FEBRUARY 8, 2015
NEHEMIAH, PART 1
BUILDING WALLS, RESTORING LIVES
This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Plant your index finger on any continent you wish on a map of the world and you will discover a theme, a common thread that connects all that have life - brokenness. There is no Utopia, no perfect paradise, no state or condition that exists that has perfection as its logo. Now travel back in time, and with the exception of the perfect zoo in Genesis 1 and 2, you find that brokenness is very much rooted in our history!
Take a moment and talk about how you would define “brokenness” and where you see it most in your travels these days. Think of the categories of city, nation and world.
Now think more personally. Have you ever prayed a prayer that sounds something like, “Oh God, fix…..”
Describe your feelings that are associated with your thoughts of brokenness as seen in the world or in your own life.
What is your response to the brokenness around you or in you?
What is a picture that best represents the brokenness that most heavily burdens your heart these days?
TEXT: NEHEMIAH 1:1-11
Today we are starting a new series in the book of Nehemiah. For the next two weeks we are going to look at two names of God that surface in Nehemiah’s prayer in v.5-11. We need to know that, yes, our world is broken, but YES, God has a heart for restoration.
As we get started, read the chapter and answer the following questions:
- How would you define the brokenness that was being described?
- What emotions are in this text?
- What is the response of Nehemiah beyond just emotion?
- What is the picture?
- What do you remember from what I said on Sunday about historical context?
As we think of this issue of restoration, we need to understand (like Nehemiah) that God has a heart for restoration. In this prayer of Nehemiah, the first name we see that tells us God wants to restore is found in v.5.
GOD IS A COVENANT KEEPER!
Note the sandwich - in verse 5, Nehemiah declares that God is great and awesome. The walls are a mess, the people are weeping, but God is great. What is an example of that greatness? GOD IS A COVENANT KEEPER! So on top of this sandwich you have the character of God - great and awesome, in the middle you have the fact that he keeps his covenant or promise and on the bottom you have another reference to his character- it is a covenant of love. In Hebrew this is the word “hesed” - unfailing love.
Then note that as in all covenants there are two sides, note v.5b - but then read v6-9 - and note the contrast of the hesed posture of God and the sinful posture of the people.
They are in a mess because of what they did to themselves AND because of what others have done to them. They had parents that messed up and thus the exile, and now they the kids are paying the price and no doubt have sin issues themselves. FYI their captivity lasted around 70 years.
Note Nehemiah knows he is not talking to a wall. He knows that God is a covenant keeper and that he will listen and that if the people respond God will gather his people. God has a heart for restoration.
Let me give you three takeaways that you can discuss and pray into as you think about this issue of restoration.
1. COVENANT REMINDS US OF WHOSE WE ARE.
When someone entered into a covenant, say with a king, there would be the preamble or introduction, in which the great king is introduced with all his titles and attributes. In the book of covenant – Exodus - we see this pattern. The first 19 chapters establish who God is - He is a Savior and deliverer and then the requirements of the covenant are given - read Ex 20:1, 2 and then note how it moves into the commands.
We see this same pattern in the New Covenant. For example in Romans the first eleven chapters focus on the wonderful salvation God has provided in Jesus - deliverance. Note Paul’s response in Romans 11:33-36. Then in Romans 12:1 Paul’s says “Therefore…..” In light of who God is, our great King, we are to offer up our lives in complete surrender.
Note how the covenant reminds us of Whose we are. How important is it to remember Whose we are in this process of restoration? Covenant gets our eyes of our “walls” and onto our God. I like what John Newton said, “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” When we understand Whose we are, the possibilities for restoration, healing and hope arise within!
2. COVENANT REMINDS US OF WHO WE ARE.
Go back to v.5 - This is a covenant of ……. Love - We are the objects of that love! In other words, this great and awesome God loves this at-times-not-so-great-and-awesome person.
When we are walking in brokenness, what or who is shaping our identity?
Is it possible that our broken walls have defined who we are? It is possible that are “broken walls” have shaped what we think about God, ourselves and others?
Think about the following:
Our brokenness can become our ID card.
How does this happen?
What are examples of this?
Note how this great and awesome God of the Old Testament sounds a lot like the God of the New Testament - Romans 5:8! I wonder why that is?
Take some time to pray into this issue. For many, it is their brokenness that shapes their ID, not their great and awesome God.
3. COVENANT REMINDS US OF HOW WE ARE TO LIVE
Note in v.7 and 8 the words commands and instructions. They had walked away from the commands and instructions of God. Jeremiah 2:13 provides a great picture of what this looks like. We have deep thirst and God’s truth is what truly sets us free.
If we are going to embark on the journey of restoration then we must embark on the journey of replacing the lies with God’s truth. Whether we have had people mess up our lives or we have done it all ourselves, truth is imperative in the healing journey. That truth begins with Jesus. Remember what Jesus said in the New Testament? ” I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…..”
As a group, brainstorm on various biblical truths that are crucial to the restorative journey then pray into those people and places that you would love to see restored.
This is one of Nehemiah’s nine prayers in this book. He will pray again, he will weep again. No journey involves one prayer or one tear. Let’s travel with Nehemiah as we journey together and rebuild the “walls”!
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