2564.) Nehemiah 4

February 28, 2019

Nehemiah 4   (NRSV)

Hostile Plots Thwarted

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews. 2He said in the presence of his associates and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones at that?”

3Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “That stone wall they are building—any fox going up on it would break it down!”

Nehemiah’s leadership:  Determination.  When confronted by scorn and threats, he did not waste his energy in a war of words. Instead he prayed and the work continued.

4Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight; for they have hurled insults in the face of the builders.

Nehemiah’s leadership:  Patience.  He did not pray for revenge. Instead, he prayed that God would see that justice was done.

6So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height; for the people had a mind to work.


Nehemiah’s leadership:  Confidence.  His calm response to the enemies encouraged the people to persevere and accomplish their task.

7But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry, 8and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

Nehemiah’s leadership:  Courage.  In the face of “rumors of war,” he combined fervent prayer and thoughtful planning. 

10But Judah said, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, and there is too much rubbish so that we are unable to work on the wall.”

11And our enemies said, “They will not know or see anything before we come upon them and kill them and stop the work.”

12When the Jews who lived near them came, they said to us ten times, “From all the places where they live they will come up against us.”

13So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14After I looked these things over, I stood up and said to the nobles and the officials and the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your kin, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

Nehemiah’s leadership:  Enthusiasm. When the people were daunted by the amount of work and the opposition, he reminded them to keep their eyes on the big picture and to continue working on behalf of those who were dear to them.

15When our enemies heard that their plot was known to us, and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 

16From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armor; and the leaders posted themselves behind the whole house of Judah, 17who were building the wall. The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon. 18And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

19And I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread out, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20Rally to us wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet. Our God will fight for us.”

Nehemiah’s leadership:  Decisiveness. He set up a system where half the men worked while the other half stood guard. Furthermore, he set up a communication system — “the sound of the trumpet” would alert people that there was trouble. Then they could concentrate on their work, without looking over their shoulders all the time.

21So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from break of dawn until the stars came out. 22I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night inside Jerusalem, so that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me ever took off our clothes; each kept his weapon in his right hand.

Dr. Alan Redpath said, ‘The Jews in Nehemiah’s day were successful in their work and in holding the enemy at bay because they had a mind to work (v.6), a heart to pray (v. 9), an eye to watch (v. 9), and an ear to hear (v.20).’  What a good motto for us to keep in mind during our daily lives!

_________________________

Music:

Good leadership in this chapter, but good teamwork, too!

HERE  is something (funny) about teamwork from Johnny and Chachi.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
LaRoyce Jones, 2003.    http://www.reformingculture.com/v2/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/nehemiah.jpg
Hand me another brick!   http://home.hiwaay.net/~wgann/powerpoint/screen_6aa.jpg
building and guarding.    http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Captivity%20and%20Return%20Artwork/images/nehemiah,_the_king%27s_cupbearer.jpg
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2563.) Nehemiah 3

February 27, 2019


Nehemiah 3   (NRSV)

Organization of the Work

Then the high priest Eliashib set to work with his fellow priests and rebuilt the Sheep Gate.

The first gate mentioned is the Sheep Gate, where the sheep and lambs used in the sacrifices were bought into the city. Jesus is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” The Sheep Gate, then, speaks to us of the cross and the sacrifice that was made for our sins. It is the starting point of everything, but the Sheep Gate is also mentioned at the very end —  we have come full circle. Everything starts and ends with Jesus’ death on the cross. (All the gate descriptions in this chapter are adapted from the “Jesus Plus Nothing” Christ Centered Bible Study.)

They consecrated it and set up its doors; they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2And the men of Jericho built next to him. And next to them Zaccur son of Imri built.

3The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate;

The Fish Gate is so named because the fisherman of Galilee would bring their catch in to be sold through this gate. It speaks of evangelism as it reminds us that we have been called to be ‘fishers of men.’ It is a natural progression in our Christian life — after seeing that Jesus died for our sins, we would want to tell others about it. 

they laid its beams and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4Next to them Meremoth son of Uriah son of Hakkoz made repairs. Next to them Meshullam son of Berechiah son of Meshezabel made repairs. Next to them Zadok son of Baana made repairs. 5Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.

6Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate;

The Old Gate speaks to us of the old ways of truth that never change. Jeremiah 6:16 states ‘Thus says the Lord, Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.’

they laid its beams and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7Next to them repairs were made by Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite—the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah—who were under the jurisdiction of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8Next to them Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs; and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9Next to them Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10Next to them Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house; and next to him Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs. 11Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12Next to him Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters.

Dr. Viggo Olsen, who helped rebuild ten thousand houses in war-raved Bangladesh in 1972, derived unexpected inspiration from reading a chapter ordinarily considered one of the least interesting in the Bible: ‘I was struck . . . that no expert builders were listed in the “Holy Land brigade.” There were priests, priests’ helpers, goldsmiths, perfume makers, and women, but no expert builders or carpenters were named.’”

13Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate;

Sooner or later the Valley Gate must come. The Valley Gate speaks to us of humbling and trials – valley-type experiences used by the Lord for our personal growth. Nothing really grows on the mountain tops, but it certainly does down in the valleys. So it is in the spiritual.

they rebuilt it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.

The Dung Gate is the gate used to take all the refuse and rubbish out of Jerusalem, down to the valley of Hinnom to be burned. This is what happens in our own life. Valley experiences are used by the Lord to clear away the rubbish so that true faith, refined by the fire, can come forth and produce fruit.

14Malchijah son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate; he rebuilt it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

15And Shallum son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate;

The Fountain Gate is located extremely close to the Dung Gate. In other words, after a valley type experience where rubbish in our lives is cleared out and true faith comes forth, then the fountains begin to flow — and it doesn’t take long! The fountain speaks to us of the living waters of the Holy Spirit that cleanse our lives and empower us for our Christian life.

he rebuilt it and covered it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars; and he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David.

Charles Spurgeon preached a beautiful sermon on this text, where he spoke of six different gardens of the King: Eden, Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, the human heart, the church as a whole, and the garden of Paradise in heaven.

16After him Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired from a point opposite the graves of David, as far as the artificial pool and the house of the warriors.

17After him the Levites made repairs: Rehum son of Bani; next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. 18After him their kin made repairs: Binnui, son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah; 19next to him Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the Angle. 20After him Baruch son of Zabbai repaired another section from the Angle to the door of the house of the high priest Eliashib. 21After him Meremoth son of Uriah son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib.

22After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, made repairs. 23After them Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. After them Azariah son of Maaseiah son of Ananiah made repairs beside his own house. 24After him Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the Angle and to the corner. 25Palal son of Uzai repaired opposite the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah son of Parosh 26and the temple servants living on Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower.

The Water Gate is a picture of the Word of God and its effect in our life. Ephesians 5:26 states ‘… having washed her by the water of the word.’ It is no coincidence that this gate was located next to the fountain gate as the two often go together. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes the word of God alive to us personally, allowing cleansing, encouragement, and direction to take place in our life.

27After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.

28Above the Horse Gate

The Horse Gate speaks of warfare as horses were used in battle. Revelation 19:11 — ‘I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness does He judge and make war.’ Spiritual warfare, as we will see in the book of Nehemiah, is the reality of every Christian. We are all in a battle as soldiers for Christ to bring salvation to the world.

the priests made repairs, each one opposite his own house. 29After them Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs.

The East Gate (above — the blocked Eastern Gate in Jerusalem, also known as the Golden Gate) is known by Jews for one particular event – the coming of the Messiah! Ezekiel 44:1-3 ‘… the gate that looked toward the east, and it was shut. The Lord said to me, ‘This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it.’ The East Gate opens and looks toward the Mount of Olives, where Jesus will return (Zechariah 14:4). He will then enter Jerusalem by the East Gate. So the East Gate also speaks of the return of Jesus Christ. Scripture encourages us to live with this hope and to long for His return. A specific crown is even given to those who do this (2 Timothy 4:8).

