Tags: church membership, commentary on Nehemiah, Ezra, joining a church, Nehemiah 7, Nehemiah 8, Sunday School lessons on Nehemiah, the local church, Word of God, work of God
Among other things, the first six chapters of Nehemiah deal with God’s people coming back from exile, doing the work the Lord had assigned to them, and ultimately finishing the work. Chapter 7 deals with protecting the work .
Nehemiah enlisted help in protecting the walls and organizing the city. There is always room in the work of God for Godly helpers.
That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
Can you imagine if all Christians thought we were called to be Nehemiahs, and none thought they were called to be helpers? Nothing would ever get done. Some of us are called to be Hananis, Hananiahs, Rephaiahs, or Shallums: protectors and guards. If the enemy can’t stop the work of God, he will try to come in and take over what has been built. Bright lights draw people who are interested in helping, but they attract bugs, too.
It was important that the people be able to prove their ancestry in order to go back to Jerusalem to work. It was also important to list the names of the citizens (Nehemiah 7:5-65). The assignment of jobs in an organized move of God may require formal acknowledgment of commitment. That is one of the reasons why New Testament churches may require Christians to officially “join the church” before placing them into trusted ministry positions. If God is calling you to attend a certain local church, then you need to be involved. You need to have a commitment to serve God under His ordained pastor. This shows accountability. The Church is a body, and a body is a living organism, but an unorganized organism will die. Church membership has nothing to do with salvation, and, so far as I can tell, it is not a command from the Bible. Neither does the Bible prohibit you from having a sit-down Bible study in the middle of a busy highway, but it is certainly not a good idea. The local church is important in God’s plan for evangelism and for teaching (discipleship).
In Nehemiah Chapter 8, Nehemiah called a Bible conference and invited Ezra.
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
When Ezra preached, the people listened for five or six hours per day and verse 7 tells us they “stood!”
Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.
Nehemiah 8:7 (emphasis added)
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Nehemiah 8:8 (emphasis added)
1. Nehemiah wanted to make sure the Word was learned. Ezra read from the scroll and then taught.
2. Nehemiah wanted to make sure the Word was loved.
And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
Nehemiah 8:12 (emphasis added)
3. Nehemiah wanted to make sure the the Word was lived.
Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.
Nehemiah 8:18 (emphasis added)
Tags: 1 Peter 1, commentary on Ezra, Ezra 7, Ezra 8, Leviticus 11, Leviticus 19, Leviticus 20, Leviticus 21, Sunday School lessons on Ezra
God made Artaxerxes grant Ezra great authority.
I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and [of] his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
The first group of returning exiles, under Zerubbabel, was 50,000. Ezra’s group was 1500 men, plus women and children. The success of a ministry is not numbers. It’s the work of God being accomplished. It’s the lives of people being changed. Most of all, though, it’s the Word of God being obeyed.
God even forced Artaxerxes to fund the mission.
And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,
Ezra recruited exiles. Let’s not forget to reach out to exiled believers, as well as lost folks. Once these recruits got together, they did not rush out on their own. They humbled themselves and prayed.
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
Like Abraham’s servant when he went to find Isaac’s bride, they understood the importance of seeking God’s favor, and God was with them.
Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth [day] of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.
They gave an accounting.
By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time.
Also the children of those that had been carried away, which were come out of the captivity, offered burnt offerings unto the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel, ninety and six rams, seventy and seven lambs, twelve he goats for a sin offering: all this was a burnt offering unto the LORD.
They obtained clearance from the civil authorities.
And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God.
In Chapter 9 we see a major problem with the people as they returned from exile. They were used to living an unholy life.
For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.
Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.
And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.
Thou shalt sanctify him therefore; for he offereth the bread of thy God: he shall be holy unto thee: for I the LORD, which sanctify you, am holy.
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
I Peter 1:15-16
Why should Christians live a holy life? I can give you many reasons, but the main reason is: because God has commanded it. At least eight times in Scripture Gods says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And he is primarily talking to believers. Believers should not look, think, talk, and act like the sinful world, because sinful things and sinful ways are not holy, and God says, “Be ye holy.”
Tags: circumcision, circumcision in the Bible, commentary on Exodus, difficult Bible verses, Exodus 2, Exodus 4, Gershom, Moses, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
Moses killed an Egyptian slavemaster and fled from Egypt. He ended up meeting the priest of Midian, who would become his father-in-law.
