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6

Nehemiah’s Journal

Key References: Nehemiah 1; 2; Prophets and Kings, chap. 52, pp. 628-634; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 6, pp. 104-110; Our Beliefs nos. 21, 11, 17

Power Text

“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24).

Power Point

Wherever we are, we serve when we share what we know about God.

Living with people you don’t know very well is not easy. Asking for favors from people you don’t know very well is even harder. Our story this week demonstrates how God gives us the power to serve Him and witness for Him no matter how difficult it may be. If Nehemiah would have written a journal about his experiences, his story might have read something like this:

26th day, Kislev, Year 20, Susa, Persia

Hanani came from Judah today. He and his friends said the walls of Jerusalem are broken down and the gates are burned. A lot of the former residents have returned. They are suffering too. They have no protection with the walls down. How could this have happened? I haven’t been able to eat since they told me.

29th day, Kislev, Year 20
I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can only cry and pray about Jerusalem. I try not to look distressed while at work.

30th day, Kislev, Year 20
Today I confessed to God the sins of Israel, including my sins and those of my family. We have acted very wickedly toward Him. We have disobeyed His laws. I asked God to forgive us. I claimed His words. He has promised that if His people return to Him and obey Him, He will bring them back to their homeland. I prayed that God would give me the courage—and the chance—to talk to King Artaxerxes today. I trusted that God would inspire the king to allow me to go back and build up Jerusalem.

Nisan, Year 20
Did I have an answer to prayer! While I was serving lunch, the king mentioned how sad I’ve been looking. How could he tell anything was wrong? I’ve been trying to hide it, but the fasting and crying has caught up with me. I can’t blame him for asking what’s wrong. I was afraid for my life, but I told him about Jerusalem anyway. I’ve been waiting four months for this chance! He asked me directly, “What do you want?” I said a quick prayer silently before I answered. I told him I wanted to go back to my homeland to rebuild the walls of my city.

He asked me questions such as how long it would take and when I would be back. (I’m glad I had thought about these things ahead of time!) As I told him, a thought dawned on me. Maybe he could help me even more. I took a deep breath and asked for letters of introduction for the governors of the provinces on the way, and timber for the walls, the gates, and the house in which I will live. He gave me everything I asked for! He even sent with me a military escort. GOD IS GOOD!

25th day, Tammuz, Year 20,Jerusalem, Judah
I met Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. They don’t know why I’m here, but they know it has to be something important because of the king’s military escort. I can tell by the way they talk that they are going to be trouble.

29th day, Tammuz, Year 20 morning
I decided not to tell anyone except a few of the men I brought with me about my plans for last night. We got up at midnight to inspect the city. It’s even worse than I thought. I went out through the Valley Gate and rode toward the Dragon Well and the Trash Gate. These are all broken down. Fire has destroyed the gates. Then I rode toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. There wasn’t even enough room for me to get through on my horse, so I went through the valley and inspected the wall. So many gaps! I almost get sick when I think about how our beautiful city has been neglected. This is going to take a lot of work, but God will be with us. After we came back, I spent the rest of the night praying.

Later Everybody—people, priests, nobles, officials—wants to help! I told them what God has done so far and how King Artaxerxes helped me. When I finished they said, “Let us start rebuilding!” And they did. They put on their work clothes, and got their tools, and we got started TODAY!

Of course Sanballat, Tobiah, and their new partner in crime, Geshem the Arab, heard about what we’re trying to do. They tried to accuse me of treason (they know nothing about my close relationship with the king). I tried to ignore them. No way are they going to stop me! God will give us success.