Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah

Journey through the Final Act of the Old Testament and Rediscover God’s Faithfulness

A study series by Kathleen Nielson & D. A. Carson
In partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources

Course Introduction

About the Course

Taking a close look at the Book of Nehemiah, this study opens a window into the dramatic story of God’s people sustained by God’s Word that points groups to God’s sovereign plan to work through his people.

Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah takes us into a compelling story! The Book of Nehemiah tells of God’s people returned from exile and rebuilding the broken-down city of Jerusalem. More than that, it tells of God’s people being rebuilt according to His Word. As we watch the leader Nehemiah direct the rebuilding, we’re watching the Lord God direct history according to his promises–all of which were fulfilled in the promised Christ who came from this people’s seed. This study of Nehemiah helps us understand our history as believers in Jesus Christ. It helps us learn to walk in faith according to God’s Word, even in times of weakness and rebuilding. Eight lessons draw us into the text, giving background and asking questions that lead us to make fruitful and personal observations.

Watch the promotional video with Kathleen Nielson below for an introduction to the course.

About Kathleen Nielson

Kathleen Nielson (PhD, Vanderbilt University) serves as senior adviser and book editor for TGC, after directing women’s initiatives from 2010 to 2017. An author and speaker, Kathleen has taught literature, directed women’s Bible studies, and loves working with women in studying the Scriptures. She and her husband, Niel, make their home partly in Wheaton, Illinois, and partly in Jakarta, Indonesia, where Niel leads a network of Christian schools and universities. They have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and five granddaughters.

About D. A. Carson

Don Carson (MDiv, Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto; PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and president of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures. He and his wife, Joy, have two children.

View a chronological list of all of Dr. Carson’s publications here.

Course Textbook
  • Rebuild: A Study in NehemiahKathleen Nielson & D. A. Carson

    This study guide will help learners engage with the text of Nehemiah alongside the video lectures throughout this course.

    This study guide will help learners engage with the text of Nehemiah alongside the video lectures throughout this course.

Meeting Nehemiah

We are made to love stories—and Nehemiah draws us into a powerful one. It’s a true story, all about God’s faithfulness to His people and the call for their faithful response to Him. As Nehemiah leads the returned Jewish exiles to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, it is clear God is watching over His people as He promised in His Word—and calling them to walk in light of that Word.

To get into this story, we need context. The Book of Nehemiah is not just about a leader who masterfully accomplishes the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s broken-down wall. Nehemiah’s people and city have a history. These are the people to whom God has made promises— promises that reach back to the beginning of the biblical story, as we’ll see in this session.

The promises reach forward, all the way to us today. The Book of Nehemiah tells a crucial part of the story of redemptive history— our history, as Christians saved by the promised Christ who in the fullness of time was born of this people’s seed. Nehemiah’s restoration of a worshiping people tells our story, for the Old Testament system of worship points straight ahead to our Lord Jesus, through whom we have access to God. We must take this story personally. This lesson will help us get ready to take it in.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 1 and answer all the questions.

Action–In Light of God's Word (Nehemiah 1–2)

Nehemiah opens with a crisis that quickly precipitates the action of the book. As we hear Nehemiah tell his story quite personally in these first two chapters, we’ll ask what his response to this crisis reveals about him—and about God. Nehemiah understands his crisis in relation to his God. His outward action grows out of inward communion with God and faith in God’s Word.

In the first session we established that the Book of Nehemiah is about God’s faithfulness to His people and the call for their faithful response to Him. This big theme of Nehemiah the book comes to life in Nehemiah the man. What a challenge to watch this person in action! As he lets us see him both inside and out, Nehemiah reveals a life lived in communion with God and in light of God’s unfailing Word.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 2 and answer all the questions.

Laboring for a God Who Fights for Us (Nehemiah 3–4)

How do we as God’s people work together for His kingdom purposes? How do faith and work go together? How do we face opposition to our work? Nehemiah 3–4 addresses all these questions and more. It’s a vivid part of the narrative—even chapter 3, with its long list of various Jews doing various jobs. What a glimpse into the lives of real people doing real work, going after it with willing and unified hearts, and with competent organization.

Nehemiah 4 shows us God’s people under attack, right in the midst of their building project. We can learn a lot from their response, under the leadership of one who encourages them to find help in just the right ways, first and foremost through trust in their faithful God. Nehemiah leads this work for God only because of his faith in the Word of God. God has made promises to this people, and Nehemiah leads the people to work boldly and faithfully in light of those promises.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 3 and answer all the questions.

