"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice
of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a
prophetic, life-changing power for you.
"When I heard this report, I began to weep and continued mourning for several days; I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." Nehemiah 1:4
When you hear bad news about the condition of God's people, do you weep and mourn for several days, and then fast and pray? If you care that much, you can be used by God to renew His Church.
Prayer: Lord, renew Your Church in this our day, as by a new Pentecost (Pope John XXIII).
Promise: "Grant success to Your servant this day." 1:11
"I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king: 'If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors' graves, to rebuild it.' " Nehemiah 2:4-5
Nehemiah received the king's permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. He also received official letters granting him safe-conduct and authorizing the allocation of timber for rebuilding the walls. When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he secretly inspected the walls. Finally, after completing all these preparations, he proposed to the Jewish leaders the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. What could they say but " 'Let us be up and building!' And they undertook the good work with vigor" (2:18).
Prayer: Father, make me as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove (see Mt 10:16).
Promise: "Then I explained to them how the favoring hand of my God had rested upon me." 2:18
"We, however, continued to build the wall, which was soon filled in and completed up to half its height." Nehemiah 3:38
Renewing the Church is not done by a few superstars doing most of the work but by many little people doing something.
Prayer: Father, may the majority of the parts of Jesus' body function together soon.
Promise: "The people worked with a will." 3:38
"Every builder, while he worked, had his sword girt at his side." Nehemiah 4:12
Every builder in God's kingdom is also a soldier because Satan opposes our work.
Prayer: Father, give me the faith and courage to proceed with Your work even in the midst of spiritual warfare.
Promise: "Whenever you hear the trumpet sound, join us there; our God will fight with us." 4:14
"Let us put an end to this usury!" Nehemiah 5:10
Charging and receiving interest must be stopped if renewal is to proceed. Is this still true today?
Prayer: Father, open my eyes to see the relationship between the banking and financial systems and the condition of the Church.
Promise: "The whole assembly answered, 'Amen,' and praised the Lord. Then the people did as they had promised." 5:13
"They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will slacken in the work, and it will never be completed.' But instead, I now redoubled my efforts." Nehemiah 6:9
When enemies throw lies, threats, and gossip at you, don't stop working. Instead, double and redouble your efforts in renewing the Church.
Prayer: Father, as opposition intensifies, motivate me to work ever harder for You.
Promise: "The wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul; it had taken fifty-two days. When all our enemies had heard of this, and all the nations round about had taken note of it, our enemies lost much face in the eyes of the nations, for they knew that it was with our God's help that this work had been completed." 6:15-16
"I came upon the family list of those who had returned in the earliest period." Nehemiah 7:5
Once again, the Chronicler does what he loves to do: count. He concludes this account of the rebuilding of the walls by giving an expanded list of those who had originally returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. The Chronicler is the type of person who really enjoys reading the phone book.
Prayer: Father, may I enjoy recounting even the most minute details of Your wonderful works.
Promise: "Over Jerusalem I placed Hanani, my brother, and Hananiah, the commander of the citadel, who was a more trustworthy and God-fearing man than most." 7:2
"He read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law." Nehemiah 8:3
If we rebuild walls, buildings, and churches but don't live according to God's word, our word is in vain.
Prayer: Father, give me the grace both to weep and rejoice when I read the Bible.
Promise: "Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, 'Amen, amen!' Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground." 8:6
"They read from the book of the law of the Lord their God, for a fourth part of the day, and during another fourth part they made their confession and prostrated themselves before the Lord their God." Nehemiah 9:3
After hearing Ezra read the Bible for eight days, the people were convicted of sin. They confessed their sins and Ezra prayed for them.
Prayer: Father, may I go to Confession as soon as possible.
Promise: "Arise, bless the Lord, your God, from eternity to eternity!" 9:5
We "with the sanction of a curse take this oath to follow the law of God which was given through Moses, the servant of God, and to observe carefully all the commandments of the Lord, our Lord, His ordinances and His statutes." Nehemiah 10:30
The people took an oath that they would obey God's law, and the leaders of the people signed a sealed document to that effect.
Prayer: Father, make me very conscious of my baptismal promises. May I be faithful to You in all my commitments.
Promise: "We will not neglect the house of our God." 10:40
"The leaders of the people took up residence in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one man in ten to reside in Jerusalem, the holy city." Nehemiah 11:1
To repeople Jerusalem, ten percent of the people were chosen by lot to reside in Jerusalem. This gives the Chronicler another opportunity to count something. Counting makes you feel better. Ask any little child.
Prayer: Father, You have counted the hairs of my head (Lk 12:7). Give me joy in the security of Your love.
Promise: "The people applauded all those men who willingly agreed to take up residence in Jerusalem." 11:2
"The following are the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo..." Nehemiah 12:1-4
While we're counting, just for the fun of it, let's count the priests and Levites under Zerubbabel and those under Joiakim. Then let's count those on the guest list for the dedication of the city wall. Counting helps us realize there's order and meaning to life and that we have got something to hold on to.
Prayer: Father, may I not count on anyone or anything other than You. You alone are my Strength.
Promise: "At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out wherever they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate a joyful dedication with thanksgiving hymns and the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres." 12:27
"I took them to task and cursed them; I had some of them beaten and their hair pulled out." Nehemiah 13:25
Nehemiah returned to Babylon after rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Eventually, he came back to Jerusalem and was displeased to find a number of abuses concerning the Temple, the sabbath, and mixed marriages. These very points were those emphasized in the covenant recounted in chapter 10. Finally, Nehemiah straightened out everything. But how long would it last?
Prayer: Father, thank You for Jesus, Who saved me and made it possible for me to obey You.
Promise: "Remember this in my favor, O my God!" 13:31
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, June 20, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 1996
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com