Today we begin a new series of messages from the Book of Nehemiah. I’m guessing that most of you wouldn’t list Nehemiah in your top five favorite books of the Bible, and in fact, there could be some of you who couldn’t even tell me who Nehemiah was. So before we take a look at the Scriptures for today, I want to give you just a brief history and background of Nehemiah.
After the time of Solomon, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. The northern part with 10 of the 12 tribes kept the name Israel. The southern part with 2 of the 12 tribes was known as Judah. Jerusalem, the capital and the location of the Solomon’s temple, was part of the kingdom of Judah.
All of the kings of Israel were evil. Because of their continued sinfulness, God allowed the Assyrians to invade and defeated Israel. The people were deported and scattered over the face of the earth – never to return.
Judah had some good kings, but the majority were evil. Because of their continued sinfulness, God allowed the Babylonians to attack and defeat Judah. They destroyed Jerusalem, including the temple, and deported many of the people to Babylon. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among those who were deported.
Seventy years later, the king of Persia (who had since conquered the Babylonians), allowed several groups of Jews to return to Judah to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
The story of Nehemiah picks up about 95 years after the Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem. The temple has been rebuilt, but the rest of Jerusalem is not in good shape.
So things are not well for those who have returned to Jerusalem. The walls have been destroyed and the gates have been burned. And Nehemiah weeps.
When I first read through this passage, I had a hard time understanding why Nehemiah was so worked up about the broken walls of a city nearly 1,000 miles away. I don’t think Nehemiah had ever been to Jerusalem before – so why does he spend days mourning over it’s broken walls?