The following lesson is the first lesson in a series from the Book of Nehemiah. This lesson was prepared for older students. The focus of the lesson was to help students to discover from Nehemiah’s burden that their burdens for others should lead them to pray and seek wisdom from God.
Bible Passage: Nehemiah 1-2
Bible Story Title: Nehemiah’s Burden
Target Age Group: Ages 9-11 (3rd-5th Grade U.S.A.)
Target Time Frame: 60 Minutes
Original Teaching Context: Sunday School
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Credits: Image courtesy of Sweet Publishing and Distant Shores Media
Supply List: Bibles, visuals of broken things/hurting people (I used pictures of broken toys, house that had been destroyed by storm, damaged car, picture of a sad child, someone at a grave, and a graphic that depicts divorce), copies of word search, pens/pencils.
Learning Goal: Students will learn that a burdened heart for God’s work leads believers to pray. When believers pray God gives wisdom, provision and blessing to those who seek to serve Him.
Learning Activity #1: Word search for Nehemiah (from other website)
Memory Verse: Nehemiah 2:17-18 “Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.”
Bible Lesson: Nehemiah’s Burden (Nehemiah 1-2)
(Introduction to Bible Lesson)
The purpose of the introduction is to help the students to discover that as they study Nehemiah and learn how he was burdened for Jerusalem being in ruins they can identify the brokenness that surrounds them. When we see brokenness in the lives of people it should break our hearts and cause us to pursue God’s heart and seek out how He can use us to help rebuild/encourage the brokenhearted.
Let’s look at some pictures of broken things. Show pictures of broken toys, (material possessions). How do you feel when you see these broken things? Most likely if they don’t belong to you it really doesn’t bother you. If these were pictures of broken things that you valued most how would you feel?
(Show pictures of sad child, person at cemetery, and graphic of child being torn by parents through divorce) Now let’s look at these pictures. Is anything broken in these pictures? How can you tell? Discuss the picture of the sad child. What are some reasons this child is sad? (Allow students to share…this could give insight to some of the things that are currently hurting them or others around them)
The difference between the first set of pictures is that they are of broken things. These pictures are of broken hearts/people.
Let’s take this a step further and ask ourselves when God looks at you with your broken item which concerns Him more? You are more valuable to Him than any toy or possession you own. He is more concerned with you because you have a soul and will live for all eternity. You will live eternally with Him in heaven if you have placed your faith in Jesus. You will live eternally separated from Him in Hell if you reject Jesus as the only way to Heaven.
Which set of pictures affects your emotions more, the broken things or broken people? If God values people more than things and we are followers of Jesus, our hearts should be broken over the things that break God’s heart.
We are going to be studying a new book of the Bible called Nehemiah. As we study chapters 1 and 2 today we are going to learn what believers can do when our hearts are broken by the brokenness that surrounds us.
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Nehemiah 1. At the time in history that Nehemiah is written some of God’s people had returned to Jerusalem. A passage of Scripture that helps understand why they would be returning to the land that God has given them is found in 2 Chronicles 36:15-23. Listen as I read the history of God’s people the Jews.
Nehemiah is a Jewish man still living in Susa working for the king. One day his brother Hanani and some other Jewish men came to visit Nehemiah in Susa. Nehemiah was a man who loved God and the Jewish people. He asked how life was in Jerusalem. Read verse 3. The temple had been rebuilt in Jerusalem but the rest of the city was in ruins.
Nehemiah had just learned the condition of the city. Read verses 4-10. How did Nehemiah respond to the news that Jerusalem was in ruins? (He wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed) What are things that Nehemiah prays? (Reminded God of His promises, confessed his/the peoples’ sins, asked God to give him success as he asked the king for help)
Did you hear what Nehemiah’s job was? He was a cup bearer. A cup-bearer is a person who is trustworthy. The cup bearer drinks the king’s wine before he does to make sure he isn’t going to be poisoned.
Nehemiah shows us that we are all placed in the exact places God wants us to be. Nehemiah was a cup bearer and God would use his position to enable him to help rebuild Jerusalem. Believers are God’s workmanship created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). The class you are in, the family you are in, the sport team you are on etc. is exactly where God has placed you for you to be able to serve Him and do the work He has created you for.
