Getting Full (Part 1)

September 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Galatians | 7 Comments
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Lord, thank You for the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He is our Helper, our Comforter, our Counselor. He gives us joy and hope and peace. May we never grieve You, Holy Spirit. May we never quench You. May You have free reign in every cavern of our hearts. May You lead us into all Truth. In the Name of the Lord Jesus I pray. Amen.

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:18

“Be not drunk” is a command, and it is an easy thing to learn from this verse, but it is not the primary principle being taught here. Here the subject of drunkenness is used for the purpose of contrast – in a way that is similar to the contrast which is highlighted when things that reflect light look very bright against darkness. Jewelers use this to their advantage when they show customers brilliant diamonds against a black cloth.

When the Holy Spirit says, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit,” He is not saying, “Go ahead and get drunk, but don’t do it by drinking wine.” He’s not saying that He will make you act like a drunk person. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit is a set of character qualities or virtues that are the opposite of the way a drunk person acts.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Drunkards are not usually peaceful. In fact, they are often downright belligerent. They are not longsuffering (willing to put up with a great deal of offense). Actually, they tend to be very easily provoked and offended. They are not known for being gentle, nor meek. They are often loud, boastful, and boisterous. Temperance is sometimes used as an antonym for drunkenness.

No, Ephesians 5:18 is not offering a “clean way” to be loud, obnoxious, clumsy, and stupid. It’s saying drunk people are full of wine, but sober, kind, loving, wise, Christian people are filled with the Spirit.

So, which do you want to be? Do you want to think you’re ten feet tall and bullet-proof when you’re really basically incapacitated mentally – stumbling around like a fool? Do you want to be loud but with nothing intelligent to say? Do you want to be muttering and mumbling and grumbling and complaining and getting on everyone’s nerves because you feel like nothing ever goes your way? Or do you want to be wise – and kind – and loving – and respected – and useful for the Kingdom of God? If so, then you want option two: you want to be filled with the Spirit.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how to do that.

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Beware the Foretaste of Fatality

September 27, 2013 at 10:53 am | Posted in The Fives | 8 Comments
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The first man lived a long time under a death sentence.

And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Genesis 5:5

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God and eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he knew the consequences.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:16-17

So why did Adam not die that very day? Some Bible scholars believe that God withheld the execution of the death sentence out of pure mercy. Under this theory Adam may have received a nine-century reprieve. Others believe that when God said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” He was referring to the spiritual death into which all humanity is now born (“dead in trespasses and sins”), even though Adam might not have taken it that way at the time. Furthermore, “that day” Adam did die in a sense: His death was assured and he began to be subject to the aging process, disease, and fatal injuries. I fall into the latter category of commentators, being of the opinion that God did not “change His mind,” but, either way, God made sure that Adam (and Eve) no longer had access to the Tree of Life.

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Genesis 3:24

Nobody relishes the thought of a trip to the doctor which culminates in the pronouncement, “You have X amount of time left to live.” Adam received a great gift of grace from God to have his execution delayed by hundreds and hundreds of years, but we have to wonder if he felt strong pangs of guilt and regret every time another human being around him bit the dust, so to speak.

We tend to think of our own mortality when we attend a funeral, see a hearse drive by, watch a tragic story on the evening news, or have a “close call” with a speeding semi truck. We might be better off, though, if we made a permanent mental connection with our death and its ultimate cause: sin. No person can be righteous enough in his or her own power to earn eternal life, but those who have already received this glorious gift from the Savior ought to think soberly about the connection between sin and death, and ought to strive to resist the temptation to sin.

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (emphasis added)

Scorn, Schemes, Scoundrels, Schizophrenics, and Scares

September 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 2 Comments
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And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5 (emphasis added)

Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

Nehemiah 2:7 (emphasis added)

Nehemiah’s “send me” became his “give me.” Perhaps it would be good for us to sometimes pray as volunteers before praying as beggars. “Let my friend be saved” becomes “give me an opportunity to share the Gospel with him.” “Heal my eyes” becomes “Lord, I repent of using my eyes to look with lust; help me to use them to see people’s needs.” I’m not saying we should try to bribe God. He knows our hearts. But Nehemiah had been fasting, praying, and planning for four months before his emergency prayer to God in the presence of the king.

