Tag Archives: Nehemiah

Through the Bible, June 25

Reading: Nehemiah 8, 9, 13

Summary: Nehemiah and Ezra join forces to help the people to learn and understand God’s Law.  They obeyed certain portions of the Law that had been neglected for many generations.   Also, the people learned of violations of God’s Law that needed to be corrected.

Devotional Thought:

Understand and Rejoice

The goal of communication is understanding, isn’t it?  We speak and we wish to be understood.  We read and we want to understand.

Though communication can fail in so many ways—understanding is not achieved—in many instances, it carries an expectation for understanding. When I read a road sign that says “45” I need to know if that’s a speed limit, highway number, a mile marker, or an exit number.  If the sign says “Stop” or “Yield” I need to understand what that means and be sure my corresponding actions are appropriate.  Not only do I need to understand, I’m expected to.

The Bible also carries an expectation for understanding. Remember the Ethiopian nobleman who had a question about the Scripture he was reading.  “Do you understand what you are reading?” the preacher asked.  “How can I unless someone guides me?” was his reply (Acts 8:30-31).  Philip did guide him and he did understand.

So also in the days following captivity and the restoration of Israel.  Ezra stood before the assembled people and read God’s word.  But not only was His word read, Levites were present to help the people understand what they heard.  Initially, the people responded with grief and tears (v. 9). This wasn’t right.  The Levites calmed the people, who finally “went their way…rejoicing because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (v. 12).

Back to that Ethiopian in Acts 8. He understood what Philip taught him, obeyed the word of God and “went on his way rejoicing” (v. 39).

Understanding begets rejoicing, especially when we understand God.

Through the Bible, June 24

Reading: Nehemiah 4-6

Summary: Rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, as great a task as it was, was only the beginning of Nehemiah’s good work.  He also set out to right the wrongs of the powerful and wealthy taking advantage of the poor.  For his efforts he was moved from an “unofficial” position of leadership to an official one, serving as the governor of Judah.  From there he acted generously and justly.

Devotional Thought:

Distracted

I don’t know of anyone who gets as much done as they would like.   There’s always more that could and/or should be done.

Why? Why are we so lousy at getting things done?  That’s a loaded question and the answers are many, very many.  Lazy, disorganized, unmotivated, busy-ness, overload, forgetfulness, etc., etc.

The list is potentially unending.  Efficiency and productivity experts say that one of the biggest culprits is distractions.  Our attention, and therefore our energies, are diverted from the task at hand. It will now take longer to accomplish whatever we’d been previously focused on and consequently robs the time that could have been given to the next important task.

Satan may be the father of lies, but he’s also the master of distraction.  His success does not require our rejecting God’s work and righteous deeds, only that we be distracted.

Nehemiah’s sterling leadership is shown when his opponents invited him to a meeting in the plain of Ono.  He said, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3).  He refused to be distracted.

Failing God does not require our doing wrong; distraction from doing right will suffice.

Through the Bible, June 23

Reading: Nehemiah 1-3

Summary: Nehemiah has to be regarded as one of the great examples of leadership in all of Scripture.  He moved boldly to answer a dire need even though he was not in any “official” position to do so.  He moved decisively and influenced many others to action despite opposition.

Devotional Thought:

You’re No Leader, So Lead

Nehemiah’s position as cupbearer for the king seems rather inane and trivial. It was a position of some prominence in that he was in direct contact with the king.  No, he was not a policy maker or hold a cabinet-type position.  He served the king his wine.

Remember, Nehemiah was a cupbearer; no great shakes in the scheme of things.

What Nehemiah ended up doing, though, was quite remarkable.  He led the third group of Jews back to Jerusalem from the land of their former captivity.  He set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that still lay in ruins—hence the city was still not a viable entity with hope of a future.

Nehemiah knew well the spiritual implications of Jerusalem’s condition (see 1:6-9) and took it upon himself to pray to God about it.  He was so bold as to ask the king for permission to lead his countrymen back to his homeland and rebuild the city walls.  Eventually, he did precisely that, first motivating, then leading the people—despite cunning opposition—to complete this noble and notable task.

Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the king; Nehemiah, the great leader of God’s people.

The former did not qualify him for the latter; but neither did it disqualify him.