And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
Moses had been given signs by God. First, God appeared to him in a bush that burned but was not consumed. Then God gave Moses the ability to turn his shepherd’s rod (staff) into a snake and back into a rod again, the ability to turn his hand leprous and then back healthy again, and the ability to turn water into blood. God’s Word had sealed his fate, and now he was off to obey God and to face difficult circumstances.
And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand. And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
Then comes this very strange and enigmatic passage of Scripture:
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
First, the ambiguous pronouns make it very difficult to discern exactly who is being met and almost killed, and who is being circumcised. Second, there is very little consensus or agreement among commentators or scholars about the precise message and meaning of the incident. Matthew Henry (the “go-to” commentator for many Bible teachers) says, “This is a very difficult passage of story…” Some believe that Moses’s son, Gershom, hadn’t been circumcised, or at least properly circumcised. The Egyptians practiced a less extensive (and not-acceptable-to-God) form of circumcision than the Israelites. Some believe that the text is talking about Eliezer, Moses’s other son. I suppose, after studying the passage in some detail, that I’m going to land closer to an interpretation that goes something like this: The person that the Lord “met and sought to kill” (v. 24) was Moses’s son, not Moses. Moses is not mentioned by name in the passage. The previous verses address the future death of Pharaoh’s first-born son, so it would make sense to segue into a frightening near-death experience concerning Moses’s first-born son. Moses’s wife was the daughter of a Midianite priest, so she may have had some familiarity with circumcision (although probably not the specific Jewish rite and obligation commanded by God to Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14). When her beloved son became ill (presumably this was how God sought to take his life, although we can’t be sure), she did what Moses should have done eight days after his birth, and circumcised him herself with as much solemnity, propriety, and piety as she could muster under the circumstances. The phrase “cast it at his feet” makes it sound like she threw the foreskin at Moses in disgust or anger, but it may instead be a euphemism for touching the foreskin back to Gershom’s privates as a formal expression of solemnity. The line about “a bloody husband” is often characterized by commentators as a sort of modern British insult against Moses, but the Hebrew word interpreted as “bloody husband,” could mean that she was pronouncing her and her half-Jewish, half-Midianite son as “blood relatives” – under the Jewish covenant-sign of circumcision – with Moses and his one true God, Jehovah. In any event, whatever happened appeased the Lord and everyone lived. We may learn a valuable lesson from this, however we may understand the story: God wants Christian families to all be on the same page, fully obedient to Him and compliant with His commands – especially those families where the husband would take on some type of leadership responsibility in the work of the Lord.
Epilogue: When I taught this passage in (adult!) Sunday School, I said that Moses’s wife had an apt name, and that she cut off Gershom’s foreskin because she didn’t want it to get caught in his “zipper-ah.” A few people groaned, but nobody laughed, so feel free to do likewise.
Tags: 2 Corinthians 11, Christian marriage, Ephesians 5, Gospel marriage, Hosea 2, marriage counseling, marriage ministry, Romans 7, the local church
Marriage is supposed to illustrate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Obviously God made a good choice when he chose to make marriage Gospel-illustrative, because it is a very pliable analogy. In the Bible it is used at least three different ways to illustrate the relationship between Christians and Christ.
First, it illustrates Christ’s relationship with the capital C “Church” – the “universal” church.
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
God – from the time of Abraham – has been calling out a “bride” for His Son. He has been “saving” a bride: making her righteous and cleaning her up so that she will be beautiful for His Son. If we are to illustrate that accurately in our marriages, we need to be holy and different in a world which is devaluing marriage every day.
Second, marriage illustrates Christ and His relationship to local churches.
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ.
II Corinthians 11:2
As married couples we need to have “Godly” jealousy, which is a desire that your spouse’s affections are set on you in a way they are set on no one else. This is justifiable if you are a trustworthy recipient of those affections. We also need to be involved in ministry in our local church, holding up the Christian ideal of marriage in a church which calls itself Christian. Stand up for the marriages of your fellow church members, and stand up for Jesus when problems arise.
Third, marriage illustrates Christ and His relationship with individual believers.
