“The Beginning of a Burden”

Nehemiah 1:1-4

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.

“Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
“A man cries out in anguish
A man cries out alone
He says what’s happened to my city
What’s happened to my home.”
from “They Tore the Old Place Down” by the Call

Part of our growth toward wisdom and understanding is the sad discovery upon returning to a place of our childhood – that we can never truly go back home. Our past memories of the stream we used to catch tadpoles in, the magical closet at grandma’s, or trees in the back yard we once climbed are now smaller, lackluster, or simply gone. We experience a sense of loss when we realize that we’ve stepped into a new life and stepping back to the former never takes us to the same place. 

Nehemiah experienced this grief and so much more. Jerusalem wasn’t just the old homestead. It was the land given to the Israelites through a promise from God. It was the center of their worship and identity as a people. And it was their hope in the face of slavery in a foreign land. Nehemiah wept because his culture and his faith were in collapse. 

Nehemiah is part of a bigger story of the restoration of Jerusalem, dealing with the temple, the law, and the wall around the city. Take a few minutes to grasp the scope of what was happening during this time in the land of promise and the people that attempted to bring it back to better days.  

Watch the overview of Ezra-Nehemiah explained so beautifully by the Bible Project. 

Using the HEAR method (see below) as you spend time in today’s passage. 
Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you? 
Explain – what does the passage mean? 
Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today? 
Respond – how is God leading you to respond?

Jon Price, Associate Pastor 


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