30After him Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam son of Berechiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster (Inspection) Gate,

The final gate is the Inspection Gate. This gate speaks to us of the judgment seat of Christ where our lives are inspected and rewarded appropriately. In our Christian experience we should be living with this in mind. We are called to live our lives with eternity in view, caring more for the things of eternity than the temporal that we see around us. Prophetically this gate also speaks of the judgement of the nations that takes place when Jesus returns. This is recorded in the sheep and the goats judgement in Mathew 25:31-46.

and to the upper room of the corner. 32And between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.

_________________________

Music:

When I think of the gates of Jerusalem, I think of our Savior, who was crucified outside the gates.

Hebrews 13:11-13 (NIV)

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.

HERE  is “Revelation Song”  with Kari Jobe. Let us worship.

 


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
map of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem.      http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/images/nehem3.gif
lamb of God.   http://lambofgod.altervista.org/lamb-of-god/
fish market.   http://vestiprim.ru/news/ptrnews/2275-rybnyy-klaster-v-primore-stanet-esche-odnoy-tochkoy-razvitiya-regiona.html
old iron gate.  http://www.homeworkshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Rusted-Iron-Gate-with-Chartreuse-Elderberries.jpg
Lower Engadine Valley, Switzerland.   http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4026/4642406596_e616b9478e.jpg
present-day Dung Gate in Jerusalem.  https://yishaifleisher.com/the-dingy-dung-gate/
fountain.   http://cerejasnoquintal.blogspot.com/2012/10/fontes-no-jardim.html
The kiss of the sun . . .  http://cf.mp-cdn.net/e2/1d/243b73b775e7de947d34cf628248.jpg
Niagara Falls, Canada.  https://www.leuromag.fr/A-la-decouverte-des-chutes-Niagara-au-Canada_a2941.html
Christ on a white horse.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/revelation1911.jpg
Golden Gate.    http://www.planetware.com/i/photo/golden-gate-jerusalem-jer108.jpg
Jesus as Judge (Matthew 25).   http://historeo.com/Resources/judgment.jpg

2562.) Nehemiah 2

February 26, 2019

Nehemiah 2   (NRSV)

Nehemiah Sent to Judah

At the time, I was cupbearer to the king.

— a significant position in any ancient royal court. The cupbearer was a personal bodyguard to the king, being the one who tasted wine and food before the king did, making certain no one could poison the king. The king, therefore, had to have a tremendous amount of trust in his cupbearer, who had to be a man of faithful and impressive character. If the cupbearer could be turned against the king, assassination would be easy.

The cupbearer also was a servant to the king; he was responsible for choosing most of the foods and wines the king and the court would enjoy.

The cupbearer was also a trusted adviser to the king; since he was constantly in the king’s presence, and greatly trusted, and a man of character, it was natural the cupbearer would often be asked his opinion on different matters coming before the king.

–David Guzik

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was served him, I carried the wine and gave it to the king. Now, I had never been sad in his presence before. 2So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This can only be sadness of the heart.”

Then I was very much afraid.

Afraid because it was dangerous to show any unhappiness in the presence of the king; simply to be with him was delight and gladness! To be sad when one was with such a wonderful person could be interpreted as an insult to the king!

3I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my ancestors’ graves, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4Then the king said to me, “What do you request?”

So I prayed to the God of heaven.

A quick prayer. Like, “Help!”

5Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, so that I may rebuild it.”

6The king said to me (the queen also was sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I set him a date.

Nehemiah ended up spending 12 years in Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 13:6).

7Then I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the (Euphrates) River, that they may grant me passage until I arrive in Judah; 8and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, directing him to give me timber to make beams for the gates of the temple fortress, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me.

Tomb of King Artaxerxes

God uses a sympathetic pagan king to help his servant accomplish God’s purposes!

9Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent officers of the army and cavalry with me.

