Introduction: Are you facing a challenge? Is there something in your
life that needs to be changed or fixed? Our study today recounts
Nehemiah receiving bad news, turning to God for help, and then
intelligently working with God every step of the way to fix the
problem. Let’s jump into our study of the Bible and learn practical
lessons for every day living!

  1. Bad News

    1. Read Nehemiah 1:1. What information does this give us? (We
      learn who is the writer, and the precise time and place of
      the writing. It appears that it is November-December of
      444 B.C.)

    2. Read Nehemiah 1:2. Who brings news to Nehemiah? (His
      brother and others who had come from Judah.)

      1. Would you trust this report? (These are eye-witnesses
        and Nehemiah is very precise in setting the time and
        place of his recording. This has the marks of a

    3. Read Nehemiah 1:3. Who are the remnant who survived the
      exile? (Recall last week that the exile was for 70 years.
      These are Jews who had been in exile and who have returned
      to Jerusalem.)

      1. What is the news? (The defenses of Jerusalem are in
        ruins. The people are in “great trouble” and are

      2. Why is that? (Because they cannot defend the temple –
        which has been rebuilt. Their city is still in
        ruins. Something need to be changed!)

  2. Reacting to Bad News

    1. Read Nehemiah 1:4. How do you react to bad news? What is
      your first reaction? How do you compare to Nehemiah?

    2. Read Nehemiah 1:5. How does Nehemiah structure his prayer?
      (He starts out with praise.)

      1. Compare Luke 11:1-2. How should we start our prayers?

      2. Look again at Nehemiah 1:5. What else does Nehemiah
        mention in the beginning of his prayer? (God keeps
        His promises to those who love and obey Him.)

    3. Read Nehemiah 1:6-9. Nehemiah sounds like he is a contract
      lawyer. What are the terms of this contract? Who has
      breached it?

      1. How would you react to such a prayer if you were God?

    4. Read Nehemiah 1:10-11. What does Nehemiah suggest to God
      about the future of this agreement?

      1. What is the very last part of this verse telling us?
        (That Nehemiah was in frequent contact with King
        Artaxerxes. He was not a servant, he was a “person of
        rank and importance” according to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary. Many commentaries point out
        that the cup bearer was highly trusted for he not
        only kept the king from being poisoned, he would hear
        private matters being discussed.)

  3. Courage

    1. Read Nehemiah 2:1-2. What does this tell us about King
      Artexerxes? (He is not so self-centered that he pays no
      attention to those around him. His reaction shows that he
      is sympathetic – at least to Nehemiah.)

      1. What does Nehemiah fear?

      2. Read Revelation 21:8. Of this terrible list of sins,
        why is being “cowardly” first? Why is it even on the
        list of sins?

    2. Read Nehemiah 2:3. What two things do you find in this
      reply that represent something we can learn when we are
      fearful? (First, Nehemiah, like the king, does not just
      focus on himself. The first thing he says is something
      positive to the king, even though he has been asked to
      report about himself. Second, Nehemiah shows courage, even
      though he has fear. He steps forward into what he believes
      God has opened up for him.)

    3. Read Nehemiah 2:4. How is Nehemiah controlling his fear?
      (Prayer. Look again at Revelation 21:8. Just after the
      “cowardly” is listed “the unbelieving.” We become cowards
      when we fail to trust in God. Nehemiah turns immediately
      to God in prayer for wisdom as to how he should answer the

    4. Read Nehemiah 2:5. How long is Nehemiah’s prayer? (This is
      obviously a very quick mental prayer. We should acquire
      the habit of sending up prayers to God when we need help.)

      1. How does this relate to Nehemiah’s earlier prayer?
        (Recall Nehemiah 1:4-10 where he goes into great
        detail with God about the needs of Jerusalem. Read
        Nehemiah 1:11. Nehemiah specifically prayed for this
        moment, this opportunity. Now that his prayer has
        been answer, Nehemiah sends up a quick prayer. I
        suspect part of it was “Thank you God! Please give me

      2. Why would Nehemiah volunteer to lead this? What
        skills does a cupbearer possess for such a project?
        (This is additional proof that Nehemiah was not
        merely a server. He was a person of rank.)

    5. Read Nehemiah 2:6. What point is being made by noting the
      presence of the queen? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary
      notes that it was uncommon for a queen to appear at a
      formal banquet. That suggests that God has arranged this
      so that Nehemiah has a more private conversation with the

      1. Did you notice that Nehemiah has not mentioned the
        specific city involved? Why is that? (Recall that
        King Artaxerxes had previously ordered a stop to the
        rebuilding work in Jerusalem. Nehemiah doesn’t want
        the king’s first response to be “Didn’t I enter an
        order to stop the work there?”)

      2. What does the king’s question about how long this
        will take tell us? (That he values Nehemiah and wants
        to know how long he will be away.)

    6. Read Nehemiah 2:7-8. Who does Nehemiah give credit for his
      success? (God! Nehemiah involves God at every step.)

  4. Intelligence

    1. Nehemiah 2:9-10 tells us that the local officials were
      “very much disturbed” that someone had come to help the
      Israelites. Read Nehemiah 2:11-15. What is Nehemiah doing
      that we should apply to our own problem solving approach?
      (He keeps his plans to himself until he fully understands
      the problem. We should avoid making promises or suggesting
      solutions until we have a complete understanding of the

      1. What would you predict would happen if Nehemiah had
        immediately told the hostile locals that he was there
        to rebuild the city?

      2. What does keeping his plans secret for the time being
        allow him to do? (He is allowed to freely determine
        the full nature of the problem.)

    2. Read Nehemiah 2:16-17. What is the disgrace? (Their city
      is ruined.)

    3. Read Nehemiah 2:18. Is this how you would have revealed
      your plans to God’s people? (He first describes God’s
      blessings, and then adds that the king supports them.)

      1. How do the people reply? (They are on board!)

    4. Read Nehemiah 2:19. Why would the local leaders ask if
      this is a rebellion? (They don’t believe Nehemiah. This
      confirms the problem that would have arisen if Nehemiah
      had immediately told them his plan.)

    5. Read Nehemiah 2:20. Is this the proper answer to a
      question about whether Nehemiah is rebelling against the
      king? (Nehemiah ultimately depends on God!)

    6. Friend, when you face serious problems will you follow
      Nehemiah’s example? He asks for God’s help. When
      opportunity arises, he steps forward in faith even though
      he has fear. Every step he takes is bathed in prayer.
      Nehemiah also uses his intelligence. He is careful about
      how he presents the problem to the king and how he
      presents the solution to the locals. Why not ask God,
      right now, for the faith and wisdom to follow Nehemiah’s

  5. Next week: God’s Call.