Nehemiah shows us what we can do as believers when our hearts are broken. We can pray and talk to God about the problem and ask for His help.
In chapter 2 Nehemiah is at work for the king as his cupbearer. Let’s read 2:1-3. The king could tell Nehemiah was very sad about something. Nehemiah couldn’t hide how broken his heart was for the condition of God’s holy city Jerusalem.
The king asked what Nehemiah wanted and he prayed to God. Do you think that this means that right there in the presence of the king Nehemiah got on his knees and began to pray to God? It does not say exactly but most likely Nehemiah prayed in his heart for God to help him know what to say and ask the king.
God answered Nehemiah’s prayer and enabled him to know exactly what to ask the king for. Nehemiah asked the king:
To return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. (2:5)
For letters that would provide him safety as he travelled to Jerusalem. (2:7)
A letter for Asaph asking for wood from the king’s forest to build the walls and gates and for a place for him to stay while doing the work. (2:8)
Because Nehemiah had prayed and asked God for help, God gave him wisdom to know what to ask for and he was able to see God’s gracious hand on his life through the king’s response to help him. Not only did the king allow him to have letters for the governors throughout the land who would protect him as he traveled the king sent army officers and cavalry along with him.
Nehemiah shows us that prayer enables believers to see that God answers by giving wisdom to know what to ask for and see His provision and His hand of blessing in our lives.
Let’s read Nehemiah 2:10. These men were enemies of God’s people. Who is the true enemy who fights against God and His work? (Satan) Satan is bothered when God’s people are doing His work because it causes others to see God and His power. People turn from sin and turn to Jesus and that interferes with the enemy’s work at ruining people’s lives.
Nehemiah’s story teaches believers that when you are busy about doing God’s work it will bother the enemy. We will see more about this lesson as we study Nehemiah.
When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he didn’t tell anyone why he was there at first. His story reminds me a little about Esther’s story. Remember how Esther responded to the King when he asked her what her request was? She didn’t immediately tell him what she needed.
Nehemiah rode on a horse at night and looked at the condition of the walls and gates of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2:13-15) Finally Nehemiah tells the leaders of Jerusalem why he is there. Let’s read verses 17-18.
Nehemiah was concerned about God’s reputation. Jerusalem was God’s city where His people lived (Nehemiah 1:9). It was in ruins and Nehemiah wanted to do something about it so God’s name would be honored and exalted in the land.
Believers’ lives reflect the Lord Jesus to those who do not believe in Him. If I am living a sinful life and telling others I am a Christian, people do not see the power of Jesus in me. Why would anyone want to believe in Jesus if my life is just as sinful as theirs? If I am a believer and people see the power of His Spirit changing my life to look more and more like Jesus, His name is being honored and exalted.
As we close we see the enemies of God’s people again. Let’s read 2:19-20. Sanballat and Tobiah were mocking and ridiculing Nehemiah and the leaders for their plan to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah doesn’t allow their mocking to keep him from following God’s plan. His answer points to God and his faith that God will give them success.
When believers are obeying God and serving Him they can expect that God’s enemy will try to discourage their work by using people to mock and ridicule. By staying in God’s Word daily and praying believers can have confidence that God will complete the work He is doing through our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you are a believer your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19) When you believed in the Lord Jesus as your Savior from sin the Holy Spirit came into your life and dwells within you. The ‘walls’ are the things we do to guard our hearts so we can live a life that pleases God and causes others to see Jesus clearly. What are some of those things that every believer needs to do in order to stay focused on God? Read the Bible daily, obey God’s Word and pray. Those three things are like a triangle wall around our lives to protect us from living a sinful life that doesn’t please God.
Before we pray I want you to examine the ‘walls’ in your life. Some of you may not be a believer. You can have your sins forgiven if you admit that you are a sinner, believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried and rose again and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. (Romans 10:9-10)
Some of you are believers. What do the ‘walls’ of your life look like? Are you spending enough time reading the Bible so you know what pleases God and what does not? Are you obeying what you know God’s Word says? How much time are you praying?
Until Jesus returns we live in a world filled with sin. Sin brings brokenness and destruction in lives of people. In order for you and I to be equipped to go out and help those who have been broken by the effects of sin, we need to make sure we have prayed for God’s help. When we pray we will see His provision, power and blessing when we do His work by helping others.
Close in prayer.