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, [even] to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
We are part of a universal body, and we should minister in a local body, but we must nourish and cherish our individual and personal relationships with Christ as well. Spouses “leave” their old lives as sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, to commit to a higher allegiance to each other. So too do Christians leave our old protections, homes, hopes, tasks, and masters, to be joined unto Christ, Who provides better protection, hope, tasks, and is a better Master.
Tags: 2 Corinthians 10, devotions for teachers, Ephesians 5, I Timothy 2, Isaiah 57, James 4, John 8, Psalm 24, Psalm 51
And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
Christians are supposed to operate on a different level: the level of Christ, not the level of this world. The level of Christ is a higher, better level, where God is honored and people are truly helped.
1. Get High by Climbing Up
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
Psalm 24:3 (emphasis added)
Who can ascend? Who can climb the hill of the Lord? The strong? The swift? The worldly wise? The prestigious? The famous? The wealthy? The influential? We must throw out our worldly ideas of what it means to “ascend” – to go up. You have to be bold to climb, says the world; but Gods says the contrite are the ones who will climb up to higher ground.
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
Contrition is a recognition that you have been conquered by someone more powerful than you. Contrition is freedom before God; it is bondage, oppression, and terror before anyone else. It takes strength to climb, says the world, there are no handicapped mountain climbers; but God says the broken are the ones who will climb up to higher ground in Christian ministry.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Someone who is broken before God is someone who realizes that he or she has messed up badly: someone who is willing to admit that he or she is wrong. Common sense would tell us that this is disastrous in a setting where other people can use your admission of wrong-doing or failure against you, but God requires a brokenness – a willingness to admit mistakes, faults, sins.
No one will ascend to higher ground under his own power. The only ones who will ascend are the ones who do not get weary in well-doing because they do not depend on their own strength. The only ones who will ascend are the ones who have a guide Who will lead them over or around the streams and boulders of temptation. The only ones who will ascend are those who have the right foot-gear: their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. That means we need to be prepared to be Gospel-centered when we deal with non-Christians and with each other. Our distinguishing characteristics should be grace, mercy, love, truth, peace, forgiveness, and longsuffering.
The only ones who will ascend are the ones whom the Lord Himself will lift up.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
In Christian ministry you “get high” by “getting low.”
2. Get High by Cleaning Off
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 24:3-4 (emphasis added)
What makes our hands so unclean?
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
I Timothy 2:8
Wrath makes our hands dirty. You can’t get right with God while you’re not right with your brother or sister in Christ. Wrath is reserved for God with the exception of our wrath against sin and against our spiritual enemies in high places. Wrath makes hands unclean, and so does doubting. When we have an unpleasant ministry job to do, we say we’re getting our hands dirty, but really we’re getting them clean. Jesus was not afraid to touch the unclean.
If ministering in love cleans the hands, what washes the heart to make it pure? The Word of God.
Christ gave Himself for the Church…
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
3. Get High by Casting Down
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 24:4 (emphasis added)
Vanity is a type of idolatry. It is anything you are pursuing, or walking after the course of, that is not of God. Hopefully, you do not worship a graven idol, but if idolatry is giving your heart to anything that that is spiritually empty, then I am afraid that too much of what captures our hearts is vanity, and we are guilty of lifting up our souls to it. What should we be doing with vanity? With emptiness? With anything that is what the Bible calls “imaginations:” anything without eternal worth?
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
II Corinthians 10:5
We should be casting vanity down, not lifting ourselves up to it. Casting down means destroying: the way that God’s people were at times supposed to destroy their enemies under the herem (the “ban”). God wanted them all destroyed: women, children, livestock, altars, statues of false gods – everything. If a weed is simply pruned back, but not utterly destroyed, it will always grow back, often stronger than it was before. If we are going to climb up to higher ground, we are going to have to cast down imaginations, not just what the imaginations produce. If I am not reading my Bible regularly, it’s not enough just to determine to read my Bible more. If I am not praying regularly, it is not enough just to determine to pray more. I must get to the thinking which is causing these problems. I must get the root out by casting down imaginations and worldly thinking.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 2, Acts 8, Colossians 3, Ephesians 5, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, John 3, John 6, John 7, Luke 11, Philippians 4, pneumatology, Romans 8
Have you ever attended a church service or a conference that turned out to be sort of a religious pep rally where the speaker did his best to get you all fired up to do something, but then stopped short of actually telling you how to do it? Last time I wrote about the importance of being “full” of the Holy Spirit. Now we will look at how to do that.