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 2:4

The journey to Jerusalem took approximately two months, and Nehemiah traveled with a military escort, including some of the king’s officers. It must have been discouraging for him to see that there were enemies waiting for him when he got there, but there will often be enemies waiting when we set out by faith on a journey to do the will of God. We must not mistake the successful arrival at the place of battle for the victory itself. Recovering from an illness is not the victory; it’s only the successful trip to get back into the fight.

These were Nehemiah’s enemies:

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?

Nehemiah 2:19

Sanballat held an official position in Samaria, and it is very common for worldly officials to oppose the work of God when money is at stake. Tobiah was an Ammonite: a sworn enemy of the Jews (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). The devil opposes anything and everything Godly. Tobiah was related to some of the workers by marriage. Therefore, he had a “foothold” to try to interfere with the work, and he gathered intelligence. The devil is in the intelligence-gathering business. He can’t read our minds, but he doesn’t need to do so. He can learn everything he needs just by hitching a ride in the back seat on our way home from church. That’s why it’s important to prepare your weapons for battle in church, not just to have a party. The devil can spoil a party, but he can’t overcome a vigilant Christian warrior. Too many professing Christians are like dogs after a bath. They feel like they’ve been scrubbed clean during church and they can’t wait to get back in the mud.

https://i2.wp.com/www.petfinder.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/146067791-how-to-dog-bath-632x475.jpg

Geshem represents the flesh. The devil and the world will always try to enlist the flesh. Our flesh is weak, and it is a burden which must be borne and battled throughout the life of a believer.

Notice the tactics of opposition in which the world and the devil enlist the flesh to help attack the work and the workers of God:

Scorn

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

Nehemiah 4:1-2

Mockery and ridicule must not deter the work of God.

Schemes

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Nehemiah 4:7-8

In spiritual warfare, our enemies will set traps. They spend time and effort planning and plotting.

Scoundrels and Schizophrenics

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

Nehemiah 4:10

A scoundrel is someone who is deceitful and unreliable – someone who will lie to get out of work. A schizophrenic is someone who is afflicted by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements. Christian workers can be infiltrated and influenced by lazy and double-minded enemies of the work of God.

Scares

And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

Nehemiah 4:11-12

Fear of God is the friend of faith. Fear of failure is the enemy of faith. Nehemiah and his helpers had started a project so big and so daunting that only God could finish it, and they trusted Him to use them to do so. Don’t be ignorant of the devices of your enemies. You know who they are (world, devil, flesh), and now you know their tactics.

Different Levels of Separation

September 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Ezra | 2 Comments
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Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.

Ezra 4:1-3

The return from exile by believers excites opposition from the enemies of God. Exiled believers can benefit greatly from the prayers, support, and even advice of Christian brothers and sisters, but we must be careful of bringing insurgents into the midst of the family of God. There were some Samaritans who wanted to ride along – without Godly intentions – on the coattails of God’s returning people. Christians must interact with worldly people, but we must not partake in their sinful activities.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

II Corinthians 6:14-17

Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 4:24

It was ungodly fear that caused the work to stop.

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 4:4-5

Believers should not be afraid of anything, except God. A person who does not fear God should be afraid of everything else.

Ezra 4:6-23 is a break in the narrative, giving the history of the work of the exiles being attacked. It deals with the rebuilding of the temple, not the city.

Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.

Ezra 4:12

Ezra 4:12 is the first time in the Bible the people of Judah are called “Jews.”

In Ezra Chapter 5 the Lord sends preachers to get the people to stop working on their own houses, and to re-start doing the work of God

Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.

Ezra 5:1-2

Haggai and Zechariah were the main prophets.

And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.

Ezra 6:14

In the kingdom of God, our work is building, not fighting, not celebrating, not boasting – but we must be careful to build on the principles found in the Word of God. Works of God not built on words of God are doomed to fail.

