly assimilated into our American culture. Where are you heavily invested in the social, political, and economic power structures of our country?
Nehemiah’s heart was captured by a vision of Jerusalem restored and glorifying God. What would it look like for the light of the gospel to overwhelm our culture here in the Upstate? How can you pray towards the vision? What action steps can you take to make it a reality?
Nehemiah moves because he knows God’s Word and God’s heart for his people. How well do you know God’s Word? Does it play a role in your daily decisions and interactions with people? How do you need to grow in your understanding of the Scriptures?
Just because something isn’t your fault doesn’t mean you don’t have responsibility. Where do you see brokenness in your immediate circle of influence? How can you own the cause of restoration in that situation?
Nehemiah’s family has been living in exile for generations. This creates tension and ambiguity for Nehemiah—he is living and prospering in the powerful Empire of Persia, yet his core identity is that of Jew.
When he receives word that the people of Israel are not faring well in Judah, Nehemiah’s heart is troubled. He recognizes his responsibility in the situation. In the same way, we are responsible for the burdens of fellow believers.
As he cries out to God in prayer, Nehemiah speaks with boldness and humility. He repents of his sin and affirms God’s faithfulness.
We often view the church as a place to go and get something to make our lives better. However, the church is about our interconnectedness as believers. We take on one another’s burdens because Jesus took on our burdens.
Even though Nehemiah has been living in comfort, his new awareness moves him to take a step that is risky and disruptive to his life. We should also value the glory of God over the comforts of our daily lives.
Nehemiah’s story is a prelude to the great story of the Bible. Jesus also leaves a glorious palace to identify with a lowly and obscure people.
We find that Nehemiah has been waiting and praying for three to four months before his audience with the king. This time of prayer changes him. Evaluate your personal prayer life. What steps can you take to grow closer to God through prayer?
Our personal ministry has two sources of input—divine and human. If we overemphasize the divine side, we can be tempted to remain passive. If we lean too heavily on the human side, we may do too much or take action on the wrong issues. Which way do you lean? Why?
Take some time to look over the Outreach Serving Tools. After working through your individuality, concerns, and opportunities, where do you think God is calling you to further his mission here on earth? What will your next step be and to whom can you be accountable?
Nehemiah has been prayerfully waiting for months after hearing of the plight of his people in Jerusalem. He knows that he cannot control his situation, but he does put himself in a position to take advantage of the opportunities God brings him.
Just as Nehemiah focuses his energy on building up God’s people, so must we be constantly working to move God’s mission forward.
Artaxerxes is a powerful king; however, God is truly in control. Nehemiah is oriented to God’s empire, which gives him boldness when he asks the king for help.
Nehemiah both trusts God and takes action. This is how we elevate God’s spiritual empire while living in this earthly empire.
Our identity in God’s empire should affect how we think and what we do in this earthly empire.
When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he is careful to gather firsthand information. How does this principle apply to us as both Christians and leaders? Have you ever acted on secondhand information (as a leader, in a relationship, etc.)? What was the result?
As God’s people, we are “living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5). We should be easily identifiable as people who are close to God. Who is someone in your life that fits this description? Why is that so? What needs to change in your life to make you more identifiable as belonging to God?
Those following Nehemiah obey God even when they don’t know the extent of what will be involved. When was a time you obeyed God without having all the information, and what was the fruit? When was a time you failed to obey God, and what was the fruit?
The Scriptures are clear that those who follow Jesus will face conflict. Have you ever been accused of doing something bad when you were attempting to do something good? How did that affect you? How can you prepare for such conflict?
Trusting God is integral to the Christian faith. Jesus trusted the Father at the end of his earthly life because he had trusted him all along the way. What are some areas where you struggle to trust God with difficult things (work, parenting, finances, etc.)? How can you move towards giving those areas to him to build a life that is a culmination of trusting him?
When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he takes time to gather firsthand information about the situation. He is patient to wait, learn, and discern the nuances of the circumstance before he casts vision for the work ahead.
Jerusalem’s wall is significant not because of what it excludes, but because of how it functions to identify God’s place among his people.
In our current time and culture, believers function as the wall and temple of God. As God’s people, we are the gateway for others to find God since he lives within us. We should therefore live in such a way that we are easily identified as God’s people.
Nehemiah is able to connect the dots between the truths in the Scripture and what is happening in the world around him. Likewise, we should be alert and aware of what God is doing around us and how it connects to his Word.
The Israelites in Jerusalem are willing to obey God and follow Nehemiah, and their work will expose their flaws. We must also be willing to serve and give our lives away—for only when we get exposed will we actually grow in faith and maturity.
