1. Are you proud of a certain accomplishemt in your life?
2. How does it feel to set a goal and reach it?
3. What did you learn as you were striving to reach your goal?
4. What were some challenges you faced?
5. Would you do it again?
"...and the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away."
Sometimes we want God to fix up the exterior of our lives. We want Him to bring security and blessings. These are all good things. And, obviously God did that for the Jews. However, He is ultimately interested in establishing a relationship with us. The foundation for a good life is a right relationship with God.
How did the people rejoice?
- (8:12) They had a feast.
- (9:5) They blessed and praised the Lord.
- (12:27) They celebrated with gladness and thanksgiving.
- (12:43) They offered sacrifices.
- (9:4-38) The leaders of the Levites led the people in prayer and recounted God's faithfulness and Israel's unfaithfulness throughout history.
The people signed a covenant
The document records six promises the people made to God. (10:29-39). What were those promises?
It's a good feeling to accomplish something great..
When I first met Darrell MacLearn he was training and preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. It seemed to me this adventure had become a major part of Darrell's life. He talked about it whenever he had a chance. He always wanted to take the stairs instead of the elevator--even when his room was on the sixteenth floor. In order for him to succeed he had to be mentally and physically prepared.
Eventually, the time came for Darrell and his group to make their assent. The picture on the left tells the rest of story. It is obvious that Darrell was proud of his accomplishment. Reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro was an achievement of a lifetime. Fortunately, many were able to learn about his journey through Facebook.
What a incredible experience this must have been! There is something special about setting a goal and finally seeing it come true. It renews our confidence, sets us up for future success, and brings joy to our lives. I think it makes God happy too.
I'm sure it felt much the same when the walls of Jerusalem were finally complete. Despite their many obstacles, Nehemiah and the people successfully rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. They had restored the city. Now there was hope for a new day. They should have been proud of their accomplishment.
But repairing the wall was just the beginning. They had done the impossible. With God's help they accomplished the miraculous. However, God was interested in more than restoring a fortress. He wanted the people to renew their covenant.
God wanted to do more than rebuild a wall.
The book of Nehemiah is rich with examples of leadership, vision, teamwork, divine guidance, justice, faith, and a plethera of other worthy subjects. However, the story of Nehemiah is really about the people renewing their covenant with God. Let's dig deeper and see what was involved in this process.
The people renewed their covenant with God
- They remembered God's law. The people were dedicated to hearing and understanding God's covenant. At first Ezra stood on a wooden platform in front of the Water Gate and read the Book of the Law (8:1-6) while some of the Levites helped the people understand what was being read. (8:7) The next day they reassembled and set up camp where they listened to the reading of the law for seven days straight. (8:17-18) "...and the people answered, "Amen! Amen!", lifting up their hands. And they worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (8:6)
- They Repented. The people wept and mourned as they listened to the law. (8:9-12) They dressed in sackcloth and put dust on their heads as they confessed their sins to God. (9:1-3)
- They Rejoiced. At first the people wept as they listened to the law, but Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites told them to rejoice. They instructed the people to celebrate and feast together. (8:9-12)
- They renewed their covenant. A special document was written and signed by Nehemiah, the priests, the Levites, the political leaders, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Temple servants, and other leaders of the people. (10:1-39)
- They resettled. Chapters 11 and 12 record how the people began to migrate back to the areas where their ancestors lived. They were safe now. The land was restored and there was hope.
- They reformed. Nehemiah made sure that law and order was established so that the people would act justly toward one another. (Nehemiah 13:1-30)
It wasn't until the people sat down and actually reviewed God's covenant that they realized what they had been missing. When they understood that God had a wonderful plan for their lives, they were brought to tears. They had missed out on God's very best. They quickly repented and renewed their committment to Him. It was then that they were able to truly rejoice.
1. Where are you in your relationship with God? Are you following His plan so that you can experience His favor?
2. Read the following verses. What does God want to say to you through these verses?