Sabbath Bible Lessons

The Light of the World (III)
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Lesson 12 Sabbath, September 20, 2014

Nehemiah, a Decided Reformer

“Remember me, O my God, for good” (Nehemiah 13:31).

“Through [Nehemiah] . . . God purposed to bring blessing to His people in the land of their fathers.”—Conflict and Courage, p. 262.

Suggested Reading:   Prophets and Kings, pp. 628–660.

Sunday September 14

1. GOD HELPS NEHEMIAH

a. Who was Nehemiah? What news did he receive from Jerusalem that led him to mourn, fast, and pray? Nehemiah 1:2–5.

“Nehemiah had often poured out his soul in behalf of his people. But now as he prayed a holy purpose formed in his mind. He resolved that if he could obtain the consent of the king, and the necessary aid in procuring implements and material, he would himself undertake the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring Israel’s national strength. And he asked the Lord to grant him favor in the sight of the king, that this plan might be carried out.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 629, 630.

b. How long had Nehemiah waited for an opportunity to talk to the king about his need? Relate their conversation. Nehemiah 2:2, 3.

c. How did Nehemiah’s prayer bring the power of the Almighty to his aid? How did he pray? Nehemiah 2:4–6.


Monday September 15

2. IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR US

a. What lesson should we learn from Nehemiah’s prayer? Nehemiah 2:4 (last part).

“To pray as Nehemiah prayed in his hour of need is a resource at the command of the Christian under circumstances when other forms of prayer may be impossible. Toilers in the busy walks of life, crowded and almost overwhelmed with perplexity, can send up a petition to God for divine guidance. Travelers by sea and land, when threatened with some great danger, can thus commit themselves to Heaven’s protection. In times of sudden difficulty or peril the heart may send up its cry for help to One who has pledged Himself to come to the aid of His faithful, believing ones whenever they call upon Him. In every circumstance, under every condition, the soul weighed down with grief and care, or fiercely assailed by temptation, may find assurance, support, and succor in the unfailing love and power of a covenant-keeping God.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 631, 632.

b. Explain Nehemiah’s care to obtain a clear definition of his authority and of the privileges granted him? Nehemiah 2:7–9.

“This example of [Nehemiah’s] wise forethought and resolute action should be a lesson to all Christians. God’s children are not only to pray in faith, but to work with diligent and provident care. They encounter many difficulties and often hinder the working of Providence in their behalf, because they regard prudence and painstaking effort as having little to do with religion. Nehemiah did not regard his duty done when he had wept and prayed before the Lord. He united his petitions with holy endeavor, putting forth earnest, prayerful efforts for the success of the enterprise in which he was engaged. Careful consideration and well-matured plans are as essential to the carrying forward of sacred enterprises today as in the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. . . .

“And the Lord is still willing to move upon the hearts of those in possession of His goods, in behalf of the cause of truth. Those who labor for Him are to avail themselves of the help that He prompts men to give.”—Ibid., pp. 633, 634.


Tuesday September 16

3. LEARNING TO WORK FOR GOD

a. What was Nehemiah’s first work in Jerusalem, and how did he gain the cooperation of the local people? Nehemiah 2:11–16.

“In secrecy and silence Nehemiah completed his circuit of the walls. [Nehemiah 2:16 quoted.] The remainder of the night he spent in prayer; for he knew that the morning would call for earnest effort to arouse and unite his dispirited and divided countrymen.

“Nehemiah bore a royal commission requiring the inhabitants to cooperate with him in rebuilding the walls of the city, but he did not depend upon the exercise of authority. He sought rather to gain the confidence and sympathy of the people, knowing that a union of hearts as well as of hands was essential in the great work before him.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 636, 637.

b. What appeal did Nehemiah make to the people, and what was their response? Nehemiah 2:17, 18.

“When on the morrow he called the people together he presented such arguments as were calculated to arouse their dormant energies and unite their scattered numbers.

