September 25, Nehemiah 1-5

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The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah:

During the month of Chislev in the twentieth year, when I was in the fortress city of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, arrived with men from Judah, and I questioned them about Jerusalem and the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile. They said to me, “The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned.”

When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of the heavens. I said,

Lord, the God of the heavens, the great and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant with those who love him and keep his commands, let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned. We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses. Please remember what you commanded your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. But if you return to me and carefully observe my commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell.” 10 They are your servants and your people. You redeemed them by your great power and strong hand. 11 Please, Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to that of your servants who delight to revere your name. Give your servant success today, and grant him compassion in the presence of this man.

At the time, I was the king’s cupbearer.

During the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was set before him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had never been sad in his presence, so the king said to me, “Why do you look so sad, when you aren’t sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was overwhelmed with fear and replied to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should I not be sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Then the king asked me, “What is your request?”

So I prayed to the God of the heavens and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.”

The king, with the queen seated beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you return?” So I gave him a definite time, and it pleased the king to send me.

I also said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let me have letters written to the governors of the region west of the Euphrates River, so that they will grant me safe passage until I reach Judah. And let me have a letter written to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so that he will give me timber to rebuild the gates of the temple’s fortress, the city wall, and the home where I will live.” The king granted my requests, for the gracious hand of my God was on me.

I went to the governors of the region west of the Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent officers of the infantry and cavalry with me. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard that someone had come to pursue the prosperity of the Israelites, they were greatly displeased.

11 After I arrived in Jerusalem and had been there three days, 12 I got up at night and took a few men with me. I didn’t tell anyone what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I took was the one I was riding. 13 I went out at night through the Valley Gate toward the Serpent’s Well and the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 I went on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but farther down it became too narrow for my animal to go through. 15 So I went up at night by way of the valley and inspected the wall. Then heading back, I entered through the Valley Gate and returned. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, for I had not yet told the Jews, priests, nobles, officials, or the rest of those who would be doing the work. 17 So I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned. Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, so that we will no longer be a disgrace.” 18 I told them how the gracious hand of my God had been on me, and what the king had said to me.

They said, “Let’s start rebuilding,” and their hands were strengthened to do this good work.

19 When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about this, they mocked and despised us, and said, “What is this you’re doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 I gave them this reply, “The God of the heavens is the one who will grant us success. We, his servants, will start building, but you have no share, right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”

The high priest Eliashib and his fellow priests began rebuilding the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and installed its doors. After building the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel, they dedicated it. The men of Jericho built next to Eliashib, and next to them Zaccur son of Imri built.

The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They built it with beams and installed its doors, bolts, and bars. Next to them Meremoth son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz, made repairs. Beside them Meshullam son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel, made repairs. Next to them Zadok son of Baana made repairs. Beside them the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not lift a finger to help their supervisors.

Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate. They built it with beams and installed its doors, bolts, and bars. Next to them the repairs were done by Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, and the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, who were under the authority of the governor of the region west of the Euphrates River. After him Uzziel son of Harhaiah, the goldsmith, made repairs, and next to him Hananiah son of the perfumer made repairs. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.

Next to them Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 After them Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs across from his house. Next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs. 11 Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab made repairs to another section, as well as to the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Beside him Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs—he and his daughters.

13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and installed its doors, bolts, and bars, and repaired five hundred yards of the wall to the Dung Gate. 14 Malchijah son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and installed its doors, bolts, and bars.

15 Shallun son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and roofed it. Then he installed its doors, bolts, and bars. He also made repairs to the wall of the Pool of Shelah near the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that descend from the city of David.

16 After him Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Warriors. 17 Next to him the Levites made repairs under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. 18 After him their fellow Levites made repairs under Binnui son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, made repairs to another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the Angle.

20 After him Baruch son of Zabbai diligently repaired another section, from the Angle to the door of the house of the high priest Eliashib. 21 Beside him Meremoth son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz, made repairs to another section, from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of his house. 22 And next to him the priests from the surrounding area made repairs.

23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. Beside them Azariah son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 After him Binnui son of Henadad made repairs to another section, from the house of Azariah to the Angle and the corner. 25 Palal son of Uzai made repairs opposite the Angle and tower that juts out from the king’s upper palace, by the courtyard of the guard. Beside him Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel made repairs opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the tower that juts out. 27 Next to him the Tekoites made repairs to another section from a point opposite the great tower that juts out, as far as the wall of Ophel.