How many of us have disqualified ourselves from leading because we’re not in the right position?  Position does not make you or break you as a leader.  Whether cupbearer, student, homemaker, ditch digger, assembly line worker, teacher, church member, fry cook—it doesn’t matter.  Nehemiah fervently petitioned God regarding the great need He saw.  He took the steps he could from where he was to begin to address it.  No doubt God blessed his initiative and look what happened!

Nehemiah the cupbearer and me the…

Through the Bible, June 14

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflection: Today is the scheduled catch up day for the second week of June.  Take this opportunity, if needed, to get your reading up to date.  If you are all caught up, you may wish to think on the thoughts listed below based on this week’s readings.

  1. Daniel’s prophecies look toward the coming of God’s kingdom. He places the events in historical perspective even bridging the gap from the present (Nebuchadnezzar’s reign) to the time of the New Testament (Roman rule).  He even prophesies regarding events and individuals from during the 400 year time span between the Old and New Testaments (including Alexander the Great, his four generals who inherit his kingdom, etc.)
  2. The fact that New Testament Christians possessed as their Scriptures what we today would refer to as the Old Testament, they were quite familiar with not only the story that unfolds there, but also the prophecies, visions, and messages of the prophets. So, near the end of the first century, when the church began to be opposed by Rome and subject to persecution, God’s message of defeat to her enemies and ultimate victory over Satan was couched in a message based on symbols and figures.  These the Christians readily understood while the enemy Romans did not.  Thus the book of Revelation is replete with words, ideas, and images taken directly from sources like Daniel and Ezekiel.
  3. Zerubbabel led the first return of Jews to Jerusalem and Judah from Babylon. Later groups would be led by Ezra and Nehemiah.  So, just as there had been three primary deportations of Jews from Jerusalem into captivity, there will also be three primary returns from exile; a nice symmetry as we often find in Scripture.

Devotional Thought:

Whether You Do or Don’t, Do

When the people of Israel had the opportunity to return to their homeland from captivity after Babylon fell to Persia, some of them did, but not all.  Of those who did, the Bible says it was ones “whose spirit God had stirred to go up” (Ezra 1:5).  But it wasn’t everybody.  It wasn’t Daniel or Ezekiel, it wasn’t Ezra or Nehemiah—though both of these would eventually go.  Most of the Israelites stayed where they were.

The point is that not everyone is willing, able, or even should do everything.  And just because someone isn’t doing what I’m doing does not make them somehow “less than.”  What is more, even if God stirs my heart to do something, it doesn’t somehow make that more important than what you are doing, or necessarily that you should do what I’m doing.

But also notice this, of those who remained behind the Bible says they “encouraged them” (Ezra 1:6; NASB).  The ones who did not go, did what they could to help those who were going.

Isn’t that true of every endeavor, even in the Lord’s work?  Success depends on active, willing participants as well as strong encouragers and supporters.  Everyone does have a part to play.

So, it doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t, you still need to do!

June Bible Reading Introduction

June Bible Reading Introduction

Old Testament History Ends

Captivity and Restoration

Books: Daniel, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Old Testament history concludes with God’s people being restored to their homeland and rebuild their nation. It is of great interest to note that when given the opportunity, the majority of the Jewish nation did not return but remained in the lands where they had settled. But, many did return. And as the deportation of htejs3ws from Jerusalem and Judah had taken place in stages, so also would the return occur in stages.

Great emphasis is given in both the historical accounts and the prophetic messages of this time to the future glories of the Messianic kingdom.  It is of no small significance, that the highly symbolic New Testament book of Revelation relies heavily on the language and imagery portrayed in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah (as well as many other Old Testament books) to convey the message of hope in the eternal kingdom of God.

This closing phase of the Old Testament’s record really does set the stage for much of what we encounter with the Jewish people in the New Testament. We find that more of them live outside of Palestine than in it. Also, there’s a greatly heightened sense of expectation for God’s work among them in sending a Messiah. Further, there’s a decidedly different attitude toward the Law and the gods of the nations, both of which had contributed so directly to their downfall and captivity.

My Delight is the Lord, November 3

Do You Understand?

