90 Day Challenge – Day 71

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Bible Time Period:Return

You brought the exiles back to Canaan; they rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem and were taught once more from your Law: Rebuild my broken heart and life as I return to you.

Reflection

The third wave of return from captivity is told in the book of Nehemiah, which you will begin reading today.  Notice the source of the opposition to rebuilding the Jerusalem walls.  Samaria’s continued opposition—combined with their syncretistic religion—is the source of the friction we see in the New Testament between the Jews and the Samaritans.

A key prophet during the Return is Malachi, who calls the people to faithfulness and reverence and warns of the coming Day of the Lord.

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 1-4

Today’s Question

Why does Nehemiah return to Jerusalem, and how does he fare?

Join the discussion below!

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Carla Archuleta

    Nehemiah returns to rebuild the Jerusalem’s wall through the calling of the LORD and appointed King Artaxerxes. They did great “team” work building and guarding each other from those who apposed their work such as the evil doers: Sanballat, Tobiah and Arabs. The beauty of these readings truly shows the strength of the Lord. When and how we truly listen to his command and carry his work out reveals the beauty of his outcome in life. The wall was built and the believers of God were safe.

    Good way to start my day, through the work of the Lord. God bless us all as we are ready and willing to serve you our LORD. Amen!

  • Marian Potts

    Nehemiah fasted and prayed when he saw the destruction and all the tribes of Israel each pitched in and did their part of work to reconstruct the temple. The Arab neighbors wanted to fight them but they were not deterred and set a guard on their work. Things go smoothly when we are following the Lord and not our own plans.

  • Janet

    Everything I felt / thought is pretty much covered by Anthony, Michelle, Fisher and Susan today. While I don’t have near the insight you folks have, I agree and am learning from each of you. Thanks!

  • Margie

    Nehemiah is a dedicated and loyal guide for the people who are a little lost at this stage of the game. The people are grateful to return to their Promised Land and want to do what is good by the Lord and Nehemiah is the person to look towards as he initiates the building of the “wall.” The building of the wall in a sense is a metaphorical promise that faith and belief in God is rebuilding in their hearts for now and in the future. Just as Lent is a metaphorical “wall” in my heart to rebuild my scriptural passion for the Love, Faith and Hope in God. To keep the sword of defense close, to protect me from the temptations of the Devil. Nehemiah fared well with those who stayed with him to restore the “wall.”

  • Susan

    Great commentary from the first three participants this morning on Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Some interesting insights – thanks.

    Four things stood out for me in Nehemiah:

    (1) the willingness and encouragement of the kings of Syria to help the Israelites, This is clearly the work of the Lord to work through these kings and for them to be His vessel as the Israelites return to Judah. So willing in fact that they offer to return the gold, silver, bronze and other spoils carried off from Jerusalem in the conquest – what royalty return spoils of war. Surely this is the Lord working through the king.

    (2) Nehemiah is an active part of the solution in the rebuilding of Jerusalem – he is not foretelling or acting as a communication conduit between the people and God but a motivator and contributor as well as a mediator between the Israelites and the Samaritans when their efforts are figuratively attacked and threatened by violence. Nehemiah is The Lord in action – I think Anthony said it very well below when he said he could be a prefiguring of the Lord Jesus Christ as he come to comfort and to establish (reestablish) the Church (temple).

    (3) This narrative is written in the first person which allows us to see the return through Nehemiah’s eyes and feel the action as it is happening.

    (4) the word “Jew” is used to describe the Israelites as they are labeled by the Samaritans (clearly not good Samaritans either).

    • I just went ahead and read tomorrows and I see almost the entire narrative is in the first person… interesting. I believe this is the first time we’ve encountered this. Good catch 🙂

  • First, The name of Nehemia, “comforter of God,” as well as his being sent by a king to build, appears to prefigure Jesus Christ, sent by God to comfort and establish his Church. That’s cool 🙂

    Nehemiah’s occupation as cupbearer demonstrates that he was already a person of impeccable character and consummate administrative skill. The cupbearer, I understand, often served as a personal confidant to the king, and therefore possessed great influence. Although his work on the walls is stalled and frustrated in the beginning, his success in fishing it (although to only half it’s height) was a stimulus to greater effort. Through prayer, based on the promises made by God in the Abrahamic covenant—specifically, the promise to bless those who blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those who cursed them, Nehemiah was simply praying that God would act as He promised as Nehemiah’s work persisted.

    • Michelle

      Very well said! I love that although Nehemiah had Faith that God was with them, Nehemiah did not sit idly by waiting for God to protect them should they be attacked. Instead, Nehemiah put workers at the ready with swords in case they were attacked. I believe this is a fault I know I suffer from. I may be praying for a situation to decline such as the moral decay in our country or abortion but what am I physically doing to prevent these things. Our parish priest is often saying prayer is not enough, we need to act! This is the New Evangelization, in my opinion. Not necessarily with swords but through loving actions change can occur one lost soul at a time.

