Nehemiah chapter 4
(modified from the book "Slaying the
Giants in your Life" by David Jeremiah © 2001 by David Jeremiah)
All of us at different times have and will feel
discouraged. It is a time when we have been trying our best but it seems
that things are not working out the way we had hoped. We may find it
difficult to keep going at our task or goal. We may even decide to give up
and quit. In this study we will look at a time of discouragement in the
life of Israel to learn from their example lessons we can use for our own
Study of God's Word
As you go through this lesson, read the verses in
Bible to help you find the answers. Try reading the verses first in a
Bible in your own
language (Chinese) and then in
an English version and
writing down any questions you would like to ask later and
answers to these questions that follow.
Note: The Bible verse
references below are linked to an English version of the Bible. If you
would like to follow the
Bible verse link, it would be good to "right click" on the Bible
verse link and choose to open in new window resized the window so that
you can quickly go back and forth from this page to the verses.
Nehemiah Chapter 4 and consider the following questions
In approximately 586 BC Jerusalem and the temple was
destroyed by the Babylonians (present day Iraq and the people were
scattered throughout the Babylonian empire. Then in 538 BC Babylon was
conquered by another nation (present day Iran) and the new king allowed
Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
The rebuilding of the temple was completed in 516 BC (see book of Ezra in
the Old Testament). Seventy one years later the Jews people became
discouraged because although they had the temple built, the original walls
around the city had not been rebuilt and they were feeling insecure about
their defenses against hostile groups that lived all around them not
unlike the situation in Israel today. With the walls lying in ruins as a
result earlier destruction of the city, the people of Israel have
not had the luxury of peaceful sleep. Raiders from the outlying provinces
have been able to attack by night and keep the Israelite settlers
discouraged and fearful.
Finally in 445 BC a man named Nehemiah was lead by God
to return to Jerusalem and to lead the people in the rebuilding of the
wall around Jerusalem (see
Nehemiah chapters 1-3).
After they had finish half the wall their enemies tried to discourage them
so that they would not be able to complete the wall. These enemies
constituted of Sanballat and the Samaritans from the North, Tobiah and the
Ammonites from the East, Geshem and the Arabs from the south, and the
Ashdodites from the West (see
Nehemiah 4:7-8). This ground formed a alliance to bring pressure on
the construction workers. The greatest weapon they used was fear and
In Chapter 4 we will see why the people were
discouraged and then how they responded to their discouragement.
Building block to discouragement
What do you learn in
Nehemiah 4:1-3 about the first signs of a cause for discouragement?
Answer: In the begin of the work, Sanballat and
Tobiah tried to stop the work by using ridicule putting down the abilities
of the workers. This was just the first of a continue discouragement by
using criticism. We will see that this will continue later.
How did they responded at this time (vv.
4-6)? How much of the job did they complete at this time?
Answer: They responded by expressing their concerns
in prayer to God (1
Peter 5:7). They do not seek revenge but leaves that up to God (Romans
12:18-19). Then they continue to work at their task and not allow
those who are insulting them discourage them. How do you respond to
unjustified criticism and insults? Do you get upset and want to get back
at those who are insulting you? If you have come to know the saving love
of God who has forgiving you then you can turn to God in prayer and
express you feelings and then leave it to God to satisfy justice. Don't
let your emotions stop you from doing the task that you have been given.
What was the response of the enemy to the continued
progress in the building of the wall (vv.
Answer: Now the enemies plan together to come and
attack them at night to try to disrupt the building project.
How did the workers responded this time to the enemies
Answer: The people responded by praying to God for
protection and courage and being active to counter the threat by
protecting themselves. We have here an example of trusting God and using
wise human means to a problem.
We have been looking at external discouragement but in vv.
10-12 we learn of four internal sources of discouragement. What are
they? We will answer this in section B.
Recognizing Sources of Discouragement
What have you learned from these verses above, that will
help you to understand some of the causes of discouragement? Can you
find find four causes?
Fatigue or loss of strength from continuous work and
stress (v. 10). When our energy and strength is weak so is our courage.
You begin to be tense, easily upset and sad. If we work to hard for too
long, you are going to see diminishing returns on the investment of your
time and talent and then discouragement sets in. God as our creator knows
what is best for us and we all need times of rest. We need to pace
ourselves if we are going to keep going. That is why God told us to take
one day each week to rest and to worship God. This is a day to rebuild our
physical, emotional and spiritual strength (Exodus
Frustration with the lack of progress in our work can
lead to discouragement (v. 10). It may be the result of setting to high
a goal. We would be better to set small more reasonable goals that will
lead to the final larger goal.
We start to believe that we are a failure (v.10).
When things go wrong we are more willing to listen to the criticisms and
lies of those who would like to discourage us and prevent us from doing
the job God has for us to do. Remember Satan is the father of lies who
wants us to give up.
Fear can lead us to discouragement as we listen to the
negative comments or criticisms of other. This can be particularly
discouraging when they come from people who we consider our friends (vv.
Now let us consider the lessons we can learn from this
example to help us deal with discouragement.
Responding to Discouragement
When the people realized they were becoming discouraged
and were considering quitting, giving up on the task, what was the first thing
they did (4:4-5,
9a)? Note in verse 9a the "a" refers to the first part of the
verse and 9b refers to the second part of the verse as in question 2 below.
Answer: Cry out to God in prayer.
What was the next thing they did in response (v.
6, 9b, 13)?
Answer: Continue to work at the task. A
break can be good but getting back to work will restore your confidence.
Note that this response in v. 13 also lead to another
potential source of discouragement (see also
v. 19). Because the wall was lower in some areas than the others
the workers were focusing on rebuilding the more vulnerable areas of the
wall. This resulted in the workers being isolated from each other. How did
Nehemiah encourage the people when he realized this potential source of
Answer: Concentrate on the big picture.
We are not working alone but we have the almighty God working along
side of us. We have others working with us. We are not in this alone.
How could you today gain similar encouragement in
times of discouragement (v. 15)? Here are some verses to consider (Psalm
46:1-3; Galatians 6:9).
Answer: Claim the
promises of God.
As we read on in
Nehemiah 4:15-23, we see another source of encouragement. What was
this source of encouragement (note particularly v. 22)?
Answer: Carry some one else's burden. Do
you need encouragement right now? Good advice to you is to go encourage
someone else. This will keep you from being focused on your own need if
you are helping others with their needs. You will reap what you sow, and
the love you give will return to you.
What may be some sources of discouragement in your
Some things we can not change but from our study, what
are some things you can do to help us overcome or prevent
Are there others that you know who are discouraged? Is
there something you can do to encourage them?