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The Nehemiah Code: Get Started Right

The Nehemiah Code: Get Started Right

Nehemiah 1:1–11

When we are in the process of rebuilding (no matter what it is we are seeking to rebuild), there are not just things that need to be done, but things that need to be undone. There are habits that need to be broken and hearts that need to be healed. Anyone who has ever sought to rebuild a marriage, a business, a dream, or a church knows this to be true. It often is easier to walk away and start over than it is to invest the effort and energy needed for rebuilding. But if we are ever going to be successful in rebuilding, it is essential that we get started right. ~ O.S. Hawkins


In 1690, the explorer Alonso De León led an expedition to establish a mission in what was then called Spanish Texas.1 Several years before, the Spanish authorities had learned the French, their rivals in the region, had established a colony in their territory. De León was dispatched to locate this colony, which he did in 1689.2 A year later, he returned to build the mission of San Francisco de la Espada. The structure would serve not only as a base of operations for the Spanish but also as a warning to the French not to plant any more colonies in the region.

The builders of the mission knew they had to clear the ground, remove the debris, and build a solid foundation if they wanted the walls of the structure to stand. In other words, they had to get started right if they wanted their building project to be a success. But beyond the physical construction, the workers knew they also had to get started right with the local people in the region. For the priests at Espada, this meant extending an invitation to the Hasinai, a tribe who had already expressed interest in Christianity, to join in their efforts.3 In time, the mission would become a place where the local people were not only taught about Christ but also vocational skills such as farming, blacksmithing, weaving, masonry, and carpentry.

In our own rebuilding efforts, we can never underestimate the importance of getting started right by having a firm foundation in God’s Word. And as we look to the Bible for guidance, we find no greater example of a rebuilder than Nehemiah. Today, we will look at part of his story to see what we can learn about getting started right in rebuilding our lives.


If you or any of your group members are just getting to know one another, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to kick things off, discuss one of the following questions:

  • Why is it important for a house to have a strong foundation? What problems will a homeowner have to face if a strong foundation is not in place?


  • What happens when people strike out on a project without first having a good plan in place? When have you been guilty of rushing ahead without a plan?


Invite someone to read aloud the following passage. Listen for fresh insights as you hear the verses being read, and then discuss the questions that follow.

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”

So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

For I was the king’s cupbearer — Nehemiah 1:1–11

  1. What is one key insight that stands out to you from this passage?
  2. What steps did Nehemiah take to get started right when faced with a crisis?


Play the video segment for session one. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.


Rebuilding is a subject that touches everyone. We all have something that we are “rebuilding” in our lives.

In 586 BC, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar broke down the walls of Jerusalem, burned its gates, and led its people into captivity.

Under the Persians, the Jewish exiles were allowed to return in several waves back to their homeland. But by Nehemiah’s day, they still had not rebuilt the city or its walls.

Step 1 in getting started right is to make an honest evaluation of the situation. Nehemiah demonstrated this by…

Step 2 in getting started right is to identify with the need. Nehemiah demonstrated this by…

Step 3 in getting started right is to take personal responsibility.

  • Nehemiah took personal responsibility for his people’s sin by…
  • Nehemiah walked in the fear of God by

Step 4 in getting started right is to move out of your comfort zone. Nehemiah demonstrated this by…


Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture.

  1. Who are some of the people you know who have needed to go through a time of rebuilding? What are some times you had to go through your own rebuilding process?
  2. In what ways did Nehemiah make an honest evaluation of the situation? Why is this such an important first step in any rebuilding effort?
  3. How do we know that Nehemiah identified with the need of his people? Why is this step especially important in rebuilding any broken relationships in our lives?
  4. Why did Nehemiah feel the need to take personal responsibility for his people’s sin? What would have happened if he blamed others for the state of affairs in Jerusalem?
  5. Nehemiah was informed that the remnant in Jerusalem had become a “reproach” or a “disgrace” to God. Why did this serve as a strong motivation for him to act?
  6. How do we know that Nehemiah moved out of his comfort zone? When are some times that God has called you to take a risk for Him? What was the result?


Briefly review the outline for the video teaching and any notes you took. In the space below, write down the most significant point you took away from this session.

1.Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas 1519–1821 (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1998), p. 89.

2.Ibid, p. 83.

3.David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America, Yale Western Americana Series (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), p. 153.

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Your Turn

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