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Teaching Children the Book of Nehemiah: Part Three


Here is the next installment for teaching this wonderful little book to children.  This is, in fact, my favorite part!

Last time, we learned that Nehemiah was a careful planner and that he began the work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in an orderly way.  But the enemies of the Jews, led by Sanballat and Tobiah, tried to stop them from finishing their work.

First, they tried ridicule.  What does it mean to ridicule someone?  It means to make fun of them.  Did anyone ever make fun of you or something you were trying to do?  It can make you want to quit, can’t it?  Tobiah said that the wall they were building was so weak that if a little fox jumped on it, it would fall right down!  Tobiah might have thought that was a funny joke, but I’ll bet Nehemiah wasn’t laughing.  It hurts when people make fun of us, doesn’t it?  We must be careful never to hurt anyone else’s feelings by saying mean things, even if we think we’re being funny.  You might think it’s a great joke, but the people you hurt won’t be laughing.

Instead of being discouraged and quitting, Nehemiah and the people just worked that much harder to finish the wall.  I can just hear them saying to each other, “We’ll show them!  We’ll show that old Tobiah!”  Before they knew it, the walls were half done!

Now Israel’s enemies knew that ridicule would not stop the Jews.  So they tried making threats.  What does that mean?  Has anyone ever threatened to hurt you?  Have you ever threatened to hurt someone, maybe a younger brother or sister who was bothering you?  Do you think God approves of a person who threatens to harm another person?  I don’t think so!

If someone said to you, “Stop what you’re doing or I’ll kill you,” would you stop?  I think I would!  It would be scary, wouldn’t it?  But instead of being afraid, Nehemiah and the Jews just prayed to God for safety and posted watchmen to keep a lookout for trouble while the others worked.

Then Israel’s enemies formed a wicked plot.  They would sneak up on the Jews when they were busy working on the wall and kill the all!  When Nehemiah heard this, do you think he was afraid?  I’ll bet he was!  But he didn’t let his fear stop him from doing God’s work.  He posted guards with swords and spears and bows and arrows to “watch the backs” of those who were working.  “Our God will fight for us,” he reminded them.  And so the work continued.

Israels’ enemies were quite willing to kill people by sneaking up on them and taking them by surprise, but they did not want to actually fight! So Sanballat and Tobiah tried to stop the work a different way.  They thought that if they could just get rid of Nehemiah, the people would stop working.   They tried to get Nehemiah to meet with them alone, to “talk things over”.  Do you think Nehemiah was silly enough to fall for this?  No!  He knew they could not be trusted.  “I’m too busy to leave the city right now,” he said. “Should I stop working just to meet with you?”

Then Sanballat and Tobiah tried spreading lies about Nehemiah.  They thought that if they could make the people stop trusting Nehemiah, they would stop working.  Maybe they even thought their lies would reach the ears of the King of Persia and then the king would get rid of Nehemiah for them!  So they said that Nehemiah was trying to set himself up as King of Israel and was rebelling against King Artaxerxes.  Nehemiah was too smart to get into an argument with such people.  “Nothing like this is happening, and you know it!  You are just making all this up!” he said, and ignored them.  It’s hard to ignore people who are telling lies about you, isn’t it?  But sometimes that is the best way to handle people who like that.

Then Sanballat hired a false prophet to go try to frighten Nehemiah into hiding in the temple.  “Men are coming to kill you!” the false prophet said to Nehemiah.  “God says to run away and hide in the temple.  Lock yourself in!  You’ll be safe there!”

“Should a man like me run away from danger?” Nehemiah said bravely.  It was obvious to him that this prophet was not from God. “I will not run away and hide like a coward!  If someone wants to kill me, bring it on!”  And he just kept on working.

After 52 days of hard work, the walls around Jerusalem were finished!  It was finished so quickly that all of Israel’s enemies were terrified.  They knew it was only because the God of Israel was helping them that they could do such an impossible job!  If we become discouraged in doing God’s work, we can know that He is helping us, too.