Jesus’ trust at the end of his earthly life was a result of an entire lifetime of trusting God. We cannot think that we can walk through life not trusting God with difficult things and then be able to trust him in that final moment.
We need to get to work quickly and close. Are you currently serving at church and in the community? If not, where can you start? If you are already serving, pray and consider if God is calling you to engage in any additional ways.
Part of following Jesus is humble submission to ordained leadership. When have you struggled to come under authority? How so? Have you submitted to authority that you didn’t agree with? How did that affect you?
Discuss the idea that “there is always a list.” Does this principle comfort you or cause you concern? How should this concept affect our everyday lives?
In Nehemiah, God’s people had to start small. They were doing obscure work that seemed insignificant to the rest of the world. What would it look like for you to “start small” in your Christian walk? Is there an area of sin that you need to confess? Or has God burdened your heart about brokenness in the world? How can you take a small step towards helping one person?
In Nehemiah’s context, the work he is doing to rebuild the wall is utterly unimpressive. However, obedience to God is rarely impressive to the world on its terms. It takes faith to see the significance of what God is doing.
Rather than trying to impress the world, we should be driven to be part of something that only God can do. Just as Jesus came to earth in an obscure way, so must we be willing to work and live in obscurity and obedience.
We are all called to serve God by serving others. Like the people of Jerusalem, we must be willing to pick up a rock and get to work quickly even when the task seems small.
God also calls us to submit to his ordained leadership and come under their authority. This may not always be easy, but it is a necessary element of following Jesus.
The Scriptures are full of lists. God and his angels are always watching us and taking note. This idea should both humble and comfort us.
In this passage, those who did the work of rebuilding also reaped repentance in their hearts. As a result, they saw revival in their midst, and God’s glory was revealed. Likewise, we must move towards God and his work as an act of repentance—this is how we manifest his glory to the world.
We are all tempted to trust in the “walls” we build in our lives to protect us or give us identity. What “walls” are you trusting in (retirement, marriage, children, work, education, ministry)? How can you move towards trusting God in those areas?
Can you think of a time in your life when you invested a lot of effort into building a “wall” for yourself, but then became disillusioned when it didn’t give you the security, status, or comfort that you desired? How did that affect you?
What is something in your life that you are trusting God for—where you are putting work in, but you cannot control the outcome? How can you both trust God and take action in that situation?
Discuss the idea that God is orchestrating the world around you to gain your attention and draw you into relationship with him. How does this affect the way you view both the difficulties and the victories in your life?
Nehemiah and his followers are being opposed by both external and internal forces. They will have to trust God in a way that they have not previously had to.
When mocked by his enemies, Nehemiah prays and places the burden on God. Rather than engaging them himself, he humbly acknowledges that the battle belongs to God.
As they continue to work in the face of opposition and even death, the Israelites are exposed. In the same way, God continually brings difficulties into our lives in order to humble and teach us. This is part of the Christian journey.
Having to trust God with an outcome we cannot control is an important shaping experience for believers. Like Nehemiah, we must both trust God and take action according to his will.
The world is a challenging and difficult place. We have to work hard and fight hard in the areas where God has given us responsibility. But, we also have to maintain a deep sense that everything we build belongs to God.
In this passage in Nehemiah, the wealthy are exploiting the impoverished. Are you aware of any exploitation in your immediate sphere of influence (business, organization, etc.)? How can you be part of the solution?
Discuss the idea that it’s possible to have “too much” as a believer. How can you be generous and release your resources for the good of others in such a way that you are forced to depend on God for contentment, security, and comfort?
Jesus is the greatest example of advocating for the marginalized. How have you seen the power of advocacy play out in your life or in the lives of those around you? What step can you take towards being a better advocate for someone in need?
Although the wall has progressed, there is conflict among the people of Jerusalem. It comes to Nehemiah’s attention that the wealthy are exploiting the impoverished, and he takes swift action.
When Nehemiah tells the nobles and officials that their use of interest against their fellow Jews is the opposite of what God is doing, they respond in obedience. What they were doing was culturally acceptable, but it did not honor God.
In Leviticus, God is clear that his plan is to protect and uplift the poor as well as check the power of the wealthy. We must also follow this concept of caring for our fellow believers.
Generosity is essential in the Christian life. We must trust God enough to deplete ourselves for the good of others. Then, we will look to God for comfort, status, and significance.
We are responsible to address division, bias, or prejudice within the church. It is our nature to create division among ourselves, but God calls us to strive for compassion and unity.
While our first priority is caring for the body of Christ, we should also use our resources to uplift the oppressed in the world. We will not “fix” the brokenness around us, but we can build inroads for the gospel.
As we give towards and advocate for those in need, we look to Jesus—the great advocate who completely depleted himself for our redemption.