The first clue lies right there in the verse that commands us to do it:
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
How do you get drunk with wine? You drink it – lots of it!
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:13
That Spirit referenced in I Corinthians 12:13 is the Holy Spirit, and you have access to Him if you are truly a Christian – just like every other Christian has access to Him. So how do you “drink of the Spirit?” You drink the Spirit by “minding the things of the Spirit.” In other words, since the Spirit is not really a liquid, and we are using a metaphor here, you have to set your mind and your affection on spiritual things. You have to focus on the things of God and get involved in doing them. If you wanted to drink a large amount of water you would go to where the water is. You would pick it up, and you would pour it down your throat.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
1. Initiate spiritual thoughts and actions.
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.
Think about that with which God would want you to be involved.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Get full of the Holy Spirit by thinking about – and doing – the types of things the Holy Spirit loves to do: things that help others; things that build up others; things that edify; things that bring praise and glory to God; things that magnify Christ Jesus – which brings us to the second way to get full of the Holy Spirit.
2. Imitate the Lord Jesus.
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
If you came to Jesus, repenting of your sins, believing the truth about Him, and calling upon Him to save you from the wrath of God that you and I deserve, then you “drank” of His Spirit, and, after that, rivers of this “living water” exist in you and flow out of you. Therefore, you “drink the Spirit” by living, loving, and leading like Jesus. You need to live a pure and holy life, because that’s how Jesus lived. You need to love the people around you – and especially the people who seem unlovable – because that’s what Jesus did. You need to lead people into a right relationship with God, because that’s what Jesus did.
3. Indoctrinate yourself with Bible principles.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
You need to read and study and meditate on the teachings of Jesus. You need to go to church and Sunday School and learn about, put into practice, and live out the teachings of Jesus. You need to be a student of the records of what He said during His time on earth in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you are going to have to find out what the Bible teaches, both in the “red letter” words, and in the rest of the Bible, too, including the teachings of the Apostles.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
I Corinthians 2:12-13
If we will indoctrinate ourselves with the words of Jesus and with Apostolic teaching, we will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
4. Interact with the Holy Spirit Himself.
He is a person. He is not a source, a power, a mystical cloud, a thing, or an “it.” When you are dealing with a person, you must cultivate a real relationship.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
You can’t control the wind, but you can certainly interact with it. It is important – and perhaps this is the most important thing to know about how to be filled with the Holy Spirit – to pray for Him to fill you.
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit.
You have to want to be Spirit-filled for the right reasons. He can not be manipulated.
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
“Simony” is the purchasing of church offices, but Simon’s real fault was in thinking he could manipulate and control the Holy Spirit for his own profit. He was covetous (“in the gall of bitterness”) and he was being used by Satan (“in the bond of iniquity”). The wrong way to ask God for the Holy Spirit is with an ulterior motive of manipulation. The right way is with a heart that seeks to please God. Remember, when you are filled with the Spirit, here is what you will find yourself doing: praising the Lord; thanking the Lord, serving others humbly because of God.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Tags: atonement, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, Cinco de Mayo devotions, confession, Jesus Christ, Levitical system, Leviticus 5, Old Testament sacrifices, pride
Under the Old Testament Levitical system, provision was made for the atonement of sins in the form of animal sacrifices. Christian believers under the New Testament have had their sins atoned for already by the propitiating work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross. Therefore, we are prohibited from bringing any other sacrifice. However, we may still glean some principles from that which has been abolished.
Old Testament and New Testament believers alike were/are commanded to confess their sins with specificity.
And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing:
Our confession of guilt before God means the forfeiture, not of a lamb, a goat, a dove, or a pigeon, but the forfeiture of our pride, because “confession” means that we are agreeing with God that we were wrong and He is right. The Old Testament required both sin offerings (for general areas of sinfulness) and trespass offerings (for specific violations of the Law of God). Christians certainly acknowledge their sinful condition which has been remedied only by the imputed righteousness of Christ the Lord, but we also need to get very detail-oriented in our prayers of confession and repentance, so that the Holy Spirit may help us to put aside the sins which so easily beset us. This is never easy, and it is often grievous, but the sooner we slaughter our pride on the altar of confession, the better off we will be and the sweeter our fellowship with God will be.