    • Fisher

      Nice – faith and works; prayer and action. You summarize nicely what these chapters and verses are telling us about preparing for /revealing the kingdom!

  • Carla Archuleta

    Once Nehemiah heard about the Jerusalem wall he immediately gave his communal confession to God. Within his confession he prayed to God of heaven that if a favor could be granted to him that he be sent to Judah to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. Such a gift was granted to him, but it was not easy. He met opposition from Judah’s enemies, and along with this they became angered. Nehemiah, leaders, priest and all the others with him had 24 hour watch. They also had prayer going on throughout the process. God kept them safe through the process.

    Nehemiah’s faith in God seem to get stronger towards the end, and with group prayers occurring twenty-four hours around the clock strengthened it that much more. Many times when groups of evil doers are heard here on Earth the tendency of even the more faithful Christians brings fear, which is what was happening when those who apposed this work were trying to cause the working group to back down. I need to remember this during the testing of time.

  • Marianne

    Nehemiah may have been merely a cupbearer, but God sees the greatness of faith in the hearts of His people. So I’m not surprised that God entrusted him with such an important mission, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

    No wonder mankind struggles with remaining faithful… the faithful have been facing opposition since the beginning of time. I love their determination, though. And they don’t allow the naysayers to make them give up. We can also serve the Lord obediently, confident that He provides the weapons we need to protect the invisible walls of His kingdom that we are helping to build. For God is sending us out today to build His kingdom.

    “Let us begin building… with vigor!” (Neh 2:18)

  • Avila

    Is it just me or does the software need an exorcism? I just got a couple of late emails with previous readings and a broken discussion button. I am grown up enough to jump in using an old email, but it does seem odd. Maybe we need to start praying?

    • Fisher

      Definitely an issue with the discus program – I had the same problem.

      • pnkyB4brain

        I am having the same problem. The next study/program that the Ascension Press has, I am thinking of changing my login procedure. It is very frustrating when items do not post. They are up there in the ‘cloud(s)’, I guess.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      I had the same problem. It appears to me that there has been hacking going on. When I viewed the email in my browser the discussion button took me to a site that my McAffee site advisor would not let me go

    • Marianne

      Me too, but I have a feeling that NOTHING can stop this group of dedicated and determined disciples!

  • Avila

    What struck me about the reading was the different reactions from believers to Nehemiah’s call to repair the walls. Sanballat and Tobiah mocked Nehemiah and as a result were excluded from the religious activities, then they tried to destroy their fellow believers and the work they had done. Some of the powerful living in Jerusalem would neither work or lend labour to help even though the priests were working.

    It reminds me of the Church today, we have wonderful people joyfully building the walls according to their talents and abilities, yet sadly we have others who like the powerful in the story have the means but will not offer anything (other than attending mass on Sundays). There are also those who mock, attack and try to destroy. It seems to me that the first group are blessed with all or some of the gifts of giving, deeper spirituality and wisdom in understanding the need for protection (Sacraments, praying, learning the faith etc), obedience to God and leaving an inheritance. The middle group seem to be less spiritually developed, aloof from the community attached to material goods and detached from God’s word. They are externally wealthy and internally poor. The last group are the saddest of all, they so deceived and confused by the prince of lies they are unaware of their wrongful actions which destroy the faith and faithful. All three groups need our prayers.

    As we can see from the reading, by arming ourselves with weapons (prayer, loving kindness, obedience to God etc.) we can defend the Church. I like to think that the enemy is slayed by prayers, thereby releasing the victims to grow in faith and love for God.

    For years I was in the last group and separated from the Church however, God being ever merciful and loving has been moving me to the first group. I may not have everything that it takes and have a lot of growing to do, but through God’s grace and loving mercy, I might get there.

    That is just what personally struck me.

    • Fisher

      Very profound thoughts – I totally agree with you. It is wonderful to discern different applications. I know some who refuse labor because they have been beaten down or rejected, even dictated to many times what and how they are to labor. I know some who cannot be bothered and I know some who joyfully work while others loudly complain about it. I am intrigued by how the New Evangelization will be embraced overall given the various prevailing attitudes concerning trusting the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the laity.

      • Avila

        I suspect a lot of it will be down to the local bishops. We have a bishop who couples enthusiasm with careful planning. I think he has been excavating then reordering the foundation stones into the right places. The next step is find and shape the hidden stones, place them on the foundations to attract more hidden stones. I think it is exciting but seem to be in a minority in my parish at the moment – but then I do tend to get over-excited on faith matters.

        • Fisher

          Sounds like you have a very effective bishop. There is always that contingent averse to any change. Case in point: the new wording in the Mass prayers, Creed, etc. It turned out to be much ado about nothing – the changes were somewhat seamless where I have worshipped.