“Nehemiah’s hearers did not know, neither did he tell them, of his midnight circuit of the night before. But the fact that he had made this circuit contributed greatly to his success; for he was able to speak of the condition of the city with an accuracy and a minuteness that astonished his hearers. The impression made upon him as he had looked upon the weakness and degradation of Jerusalem gave earnestness and power to his words. . . .

“Having shown that he was sustained by the combined authority of the God of Israel and the Persian king, Nehemiah asked the people directly whether they would take advantage of this opportunity and arise and build the wall.

“The appeal went straight to their hearts. The thought of how Heaven’s favor had been manifested toward them put their fears to shame. . . .

“Nehemiah’s whole soul was in the enterprise he had undertaken. His hope, his energy, his enthusiasm, his determination, were contagious, inspiring others with the same high courage and lofty purpose.”—Ibid., pp. 637, 638.


Wednesday September 17

4. OPPOSITION FROM THE ENEMIES

a. What method will some use to hide their anger or fear? When the enemies of Israel heard that the Jews had again started to build, how did they laugh at them? Nehemiah 4:1–4.

b. When the enemies of Israel saw that their fears were coming true, what plan did they adopt? Nehemiah 4:11. How did Satan try to discourage the builders through the Jews that refused to collaborate in the work? Nehemiah 4:12.

“Discouragement came from still another source. ‘The Jews which dwelt by,’ those who were taking no part in the work, gathered up the statements and reports of their enemies and used these to weaken courage and create disaffection.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 643.

c. What happened when the Jews were informed the plan of their enemies? Instead of being intimidated, under what conditions did they continue the work? Nehemiah 4:15–18.

“The opposition and discouragement that the builders in Nehemiah’s day met from open enemies and pretended friends is typical of the experience that those today will have who work for God. Christians are tried, not only by the anger, contempt, and cruelty of enemies, but by the indolence, inconsistency, lukewarmness, and treachery of avowed friends and helpers. Derision and reproach are hurled at them. And the same enemy that leads to contempt, at a favorable opportunity uses more cruel and violent measures.

“Satan takes advantage of every unconsecrated element for the accomplishment of his purposes. Among those who profess to be the supporters of God’s cause there are those who unite with His enemies and thus lay His cause open to the attacks of His bitterest foes. . . . But, like Nehemiah, God's people are neither to fear nor to despise their enemies. Putting their trust in God, they are to go steadily forward, doing His work with unselfishness, and committing to His providence the cause for which they stand.”—Ibid., pp. 644, 645.


Thursday September 18

5. DETECTING SATAN’S PLANS

a. What happened when the enemies of Israel realized the Jews had almost completed the wall? How did the enemies change their tactics? Nehemiah 6:1–3.

“Pretending to desire a compromise of the opposing parties, [Sanballat and his confederates] sought a conference with Nehemiah, and invited him to meet them in a village on the plain of Ono. But enlightened by the Holy Spirit as to their real purpose, he refused.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 653.

b. What new stratagem did Sanballat and his confederates use? What did Nehemiah answer them? Nehemiah 6:5–8. What mistake was Nehemiah careful to avoid?

“He who by any unguarded act exposes the cause of God to reproach, or weakens the hands of his fellow workers, brings upon his own character a stain not easily removed, and places a serious obstacle in the way of his future usefulness.”—Ibid., p. 659.

c. Describe the outpouring of emotion upon the completion of the wall and the gates. Nehemiah 8:16, 17. How did the enemies of the people of God feel? Nehemiah 6:15, 16.


Friday September 19

PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS

1. What did Nehemiah do before answering King Artaxerxes?

2. How did Nehemiah exercise care in all the arrangements?

3. What did the reformer do first in Jerusalem—and why?

4. How can we gain advantage over the tactics of Satan today—just as the builders of the wall did in their time?

5. What was Nehemiah able to detect about the enemies?

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