Fearing God in a Fallen World (Nehemiah 5–6)

Conflict in this fallen world doesn’t just come once and then go away. We’ve been reminded of the armor of God that helps us persevere through many battles. Only God’s faithful provision for us enables us to serve Him with faithfulness all the way to the good end.

These next chapters reveal threats arising not just from enemies outside but also from enemies within. Nehemiah 5 deals with unrighteous and disobedient behavior among the Jews, in relation to how they treat the poor among them. Nehemiah 6 brings a reprise of the enemies all around Jerusalem who are trying to block its restoration.

In dealing with these threats, Nehemiah’s constant motivation is not to win against all odds. Neither is he motivated simply by the need for good moral behavior. This is a man filled with a much greater motivation: the fear of God and the glory of His name.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 4 and answer all the questions.

Coming Together around God's Word (Nehemiah 7–8)

Once the walls are finished, the rebuilding task is not over. Biblical history focuses not so much on a secure place as on the people of God who dwell in that place. This is a helpful reminder for us, isn’t it? In the midst of all our good programs and projects, we always need to remember the people—and people’s urgent need to feed on and follow God’s life-giving Word.

That’s what these two chapters show us. After the final organizational details are attended to in chapter 7, the people come together for a great assembly in chapter 8. They gather not to celebrate the completion of the building project; that will come later, in chapter 12. First comes this assembly that gives God’s Word to God’s people. This is an “interior building project,” one that involves lots of spiritual breaches being filled in order for the people to be solid, grounded in the Word of God. It’s a kind of building project we desperately need to continue today.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 5 and answer all the questions.

Responding to God According to His Word (Nehemiah 9–10)

Do you recall the people being instructed not to mourn or weep, in response to God’s Word—but to remember that the joy of the Lord is their strength (see Neh. 8:9-12)? The right time for mourning had not yet come. In Nehemiah 9–10, that time has arrived. It is the same month; this scene of confession takes place a few days after the people celebrated the Feast of Booths (see 8:13-18).

It is important to keep in mind the chapters that came before. What leads us into repentance? Too often, we are not moved to repent until either our wrong is uncovered or our situation has become hopeless. Here the repentance is a direct response to hearing and understanding the Word of God. It is repentance according to the Word of God. In fact, the prayer of confession here overflows with the Word!

We’re watching a revival among God’s people, as the Word by the Spirit declares truth, convicts hearts, and reforms both doctrine and practice. Our own prayers for revival can be well informed by the story of Nehemiah.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 6 and answer all the questions.

Celebrating! A Moment of Joy in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11–12)

Chapters 11–12 show ongoing results of a revived people. We’ve just come from scenes of turning back to God’s Word, confessing, and reforming according to that Word. These next scenes confirm and continue the good work God is doing in this remnant of His people. Jerusalem’s wall has been rebuilt. As a people set apart within that wall they are being rebuilt spiritually, through leaders who teach God’s Word and encourage faithful participation in worship according to the Law.

We are right to look for results of such rebuilding—discernible fruit that grows from times of revival. In Nehemiah, three results are clear and clearly presented one after the other: a repopulation program; a worship celebration; and an institutionalization. For the remnant of God’s people in Jerusalem, these three results indicate spiritual health and growth. As we study these chapters, it will be worth asking how these results might correspond to signs of health and growth in God’s people today.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 7 and answer all the questions.

Leaning Forward in the Dark: A Failed Reformation (Nehemiah 13)

Just as the book opened with Nehemiah’s first-person narrative, so it ends—with his powerfully personal response to the weakening of the reformation that occurred among these returned exiles. It is a disappointing end to an inspiring story. It is a dark end to Old Testament history. It is an end that makes us long for the rest of the biblical story.

Although the timeline of all these events is not completely clear, we know that after 12 years as governor of Judah, Nehemiah left Jerusalem to return to Susa for an extended period of time. He then returned to Jerusalem to discover the evil he confronts in this last chapter. These confrontations help us come face to face with the sinful desires and practices of all of us, even now. They also move us to claim God’s gracious forgiveness in Christ and God’s power in us, through the risen Christ, to turn from evil and serve Him faithfully, again and again, until Jesus returns.


Read Rebuild: A Study in Nehemiah chapter 8 and answer all the questions.