Grow Deep - Heroes Edition Volume 6 week 4
Week 4 - August 12-18
Builders Ezra and Nehemiah
“… So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king,
‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in
your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of
my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.’” Nehemiah 2:5
Our heroes this week undertake a couple of building projects. The first of our heroes, Ezra, is called to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, while the second, Nehemiah, is called to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. These projects are about more than simply rebuilding physical buildings and walls. They are also about rebuilding the people of God and growing them into a holy people through whom the salvation of the world will come.
If you have ever had the opportunity to build, rebuild, or remodel a home, then you know what an enormous task projects like this can be. You also know how intensely emotions can become involved and what impact your investment has on self and family. To take it further, if the rebuilding was necessitated by a natural disaster such as a flood or a tornado tearing through a home, the positive emotion that erupts after the home has been restored can be just as dramatic as the disaster itself. In this, it is not only the building that is restored, but also the family. They again have a house to call home. They again have a safe place to rest and be fed.
So it is with the people of God. When we gather as the body of Christ for worship services, Bible classes or other activities, we gather to rest, to be fed and to be restored. When we gather around Jesus, the living Word, we dwell within the walls of God’s salvation and grace. Our lives can collapse from the onslaught of nature, Satan, emotions and more. Even in the midst of such devastation, however, God’s body of believers is that safe place to call home. With the restoring power of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, through faith, we lift each other up and work together as one people under God’s reign.
Sunday, August 12
Read: Ezra 1:1-8 and 3:1-4:5
Acting on the stirring of God in him, Cyrus, the king of Persia, sends a group of Israelites back to Jerusalem to replace the sacred vessels that were taken from the temple and to rebuild the temple itself. Upon their return, it takes a year just to begin the project; with the opposition they face, it takes them 22 years to complete.
Reflect: In our culture, we are often in a hurry to get to the next thing, especially if the situation is uncomfortable or if we are in conflict. We rush through a tough conversation just to “get it over with.” Sometimes, however, those obstacles force us to slow down and consider why we are in that situation. Maintaining a willingness to live at a slower pace may allow us to pay closer attention to the Lord’s hand in our journey. Think about a time you faced conflict or opposition. How did God use that situation to teach you or to help you lead?
For the Family: When God’s people had completed the foundation of the temple, they shouted and sang their praises to God. When we do something for God, who should receive the praise and glory? Why?
Monday, August 13
Read: Ezra 6:13-7:10
Once the temple was completed, it was dedicated and grand offerings were given. Ezra, a priest and scribe dedicated to studying the law of Moses and to preserving and teaching them, began his work as a leader of God’s people in Jerusalem.
Reflect: In the course of one day, each of us has a variety of jobs or vocations in which we engage. God has placed us in each of those vocations, and none is more “holy” than another. Think about ways you can incorporate the study and teaching of God’s work and Word into each of your daily vocations.
For the Family: Ezra set his heart to study God’s Word. What does it mean to “set your heart” to study God’s Word? What did Ezra do after he had learned God’s Word? How do these verses apply to us today? Can you think of a song about God’s Word? Sing it together with your family.
Tuesday, August 14
Read: Ezra 9
Ezra heard about the unfaithfulness of those who had returned and how they had not only intermarried with those outside of Israel, but had also adopted some of the worship practices of the foreigners. Ezra took this issue to God in a prayer which alternated between a confession on behalf of the people and an acknowledgement of God’s mercy and grace in all He has done.
Reflect: Regardless of the severity of the people’s sin, Ezra is not prevented from praying. Is there some sin that is preventing you from getting on your knees and asking God’s forgiveness? When you ask for forgiveness, remember that God is faithful to His promises and will show mercy on those who repent.
For the Family: Ezra was upset that God’s people had married idol worshippers. He cried out to God and confessed the sin of the people. What does it mean to confess? When we confess our sin, how does God respond to us? Why?
Wednesday, August 15
Read: Nehemiah 1
Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, heard about the condition of the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem. After hearing the news, Nehemiah wept and prayed for God to hear his prayer as he confessed. He also prayed that God would remember the promises He made to His people and that God would grant Nehemiah success before the king.
Reflect: What circumstances prompt you to go to God in prayer: When you hear sad news? When you need to confess? To beseech God to remember His promises? When you need to make major decisions? Our gracious God hears our prayers and wants us to come to Him. Because of Jesus, we can do that at any time and in any place. Spend time in prayer right now. Thank God that He hears and answers prayer.
For the Family: How did Nehemiah begin his prayer (verse 5)? What came next (verses 6,7)? What does this teach us about our prayers? Say a prayer together as a family. Use Nehemiah’s prayer as an example.
Thursday, August 16
Read: Nehemiah 2
God answered Nehemiah’s prayer. The king noticed something was not right with Nehemiah and inquired about it. Because of godly, wise planning, Nehemiah was able to respond honestly and specifically and received the king’s favor. The king then granted Nehemiah time to rebuild the city walls. He also supplied the necessary resources to rebuild. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, inspected the walls and immediately encountered opposition. But God provided the insight and words of wisdom that Nehemiah needed to counter that opposition.
Reflect: Think of a time you encountered opposition. How did you respond? When we encounter conflict and opposition in our vocations, let it be a reminder that we can and should rely on God, both in anticipation of and during a confrontation.
For the Family: Why was Nehemiah sad? What did the king ask after Nehemiah explained his sadness? Nehemiah was afraid to answer the king’s question. What did he do before he answered? What can we learn from Nehemiah?
Friday, August 17
Read: Nehemiah 4 and 6:15-16
In today’s reading, we see and hear the taunts as well as the threats of physical violence from the enemies of Jerusalem and Nehemiah. However, Nehemiah’s wise leadership, strategic planning and constant prayer provided the people with what they needed to overcome the discouragement, continue their work and complete the walls, all in the time span of 52 days.
Reflect: We may face overwhelming odds and massive discouragement throughout our lives, like Nehemiah did. However, when we spend time in prayer and in the counsel of God and His Word, we, like Nehemiah, become better prepared to push through and complete what God has for us to do. What has God helped you overcome in the past 52 days?
For the Family: How did Nehemiah respond when his enemies said unkind things about God’s work and threatened him? When the wall
was complete, what did the enemies know about God? Do you know
anyone who opposes God’s work? How should you respond to that person?
Saturday, August 18
Read: Nehemiah 8
The temple of God and the wall around Jerusalem were completed. The physical building projects were finished, but the building up of God’s people continued as Ezra and Nehemiah came together to encourage them with God’s Word and guide them in worship and honor of their Deliverer, their God. Both Ezra and Nehemiah knew that the complete restoration and salvation of Israel and the world would come through their people. Though they lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born, they worked diligently and purposefully with the sure hope of salvation.
Reflect: The diligent and purposeful work of Ezra, Nehemiah and other prophets of God now continues through us. In what ways does our church family point to the mercy, grace and love of Jesus for you?
For the Family: After they read the Law, what did the teachers do? Why was that important? Nehemiah and Ezra told the people that “the joy of the Lord” was their strength. How can the joy that God gives us be our strength today?