May 5, 2019 – Nehemiah 12 – 13

Lesson Date: May 5, 2019

Focal Scripture Passage: Nehemiah 12:27, 30-31, 43; 13:4-19, 23-26

AIM: To lead students to discover that in spite of great spiritual victories the ancient Jews soon broke their promises to God, and to examine their lives to see if they need to confess and correct breaking any promises to God.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Nehemiah 10 – 13 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the words “Spiritual Mountaintops” and Broken Promises” on the marker board or chalkboard.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Ask: “Can you think of a time in your life that was a spiritual high point?” Ask if any volunteers would name such a time. Tell the following story to the class:

Jay, a 21-year-old college student, was deeply moved by his church’s revival services. During the course of the revival he made several promises to God. He realized he had friends who were a bad influence, so he promised God that he would separate himself from them. Jay was convicted that he no longer tithed to his church, so he promised to resume tithing faithfully. Jay had a part-time job that occasionally required him to work on Sundays. Recently he had volunteered to work more often on Sundays, and to work longer hours. This often prevented him from attending church at all, so he promised God he would work less on Sundays. Finally, Jay promised to date only committed Christian young ladies.

Three months after the revival, Jay realized he was in a mess. While he had initially kept his promises to God, it hadn’t lasted very long. He was once again hanging around with the wrong crowd, keeping his tithe, working almost every Sunday, and he had been seriously dating a girl who was an atheist.