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He has both great support and great opposition. When anything requires rebuilding whether it be a single life, a nation or even the Church, Satan always rallies an army to oppose that restoration. Nehemiah puts his faith in God and encourages his fellow workers to do the same. They work together each protecting the other. I am offering a prayer for all those who are members of support groups helping each other put together lives that have been broken by sickness. I pray for all those working th rebuild the walls that protect their marriages. I pray for all those who have responded to Pope Francis’ call to the “New Evangelism” to repair the broken walls of the Church.

  • Fisher

    Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He fares quite well considering the opposition that mounts from the Samaritans and other foreign factions.

    I love Nehemiah’s prayer in the first chapter – that of sorrow, reconciliation and petition. And I love how steadfast he was, and how he armed others against foes of the faith. I have often prayed in thanksgiving for the tools God has armed me with ahead of the inevitable pain that I will eventually endure ( as we all will endure sorrow, suffering). Now I see the walls He has helped me build (thicker skin, for example, to dismiss and forgive those who hurt me or tempt me to sin), are protection while I am being strengthened for the next phase of my life in Christ. Thus I will emerge stronger and more able to defend my faith against naysayers.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      I agree with you about Nehemiah’s prayer. It is a prayer we could pray daily for our Nation which has sunk so deeply into a moral pit.

  • mg

    4 13-14 “Our work is scattered and extensive, and we are widely separated from one another along the wall; wherever you hear the trumpet sound, join us there; our God will fight with us.”

    I just love this section. How wonderful to imagine that while we are essentailly separated by distance, we can, as members of one faith, sound the call and come together and fight for and with our God. It reminds me of a lot of what our Church is going through today. Programs are closing, churches are merging, attendance is down in many parishes. But alas, we have hope! We can sound our trumpets much like the trumpeters in Nehemiah and come together as members of one Faith and strengthen our church and future of our good words. Let us all sound our trumpets loudly, from the top of every mountain, and not only strengthen those that already believe, but call home our brothes and sisters that may have lost their way!

    • Fisher

      Good to know we are never alone – God is with us and gives us each other for strength and affirmation!

      Your pic reminds me of Joshua and Jericho. We try to tumble the walls of the faithless by sounding the trumpet of God’s Word, while at the same time shoring up our walls to protect our faith foundation (the temple, in this reading).

    • jacqueline

      Amen to your last sentence.

    • Carla Archuleta

      Mark, a group prayer to bring people back to believing and living the word of God is so needed. I too believe that this wave is growing. Pope Francis has done wonders…Amen!

  • pnkyB4brain

    Again, God chooses a person one would least expect. Nehemiah was the cup bearer for the Persian king, Artaxerxes Nehemiah express concern for his home and the king granted him time to take care of the problems that afflicted him. When Nehemiah arrived at Jerusalem and saw the condition of the walls and gates of Jerusalem, he enlisted the assistance of the Jewish people and priests.
    What intrigued me the most was although Nehemiah had letters from the king of Persia to allow him safe journey through anti Israelite kingdoms, Nehemiah’s presence in Jerusalem did not set well with these people. With the rulers of these kingdoms, the hatred that they had against the Israelites was huge and Satan was right at home. How many times have I allowed hatred to run amuck within my brain and whole being? What energy I wasted, what sadness I exposed, what anger I expressed to anyone within earshot!

    • mg

      very well said!

      • pnkyB4brain

        Thank you, mg. I am so happy when I can piece together something that could help me become closer to God. I really am in need of assistance. This bible challenge is helping so much, though.

    • Michael Taglinao Lias

      Thank you so much pnkyB4brain for such inspiring comment. I am very convienced your thought about the walls and gates that needs to be repair. God put walls and gates in our lives when we are baptized. But like in the parable of the prodigal son, we choose to be influenced by ideological colonozation as what our pope Francis said. We are trying to seek our happiness in material things, following our own will instead of God. What happened in the U.S. now? They redefined the very institution of marriage. And here in the Philippines, many young Catholics living together without receiving the Sacrament of Marriage, others are enjoy same sex relationship. Goverment leaders continue to corrupt for personal and selfish gain. And the result, many Filipino’s suffered in great poverty. May these walls and gates in our lives may transform to its God’s original design. And like Nehemiah, let us sanctify first ourselves through the Sacraments which God instituted especially of Reconciliation so that we can able to obey God’s commandment for service to our God and neighbor. God bless everyone 🙂

      • pnkyB4brain

        Michael, I agree that these are such trying times for all who believe in the Catholic way of life. It is also very hard for others that are not of our religion yet believe the same as we. I often wonder if we should fight against this outlandish type of permissiveness . I don’t know. I will tell you that this is a huge wall that needs some quality repair by us so God will know we are sorry for our transgressions and will sin no more.

        • Michael Taglinao Lias

          Thanks!

        • Michael Taglinao Lias

          Thanks pnkyB4brain for such nice insight. And like in the people of Nehemiah, I think we also need to cooperate in rebuilding the wall of grace within us by going to confession, attend daily mass and doing charity esp. those who are in need of mercy. Let us help one another in rebuilding the wall of grace to protect God’s temple within us. Have a nice day..May God bless us everyone! 🙂