Summary: This is the first installment of a series I preached on Nehemiah’s one holy passion, the glory of God.
One Holy Passion
February 11, 2001
¡§The Trouble with Rubble¡¨
A Timeline to Understand Nehemiah
722 Assyria conquers the Northern Kingdom (Israel)
606 Babylon carries off first captives from Southern Kingdom (Judah)
598 Daniel and companions carried to Babylon
586 Jerusalem falls; temple is plundered
538 Persia, under Cyrus, conquers Babylon
537 1st Jews return to Jerusalem from Babylon
516 Temple is restored
479 Esther becomes queen of Persia
458 Ezra leads 2nd expedition to Jerusalem from Babylon
445 Nehemiah rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem
Nehemiah, the man
¡§The book thrills and throbs and pulsates with the tremendous force of this man¡¦s will.¡¨ G. Campbell Morgan
„h A man of responsibility
„h A man of vision
„h A man of prayer
„h A man of action and of cooperation
„h A man of compassion
„h A man who triumphed over opposition
„h A man with the right motivation
¡§In every generation,¡¨ wrote Ray Brown, God equips trusted servants for effective leadership.¡¨ Was there ever a need for Nehemiah in his generation!
Things had been pretty good in Israel under Saul, David, and Solomon, the first three kings God had given to the nation. Following the death of Solomon, however, a bloody civil war ensued which resulted in the division of the nation into two separate kingdoms: Israel, or the Northern Kingdom, and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Israel quickly turned to the worship of other gods and so, as God had promised, they were conquered by an outside force, Assyria, in 722 B.C. The goal of the Assyrians was to destroy any sense of identity on the part of conquered peoples, and so they would take captives and disperse them throughout their empire, all the while moving captives from other nations into newly conquered space.
Judah was able to hold out longer, but a little over a hundred years later, they began to be invaded by the Babylonians, who made three forays into the land beginning in 606 B.C., with the final one in 586 B.C. when they plundered the temple and took all but the poorest of Jerusalem into captivity. About five decades later, Cyrus led Persia to conquer Babylon. Cyrus had a different philosophy from the Assyrians who had conquered Israel; instead of hauling captives away in order to assimilate them into a new societal structure, his idea was to allow them to stay at home, and worship their own gods. He even sent some captives back to their homelands, his reasoning being that these peoples would be more favorably disposed toward his government if he allowed them a reasonable amount of freedom. The first group of captives set off for Jerusalem the following year in 537 B.C. under Zerubbabel. Some eighty years later, Ezra the priest led another contingent of people back to Jerusalem, followed thirteen years later by Nehemiah in 445 B.C.
Ezra and Nehemiah are joined as one book in the Hebrew Bible, which makes sense since they are really two parts of the same story in most respects, and here is the theme: God remembers and restores! He had promised just this through his prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and Ezra/Nehemiah form the two-part story of Him making good on His promises.