Tell the students we must be careful after spiritual mountaintops not to slide back down into the valley. In today’s lesson we will see how the ancient Israelites did just that.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that we are studying the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. This lesson will be our last from Nehemiah.
    • Remind them of the following:
      • Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 445 BC to rebuild the city walls.
      • Prior to that, Jerusalem was defenseless and few people lived there.
      • In spite of opposition and discouragement, Nehemiah led the people to complete the walls.
      • In last week’s lesson the leaders read the Bible to the people and a great revival broke out. The people recommitted themselves to God.
    • Ask if any volunteer would be willing to recite last week’s memory verse (Neh. 8:8).
    • Now it was time for a great celebration.
  2. A Spiritual Mountaintop.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 12:27.
    • Tell the class that Nehemiah led the Jews in a great ceremony to dedicate the newly completed walls of Jerusalem.
    • Ask: “Why did they summon the Levites?” (to lead them in celebration music).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 12:30.
    • Ask: “What four things did the priests and Levites purify?” (themselves, the people, the gates, and the wall).
    • Read Nehemiah 12:31.
    • Tell the students that Nehemiah then brought two great companies of the leaders and people up on top of the wall. Explain that ancient city walls had wide tops from which defenders could shoot down on attackers.
    • Tell the class that Ezra and Nehemiah led these two groups as they paraded around the city wall in opposite directions, meeting at the Temple.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 12:43.
    • Ask: “What did they do next?” (they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced very loudly).
    • Direct the students’ attention to the words written on the board and tell them this was a spiritual mountaintop experience for the ancient Jews.
    • Summarize: After completing the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah led the people in a great celebration. This was a spiritual mountaintop for them.
  3. Nehemiah’s Absence from Jerusalem.
    • Read Nehemiah 13:6.
    • Explain that after governing Judah for twelve years (445-433 BC), Nehemiah returned to the service of King Artaxerxes. In time the king let Nehemiah go back to Jerusalem.
    • Tell the students when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem he found things in a real mess.
    • Direct the class’ attention to the words written on the board, and tell them Nehemiah discovered that the Jews had broken their promises to God. He discovered and had to correct four types of broken promises.
    • Summarize: While Nehemiah was absent from Jerusalem the Jews broke four important promises they had made to God.
  4. Broken Promises.
    • Unholy Alliances.
      • Read Nehemiah 13:4-5.
      • Tell the class that Eliashib was the high priest.
      • Ask: “Who was Tobiah?” (the enemy of the Jews who tried to prevent them from rebuilding their walls – see Neh. 2:10; 4:3, 7-8; 6:1-2).
      • Ask: “What had Eliashib done?” (he gave Tobiah a chamber in the Temple for his personal use).
      • Explain that previously this chamber had been used to store the tithes and offerings, but Eliashib invited their enemy to move right in!
      • Tell the students the problem here was unholy alliances with the enemy.
      • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 13:8-9.
      • Ask: “What did Nehemiah do about this situation?” (he threw all of Tobiah’s stuff out, cleansed the room, and brought the vessels and offerings back in).
    • Unpaid Tithes.
      • Read Nehemiah 13:10.
      • Ask the class to name the next problem Nehemiah discovered (the Jews had stopped giving their tithes).
      • Tell the class that as a result of this the Levites and singers had to go out and raise crops to feed their families, rather than serving in the Temple.
      • Tell the students the problem here was unpaid tithes.
      • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 13:11-12.
      • Ask: “What did Nehemiah do about the problem?” (he rebuked the leaders and led the people to resume tithing).
      • Tell the class verse 13 reveals that Nehemiah appointed faithful treasurers to oversee the money.
    • Unhallowed Sabbaths.
      • Read Nehemiah 13:15-16.
      • Ask: “What was the next problem Nehemiah discovered?” (the people were violating the Sabbath by working and buying and selling).
      • Tell the students the problem here was unhallowed Sabbaths.
      • Explain that the Jews were not supposed to work or carry on commerce on the Sabbath day. God gave the Sabbath to the Jews as a day or rest and worship.
      • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 13:17-19.
      • Tell the class that Nehemiah rebuked the people and reminded them that their ancestors had sinned in the same way and suffered dearly for it. He also gave orders that the gates of the city should remain shut throughout the Sabbath. Merchants came back and camped outside the city walls, but Nehemiah ran them off.
    • Unlawful Marriages.
      • Read Nehemiah 13:23-24.
      • Ask the students to identify the next problem Nehemiah discovered (some of the Jews had intermarried with foreigners and were raising their children in the speech and customs of those foreign, pagan nations).
      • Remind the class that Ezra had dealt with this exact same problem among the Jews a quarter-century earlier (Ezra 10).
      • Explain that God did not want the Jews to marry foreigners because He knew they would be drawn away to worship foreign gods.
      • Tell the students the problem here was unlawful marriages.
      • Ask a volunteer to read Nehemiah 13:25-26.
      • Ask: “What did Nehemiah do about this problem?” (he rebuked the offenders, pronounced a curse upon them, and made them swear not to do this again; he even went so far as to strike some of them and pull out their hair).
      • Tell the class that may seem like strange behavior for a man of God, but this was righteous indignation in the face of willful disobedience to God’s Law and the promises made by the people.
      • Ask: “Why did he bring up King Solomon in verse 26?” (because Solomon had committed the same sin, bringing great trouble upon himself and the nation).
    • Summarize: Nehemiah discovered four areas in which the Jews were unfaithful to their covenant promises. He confronted the people about their sin and corrected the problems.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention to the words written on the board. Remind them that the Jews had experienced a great spiritual mountaintop – the completion and dedication of the walls of Jerusalem. In spite of that experience, however, they soon slipped back into the valley of sin and disobedience. They broke promises they and their fathers had made to God. Specifically, they had unholy alliances, unpaid tithes, unhallowed Sabbaths, and unlawful marriages.

Tell the class Nehemiah had to take drastic measures to correct all those problems and get the Jews back to where they should have been spiritually. Ask: “Do you think the things Nehemiah did were pleasant or enjoyable?” (no). Tell them that correcting broken promises is not fun, but it must be done to keep our relationship right with the Lord.

Ask the students to silently reflect on the following questions:

  • “Have you made any unholy alliances? If so, what will it take to correct that problem?”
  • “Do you have unpaid tithes in your wallet or your bank account? Are you willing to fix that problem?”
  • “We are no longer under Old Testament Sabbath rules, but we are bound by many other Bible instructions. Are you violating any of them?”
  • “Are you considering becoming unequally yoked together with unbelievers, either in marriage or in a business or social partnership? If so, what will you have to do to correct that problem?”

Encourage the students to make whatever commitments God has brought to their minds. Tell them to silently do this while you lead a closing prayer of commitment.

 

CONCLUSION: Encourage everyone to follow through immediately on whatever they have promised God. Tell them to celebrate spiritual victories this week, but to watch out for areas of compromise with the world.

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