Dave Burnette's Commentary

Nehemiah Chapter 1

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Nehemiah
Date Penned: (445-432 BC)
Overview:  The Return of the 3rd Group of Jewish Exiles (c 1-13)
Theme: The Rebuilding of the Wall (c 1-7)
Message: Nehemiah Returns to Jerusalem (1-11)

Nehemiah 1 Commentary 

(1:1)  Nehemiah Returns - Nehemiah wasn't the first of the exiles to return to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel had led the first group back in 538 BC, more than 90 years earlier (Ezra 1-2). Ezra had followed with a second group in 458 BC (Ezra 7), and here, Nehemiah was ready to lead the third major return to Jerusalem (445 BC. When he arrived after a three-month journey, he saw the completed temple and became acquainted with others who had returned to their homeland. Though the temple had been built and Ezra had brought spiritual reform, Nehemiah found a disorganized group of people and a defenseless city with no walls to protect it. Before the Exile, Israel had its own language, king, army, and identity. At this time it had none of these. What the Jews lacked most was leadership; there was no one to show them where to start and what direction to take as they tried to rebuild their city. As soon as Nehemiah arrived, he began a back-to-the-basics program. He helped care for the people's physical needs by setting up a fair system of government and rebuilding Jerusalem's walls. He also cared for their spiritual needs by rebuilding broken lives. Nehemiah is a model of committed, God-honoring leadership, and his book contains many useful lessons for today.

(1:2-4) Nehemiah Desires To Lead - Nehemiah was concerned about Jerusalem because it was the Jews' holy city. As Judah's capital city, it represented Jewish national identity, and it was blessed with God's special presence in the temple. Jewish history was connected to the city from the time of Abraham's gifts to Melchizedek, king of Salem (Genesis 14:17-20), and centered around it from the days when Solomon built the glorious temple (1 Kings 7:51) and throughout the history of the kings. Nehemiah loved his homeland even though he had lived his whole life in Babylon. He wanted to return to Jerusalem to reunite the Jews and to remove the shame of Jerusalem's broken-down walls. This would bring glory to God and restore the reality and power of God's presence among his people.

(1:4) Nehemiah Weeps - Nehemiah broke down and wept when he heard that Jerusalem's walls still had not been rebuilt. Why did this upset him? Walls mean little in most present-day cities, but in Nehemiah's day they were as essential as we would consider electrical power or a police force. They offered safety from raids and symbolized strength and peace. Nehemiah also mourned for his people, the Jews, who had been stifled by a previous edict that had kept them from rebuilding their walls (Ezra 4:6-23).

(l:4) Nehemiah Prays - Nehemiah was deeply grieved about the condition of Jerusalem, but he didn't just brood about it. After his initial grief, he prayed, pouring his heart out to God (1:5-11), and he looked for ways to improve the situation.

Nehemiah put all his resources of knowledge, experience, and organization into determining what should be done. When tragic news comes to you, first pray. Then seek ways to move beyond grief to specific action that helps those who need it.

(1:5) Nehemiah Fasts - Nehemiah fasted and prayed for several days, expressing his sorrow for Israel's sin and his desire that Jerusalem would again come alive with the worship of the one true God. Nehemiah demonstrated the elements of effective prayer: (1) praise, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, (4) specific requests, and (5) commitment.

Heartfelt prayers like Nehemiah's can help clarify (1) any problem you may be facing, (2) God's great power to help you, and (3) the job you have to do. By the end of his prayer time, Nehemiah knew what action

he had to take (1:11). When God's people pray, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective, and appropriate actions follow.

(1:5) God's Covenant - God's "covenant" refers to God's promise to love and remain faithful to the descendants of Abraham as his chosen people. It is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 7:7-9.

(1:11) The Cupbearer - Nehemiah was in a unique position to speak to the king. He was the trusted cupbearer, who ensured the safety and quality of the king's food and drink. Nehemiah was concerned, prayerful, and prepared as he looked for the right opportunity to tell the king about the problems facing God's people. All of us are unique and capable of serving, no matter what our positions are. Just as Nehemiah used his place as the king's trusted servant to intercede for his people, we can use our present positions to serve God. No one is too insignificant to serve God.

(1:11) A Prayer to Succeed - Nehemiah prayed for success in this venture, not just for the strength to cope with his problems (see also 2:20). Yet the success he prayed for was not for personal advantage, position, or acclaim. He requested success for God's work. When God's purposes are at work, don't hesitate to ask for success.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Back to Basics

 Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we start in the book of Nehemiah 1 and we see Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem seven years after Ezra to see the Temple rebuilt but the people disorganized and defenseless as they lacked leadership. Nehemiah saw the need and took charge with a "back to the basics" program organizing the people. In making application we see the need to get "back to the basics" in our Christian life. As Christians we are the Temple and we need to organize our lives against the wiles of the enemy. Reading our Bibles, Praying, Worship, and Fellowship with the Holy Spirt will provide the foundation for a successful Christian life. This prepares us for the battle while focusing and depending on the Lord for His protection, direction, and guidance for a successful and fruitful life. How about you? Are you struggling in your Christian life? Let us learn from our text today and the life of Nehemiah to be reminded to get "back to the basics" for a successful Christian life.


Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah 1

 1The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

 2That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

 3And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

 4And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

 5And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

 6Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

 7We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

 8Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

 9But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

 10Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

 11O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.