10When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, and Tobiah some other governmental man of influence. They objected because a weak Jerusalem helped them be strong; a strong Jerusalem threatened their power and positions.

Nehemiah’s Inspection of the Walls

11So I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. 12Then I got up during the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I took was the animal I rode.

13I went out by night by the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.

Thank you, King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army! 

The word viewed or inspected in Nehemiah 2:13 and 2:15 is a medical term for “probing a wound to see the extent of its damage.”

14Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool; but there was no place for the animal I was riding to continue.

The walls were so badly broken down that his horse couldn’t find footing; Nehemiah had to climb around himself to inspect things.

15So I went up by way of the valley by night and inspected the wall.

A PERFECT HEART IS A BROKEN HEART!

The Psalmist David said, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite [crushed] spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Brokenness means more than sorrow and weeping, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to mankind—greater than power to raise the dead or heal sickness and disease. When we are truly broken before God, we are given a power that restores ruins, a power that brings a special kind of glory and honor to our Lord.

You see, brokenness has to do with walls—broken down, crumbling walls. David associated the crumbling walls of Jerusalem with the brokenheartedness of God’s people. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart…. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness”  (Psalm 51:17–19).

Nehemiah was a brokenhearted man, and his example has to do with those broken walls of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:12–15). In the dark of the night, Nehemiah “viewed the wall.” The Hebrew word shabar is used here. It is the same word used in Psalm 51:17 for “broken heart.” In the fullest Hebrew meaning, Nehemiah’s heart was breaking in two ways. It broke first with anguish for the ruin, and second with a hope for rebuilding (bursting with hope).

This is truly a broken heart: one that first sees the church and families in ruin and feels the Lord’s anguish. Such a heart grieves over the reproach cast on the Lord’s name. It also looks deep inside and sees, as David did, its own shame and failure. But there is a second important element to this brokenness, and that is hope. The truly broken heart has heard from God: “I will heal, restore and build. Get rid of the rubbish, and get to work rebuilding the breaches!”

–David Wilkerson

Then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest that were to do the work.

“You will often find it best not to commit your plans to others. If you want to serve God, go and do it, and then let other people find it out afterwards. You have no need to tell what you are going to do, and, I may add, there is no need for you retelling what you have done, for very, very frequently God withdraws himself when we boast of what is being done.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Decision to Restore the Walls

17Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” 18I told them that the hand of my God had been gracious upon me, and also the words that the king had spoken to me.

Then they said, “Let us start building!” So they committed themselves to the common good.

19But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they mocked and ridiculed us, saying, “What is this that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

20Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven is the one who will give us success,

Psalm 118:24-25 (ESV)

This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Save us, we pray, O LORD!
   O LORD, we pray, give us success!

and we his servants are going to start building; but you have no share or claim or historic right in Jerusalem.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is Chris Tomlin and “God of This City.” Roughly 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure is somewhat lower worldwide — Today, around 55 percent of the world’s population is thought to be living in an urban area or city, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent over the coming decades, according to the UN. And God is over all!

You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Send me to the city.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/nehemiah-send.gif
cupbearer.   http://biblewalk.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/nehemiah.jpg
tomb of Artaxerxes.   https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Tomb_ascribed_to_Xerxes_I.jpg
broken heart.   http://s3.hubimg.com/u/205410_f260.jpg
shhh.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rebecca-minky

2561.) Nehemiah 1

February 25, 2019

Nehemiah 1   (NRSV)

Nehemiah Prays for His People

Some 1,000 years after the time of Moses and some 400 years before the birth of Jesus, the nation of Israel and the Jewish people were in a desperate state.  Their nations were destroyed — first the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and then the southern Jewish kingdom of Judah.  The city of Jerusalem was completely conquered by the Babylonians and the once-glorious temple of Solomon was destroyed.

When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, they deported almost everyone from the city and the region, and for some 70 years, Jerusalem was a ghost town, with the potential to end up like many ancient cities — completely forgotten except to history.

