These are my notes on the book of Nehemiah from The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference. There were 7 total sessions, covering all 13 chapters.
Session 3 Notes: Chapters 5 & 6 – Paige Brown (VIDEO: Nehemiah 5-6 Paige Brown: http://vimeo.com/99776947)
Chapter 6 – As word spread about the rebuilding of the wall, there was opposition. There was criticism over their building technique, there was questioning about the intentions of the Jews, and insults were being slung. Nehemiah turns to the Lord for justice. Then the opposition decided to get more physical, plotting to come against the city in an attack. Nehemiah turned to God for protection, and fortified the city with guards. Then their came complaining from within the walls about the amount of work, and the threats… amongst the grumbling and threats of the opposition. Nehemiah relied on God, reassured his people. They kept on working on the wall, trusting God & protecting each other.
Chapter 7 – The poor speak up to Nehemiah about their conditions. They are large families without enough food to eat, they are mortgaging off their properties for grain or selling themselves into slavery to their own people. Nehemiah was angry and he went to the nobles and officials and chastised them for taking advantage of their own people, and ordered them to return everything & ordered them not to do it again. The priests were brought in, so that the nobles and officials could swear and oath and understand the recourse if they broke that oath. Nehemiah also lived out the expectations he had of others, by never taking or burdening the people. He provided for himself, and the Jews provided for each other. Never did he take from those who were poor or burden them to meet his needs.
From Paige Brown:
We have a need in the community, the Jewish leaders were loan sharking their own people into further poverty. Paige references a line from the song “Amazing Grace” … Grace taught my heart to fear. Fear of God needs to be our foundation, Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We can know the right answers but in the wrong place/time if the fear of God is not our foundation. (this made me think of the notion of head knowledge verses heart knowledge – gena) Nehemiah, first and foremost has a fear of God, which gives him wisdom. “Fear of God should be a perpetual posture, not an occasional stance” (Paige Brown). Nehemiah also lives in the fear of the Lord, delightfully. He doesn’t do it because it is a requirement or begrudgingly. He lives that way because he wants to, he loves God.
This “fear” of the Lord is rooted in Genesis, when the relationship between man & God was broken, in the garden. Adam and Eve were genuinely afraid of God, because they went against his instruction. But this fear grows in a fear of relationship restoration. Meaning, at first the fear was akin to a servents fear… like you would have of a prison guard or a slave master. But then it grows into a familial fear, like you would have of your respected father. A fear of displeasing the one who loves you and is in authority. Isaiah 33 calls it a treasured fear.
Nehemiah knows that part of loving the Lord is loving his people. It is why Nehemiah prays for his people, intercedes on behalf of the poor. Nehemiah left everything to come an serve God’s people. He was concerned not just for the sake and welfare of the poor, but also for the heart condition of the nobles and officials who were taking advantage of them. It wasn’t just about justice for the poor, but restoring the heart of the leaders toward their people. Fear of God will determine how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Nehemiah was a person who not only recognized that action needed to be taken, but he took it. CS Lewis commented that he more he felt inclined to act without actually acting on it, the harder it will be to act. (sort of like the longer it takes to apologize to someone or return something stolen or admit to a sin… the harder it is to actually do it -gena)
Nehemiah’s priorities were God’s priorities. He knew the people’s unity was more important than the building project. He paused that progress in order to restore unity. Otherwise they were merely “building external walls of protection around internal corruption” (Paige Brown).
Nehemiah didn’t fear God because he was a great man. He feared God because He is a great GOD! “Fear of God is not contemplation, but motivation.” (Paige Brown)
Additionally, we see that Nehemiah was humble. He didn’t advertise his actions to the people, there was no gloating… no boasting, no seeking accolades or recognition. He simply prayed that God would remember it. He couldn’t care less if men remembered him & his deeds. He only cared that God did. He didn’t use the things of the Lord to self promote. In fact, even our need to advertise our relationship with God can be an act of self promotion, if we are doing it to glorify ourselves and our ability.
In regards to his enemies, Nehemiah never took action against them or sought justice on his own. He prayed that God would handle it, and he trusted that God would.
Nehemiah’s greatest fear was not death, but offending God. “Fear of sinning is our only rational fear” (Paige Brown). Fear of the Lord helps us to overcome our earthly “fears”.
Twas grace that taught me how to fear, and grace my fears relieved…
Session 4 Notes: Chapters 7 & 8 – Nancy Guthrie (VIDEO: Nehemiah 7-8 Nancy Guthrie: http://vimeo.com/99775551)
Chapter 7 – The wall is completed, the doors are put in place. Nehemiah starts making appointments for gatekeepers, citadel commanders, and guards. The houses and internal structures still needed to be built/repaired, and there were not many inhabitants. Nehemiah assembles the people that are there to do a registration of the families that had been exiled and returned. The people began to settle into their own towns.
Chapter 8 – 7 months later, the people assembled and asked Ezra to read from the Book of the Law of Moses. So Ezra and the Levites did so, from sun up to sun down, they read and gave instruction so the meaning would be clear. The people were mourning and weeping over their own inadequacy and failures. They were instructed not to but to celebrate because this was a sacred day. On the second day, the people returned and upon hearing the instructions for the feast of booths, the people were inspired to follow the law & do so. For seven days they celebrated this feast & reading from the Book of Law, with joy because they were in accordance with God’s direction/plan. On the 8th day an assembly was called.
From Nancy Guthrie:
The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Paige Brown shared that the fear of the Lord is our foundation. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Nehemiah’s concern is the Lord’s joy… and the Lord has directed Nehemiah to rebuild the city. It is the knowledge that this will bring joy to God that gives Nehemiah the strength to do the task. To rebuild the city physically, the walls and buildings. But also to repair the nation, bringing the people back into the city & retuning to their God & His commands.
He rescued us from the slavery of sin. He delivered us from our desert of wandering to safety & security. The joy of the Lord will strengthen us to live in obedience to His word, to move forward to do the tasks He requires, to take His provisions given to us and share them with the world.
One of the important things we see in scripture are these detailed lists of names, from genealogical records to those were present at certain events or times. This is illustrates to us that God’s people are not nameless faces, He knows them and lists them in His Word. They are important to Him. We are important to Him, and His joy should be important to us. The joy of the Lord is that our names will be listed in the Book of Life… in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21). And one day, we too will listen to the list of the names in His book and find joy too… as our names are read aloud.
*Unfortunately, I had to leave the room for part of Nancy’s presentation. So, my notes are limited. The Gospel Coalition is working on the media from the conference & you will be able to watch Nancy’s presentation for yourself. I’ll post a link as soon as it is available.
Previous Related Posts:
The Gospel Coalition, Women’s Conference. NEHEMIAH VIDEOS
Nehemiah 1-2 Kathy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99765572
Nehemiah 3-4 Timothy Keller: http://vimeo.com/99790975
Nehemiah 5-6 Paige Brown: http://vimeo.com/99776947
Nehemiah 7-8 Nancy Guthrie: http://vimeo.com/99775551