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Teaching Children the Book of Nehemiah: Part One


Nehemiah is one of my favorite people.  He was a man who threw himself wholeheartedly into whatever task God handed to him.  He was faithful and hard-working; he was passionate; he was capable; and he could get mighty snarky!  Sarcasm is my love-language, and I think Nehemiah and I would have gotten along famously.  So, here’s my take on this enjoyable little book.

Because God’s people would not stop worshiping idols, God had to punish them by allowing them all to be taken away to the pagan empire of Babylon for 70 years.  Now the 70 years was over, and the people of Israel were slowly moving back to Jerusalem.  But it was a long process, and many Jews remained in Babylon.  One of these Jewish men who still lived in a foreign land was  Nehemiah.  Nehemiah had become a trusted servant to King Artaxerxes, the ruler of Persia.  He was the cup-bearer to the king, so it was his job to make sure no one put poison into the king’s food or drink.  King Artaxerxes must have trusted Nehemiah a great deal, don’t you think?  It was a big responsibility to keep the king safe, and it meant that Nehemiah would see the king many times a day, every day.  God put Nehemiah into this special job for a reason, but Nehemiah didn’t know what that reason was.  He just did his best, knowing that by doing his job well, he was also serving God.

Nehemiah had a brother named Hanani, who had already moved to Jerusalem.  One day,  Hanani, came back to Persia from Jerusalem for a visit.  Nehemiah asked how things were going, and Hanani had bad news to tell.   “They are in great trouble and disgrace,” Hanani said.  Back in Nehemiah’s time, cities always had walls to protect them from enemies and wild animals.  Jerusalem’s walls had been broken down and the gates burned when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city so long ago.  The people living in Jerusalem were in trouble because they had no walls to protect them.  They were in disgrace because having broken-down walls would be like you and me living in a broken-down, burnt-out house!  It is possible that the people had tried to repair the walls, but without official permission from the king it would have been impossible for them to get the materials they needed.  And there would have been no protection for the Jews from Jerusalem’s enemies, who did not want the walls rebuilt.

When Nehemiah heard this news, he began to weep.  Even though he had never seen Jerusalem himself, as a Jew it was his true home.  He felt as you might feel if you heard that your house had burned down.

Nehemiah was a man of action, though.  When he heard about the problem, he didn’t just sit around crying about it.  He did something about it.  He did the only really helpful thing anyone can do.  Do you know what that is?  He prayed!

And now Nehemiah knew why God had put him into the job of cup-bearer to the king.  He asked God to give him a chance to talk to the king.  Although he was with King Artaxerxes every day, Nehemiah was not allowed to speak to him without permission.  No one was!  Also, no one was allowed to look sad in the king’s presence or they would be punished!  The Persians had some strange laws, didn’t they?  So Nehemiah had to try to keep his feelings hidden and wait for the king to speak to him

Four months went by, and Nehemiah kept praying faithfully.  At last, God answered his prayer.  One day, the king noticed that Nehemiah looked sad, and instead of being angry and punishing Nehemiah for breaking that rule, he kindly asked what was wrong.  Nehemiah breathed a quick prayer to God to ask for the right words to say.  Then he boldly told the king what was on his heart.  The king must have liked Nehemiah a lot, probably because Nehemiah had been a good and faithful servant to him.  He was willing to do whatever Nehemiah asked of him, and Nehemiah was not afraid to ask the king for everything he would need to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Isn’t it wonderful that Nehemiah was such a faithful man?  What if he had not been a good worker?  The king would never have listened to him, or even cared that he was sad.  In fact, he would never have gotten the job of cup-bearer in the first place, so he would never even have seen the king.  Then God would not have been able to use Nehemiah for such an important job.  Are you faithful in the jobs your parents or teachers give to you?  If you are, then you are also being faithful to God, and He can use you to do even bigger, more important jobs.

Next time, we’ll learn what Nehemiah did when he arrived in Jerusalem.

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