Reflection Guide - Nehemiah 9:32-37

Key points from the sermon:

  • Verse 32 begins with an affirmation of God’s character and then an acknowledgement of their own hardship.  Hardship is the consequence and reality of sin. Their hardships are extensive (from kings and princes to fathers and all God’s people) and expansive (nearly 300 years of oppression).  The reach of sin’s consequences are complete and total.

  • Despite their hardship, Ezra began this passage by extolling God as great, mighty, and awesome.  This puts their hardship in its rightful place. Our God is VASTLY BIGGER than any of our circumstances.  The way we quantify our hardship will change in direct proportion to the way we quantify God’s awesomeness.  This does not mean we make light of our hardship - Israel doesn’t minimize their situation (Ezra goes into more detail in the next verses).  Instead, we make more of our God, we magnify our LORD!

  • In verse 33, Ezra proclaims God as righteous in giving them hardship.  All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Hardship is the direct result of our sinfulness against God.  God is righteous in disciplining us. He would be righteous in eliminating us; it’s what we deserve. Yet, in God’s faithfulness, He uses our hardships for our good and His glory.

  • In the final verses of this passage we see great distress.  Israel is enslaved, just as we’re enslaved to sin today. Ezra is leading the people to call out to God and beg for freedom.  We too can call out to God - being honest about our depravity and our broken situations, trusting that our sin doesn’t change our God, knowing that God not only hears our cries but gives us His holy presence!  We know that because of Jesus we are set free and that one day the hardship will end, one day we will enjoy God without the grave interference of sin. That is our hope in the midst of hardship!

Scripture to meditate on this week:

“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” -Psalm 55:22

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is Israel’s situation in this passage?  How would you describe their circumstance?

  2. Why is it significant that Ezra extolled God (verse 32) before describing their great distress?

  3. When you’re in the midst of hardship, do you tend to minimize the circumstances or magnify the circumstances?  What are the effects of doing either?

  4. Are you currently in great distress?  If so, what is your hope? How can your MC or DNA join you in prayer in the midst of hardship?

Practice:

In the sermon, Pastor Josh quoted Elisabeth Elliot (who endured much hardship in her life) as saying: “Refuse self-pity.  Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.”  This week, let’s turn our thoughts to Christ. Let’s prepare for hardship (if we’re not already in it). Read this article by Elisabeth Elliot, where she expands more on how to have hope during great distress, and then let’s practice pressing into Jesus in the midst of our hardship!