In August of 2016, we preached a sermon series from the Book of Nehemiah entitled “Mission Possible.” It was partially inspired or brought forth as a result of what is now called the Sherman Park Riot, the Sherman Park Rebellion, and/or the Sherman Park Uprising. An area of the city of Milwaukee was ablazed and several establishments were destroyed by fire. The incident arose a result of community unrest over the death of a young Black man at the hands of a Milwaukee police officer. The first sermon was entitled “Clean Up After Chaos” and the second was “Praying Through the Pain; Standing on the Promises.”
We find ourselves at a similar time in the life of the church, the life of the nation and the life of the globe. Hurricanes Harvey, Jose, Irma, Maria have devastated coastal areas and islands. There has been loss of life and Puerto Rico remains without power. And, of course, we know have the tragedy of the mass shooting in Las Vegas with, at last count, 59 dead and over 500 injured. The world is confronted with chaos, pain and broken walls. How can the men and women of God . . . the church of the living God respond in times like these? Let’s explore chapter 1 of Nehemiah’s journey to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and to complete his “mission possible.”
In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (about 444 BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the remnant or his remaining people in Judah were in distress and that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return to his home and rebuild the city. This was an unlikely request to make from a cupbearer to king. But, Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild, letters explaining his support for the venture, and provision for timber from the king’s forest—unlikely resources. Once there, Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days—an unlikely time frame
Clean Up After the Chaos/Praying Through the Pain; Standing on the Promises
Opening (v1-2). Nehemiah was in the citadel of Susa. We know, because we have the bible, that he was cupbearer to king of Persian, Artaxerxes. He lets us know this in verse 11. His life is not perfect but he is in a place of comfort relative to his family. This is important to know because, even when are in times of trouble, our relationship to God can put us in a better and more secure position than others. His brother comes to Nehemiah with a report from Judah.
• Although our lives are not perfect, what are some ways that we, as a church or individually, are in places of comfort relative to others?
• We have a comfort and assurance in Christ. Read Philippians 4:11-13 and discuss what it means to have a contentment or comfort in Christ. Do you experience this contentment? Why or why not?
• So, Nehemiah is in the king’s space and has a measure of comfort but he also has a question or concern. What did Nehemiah ask his brother about in verse 2?
• Do you think (the text doesn’t tell us) that Nehemiah expected to get a negative report?
• Have you ever casually asked somebody what was going on with them and been shocked by what they were experiencing? How was that experience for you?
There is Great Pain/Survivors (v3). Jerusalem is very important to Nehemiah. There is no indication that Nehemiah was expecting a bad report from his brothers. But the report was devastating.
• What was the condition of the walls around Jerusalem? Why is this important?
• Who were the people that were back in the province? What had they experienced?
• What was the condition of the people?
• So, the report to Nehemiah included “broken down walls” and “broken down people” around 500 BC. Discuss and reflect on the following:
o What are examples of broken down walls in society in 2017?
o What are examples of broken down people in society in 2017?
• For personal reflection as you reflect on people and purpose:
• What are some broken down walls in your life that you would like to see restored:_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
• Who are some broken down people in your life that you would like to see restored?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Responding to and Praying through the Pain (v4). Nehemiah’s initial response to the bad report from his brother is captured in verse 4. It also begins to capture the burdens of his heart.
• What did Nehemiah experience after hearing the report from his brother?
• What types of things cause us to experience things in the way that Nehemiah has?
• What did Nehemiah do with is pain in verse 4?
Purpose and Next Lesson. Nehemiah not only experienced tremendous pain and sorrow over the conditions of his people but, purpose began to brew on his insides. This would not just be a moment of intercessory prayer and mourning for him but God planted more there. This is the beginning of his Mission Possible. As we prepare for the next lesson, give some time for personal reflection on purpose. What types of things burden your heart so that you are unable to let go? The types of things where you feel God is calling you to do more (at home, at work, in community, in family, etc.)? Write and reflect on this for you own reflections. We will explore this further in discussion on purpose.
In our following lessons, we will explore Nehemiah’s prayer. The outline is below.
Acknowledge God (v5-6)
Confession of Sin (v6-7)
Standing on the Promise (v8-10)
Make Your Petition Known (v11)