Nehemiah: A Broken Heart to Rebuild a City and Restore a People – a Guest Post

NehemiahNehemiah’s heart broke for his people thousands of miles away and the need for their city to be rebuilt. He left the comfort of the Persian palace to help his people, the Jews. It wasn’t because of his physical strength, popularity, or skills that God placed this calling on Nehemiah. Rather, his soft heart made it possible for God to accomplish a special purpose. Rebuilding the city walls resulted in the restoration of the people and their return to God.  Guided by our Heavenly Father, we each have a purpose in sharing hope, restoring hearts, and building the Kingdom. 

Lean into Heavenly Boldness:

(Nehemiah 2:1-10 + Luke 11:9-10)

Asking to leave the king and Persian palace might have caused Nehemiah to fear for his life, yet he knew the desires God placed on his heart. He had peace from praying. Nehemiah boldly gave the king his request, and asked for timber to rebuild the city gate and walls. “The king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.”1 

Sometimes we are afraid to speak up, take a risk, or sacrifice our comfort for fear of backlash or rejection; but if God is leading us, we can ask boldly, make a move, and trust His leading. Nehemiah’s boldness and willingness to lean into what God laid on his heart gave way to the restoration of a city and the healing of the hearts of people.

          What is holding you back from boldly doing what God wants you to do?   

Pray Often + Before Action:

(Nehemiah 1 + 1st Thessalonians 5:17)

Along with news of the destroyed wall and burned gates of the city came stories of broken spirits and fears. Nehemiah felt a burden on his heart and drew close to his Heavenly Father to seek His help. For over four months, he mourned, fasted, and prayed before talking with the king.2 God gave a plan for rebuilding the city to Nehemiah. Because Nehemiah followed God’s plan, the city was rebuilt in only 52 days! 

We get ahead of God when we take action or follow our own ideas before seeking Him. Prayer gives the time and power for Him to move and lead us. Nehemiah prayed first. He didn’t gossip, take a poll, or call his sympathetic friends. When we seek Him first, He will move more powerfully in the healing and rebuilding in our lives.  

          When have you raced ahead in action before taking time to pray for His leading?

Stand Up for Those Who Are Helpless: 

(Nehemiah 5:1-13 + Proverbs 31:8-9)

Besides famine and heavy taxation, countrymen were charging high-interest rates, forcing many people (even their own relatives) into financial bondage. Nehemiah saw this happening, and spoke up. He held them accountable for their selfishness. They made a commitment then to change their ways, and did so in front of the people and God.3  

When we see pain or are aware of hurt still causing trouble, passivity is not an option. We must not let fear or backlash keep us from standing up for anyone. Nehemiah didn’t ignore issues, belittle problems, or excuse his countrymen’s behavior. He was willing to speak to people and into situations causing harm. He knew that cycles of pain slow down healing. 

                   What is something you can speak into that is causing pain or harm? 

Trust + Celebrate His Promises:

(Nehemiah 2:20; 4 + Isaiah 26:4)

Nehemiah reminded the people to trust God’s faithfulness and remember His promises to fight for them and help them. He kept verbal threats or physical assaults from discouraging them. Nor did he retaliate against their enemies for he believed God would protect His people. The people celebrated their new city and praised what God had done “and the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”4  

We must pray and ask for strength, express our fears, and ask for His presence around us. This is how we fight our battles! Seek Him when you are doubting, feeling discouraged, or are distracted. Write down His promises; say them out loud; listen to them audibly and share them with others. This helps deflate and silence the lies of the Enemy!  When we celebrate His faithfulness and praise Him, joy will indeed be heard, felt, and known!

           What promise or testimony can you share to bring hope to others?  

Empower People + Spur Others On:

(Nehemiah 2:17-20; 3 + Hebrews 10:24-25)

Nehemiah empowered the people to work together and encouraged them to believe God’s hand was with them. He organized families as teams to work on sections of the wall. He delegated the tasks and encouraged teams to embrace their part in the goal. Nehemiah worked shoulder-to-shoulder alongside them, rather than giving directions from a distance. 

Though we should all know our spiritual gifts and use them for the service of God, whenever there is a need, there is an opportunity to give, serve, and love. Even the goldsmiths, perfumers, and merchants felt purposeful and helped rebuild the city walls.  Spurring each other on toward love and good deeds is also Kingdom work.5

          Who is someone you can empower or spur on?

Work through the Rubble:

(Nehemiah 2:12-18; 5 + Galatians 6:9)

The difference between building and rebuilding is rubble. Though a long time had passed since the city’s destruction, rubble and memories remained. The people from Jerusalem felt burnt and hopeless by the past. For years they wallowed in the rubble. But God is a redeemer, and His plan was always to redeem their future and restore hope again. God sent Nehemiah to help as He was moving in their hearts.  

It’s important to acknowledge our personal rubble and work through it, or we will find ourselves still climbing and tripping. Denying or ignoring rubble doesn’t make it go away. Problems can snowball and become bigger and more difficult to deal with later. To genuinely be able to rebuild, we have to give (and not hide) the broken pieces to God.

          What rubble from the past is still slowing down growth and healing for you?

Value People over Things: 

(Nehemiah 1:5-11; 8:9-10 + Philippians 2:4)

From his first prayer, Nehemiah asked for the restoration of the people back to God. When he saw people being taken advantage of, Nehemiah cared. He addressed the wrongdoers and called them to account. After completing the wall, Nehemiah stayed and worked with Ezra the priest and others to reconnect the people with God. Nehemiah looked to the well-being of people, not just the physical condition of the city.

The rebuilding of God’s holy city meant nothing without God’s people dwelling inside it. Physical walls brought security and hope again, but the lifeless stone and pulseless iron did not compare to the worth of people. It is relationships, not beautiful homes, that restore hearts and build the Kingdom. Physical things are fleeting while relationships last a lifetime and encourage growth as iron sharpens iron.6

          How can you keep focus on what matters (people over things) for the Kingdom?

Copy this prayer where you will see it often and can pray:

          Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a soft heart to receive Your purposes in me. 


1 Nehemiah 2:8 NLT

2 Nehemiah 1:4

3 Nehemiah 5:6-7 NLT

4 Nehemiah 12:43a

5 Hebrews 10:24

6 Proverbs 27:17

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About the Author

Rebekah Slabach is # 5 of our half-dozen. She is an Agriculture Extension Agent in Halifax County, Virginia.  Dr. Pepper is her coffee, being near water is her therapy, and coaching 3rd-5th grade girls with the Girls on the Run® program is part of her kingdom work

Special Note: This article was originally published in the Restoration issue of the Daughters of Promise Magazine.

Credits: photos from



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