When the Jews were deported to Babylon, they began to make homes for themselves there. They settled down, and many still followed the God of their Fathers, but they did it from Babylon, with no desire to return to the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Some of these faithful Jews were raised up to places of prominence in the governments they were deported to. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego became leaders in Babylon; Esther was made queen in the courts of a Persian king.

But after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, they were given the opportunity to return to their homeland, the Promised Land.  Out of the some two or three million Jews deported from the land, only 50,000 decided to return to the Promised Land.  That’s only something like 2%! But they did return, and in the days of Ezra, they rebuilt the temple and laid a spiritual foundation for Israel once again.

The Book of Nehemiah begins 15 years after the Book of Ezra ends, almost 100 years after the first captives came back to the Promised Land, and some 150 years after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.  After this long time, the walls of the city of Jerusalem were still in rubble.  Before this, citizens of Jerusalem had tried to rebuild the walls but had failed.  In Ezra 4:6-23, we see that some 75 years before they tried to rebuild the walls, but were stopped by their enemies.  No one thought this obstacle could be overcome, so the walls lay in ruin and the people stayed in trouble.

–David Guzik

The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. In the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capital, 2one of my brothers, Hanani, came with certain men from Judah; and I asked them about the Jews that survived, those who had escaped the captivity, and about Jerusalem.

Psalm 137:5-6 (NIV)

If I forget you, Jerusalem,
   may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
   if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
   my highest joy.

3They replied, “The survivors there in the province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.”

4When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.


5I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments;

Nehemiah praises God for who God is.

6let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Both I and my family have sinned. 7We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.

Nehemiah confesses his sins and the sins of the people.

8Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples; 9but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place at which I have chosen to establish my name.’

Nehemiah holds God to his promises.

10They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great power and your strong hand. 11O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man!”

Nehemiah volunteers to work for God’s purposes.

At the time, I was cupbearer to the king.

_________________________

Music:

When singer/songwriter Jodi Lavender Aldredge read Nehemiah’s prayer (Nehemiah 1:5-11), she was moved by his passion and was inspired to put Nehemiah’s prayer into song —  HERE.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Nehemiah.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/nehemiah_t.jpg
city of Jerusalem.   http://book-of-revelation.blogspot.com/2012/10/luke-2120.html
Pray for the impossible.  http://gbcdecatur.org/files/PrayForTheImpossible.jpg

2560.) Psalm 147

February 22, 2019

Ps147 praisePsalm 147   (NLT)

I love how one Bible verse will remind us of another Bible verse because of a particular word/phrase or the general idea/theme. It’s interesting to follow the connections! As you read, you will see how my mind works. What verses come to your mind?

Praise the Lord!

How good to sing praises to our God!
    How delightful and how fitting!

I was glad when they said unto me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord! —

The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem
    and bringing the exiles back to Israel.

— Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!”
(Psalm 122:1-2)

He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
(Matthew 5:4)

4 He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” 
(Matthew 10:29-31)

How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; I cannot attain it. 
(Psalm 139:6)

The Lord supports the humble,
    but he brings the wicked down into the dust.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
(James 4:6)

Sing out your thanks to the Lord;
    sing praises to our God with a harp.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 
(Luke 17:15-16)

He covers the heavens with clouds,
    provides rain for the earth,
    and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. 
(Psalm 23:2)

He gives food to the wild animals
    and feeds the young ravens when they cry.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”
(Matthew 6:11)

10 He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
    or in human might.
11 No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
those who put their hope in his unfailing love.

For the eyes of the Lord search back and forth across the whole earth, looking for people whose hearts are perfect toward him, so that he can show his great power in helping them. 
(2 Chronicles 16:9)

12 Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem!
    Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he has strengthened the bars of your gates
    and blessed your children within your walls.

Then Jesus took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
(Mark 10:16)

14 He sends peace across your nation
    and satisfies your hunger with the finest wheat.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything.
(Deuteronomy 8:7-9)

15 He sends his orders to the world—
    how swiftly his word flies!
16 He sends the snow like white wool;

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
(Psalm 51:7)

    he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes.
17 He hurls the hail like stones.
    Who can stand against his freezing cold?