November 3, Thursday: God’s People

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-18

Do you understand the Bible? Now there’s an open-ended question. On the one hand, we want to, don’t we? On the other hand, division and confusion in the “Christian” religious world seems to suggest that such understanding is a pipe dream; a noble thought, but a practical impossibility. First, let’s be warned about allowing man’s failure to do something to become an argument that it can’t be done. That’s shoddy thinking. Second, it is very much God’s intention that man understand His word. Notice in this text that the people assembled were ones with the capacity to understand (v 3). The Levites were present to aid in understanding (v. 7). Their efforts resulted in the people gaining understanding (v. 8). And, the concluding result was a people who understood (v. 12). Despite our experience or apparent evidence to the contrary, God expects His word to be understood.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What was the disposition of the people toward the Law? (v. 3)
  • What was the people’s response to the book of the Law being opened? (v. 6)
  • What were the official positions of Nehemiah and Ezra? (v. 9)
  • What was the people’s response to understanding God’s word? (v. 12)

My Delight is the Lord, October 8

True Leader

October 8, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 1-2; 4:6

No one told Nehemiah to care as much as he did, to be moved to tears over the plight of Jerusalem, to lead an arduous journey of Jews returning to the former capital, or to lead in rebuilding the city’s wall. It wasn’t his job. No one assigned the task to him. What is more, Nehemiah didn’t wait to be told. He didn’t look around for that elusive “someone” who “ought to do something.” He looked no further than himself. Yes, something did need to be done and He would be the one to do it. The Lord’s kingdom could use a few more Nehemiahs.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Where was Nehemiah initially? (1:1)
  • What was Nehemiah’s initial reaction to the news he received? (1:4)
  • What was an important part of Nehemiah’s prayer? (1:6-7)
  • What did Nehemiah do after three days in Jerusalem? (2:11-13)

The Joy of God’s Presence, October 2

October 2, Friday: Bible Story (2)

Scripture Reading—Nehemiah 1-2; 4:6

Oh my, such drama! Seriously. Weeping and mourning for days? Isn’t that a bit overdramatic? Being so overwrought that others can tell something is wrong just by looking at you? Is it too much, or have we lost our sensitivity to what is most important? Nehemiah was upset because of the condition of the city of God and His people who had returned there. Theirs were great trouble and shame, broken down, and destroyed (v. 3). Nehemiah’s response was so extreme because his care and concern and love for God and His people were so extreme. Just exactly what kind of circumstances would elicit from our own hearts the kind of depth of feeling Nehemiah exhibited? Would it ever be the condition of His people, the church? We should not be embarrassed for Nehemiah’s display of emotion, but rather for our own deficiency of appropriate care and concern for God and His people.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Where was Nehemiah when he asked about God’s people? (1:1-2)
  • What did Nehemiah confess? (1:6-7)
  • What has God done on behalf of His people? (1:10)
  • When did Nehemiah make his inspection of the walls? (2:12)

“A Week in the Word” January 1-4

Theme: God’s Word

We will spend this year in reading from God’s word.  The Bible, for many reasons, is unlike any other book ever written.  For our interaction with it to be its most effective, it’s important for us to begin by reading what the Bible says about the Bible.  The intent of these introductory readings is to get our minds focused on the object of our readings for this year.  The fact is, the Bible has some important things to tell us about the Bible.

 

Readings and Introductory Comments:

Psalm 119
Psalm 119 is best known as the longest chapter of the Bible, comprised of 176 verses.  It is that length by design as this Psalm is of a deliberately organized design.  Its structure is an alphabetic acrostic, that is, the verses of the Psalm begin with a specific letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  The first letter is aleph and each of the first 8 verses start with that letter, the next 8 with the letter beth and so on.  Twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet with 8 verses devoted to each letter results in 176 verses.

This isn’t why we’re reading Psalm 119, though.  Rather, it is because of what the Psalm is all about.  This lengthy passage is incredibly focused in its purpose.  Psalm 119 basically repeats the same message 176 times. This is a magnificent effort to honor and praise Scripture as God’s own word.

