Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 8:1-10
Have you ever had a “God moment”? Maybe you were in church, and you really connected with the words of a song that seemed to speak just to you. Perhaps you were reading your Bible and it seemed a verse just jumped out at you, reminding you of a truth you desperately needed. Have you sensed God’s presence especially during the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one, or the testimony of a saint? In our faith tradition, we believe when God speaks to us, we can “feel” it! We respond to our God moments in different ways. Some raise their hands and shout “Amen!”, others weep quietly, and some just enjoy an inward peace.
Today’s scripture focus tells the story of a community “God moment” in the life of God’s people. The book of Nehemiah is a continuation of the story begun in Ezra. The Jews have been allowed to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem. After rebuilding the Temple, the work stalled. The city’s walls lay in ruins, leaving the people vulnerable to attack. This greatly disturbed Nehemiah, who served in the Persian court as the royal cupbearer. He asked permission to return to the land of his ancestors and rebuild the city walls and gates. The king appointed him governor of Judah, gave him an official letter, and sent him home.
Nehemiah, like Ezra before him, found opposition from without and within. Not only did the enemies of the Jews constantly taunt and threaten him, he found the Jews who had settled in Judah were taking advantage of one another. Some were in such debt to others that they had to sell their children into slavery. After correcting this injustice and eliminating this practice, Nehemiah worked tirelessly and fearlessly to get the city walls and gates completed. He assigned sections of the wall to various families, and had everyone work in shifts—sometimes with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other!
Miraculously, the walls and gates were completely finished in 52 days. Upon completion of the work, the people gathered to celebrate. Nehemiah was their political leader, but Ezra was still their spiritual leader. The people had Ezra read the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) in their presence. As the word was read and explained to them, the people had a community “God moment”. Overcome with emotion, they began to weep. Ezra and Nehemiah commanded that the people’s weeping be turned to joy. The festival lasted 24 days—the longest celebration recorded in scripture. As we hear from God’s Word today, let’s wait for a God given holy joy!
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
Why do you think the reading of the Torah made the people weep?
Have you ever had a “God moment”? When was it, and how did you react?
As a class, pray for God to speak to us today in worship in such a way that we can feel it. Pray that we will be especially sensitive to the Holy Spirit as God’s Word is shared.