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 
(Ephesians 6:11)

18 Then, at his command, it all melts.
    He sends his winds, and the ice thaws.

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 
(Jonah 1:4)

19 He has revealed his words to Jacob,
    his decrees and regulations to Israel.

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.”
(John 17:6)

20 He has not done this for any other nation;
    they do not know his regulations.

Praise the Lord!

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Music:

Putting this entry together was a joyful exercise for me! And so, in the same vein, I give you one of the “funnest” praise songs I know!  HERE  is Ernie Haase and the Signature Sound with “Can He, Could He, Would He?”

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Praise.    http://clipart-library.com/clipart/101307.htm

2559.) Ezra 10

February 21, 2019

The Bible tells us: Do not be unequally yoked 🙂 with unbelievers.

Ezra 10 (New Century Version)

The People Confess Sin

1 As Ezra was praying and confessing and crying and throwing himself down in front of the Temple, a large group of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him who were also crying loudly. 2 Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel the Elamite said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying women from the peoples around us. But even so, there is still hope for Israel.3 Now let us make an agreement before our God. We will send away all these women and their children as you and those who respect the commands of our God advise. Let it be done to obey God’s Teachings.

We learn later in the chapter that most of the wives had embraced the faith of their husbands and were raising their children in the fear of the Lord.

4Get up, Ezra. You are in charge, and we will support you. Have courage and do it.”

Joshua 1:7-9 (NIV)

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

5 So Ezra got up and made the priests, Levites, and all the people of Israel promise to do what was suggested; and they promised.6 Then Ezra left the Temple and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While Ezra was there, he did not eat or drink, because he was still sad about the unfaithfulness of the captives who had returned.

One Bible commentator has said — “The man who sets himself ‘to seek, to do, to teach’ the law of God invariably brings himself into places where sorrow will be his portion, and intrepid courage necessary.”

7 They sent an order in Judah and Jerusalem for all the captives who had returned to meet together in Jerusalem. 8 Whoever did not come to Jerusalem within three days would lose his property and would no longer be a member of the community of the returned captives. That was the decision of the officers and elders.

9 So within three days all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered in Jerusalem. It was the twentieth day of the ninth month. All the men were sitting in the open place in front of the Temple and were upset because of the meeting and because it was raining.

Ahoghill, Northern Ireland

Ezra 10:9 (ESV)

And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain.

This response has been seen again as the Holy Spirit has moved upon the people of God. In March of 1859, at the beginning of a great move of God that would bring more than one million souls to conversion in Great Britain, some unordained men with a passion for revival preached at the First Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill, Northern Ireland. There was such a large crowd at that meeting that they had to dismiss the meeting out of fear that the balconies would collapse under the weight of so many people. They took the meeting to the street outside, and in the freezing rain James McQuilkin preached to 3,000 people in the streets, with many of the listeners falling to their knees in the wet and muddy street because they were so moved by the conviction of sin under the preaching of these laymen.

–David Guzik

10 Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful and have married non-Jewish women. You have made Israel more guilty.11 Now, confess it to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Do his will and separate yourselves from the people living around you and from your non-Jewish wives.”

12 Then the whole group answered Ezra with a loud voice, “Ezra, you’re right! We must do what you say.13 But there are many people here, and it’s the rainy season. We can’t stand outside, and this problem can’t be solved in a day or two, because we have sinned badly. 14 Let our officers make a decision for the whole group. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a non-Jewish woman meet with the elders and judges of each town at a planned time, until the hot anger of our God turns away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel, Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, Meshullam, and Shabbethai the Levite were against the plan.

16 So the returned captives did what was suggested. Ezra the priest chose men who were leaders of the family groups and named one from each family division. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to study each case.17 By the first day of the first month, they had finished with all the men who had married non-Jewish women.

The whole process took many weeks, because so many men had taken pagan wives. The questioning was necessary because they needed to examine if one of these wives had genuinely decided to serve the Lord God and to forsake her native religions.