Nehemiah 8:1-8 and Acts 8:26-40
Two texts in Scripture are examples of the phenomenon of the reading of God’s word and its marvelous effect on its hearers.  One is form the Old Testament, Nehemiah 8:1-8, and the other from the New,  Acts 8:26-40.  As you read these two incidents, think about what is happening.  God’s word is being read.  Think about those who are reading it, those who are hearing it, the impact of that word, the attitudes of both the speakers and hearers.

Acts 20:26-32
When the apostle Paul arranged for a special meeting with the elders from the church at Ephesus, he was speaking with dear friends.  He also spoke about a church he loved deeply.  As the apostle encouraged and warned these men, he knew that they needed encouragement, guidance, strength, and direction.  So he did the only thing he knew he could, commend them to God word.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
It is of interest that as Paul wrote to his preaching companion Timothy, the young preacher was in Ephesus (see the introduction to the Acts 20:26-32 reading above).  Scripture, which had played a formative role for Timothy from quite a young age, must also be the foundation of his work with the Ephesian church.  That word provided what Timothy needed and he must devote himself to it.

Hebrews 4:11-13
Near the conclusion of one of the many arguments for Jesus’ superiority in the book of Hebrews—this one showing Jesus’ superiority to Moses—the writer encourages Christians to not fail to achieve the rest which God has prepared for His children, as did those under Moses’ leadership.  Vitally important to entering that rest is the role of God’s word.

 

Study/Thought Questions

1) Psalm 119

  • As you read, list the synonyms for Scripture found in each verse (the exceptions are vv. 84, 122, 132).  For instance, in v. 1 it is “law of the Lord”, in v. 2 is is “his testimonies” and so on.  There are a total of 9 of these throughout the chapter with seven of them introduced in the first 7 verses.  Can you find the final two?
  • What are some of the reasons given for God’s word being so desirable and beneficial?
  • What are some of the things to which God’s word is compared (i.e. a “light” and “lamp”—v. 105)?

2) Nehemiah 8:1-8

  • In what posture were the people while Scripture was being read?  What does this signify?  How is your respect for God’s word shown?
  • What was necessary in addition to just reading God’s word (see v. 8)?  How is this need being fulfilled in your own reading and hearing of God’s word?

3) Acts 8:26-40

  • What is remarkable about what the Ethiopian nobleman was doing (hint: it is not remarkable at all in our own modern experience)?
  • What is similar about the nobleman’s reading the word and those of Nehemiah’s day hearing it read?

4) Acts 20:26-32

  • What were the Ephesian elders going to be facing and in light of which Paul commended them to God’s word (see vv. 29-30)?
  • What is God’s word able to do for us (v. 32)?

5) 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2

  • When in Paul’s life did he begin to learn Scripture (3:15)?  When did you begin to learn it?  How so?  What are you doing to insure this is happening with your own children and grand children?
  • For what is God’s word profitable? Has it accomplished these things in your life?  Think of specific examples.

6) Hebrews 4:11-13

  • What is unique about God’s word as compared to other written documents?
  • How can we see and know that God’s word is alive?
  • Verse 12 begins with “For…”, in the sense of “for this reason” or “because of this”.   So, for what reason or to what end is God’s word active and alive (hint: the discussion begins all the way back in 3:7 and concludes at 4:13)?

 

Meditation Thoughts:

  • In what practical ways is the importance of God’s word demonstrated in my life right now?
  • What have I learned or better come to understand this week about God’s word and its role in my life?
  • What habits can I form that would help enlarge and deepen the place of God’s word in my life?

Sermon Link:

“10 Reasons You Need to Read” (CLICK HERE)

 

Devotional Writings (links):

Exposed! (Hebrews 4:11-12) [CLICK HERE]

My Alphabet of Praise [CLICK HERE]

 

Memory Verse:

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32; ESV)

 

July 18 Bible Reading: Matthew 22-23

Jesus’ interaction with the multitudes in Jerusalem and the religious leaders continue  The leaders plot their efforts to discredit Jesus (remember, His popularity makes apprehending Him difficult, see 21:45-46), but to no avail.  Questions had been posed to Jesus and He returned them as well.  Finally, realizing their efforts were in vain, they asked Him no more.

In chapter 23 He becomes very direct in His confrontation of the scribes and Pharisees, pronouncing on them seven woes.

For today’s daily devotional CLICK HERE

For July week 3 Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

For July’s Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE