Leaders Serve Faithfully (August 4)

Nehemiah 1:1-11

Comment


Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king (1:11). Raymond A. Bowman in the The Interpreter’s Bible describes the cupbearer:

“As royal cupbearer (cf. Gen. 40:2) Nehemiah illustrates the success of ambitious Jews of the Diaspora against whom few avenues of advancement were closed. The office, one of the oldest and highest court positions in Babylonia . . . .  The cupbearer served partly as taster of the king’s wine and partly as guardian of the royal apartment (cf. Xenophon Cyropaedia I. 3. 8-9. 11). Presumably each royal residence had its own cupbearer. Persian reliefs show the importance of the office by placing the cupbearer in attendance upon the king before the bearer of the royal weapons and just behind the crown prince” (The Interpreter’s Bible: Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 3, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984, pp. 670-671).

Reading the Scripture
Here is a way you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).

Teaching Suggestions

•    Interview with Nehemiah (YouTube Video): This video provides a creative overview and introduction to the book of Nehemiah provided by Nehemiah himself. See the web site.

•    Display a maps and pictures of the area:
o    The Essential Bible Guide: Bible Background with Maps, Charts, and Lists, Menahse Har-El, Paul Wright, and Baruch Sarel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), p. 70. – Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah and route of Nehemiah’s night walk.
o    Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) pp. 157-159.
o    The Complete Visual Bible: A Lavishly Illustrated Tour of the Old and New Testaments, Stephen M. Miller (Barbour Publishing, 2011), pp. 158-161.
o    Oxford Bible Atlas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 201. – with a chronology to help put Nehemiah in context

•    See the timeline (from http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/sermons/Derek's_SERMONS/Ezra/Ezra_Nehemiah_Timeline.pdf).

•    Nehemiah: Frederick Buechner’s story about Nehemiah, in Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who (New York: Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 119-121), is available in my office. The story begins:
    “Nehemiah broke down and wept when he found out that the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins from when the Babylonians had pulled them down a century earlier. The Persians had replaced the Babylonians as the number one superpower by then, and as luck would have it, Nehemiah was one of the King of Persia’s right-hand men. . . .”

•    Prayer and discernment are important to leadership. There is always more good that could be done in the world than any one Christian or church can do. How do we discern God’s calling for our church? Prayer as a community allows God to speak to us.
    Lead your class to follow Nehemiah’s example in prayer:
o    Prayer of Lament (1:4): What concerns cause us to weep and mourn? Those suffering with serious illness? Persons with no relationship with Christ? The hungry in our community and world? Persons in Danville, Nada, Morocco, or other parts of the world who live in poverty?
o    Fasting (1:4): Encourage your class members to observe a twenty-hour fast (no food from after supper one night until supper the next night) this week if they are physically able. Class members can use the time to pray for God’s guidance for their lives and for our church.
o    Prayer of Supplication (1:6): As our Quartet sings, “Call him up and tell him what you want.” Make your requests to God.
o    Prayer of Confession (1:6): Offer a prayer of confession similar in style to the one Nehemiah offered. Write a paraphrase of Nehemiah’s prayer for your class.
o    Pray Day and Night (1:6): Suggest that class members “Pray the Hours” this week for one day or the whole week. Pause six times throughout the day for prayer.
i.    Morning (As soon as you wake up)
ii.    Mid-morning (10:00 a.m.)
iii.    Lunch (12:00 p.m.)
iv.    Mid-afternoon (3:00 p.m.)
v.    Evening (7:00 p.m.)
vi.    Night: As you go to bed

•    The Formations Study Guide (pp. 90-91) asks, “What is my reaction to other people’s suffering?” Nehemiah was moved to action by the “trials of others.” What moves us to action? Invite a church member who has been involved in one of the following ministries (or some other of special interest to your class) to share news and stories about the hurts and hopes of others. Perhaps these stories will move your class to action.
o    Soup’s On Us
o    Habitat for Humanity
o    Salvation Army
o    Hope Clinic
o    Nada
o    Morocco

•    Send your class out with a thought on leadership.
    Dr. Tommy’s thoughts on Leadership from his recent seminar on Transformational Leadership at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky:
    “Jesus calls us to be servant leaders.  Servant leaders lead with a care, concern, and compassion for others while recognizing the need to care for self.  It is essential then as servant leaders that we keep a sense of the awe of God.”

Resources
I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.

•    Maps and pictures in the library
o    The Essential Bible Guide: Bible Background with Maps, Charts, and Lists, Menahse Har-El, Paul Wright, and Baruch Sarel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), p. 70. – Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah and route of Nehemiah’s night walk.
o    Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) pp. 157-159.
o    The Complete Visual Bible: A Lavishly Illustrated Tour of the Old and New Testaments, Stephen M. Miller (Barbour Publishing, 2011), pp. 158-161.
o    Oxford Bible Atlas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 201. – with a chronology to help put Nehemiah in context

•    Raymond A. Bowman, The Interpreter’s Bible: Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Volume 3 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984), pp. 670-671. –in Keith’s office.

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)