If the pagan wife had decided to keep her primary allegiance with her former people and their idols, she could not live among the covenant community and had to be divorced.

To the end of the chapter, there is a list showing that only about 114 of these pagan wives refused to embrace the God of Israel and had to be divorced. Yamauchi calculates that it was less than one-half of one percent of the people who were guilty of this pagan intermarriage and who had to divorce their wives. Though it was such a small percentage, it still had to be dealt with strongly – and it was. It also shows that most of the foreign wives joined the people of God in their heart as well as their home.

–David Guzik

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Music:

HERE  is “Sweetly Broken,” lyrics by Jeremy Riddle. We all need to face our sins honestly. Christ will help us do that — and then forgive us.

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Those Guilty of Marrying Non-Jewish Women

18These are the descendants of the priests who had married foreign women:

From the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak and Jeshua’s brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah.19 (They all promised to divorce their wives, and each one brought a male sheep from the flock as a penalty offering.)

20 From the descendants of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah.

21 From the descendants of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah.

22 From the descendants of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23 Among the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also called Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.

24 Among the singers: Eliashib.

Among the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25 And among the other Israelites, these married non-Jewish women:

From the descendants of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah, and Benaiah.

26 From the descendants of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah.

27 From the descendants of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza.

28 From the descendants of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.

29 From the descendants of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth.

30 From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh.

31 From the descendants of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.

33 From the descendants of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.

34 From the descendants of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel,35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi,36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu.

38 From the descendants of Binnui: Shimei,39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah,40 Macnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah,42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.

43 From the descendants of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.

44 All these men had married non-Jewish women, and some of them had children by these wives.

Ezra here disappears from the Biblical record for about thirteen years, when he appears again in the Book of Nehemiah. His passion then was the same as it was at the end of the Book of Ezra: to transform the people of God by bringing them the Word of God.

The End of the book of Ezra.

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New Century Version (NCV)   The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Images courtesy of:
eggs.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/yolks.jpg
The task ahead of you . . .   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/task-in-front-of-you1.gif
Ahoghill, Northern Ireland.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/northern-ireland.jpg

2558.) Ezra 9

February 20, 2019

“Ezra in prayer” — engraving by Gustave Dore, 1865. (Coloring added.)

Ezra 9 (New Century Version)

Ezra’s Prayer

1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “Ezra, the Israelites, including the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the people around us. Those neighbors do evil things, as the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites did. 2The Israelite men and their sons have married these women. They have mixed the people who belong to God with the people around them. The leaders and officers of Israel have led the rest of the Israelites to do this unfaithful thing.”

The problem is not primarily ethnic. Rather, it is religious — the Jews have adopted the evil practices, the abominations (as the King James Version puts it) of their neighbors and wives.

Ezra 9:1-2 seems to recall passages from the Law of Moses against intermarriage with the surrounding Canaanite tribes – in particular, Exodus 34:11-16 and Deuteronomy 7:1-4. We may see this conviction of sin on the part of the people and their leaders, and the way that the conviction of sin was phrased, to indicate (spiritually speaking) that Ezra’s arrival to bring the ministry of teaching God’s word was bearing fruit. The people heard the word, looked at their lives, and saw that the two did not match.

–David Guzik (and all following comments in purple)

3 When I heard this, I angrily tore my robe and coat, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down in shock.4 Everyone who trembled in fear at the word of the God of Israel gathered around me because of the unfaithfulness of the captives who had returned. I sat there in shock until the evening sacrifice.

Ezra had just finished a dangerous four-month journey from Babylonia to Jerusalem. He had perhaps over-romanticized the spiritual commitment of the return-from-exile pioneers and had expected to find something completely different than the culture of compromise that he found. Certainly, one of the reasons for his mourning was that Ezra remembered that it was these sins of idolatry and compromise that caused the tribes of Israel to be exiled before. He no doubt wondered how the people could endanger themselves like this again.

