Nehemiah 9:16-20, 32

Today’s Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 9:16-20, 32

                 Today we conclude our time in Ezra and Nehemiah. Remember that these were originally one book that told the story of post exilic Israel. Post exilic means “after the Exile”. The people of Ezra and Nehemiah were the survivors. They were the descendants of royals, nobles, and priests that had been forced to move to Babylon after Jerusalem was captured and destroyed beginning in 597 BC. 70 years later, Babylon was conquered by the Persians. The Persian king found favor with the Jews, and allowed them to return home and rebuild their city. Once the city was rebuilt, the resettled Israelites had one question: what now? Are we still God’s people?

Remember that Israel was now just a fraction of what they had been before they Exile. Could God restore them to greatness again? Today’s scripture deals with that issue. It is part of the section known as the “prayer of the people”. Nehemiah 9 is the longest communal prayer in the Old Testament. The prayer wrestles with three questions: where did we come from, how did we get here, and what now? There are three main players in the prayer that correspond to these questions—”You” (God) answers where the people came from. “They” (ancestors) answers how the people got here. “We” (the people) answers what they must do now.

Much of the prayer is spent in penitence. Penitence is the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong . It has the same meaning as “repentance”. After spending considerable time praising and thanking God for creating, choosing, and calling them, the people admitted that their ancestors had messed up. They had continually turned their backs on God, even when God provided for them over and over. In spite of the people continually being “stiff necked” (stubborn), God sent manna to feed them, water to quench their thirst, and the Spirit to empower them. Still, the ancestors refused to repent, which led to their downfall.

Last week we focused on the preparation and praise aspects of prayer. Today we have covered penitence in prayer—we must admit we need God. In the second half of Nehemiah 9, the tone shifts. Finally, the people state their petition in prayer. They briefly and simply state what they want God to do for them. They want to remain God’s people (v 32). It has been said that we are living in a post Christian culture. If that is true, we would do well to learn from the Nehemiah 9 prayer. Where do we come from? How did we get here? What now? God still has a use for a people willing to admit their need, ask God to use them, then commit to live differently!

  • 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.


How many times in today’s scripture do you find the words “they” or “them”? To whom is this referring? How many times do you see the word “you”? Who is the “you” in the passage?


In what ways are we living in a “post Christian” world? Does God still have a job for the Church to do, or should we just give up hope and wait around till Jesus comes?


Take time as a class for silent “penitence” (admitting your need for God) and “petition” (telling God what you want Him to do.)