And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,

Ezra 6:16

The Babylonians had destroyed the temple in 586 B.C. The completion of the work of rebuilding the temple was in 515 B.C., a period of 70 years, fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy. Ezra 6:13-18 describes the dedication of the temple in 515 B.C., but the Jewish holiday Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication in 165 B.C. when the temple had been defiled by gentiles and a group of brave Jewish warriors, led by Judas Maccabeus, recaptured it, cleansed it, and re-dedicated it to the Lord.

And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

Ezra 6:22

Darius is sometimes called the king of Assyria, although we usually refer to him as the king of Persia. Persia had conquered Assyria, so he was king of Persian and king of Assyria. The Jewish people that couldn’t work on the temple because they couldn’t prove their lineage were still welcome to worship and to participate in the dedication of the temple.

And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,

Ezra 6:21

Our position as Christians should be that all who profess an interest in God are welcome in church, even though not everyone is qualified to serve in all ministry positions in the church.

God’s People in the World

September 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Exodus | 2 Comments
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The name of the Book of Exodus refers to the idea of “going out:” exiting. In Hebrew, though, it was called “Names” or the “Book of Names” because of the way it starts.

Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob.

Exodus 1:1

The children of Israel were “God’s people” – also known as Hebrews, Jews, or sometimes Semites, descended from Shem, one of Noah’s sons. They were the descendants of Abram/Abraham.

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Genesis 12:1-2 (emphasis added)

However, at the beginning of Exodus they could have hardly been considered a “great nation.”

And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.

Exodus 1:5

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson, and Jacob’s son, Joseph, had been providentially moved into authority in Egypt. It was there that the children of Israel began to prosper and multiply, because God was keeping His promise.

Exodus begins with the word “now” (used as a synonym for “and”) to let us know that this is a continuation of what happened in Genesis. The children of Israel were blessed by God, but they were in the “world,” which is symbolized by Egypt. God’s people will always be oppressed by the world in the world – unless they act like they are of the world (which we are forbidden from doing). Christians should live like ships sailing on the sea. The best place for a ship is not in dry-dock. It is “on” (on top of) the sea (the world). We do well on top of the sea, but if the sea gets into us, we begin to ride low in the water, take on more and more water, and eventually sink into ineffectiveness and tragedy. Christians should not live like monks, completely separate from the world, but neither should we immerse ourselves in the sin promoted by this world’s system. The Jewish people were hard-working and a blessing to Egypt’s economy, but they could not be absorbed into Egypt, which was a culture of false gods and death.

Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Biblical Marriage | 3 Comments
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The very first human friendship in the history of the world also happens to have been the very first marriage.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We tend to think of “friendship” and “love” as being in two different, although overlapping, spheres, but friendship is one of the most important ingredients in “love.”

Listen to how the wife in Song of Solomon talks about her husband:

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Song of Solomon 5:10

She says, “My husband is awesome – I would not want anybody else.”

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

Song of Solomon 5:11

My wife has a slight variation on this when she talks about me: “He is very handsome – his bald spot shines like a diamond.”

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

Song of Solomon 5:12

“He doesn’t have beady eyes.” (Always a plus!)

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

Song of Solomon 5:13

“I like his aftershave and even his breath smells good!”

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

Song of Solomon 5:14

“He has strong hands and six-pack abs.”

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

Song of Solomon 5:15

“He has nice legs and his profile is stunning.”

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

She is really carried away with this dude’s looks, and she’s telling this to the other women, but she is referring to him as her beloved and her friend.

I have devised an acrostic from the word S.P.O.U.S.E. to remind us of the importance of friendship between husbands and wives.

S.olace

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Be a friend to your spouse by loving her or him at all times – especially in adversity. That’s what solace is: comfort in times of distress.

P.roximity

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendship means staying close by – being there to help when a need arises. The relationship of marriage is less meaningful without the proximity of friendship.

