Journey Through The Scriptures


Lesson 1: From Susa to Jerusalem

(Scripture to Read: Nehemiah 1:12:20)

Nehemiah’s importance is suggested by the Jewish writer Ben Sira, who named Nehemiah as one of the people to whom the Jews owed their restoration as a nation. Nehemiah’s work in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a significant point in Israel’s return to their homeland after the long exile in Babylon. This remarkable story began in Susa, the winter capital of the Persian king Artaxerxes, whom Nehemiah served as cupbearer—a trusted servant who tested the king’s wine before serving it. This is the only background the Bible gives us on Nehemiah, other than the names of his father and a brother. But Nehemiah clearly was a faithful, fervent worshiper of God, even though he had almost certainly been born in captivity and had never seen Jerusalem.

Nehemiah’s heart for his people and land is obvious from the tears he shed and the fasting he undertook to beseech God for help when he learned of Jerusalem’s condition. Nehemiah knew divine intervention was needed because Artaxerxes had issued the order years earlier to halt the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:21). Persuading an all-powerful king in the ancient world to change his mind was, humanly speaking, almost impossible. But Nehemiah had spent four months praying and planning his response when the opportunity came—so when Artaxerxes asked what was troubling him, Nehemiah was ready. And because “the gracious hand of my God” 2:8) was upon Nehemiah, the king not only listened but granted Nehemiah’s request for permission and supplies to go to Jerusalem. In the holy city, Nehemiah surveyed the ruined walls and encountered enemies—two challenges for which he was more than adequate!

Study Questions

  1. Why was the news of Jerusalem’s sad condition so disturbing to Nehemiah?
  2. Why did Nehemiah mourn and fast for so long?
  3. Why was it risky for Nehemiah to ask for royal permission and supplies to go to Jerusalem?
  4. What was the significance of the walls in Jerusalem?

Something to Think About

Nehemiah displayed real courage in his zeal for God. This leader knew what he wanted to do for God’s glory, and the Lord provided even more than he asked. Let this be an encouragement to you to follow your God-given dreams. Pursue them courageously, and see what God can do!