28 Each of the priests made repairs above the Horse Gate, each opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. And beside him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, guard of the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph made repairs to another section.

After them Meshullam son of Berechiah made repairs opposite his room. 31 Next to him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs to the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the upstairs room on the corner. 32 The goldsmiths and merchants made repairs between the upstairs room on the corner and the Sheep Gate.

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious. He mocked the Jews before his colleagues and the powerful men of Samaria and said, “What are these pathetic Jews doing? Can they restore it by themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they ever finish it? Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble?” Then Tobiah the Ammonite, who was beside him, said, “Indeed, even if a fox climbed up what they are building, he would break down their stone wall!”

Listen, our God, for we are despised. Make their insults return on their own heads and let them be taken as plunder to a land of captivity. Do not cover their guilt or let their sin be erased from your sight, because they have angered the builders.

So we rebuilt the wall until the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had the will to keep working.

When Sanballat, Tobiah, and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the repair to the walls of Jerusalem was progressing and that the gaps were being closed, they became furious. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw it into confusion. So we prayed to our God and stationed a guard because of them day and night.

10 In Judah, it was said:

The strength of the laborer fails,
since there is so much rubble.
We will never be able
to rebuild the wall.

11 And our enemies said, “They won’t realize it until we’re among them and can kill them and stop the work.” 12 When the Jews who lived nearby arrived, they said to us time and again, “Everywhere you turn, they attack us.” 13 So I stationed people behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. I stationed them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. 14 After I made an inspection, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we knew their scheme and that God had frustrated it, every one of us returned to his own work on the wall. 16 From that day on, half of my men did the work while the other half held spears, shields, bows, and armor. The officers supported all the people of Judah, 17 who were rebuilding the wall. The laborers who carried the loads worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. 18 Each of the builders had his sword strapped around his waist while he was building, and the one who sounded the ram’s horn was beside me. 19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “The work is enormous and spread out, and we are separated far from one another along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the ram’s horn, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us!” 21 So we continued the work, while half of the men were holding spears from daybreak until the stars came out. 22 At that time, I also said to the people, “Let everyone and his servant spend the night inside Jerusalem, so that they can stand guard by night and work by day.” 23 And I, my brothers, my servants, and the men of the guard with me never took off our clothes. Each carried his weapon, even when washing.

There was a widespread outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish countrymen. Some were saying, “We, our sons, and our daughters are numerous. Let us get grain so that we can eat and live.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. We and our children are just like our countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”

I became extremely angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After seriously considering the matter, I accused the nobles and officials, saying to them, “Each of you is charging his countrymen interest.” So I called a large assembly against them and said, “We have done our best to buy back our Jewish countrymen who were sold to foreigners, but now you sell your own countrymen, and we have to buy them back.” They remained silent and could not say a word. Then I said, “What you are doing isn’t right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies? 10 Even I, as well as my brothers and my servants, have been lending them money and grain. Please, let’s stop charging this interest. 11 Return their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses to them immediately, along with the percentage of the money, grain, new wine, and fresh oil that you have been assessing them.”

12 They responded, “We will return these things and require nothing more from them. We will do as you say.”

So I summoned the priests and made everyone take an oath to do this. 13 I also shook the folds of my robe and said, “May God likewise shake from his house and property everyone who doesn’t keep this promise. May he be shaken out and have nothing!”

The whole assembly said, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. Then the people did as they had promised.

14 Furthermore, from the day King Artaxerxes appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah—from the twentieth year until his thirty-second year, twelve years—I and my associates never ate from the food allotted to the governor. 15 The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking from them food and wine as well as a pound of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but because of the fear of God, I didn’t do this. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of this wall, and all my subordinates were gathered there for the work. We didn’t buy any land.

17 There were 150 Jews and officials, as well as guests from the surrounding nations at my table. 18 Each day, one ox, six choice sheep, and some fowl were prepared for me. An abundance of all kinds of wine was provided every ten days. But I didn’t demand the food allotted to the governor, because the burden on the people was so heavy.

19 Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people.

Nehemiah mourned when he heard the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed. He mourned because things weren’t right in Jerusalem. We will see throughout his story God gave him a vision to rebuild the wall. It would not be without obstacles, but God would give him the strength to get the job done. Today, what do you mourn over? In a day where we are outraged about everything, the Christian should mourn over the state of our nation and our world. We should mourn over the state of our churches and pulpits. We should mourn instead of being outraged and that mourning should lead us to cry out to God to give us a vision of how we can be involved in the solution.

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