O.penness

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Be a friend to your spouse by communicating openly, honestly, and frankly. Your spouse needs to be the friend you confide in – and the one whose confidences you keep.

U.sefulness

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Friends give each other gifts. It might just be time and attention or it might be material gifts, but being at your spouse’s disposal is the gift of usefulness. There are few things more discouraging than having a useless spouse.

S.upport and S.anctification

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 22:11

Kind words are supportive and helpful words are the marks of true friendship, but true love is always love in truth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Friends sometimes fight, but they fight to the glory of God, and they fight with a purpose. They fight in love, and God puts them together to make each other stronger – like iron.

E.ncouragment and E.xhortation

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A good spouse has to batter the other spouse occasionally (figuratively, not literally!), but then we have a duty to bandage the wound in love.

The Trap of Looking too Low

September 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 2 Comments
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Samson: a man known for his tremendous, albeit supernatural, physical strength. Among his various exploits, the most well-known is probably his tryst with, and betrayal by, the Philistine seductress, Delilah. If pressed to name another Samsonite adventure though, the average church-attender would probably say, “One time, Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey!”

And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.

Judges 15:14-15

When Samson had accomplished this mighty task, he found that he was parched, but he still had the energy to pause and compose a little ditty to celebrate his victory:

And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

Judges 15:16

This verse loses some of its lyrical wit when translated into English, but the idea is that there is a play on the Hebrew words for “ass” or “donkey” (chamowr in Hebrew) and “heap” (chamorah in Hebrew). The theologian James Moffatt tried to capture the flavor of the pun by paraphrasing the verse. In his translation, Samson’s song or poem would go something like this:
With the jawbone of an ass
I have piled them in a mass.
With the jawbone of an ass
I have assailed assailants.
With the jawbone of an ass
I have slain a thousand men.

Catchy, huh? From Samson’s point of view it was just another day in a life filled with whatever came to pass as he pursued his passions and battled his personal demons. We might expect a man with Samson’s calling and endued with such power to use this miraculous feat as the launching point for a concerted effort to unite his countrymen, draw near to God in gratitude and trust, and to throw off the yoke of the Philistine oppressors once and for all. Alas, it was not to be. In the very next chapter Samson goes into Gaza to visit a prostitute.

What was Samson’s problem? It appears to have been a vision problem. Instead of looking up to God, he kept his sights trained on the day-to-day, the mundane, and the instantly gratifying sensations of fleshly adventure. In other words, he looked – and aimed – far too low.

May we not fall into this trap ourselves. We were made and redeemed by God for purposes far greater than the temporal pursuit of pleasure. But we need to fix our eyes in the right direction, or we will quickly forget our holy calling.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18 (emphasis added)

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 (emphasis added)

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (emphasis added)

Beware the Fight with the Flesh

September 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, The Fives | 3 Comments
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I know a number of Christians who have devoted the majority of their lives to the ministry of delivering their fellow human beings from the power of Satan. This is certainly a noble vocation. In fact, it was one of the chief objectives of the incarnate Lord.

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

I John 3:8 (emphasis added)

Given the prevalence of “deliverance” ministries in the modern church, and the ubiquity of “seeker-sensitive” ecclesiology in recent years, the idea of delivering someone to Satan instead of from Satan probably sounds especially abhorrent to you. However, that is precisely what the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul adjured the church at Corinth to do.

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

I Corinthians 5:5

What was the offender’s crime? It was brazen sexual sin, practiced openly and unrepentantly.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

I Corinthians 5:1

Church discipline can be a touchy subject, and we see precious little of it practiced these days. It is a grievous measure which must be done with mourning and severity, and not motivated by any sort of a personal grudge. The idea that a believer would be sent out to deal with Satan apart from the accountability, encouragement, and exhortation of the brothers and sisters of Christ which make up his local church family should definitely give us pause. True Christian fellowship is possible only when we are on the same page concerning the fight against our sinful flesh. If we can, through the conquering power of Christ, keep our sinful physical desires in subjection, we can stand together, unified in our desire to bring glory to God.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Romans 7:18

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

I Corinthians 9:27

Returning from Exile

September 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Ezra | 3 Comments
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In 538 B.C. approximately 50,000 exiled Jews left captivity in Babylon to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city. After the decree of King Cyrus which authorized them to do this, some of the Jews wanted to return and some didn’t.

Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.

Ezra 1:8

Sheshbazzar was probably Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah. It was not unusual for Jews born in a foreign land to be given a foreign name in addition to their Jewish names.

Ezra Chapter 2 contains genealogies. These were important to the Jewish people for two reasons: One, they needed to be able to prove they had an inheritance of the rights and privileges of being Jewish. Two, they didn’t want their mission corrupted by outsiders.

Those who returned took singers with them. Believers today sometimes sing songs which sound joyous to the world, but which also carry an undertone of grief to those sensitive to the Spirit. (Psalm 137:1-4) Coming back early from exile should be a time for truly joyous singing, which honors the Lord.

What did they do first when they were ready to begin rebuilding? Lay the foundation? No. Gather supplies and materials? No. Set up an altar and sacrifice? Yes! If you are a Christian, but you have been in “spiritual exile” – disobediently out of God’s will – when you return, you should get back to basics: do the fundamentals, present yourself as a living sacrifice to God.

Note the emphasis on unity: they gathered together (Ezra 3:1); they stood together (Ezra 3:9); they sang together (Ezra 3:11). When you come back from a spiritual exile, get in unity, “togetherness,” with other believers who are following the foundation of the pattern: repentance; confession; prayer; reading and heeding the Word; obeying the Word and the Spirit; growing in faith.

In Ezra 3:11 the unity was interrupted when the joyful shouting was interrupted by loud weeping. These “ancient” men were upset because the “new” did not meet their expectations, and, in their mind, did not measure up to the “old.” As believers today, if we go into exile, and then come back, we may find things changed. The music may be different. The “style” of worship may be different. The age of the leaders may be different. The Word of God is never different, but older believers must not insist that the younger believers conform to every old tradition.

If you find yourself in exile from the will of God, one thing is clear: God’s commandment – you really don’t have to search very far in the Scriptures to find it – is that you return from exile. Return to the center of God’s will for your life. God will enable you to do it.

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

I Thessalonians 5:24

God is faithful. His faithfulness is not dependent on our faithfulness.

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

Petitioning the King

September 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Nehemiah | 3 Comments
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Lord, help us to be active doing Your will, executing the decrees of Heaven. I pray that we would be like the workers in Jerusalem, holding our trowels in one hand, and our swords in the other – working with one hand, vigilant and prepared to defend against the enemy with the other hand. Let us not be slothful in business, but let us be fervent in spirit, serving You. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Nehemiah’s name meant “the Lord has comforted.” He was a very successful man. As a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes Longimanus (the Long-Handed), he was in a trusted position. He was trusted to protect the king from danger, and he was trusted to give advice. He was trusted to be presentable, and trusted to be prepared. In this way he was a good example for Christian managers and employees today. Can your employer trust you to give good advice? Are you someone that people can trust to be presentable? Do you run when there’s danger, or is that when you can be counted on most?

Perhaps Nehemiah was taught by his father, Hachaliah, to depend on the Lord, because he lived in a time when (despite his name) he was not comforted by the news of his people in Jerusalem.

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

Nehemiah 1:1-4

Nehemiah cared enough to ask someone how the people were doing, and he cared enough to get upset when the news was bad. He cared enough to admit his – and his people’s – guilt, and he cared enough to remember the promises of God.

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Nehemiah 1:8-9

He also cared enough to pray.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:11

This was a simple prayer, but sometimes it’s the strength of our prayers, not the length of our prayers, that touch God. Most of the prayer is talking about God and His Word. Nehemiah’s petition itself was very brief.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Nehemiah 2:5

Nehemiah approached both the king of Persia and the King of the Universe. The earthly king saw the sorrow on his face; the Heavenly King saw the sorrow in his heart.


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