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June 1 – Introduction to Nehemiah 

In the year 539 BC, the prophet Daniel was an old man serving in the courts of Babylon, receiving visions from the Lord of kingdoms rising and falling. Persia conquered Babylon, and Cyrus sat on the throne. A year later, Cyrus issued a decree that the Jews could go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. We read this account in the book of Ezra. Ezra returned to Jerusalem around the year 458 BC, and they began the rebuilding with limited success.

Nehemiah was 13 years later. Nehemiah will be the focus of our devotions this month. Nehemiah will do the Lord’s work in spite of swarms of opposition, and we see again and again that his help, his strength, his joy, and his hope is in the Lord and in trusting and obeying the Word of God.

As you read through the book of Nehemiah and consider this devotion that accompanies it, I pray that you will be encouraged in your service to the Lord and in living for the Lord. We are always tempted to go the easy way, to compromise, to just let sin be in our lives. Nehemiah shows how the Lord is at work with His people so that His people (like us) can live, not like the nations, but for the Lord. Perhaps you have great changes you need to make in your life. Perhaps you need encouragement to press on in the faith. May God’s Word guide and refresh you day by day.

Priorities of the heart 

“Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” – Psalm 137:6

Scripture reading: Nehemiah 1:1-4

How do you live in the world and not let the comforts and pleasures of the world cause you to lose sight of the eternal? Do you love your position or certain comforts more than the Lord and His work? Nehemiah had a position in a palace. As cupbearer, people would think he is living the dream. But Nehemiah knew his position was temporary. Nehemiah’s passion was to see the exiles returned and Jerusalem restored as the place where God dwells with His people, and where the Lord is rightly worshipped by His people.

This is why Nehemiah was anxious to hear news of Jerusalem and of the exiles that had returned. When Hanani told him that Jerusalem was in disgrace, Nehemiah was heartbroken. Through the prophets, God had promised He would restore the people to Jerusalem and dwell with them there. The work had begun in the days of Ezra, but now it seems no one cares enough to carry on with it – disgraceful!

For us today, God’s dwelling is not in the temple, but in the hearts of true believers. Are we prioritizing the work of the Lord in our hearts and lives? Or have we become careless? Also today, central to the Lord’s work is the local church. Do we care about the state of the church? Do we grieve sin and long to see the kingdom of Christ furthered, that more and more God may be known and worshipped?

Suggestions for prayer

Pray that God will help us to never forget what it means to belong to Him. Pray for hearts that deeply long to see the work of God furthered in our hearts and in the world around us.

Rev. Simon Lievaart currently serves Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. Prior to this, he served the United Reformed Church in Doon, IA. Rev. Lievaart grew up in southern Alberta, attended Redeemer University College and Mid-America Reformed Seminary. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. This devotional is made available by the Nearer To God Devotional team, who also make available in print, for purchase, at

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