- Opposition to having helpers. If you were launching a new enterprise at your church and building a good-sized structure to contain it, wouldn’t you be delighted if a crew of experienced builders stopped by and volunteered to help? Why did the post-exilic Israelites back off when the local opposition offered to help rebuild the temple? Does our church or any part of it ever become too closely aligned with people who do not share our Biblical perspectives? Be careful how you answer this question!
- Prophets encourage. The locals had opposed the building project. Why? What was the result of their opposition? And now the former followers of Jehovah are “adversaries.” Did they deserve that label? Our lesson points to an alarming similarity between a major stumbling block by God’s people earlier in their history and the current compromise with paganism. Why were beliefs and practices of pagan people so attractive to God’s people? What did hard times and affliction have to do with their stumbling into pagan thinking?
- Work stops. Imagine being a curious 11-year-old post-exilic Isrealite youngster when all at once work on the re-building of the temple that you had been observing for some time suddenly stops.”Grandpa! The workers have stopped building God’s temple. They all stopped working. Just like that!” Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes all received letters full of accusations against God’s people that seemed to justify the stopping of their work on the temple. What was the fundamental reason why the workers stopped the building project? Share with the class if you can your experience when you felt that God had stopped a project you wanted to do.
- Nehemiah Takes Action. Imagine heeding God’s comment and going back to work on the temple. How were God’s people organized to deal with possible opposition? What two groups were organized to help the work continue without interruption? In modern-day wars, are these procedures ever followed? What gave the Jews courage to carry on with the work to be done this time? How is your courage during these end times?
- Doing a “great work” anyway! Threats against Nehemiah’s life didn’t seem to faze him. What was suspicious about messages by Sanballat and Gesham trying to persuade Nehemiah to attend a meeting in enemy territory? The main reason Nehemiah refused to go, he said, was “I am doing a great work.” Why was his work “great”? Even greater than being the king’s cupbearer? What are some ways the lesson of Nehemiah in following God’s will should be an encouragement for us today?