Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Royalty in Ruin (Prophets and Kings)
Chapter 53 - Nehemiah Accomplishes the Impossible
Nehemiah’s role in the king’s court, as well as his relationship with the king, is what put Nehemiah in place to make a difference for his people.
Nehemiah showed an inspiring example of having confidence in God when he asked the king for help and support in his plan to rebuild Jerusalem. Throughout the story in today’s lesson we see Nehemiah’s faith is strong and his prayer life is constant. People joined his cause and began to work in earnest, but they were quickly faced with obstacles. As followers of Jesus, we have a real enemy. As we pursue a life of faith in God and work to fulfill His purpose for our lives, we will also be faced with problems. Nehemiah and the people who were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem continued to work, but they had to be armed and ready to defend themselves. We also need to be prepared and ready to defend our faith.
Opening Activity: Do I Need a Helmet?
Supplies Needed: helmet, sports gear, protective eyewear, snorkeling mask, surgical mask, any type of protective uniform items or gear you have at home
Nehemiah and the workers were all armed and ready to protect themselves from their enemies. Explore the various ways people “arm” themselves for work or other activities. Name the types of equipment needed for the following sports or jobs:
Stories of faithfulness under fierce trials and major hardships are found all throughout the Bible. Even today, we are still the faithful followers of God under attack by an enemy. When we have school or friends on our mind we get really busy and distracted, but the fact that we are in a great controversy is still true. Good and evil are at war, trying to stop us from being faithful to God and doing what He calls us to do. Like Nehemiah, we need to work without giving up, and keep ourselves armed with faith in God and His Word.
Bible Study Guide
Read each Bible passage, then discuss the questions. If you are still worshiping from home, consider discussing one or more of the questions on social media, in a Zoom meeting, or in a group chat with friends.
A Roaring Lion
Read 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV).
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Read 1 Peter 4:12 (NIV).
12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Armed and Ready
Read Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV).
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Read 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV).
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Nehemiah and the faithful workers risked their lives to do what they believed God wanted them to do. They were prepared for any challenge that could come their way. God can use us to do great things, too, if we are willing. We can rebuild and reestablish faithfulness in our own lives and share our faith with others. We will need to be prepared as we serve as gospel missionaries in the world around us. Keeping God’s armor on at all times will serve as our protection against the attacks of Satan our enemy.
Consider applying what you learned in the following ways:
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
The book of Nehemiah records another round of rebuilding Jerusalem following the Jewish exile to Babylon. Medo-Persia had replaced Babylon and sent back a group of Jews to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Zerubbabel (Babylonian name: Sheshbazzar) led that group as the political leader with Joshua as the religious leader (see Ezra 1:8-11; 2:1-1). But the reconstruction of the temple turned out to be slow and included opposition. Back in Babylon, the story of Queen Esther played out and the support of the Jews increased. About sixty years after the first group of exiles returned to Jerusalem, Ezra took another group to resume construction of the temple as well as walls around the city (see Ezra 7). Ezra also taught the people from the law of Moses and instituted the religious practices that had been abandoned while the Jews were in captivity.
But God’s people experienced opposition again. In spite of the encouragement from prophets Haggai and Zechariah, discouragement returned to the reconstruction efforts. When word of this reached Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer (who tested the king’s drink to prevent the king from being poisoned), he became dejected to the point that the king noticed. You can read about the lead up to this in Nehemiah 1:1-11. That takes us to Nehemiah chapters 2 and 4.
For this Relational Bible Study, we have skipped chapter 3 because it is long, has a lot of funny names, and could be a Bible study all by itself. It includes a variety of people who participated for various reasons in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.
But we will focus on chapters 2 and 4. These chapters deal with Nehemiah’s mission to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, and how he dealt with the opposition to this important construction.
Let’s begin with prayer for God to lead us to understand what was happening in building God’s place, the opposition to constructing God’s place, and how God’s people moved forward. That can give us hope, encouragement, and determination to actively follow what God wants us to do today, especially when we face opposition.
You Can’t Stop Us!
When have you felt “super scared” to speak to someone?
Read Nehemiah 2:1-20.
1In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Read Nehemiah 4:1-23.
1When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” 4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. 6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.
1. What did Nehemiah ask from King Artaxerxes when given the chance?
2. Name Nehemiah’s emotion when the king asked, “Why are you sad?”
3. Why did Nehemiah check the shambles of city gates and walls at night?
4. Why did Sanballat and friends oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem?
5. What did the people of Judah do when they were threatened?
6. Who fights for God’s people?
7. King Artaxerxes helped Nehemiah. What superiors have helped you?
8. Nehemiah and his people faced opposition from bullies and naysayers. What would you do if you faced that kind of opposition?
The story of Nehemiah is compelling. The passages we studied show us the strength we can obtain by having a strong relationship with God. While there are multiple lessons in this story, a primary take-away is the strength and importance of having God on our side. When we trust in God, regardless of our fear and emotions, we are sure to conquer anything. Our faith in God helps us face bullies and naysayers. What can we do to build that bond with God? The easiest way is to be in constant communication with Him, and surround ourselves with people who will be positive influences in our lives. Nehemiah’s story stresses the importance of faith in God in any and every circumstance.
Repeatedly God’s people faced setbacks to construct God’s temple and the city walls surrounding the temple and the city that was slowly being rebuilt. Sometimes we wish that God would just do an instant miracle rather a miracle that takes time. To apply God’s message from Nehemiah 2 and 4 to your life this week, put into action one of the following ideas, or adapt them as the Holy Spirit leads you to live out God’s message to you from Scripture.
Quick Start Prayer Guide for Generation Z
By Kymone Hinds
It seems like such a simple request. It was a request made by the disciples to Jesus one day. They saw Him praying and were so impressed and impacted by His prayer that they wanted to learn to pray like Him.
Prayer can be one of the easiest things to do and one of the most difficult things at the same time. It’s like talking to a friend - that’s easy. It’s talking to a friend you can’t see or hear audibly – that’s hard. Let’s be honest, you look weird talking to someone that is invisible.
Even though God is unseen it does not mean that He is not accessible. He can be reached. He is just a prayer away. This guide will help you to connect with Him deeper and get more out of your time in prayer.
Love reading? Use your reading and acting skills to bring joy to children and seniors. Create a funding page, select a few books, and go live on Instagram or Facebook, or broadcast on YouTube.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Express your appreciation and encourage people on the front lines. Use your imagination to create encouraging cards for essential workers.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help feed the hungry. Give your canned food drive a twist. Build and display structures with the cans to encourage people to give.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Help children transition to a new home with dignity. Purchase and decorate duffle bags for children who are placed into foster care. Place items such as towels and personal hygiene items in the bags.
Cost: $25.00. Partner with a business to defray costs
5. Appreciation Gift Bags for Essential Workers & Teachers / Hero Candy BarsE
Say thanks in a fun way. Make appreciation bags with food or care items for teachers, essential workers, hospital staff, first responders, etc.