Lesson 91 - Elementary
"Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:16, 17).
A Message from Judah
In the palace of a king over in the land of Persia lived a man whose name was Nehemiah. He served the king and was called the "cupbearer." One day some men from the land of Judah, where Nehemiah's people lived, came to see him. Nehemiah asked them about the City of Jerusalem that he loved, and about the people there. The men told him that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, the gates burned, and the people left there were sad and in trouble.
The news about Jerusalem made Nehemiah very sad and he sat down and wept. He felt so very bad because of what he had heard that he even went without food for a time and prayed to God night and day. He confessed his sins to God, and confessed the sins of his people, the Jews. He told God that he knew the reason the people had been scattered and driven away from Jerusalem was that they had not kept the commandments which God had told them to keep, many years before. He also asked the Lord to remember that He had promised them if they would turn back to Him and again keep the commandments, they should again be brought back home.
In our lesson last Sunday, we learned that the people who were carried away to Babylon were again permitted to return to Jerusalem. The Temple was rebuilt, but the walls of the city were still lying in ruins, although it had been about 100 years since the people returned. The walls were for the purpose of keeping enemies out of the city. Now Nehemiah wanted to go to Jerusalem and build up the walls, so the city would be protected from the people who might come to fight against the people there.
Permission to Go
Nehemiah was so sorrowful about Jerusalem that even his face showed the sadness of his heart. One day the king asked Nehemiah why he was so sad. Nehemiah became afraid, for he knew the king had guessed that something was troubling him, and Nehemiah did not know what the king might say. He said he was sad because the City of Jerusalem, the place of his old home, had been destroyed. Then the king asked him, "For what dost thou make request?" Right away, Nehemiah looked to God in prayer. A Christian may turn his heart to God any moment of the day or night, and God is ready to hear and help him. If Nehemiah had not prayed to God it would have been hard to ask a great man like the King of Persia to let him go away. We must remember that, although Nehemiah loved the Lord, he was a servant to the king " and he must do just as the king told him to do.
There in the palace that day sat the king and queen; Nehemiah was serving them. The king asked, "For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return?" How happy this humble servant must have been! The prayer that he sent up to God had been heard in Heaven, and now the king seemed willing to let him go! Nehemiah told him when he would be back, and also asked the king to give him letters to show to people on the way " we might call them "letters of introduction." He also asked for a letter to the man who had a forest, so that he might get wood with which to build. The king was very kind; he gave him the letters he needed, and also sent captains of the army and some horsemen with Nehemiah to help him and protect him on the way.
Arrival at Jerusalem
After a long journey, Nehemiah and his men came to Jerusalem. The evening of the third day after reaching Jerusalem he went to bed as usual " but he could not sleep. His heart no doubt was sad when he thought about the city with no walls and no gates.
So he arose during the night, took a few men with him, and mounted his horse. Shall we follow this brave young man as he rides around the City of Jerusalem that night? Perhaps the moon is looking down from above upon us as we slowly march through the gate of the valley, down by what is called the dragon well. Have you ever seen a fountain with the figure of a dragon through whose mouth the water falls? Perhaps this was such a fountain. Here we stop to view the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah has not as yet told anyone what God has put into his heart to do; thus far it is a secret between him and his God. Perhaps even now, as he views the heaps of ashes and piles of stones, he is praying to God for help to do the work he has to do.
Nehemiah's heart was sad about those broken walls. Some 470 years later, one day as Jesus was nearing the same City of Jerusalem He wept over it [LUK:19:41]). He was sad too " not because of the broken walls of the city but because of the sins of the people there. He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,... how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" [MAT:23:37]). Jesus had come to be their Saviour, but they would not receive Him. We remember the sad story: instead of loving Jesus and receiving Him, they had Him put to death.
But we must go on our way around the city with Nehemiah. We go to the gate of the fountain and to the king's pool. Here we find so much rubbish that Nehemiah's horse cannot even pass. Here was much work to be done. We go to the brook, perhaps the brook Cedron that Jesus afterwards crossed when He went to a garden to pray. This was the brook Jesus crossed when He went with His disciples to pray that sad night when the wicked men came to take Jesus and crucify Him. Everywhere we see broken walls. Our journey is ended " no one has known what we were doing. As yet no one has learned about Nehemiah's plans to rebuild the walls. He has received his orders from the Lord, and with His help he will carry them out in every way.
Rebuilding the Walls
Nehemiah made plans for beginning the work at once. The people were called together and he said to them, "Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem." He told them what God wanted him to do and that the king had been willing to let him come. The men of the city were all ready to help do what they could. They answered Nehemiah, "Let us rise up and build."
When God tells us to do something, we must rise and do it immediately. God wants those who say that they love Him to prove it by obeying His voice quickly when He speaks. Children prove their love for their parents by quickly and gladly obeying.
Certain ones built the sheep gate. This was probably the gate through which the sheep were brought to the Temple to be sacrificed. Perhaps that is the reason that when it was completed, it was sanctified. The doors, the locks, and the bars to the many gates must be fixed so the city would be safe from enemy attacks. The task was very great, but the people were willing to work, and the work was being done: "Many hands make light work." Some people built the wall in front of their house; even the women helped with the work. What a busy group of people! No doubt they were very happy doing the work God wanted them to do.
The Work Hindered
But the work was not without trouble; two enemies named Sanballat and Tobiah became angry when they heard that the walls were being built. They hated the Jews and their God, and did not want to see Jerusalem become strong as it once was. At first they thought they could stop the work by making fun of the workers. They called them the "feeble Jews," and said that even a fox could break down the walls. But the people kept right on with the work. The enemy sent letters to Nehemiah telling lies about him. They tried to get him to leave the work; they even planned to come against the city and fight the people. But Nehemiah prayed to God and was ready for them, should an army come. This is what he did: he set guards to watch for the enemy, day and night. He gave the people swords, spears, and bows. Half the people worked, and half held the spears. Those who worked on the wall worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. Each of the builders had a sword by his side.
During the time of war the bugler has a very important part of the work to do. He awakens the soldiers in the morning; he calls them to their meals. He tells them when the enemy is coming, and the soldiers take their right places. Nehemiah planned it that way. He told them that when they heard the sound of the trumpet they should gather for battle in the place the trumpet sounded. He told them not to be afraid; he said, "Our God shall fight for us." And God did fight for them. The work was done. We are glad that God's power is always greater than the wicked people's power.
God still has men like Nehemiah who will go right ahead with God's work no matter how many people like Sanballat and Tobiah may try to stop them. We read in God's Word: "If God be for us, who can be against us?
1. What was the condition of Jerusalem at this time? [NEH:1:3].
2. What did Nehemiah plan to do? [NEH:2:5].
3. Tell of his journey around the city of Jerusalem. [NEH:2:12-15].
4. Who hindered the building of the walls? [NEH:4:1-3].
5. Tell how the workers guarded the city. [NEH:4:9-20].