Tags: commentary on Nehemiah, leadership principles, Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah 4, Nehemiah 5, Nehemiah 6, overcoming adversity, Sunday School lessons on Nehemiah, walking by faith
In Nehemiah Chapter 5 we see an example of how the world tries to disrupt the work of God, as wealthier workers began to take advantage of poorer workers.
And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
Nehemiah was originally angry, but he controlled his anger.
And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.
He dealt with the problem through Biblical teaching and preaching. He used six different reasons to condemn the practice of usury, and one of them was the testimony of the people of God in front of unbelievers.
Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
Another highlight of Nehemiah Chapter 5 is the fact that the leaders worked too.
Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.
When there’s work to do we need to be motivated by love. We need to do it the way God’s Word says to do it. And we need to do it – do all – to the glory of God. Do it for the right reason, do it the right way, and give the glory to the right One!
Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
By faith that stands firm we can stand up to: (1) slander (Nehemiah 6:5-9); (2) intimidation (Nehemiah 6:10-14); and (3) the discouragement of no end in sight (Nehemiah 6:15-19). As Christians, our “end” is not “in sight.” We live by faith and not by sight. We “walk in the Spirit,” and a walker is someone who has a place to go.
Throughout all the distractions, Nehemiah never stopped working:
Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
Tags: Bible teachers, commentary on Ezra, Ezra, Ezra 7, Ezra 8, secrets of success, Sunday School lessons on Ezra, the Great Commission, the hand of God
It is interesting to note what Ezra himself saw as the reason for his success.
This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
And by the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of understanding, of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel; and Sherebiah, with his sons and his brethren, eighteen;
For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.
Ezra recognized that “the good hand of the Lord was upon [him].”
Artaxerxes was called Artaxerxes “the Long-Handed,” and we are reminded of the far-reaching consequences of breaking the laws under our own system of criminal justice when we use the phrase, “the long arm of the law.” Artaxerxes’s influence was certainly widespread, but he was really being used as God’s “long hand.” God’s hand moved Artaxerxes’s hand to sign the decree which granted the authority that Ezra needed.
Ezra Chapter 7 takes place 60 years after the dedication of the temple in Chapter 6. The Jewish remnant was having a difficult time when God raised up Ezra to lead the second group of refugees from Babylon to Judah. Ezra came from a Godly line of priests, and he knew who they were, and he sought to honor their memory. It’s one thing to be left a great material inheritance by your ancestors, but it’s even better to be left a spiritual inheritance. What a waste it would be if your grandparents and their parents deposited spiritual wealth into your account, and you are now squandering it.
Ezra was a student of the Scriptures.
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
He read the Word, he obeyed the Word, and he taught the word. All Christians should be teachers. You may not have an official “classroom of students,” but if you think you don’t have anybody to teach, let me introduce you to your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your co-workers, etc. Find some children whose parents don’t come to church, or some single parent who could use some help, and share what God has shown you in His Word.
Tags: commentary on Exodus, Exodus 1, Exodus 2, Jesus Christ, Moses, oppression, Pharaoh, Sunday School lessons on Exodus, the world
Egypt’s kings were called “pharaohs.”
Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
The Israelites had begun their sojourn in Egypt as legal resident aliens, but had now become slaves. Pharaoh planned to control their population, and keep them docile by killing the male babies.
And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.
Exodus Chapter 2 introduces Moses. His birth and his providential rescue were arranged by God. Moses would be a man devoted to God (born Jewish) with influence in the “world” (typified by his upbringing in Pharaoh’s court). Moses was cared for in his childhood by a Jewish mother so that he could understand his own heritage and have some understanding of the true God. In this way he was a prophetic type of Jesus Christ: dwelling in the world; dedicated to God; destined to deliver his people.
When Moses was grown he killed an Egyptian slavemaster and fled from Egypt.
And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. And when they came to Reuel their father, he said, How is it that ye are come so soon to day?
We can see that, even prior to his calling by God, Moses had a sense of fairness, and was courageous in standing up for those who were being abused and oppressed.