5 At the evening sacrifice I got up from where I had shown my shame. My robe and coat were torn, and I fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God.

Solomon prayed on his knees (1 Kings 8:54), the Psalmist called us to kneel (Psalm 95:6), Daniel prayed on his knees (Daniel 6:10), people came to Jesus kneeling (Matthew 17:14, Matthew 20:20, Mark 1:40), Stephen prayed on his knees (Acts 7:60), Peter prayed on his knees (Acts 9:40), Paul prayed on his knees (Acts 20:36, Ephesians 3:14), and other early Christians prayed on their knees (Acts 21:5). Most importantly, Jesus prayed on His knees (Luke 22:41). The Bible has enough prayer not on the knees to show us that it isn’t required, but it also has enough prayer on the knees to show us that it is good.

Ezra also spread out his hands to the Lord. This was the most common posture of prayer in the Old Testament. Many modern people close their eyes, bow their head, and fold their hands as they pray, but the Old Testament tradition was to spread out the hands toward heaven in a gesture of surrender, openness, and ready reception.

6 I prayed,

“My God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are so many. They are higher than our heads. Our guilt even reaches up to the sky.

Ezra had a heart for holiness.  When he found out that God’s people had been faithless in matters of worship and marriage, he tore his clothes, pulled his own hair, and sat in mourning for an entire day. Then at the time of the evening sacrifice he bowed down before God and offered a prayer of confession, in which he numbered himself among the transgressors.

7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we, our kings, and our priests have been punished by the sword and captivity. Foreign kings have taken away our things and shamed us, even as it is today.

8 “But now, for a short time, the Lord our God has been kind to us. He has let some of us come back from captivity and has let us live in safety in his holy place. And so our God gives us hope and a little relief from our slavery.

“The Jewish commentator Slotki observes poignantly: ‘A little grace had been granted by God to his people; a small remnant had found its weary way back to its home and driven a single peg into its soil; a solitary ray of light was shining; a faint breath of freedom lightened their slavery. How graphically Ezra epitomizes Jewish experience in these few words!’”


9
Even though we are slaves, our God has not left us. He caused the kings of Persia to be kind to us and has given us new life. We can rebuild the Temple and repair its ruins. And he has given us a wall to protect us in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 “But now, our God, what can we say after you have done all this? We have disobeyed your commands11 that you gave through your servants the prophets. You said, ‘The land you are entering to own is ruined; the people living there have spoiled it by the evil they do. Their evil filled the land with uncleanness from one end to the other.12 So do not let your daughters marry their sons, and do not let their daughters marry your sons. Do not wish for their peace or success. Then you will be strong and eat the good things of the land. Then you can leave this land to your descendants forever.’

13 “What has happened to us is our own fault. We have done evil things, and our guilt is great. But you, our God, have punished us less than we deserve; you have left a few of us alive.14 We should not again break your commands by allowing marriages with these wicked people. If we did, you would get angry enough to destroy us, and none of us would be left alive.15 Lord, God of Israel, by your goodness a few of us are left alive today. We admit that we are guilty and none of us should be allowed to stand before you.”

As the tribes of Israel piled sin upon sin before the fall of the northern and southern kingdoms, God still showed remarkable mercy to them. He did not have to preserve them in exile; there could have been genocide instead. As well, He did not have to bring them back from exile into the Promised Land once again. Each of these was a wonderful example of God’s mercy in the midst of judgment.

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Music:

“Nothing in my hands I bring — simply to thy cross I cling.”  No excuses, no justifications, no spin — just confession.

HERE  is “I Lay My Sins on Jesus” — forgive us, Lord.

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New Century Version (NCV)   The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Images courtesy of:
Dore.   http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/bible-images/hires/Ezra-Chapter-9-Ezra-Kneels-in-Prayer.jpg
praying on her knees.   http://worldartsme.com/person-praying-on-knees-clipart.html#gal_post_76643_person-praying-on-knees-clipart-1.jpg
verse 8.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/ezra9-8.jpg