The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa,
Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands,
let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you.
We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
"Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations,
but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'
"They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.
O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king.
In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before;
so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid,
but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."
Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?
And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days
I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire.
Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through;
so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate.
The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."
I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding." So they began this good work.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. "What is this you are doing?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?"
I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it."
He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek.
The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.
Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.
So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.
When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.
So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.
From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.
One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.
This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved."
She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.
When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.
They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar
by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten.
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.
Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.
The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself ! We are all here!"
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.
He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.
At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.
The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family.
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: "Release those men."
The jailer told Paul, "The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace."
But Paul said to the officers: "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out."
The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed.
They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.
After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.
Shout with joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!
Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name." "Selah"
Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf !
He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot-- come, let us rejoice in him.
He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations-- let not the rebellious rise up against him. "Selah"
Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you--
vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble.
I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. "Selah"
Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!