Rebuilding In Troubled Times
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” — Nehemiah 1:1-3
As I mentioned yesterday, Nehemiah's story picks up right after Ezra's at around 444 BC. After Ezra brought a group of people back to Jerusalem, Nehemiah followed with another group. So, the three stories of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah are very connected.
This all happened under King Artaxerxes's reign in the Persian Empire, including Judah (where Jerusalem is located). Nehemiah's story takes place between 444 and 432 BC. In Nehemiah's story, King Artaxerxes is presented favorably, but he was a tough man and leader. He killed his brother, who was the rightful heir to the throne of Persia. Also, just before Nehemiah's story, he had squashed several significant uprisings in Persia. God appointed Nehemiah for a special task under a powerful, non-believing king. Still, we discover Artaxerxes trusted him and appointed him governor of Judah because it needed special leadership and fortification during this time.
The story takes place in two metropolitan cities: Susa and Jerusalem. Susa was the winter headquarters for the Persian empire, sitting about 150 miles from the Persian Gulf. Nehemiah started there as a high-ranking aide to the king. But when he was appointed to the governorship of Judah, he moved to Jerusalem. That's where most of his story takes place, from Nehemiah 2:11 to 13:31.
Judah was a relatively small area, less than 900 square miles at the time. So, it was easily managed from just one central city, Jerusalem. Surrounding anti-semitic powers didn't like the idea of Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem's walls. They knew that if the walls were up, the Jews could fortify the city and become powerful again. But without the walls, the Jews would be vulnerable.
Three local leaders, Sanballat from Samaria, Tobiah from Ammon, and Geshem from Arabia, were all unhappy about this. They governed the land surrounding Judah - Samaria to the north, Ammon to the east, and Arabia to the south. They didn't want Jerusalem to regain its strength and become a dominant city again.
Fast forward to today. The regions of Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and Iran are often at the center of complex geopolitical tensions. Like the time of Nehemiah, these areas are still marked by historical grievances, religious significance, and strategic importance. The modern-day struggles echo the past and a continued quest for identity, security, and survival amidst external pressures and conflicts.
In the story of Nehemiah, we witness a single man and a spiritual leader willing to press into these issues. A man who persevered in his God-ordained mission despite internal challenges and external threats. These are the men we desire to be that few ever are because they fail to press into the internal and external tensions. His sold-out faith in God and his practical skill, ability, and leadership enabled one of the most extraordinary expedited building projects of all time — the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls. In many ways, Nehemiah's spiritual and practical leadership inspires us as men.
But this narrative has a practical and personal application for men. It is a reminder for believing men who face their own "rebuilding projects" and "spiritual opposition" — be it personal challenges, relational pressures, or spiritual battles. The book of Nehemiah teaches us about the importance of endurance in faith, resilience in leadership, and the timeless struggle for identity in a turbulent life and combative world.
So, fellas, you are going to love this book.
Nehemiah faced significant opposition from Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Reflect on a time when you encountered opposition or criticism in your life, whether in your personal, professional, or spiritual journey. How did you respond to this challenge, and what role did your faith play in guiding your actions and decisions? Discuss how Nehemiah's response to his adversaries can inspire us to handle similar situations with faith and wisdom.
Nehemiah demonstrated remarkable leadership qualities and a deep trust in God during a period of turmoil and rebuilding. Consider your own experiences in leadership, whether in your family, workplace, church, or community. What challenges have you faced as a leader, and how have you sought to integrate your faith into your leadership style? Share insights on how Nehemiah’s blend of spiritual conviction and practical leadership can inform and inspire your approach to leading others, especially in difficult circumstances.
DO THIS: Pray for your resilience today as a spiritual leader.
PRAY THIS: Father, grant me the courage and wisdom of Nehemiah to face the challenges in my path with steadfast faith and unwavering leadership. Help me rebuild and fortify my life in Your grace, mirroring Nehemiah's dedication to Your purpose and resilience against adversity. Amen.
PLAY THIS: Build My Life.
SIGN UP — THE DAILY DEVO
short + biblical + practical
Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.