Friday, August 11, 2017

August 11: Nehemiah 1 – 3:14; Psalm 31:19-24; Proverbs 21:4; 1 Corinthians 7:1-24



Overview

            Nehemiah: One of Nehemiah’s brothers told him about the trouble that the people of Judah had because the wall of Jerusalem was torn down and its gates destroyed by fire. He wept and mourned with fasting and prayer. He extoled God’s steadfast love and confessed his sins and those of his fathers. He recounted God’s warning about being exiled if they sinned and that God would also return them if they returned to the Lord.
            He was the cupbearer to king Artaxerxes. When he came before the king, he was sad. The king asked why and Nehemiah explained the problem with Jerusalem. The king with the queen asked what he wanted. Nehemiah laid out his plan and needed support to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. The king granted it all because God was with Nehemiah.
            When he arrived in Jerusalem with letters from the king, Sanballat and Tobiah were upset that someone had come to look after the welfare of the Jews. After three days, he inspected the wall at night. No one knew what he was doing. When he returned from the inspection he explained to the Jews, priest, nobles, officials, and everyone who was to do the work that God had blessed him with favor from the king. He told them to get up and get to work.
            Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem jeered and ridiculed them. Nehemiah replied that God was making them prosper and they had no right or claim in Jerusalem. A list of people who worked on the wall is provided along with the sections they repaired. Men from different cities came to help but the nobles of Tekoa would not help. There were people from all kinds of professions helping including rulers and women.
            Psalm: David praises God for his rescue as he expresses how God takes care of those who fear him. He saves from the plots of evil men and the strife caused by malicious words. When besieged, he had almost lost hope, but God heard his prayer and saved him. He admonishes us to love the Lord and take courage in him.
            Proverbs: Being stuck up and proud of oneself are two signs of a wicked and sinful heart.
            1 Corinthians: Paul turns his attention to questions that the Corinthians had asked in their letters to him. He believes that in times of trouble people should not marry, but because of all the immorality it is better to be married to one person. Couples should not deprive each other of sex (except temporarily for prayer) because their bodies belong to the other person. He would like them to be single like him.
            He also thinks that widows should stay unmarried unless they can’t control themselves.
            He explains that the Lord commands them not to divorce and if they do, they should remain unmarried or reconciled. If someone is married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever consents to live with them, then the Christian is not to seek a divorce. The unbelieving spouse is sanctified because of the believer and the children are also holy. If an unbeliever wants to leave, then don’t stand in their way. We don’t know if staying together will cause the other person to become a believer or not.
            Each person should keep his or her position in life after being called by God. If circumcised, don’t try to be uncircumcised and vice versa. Keeping God’s commands is important, not circumcision. Same goes for slaves except if it is possible to gain freedom, do so. Whether slave or free, we are still slave or free to Christ. God bought us with a price so we should not become slaves to men.

What Stood Out

            Nehemiah: “Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh 2:4).       
            Psalm: “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help” (Ps 31:22).
            Proverbs: “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin” (Prov 21:4).
            1 Corinthians: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Cor 7:17).

Insight

            Nehemiah: The first two chapters of Nehemiah are excellent examples of mixing prayer and preparedness. When Nehemiah hears of the need, his first action is to pray. He doesn’t just pray once and then waits for God to work. He continually prays and fasts. He is serious about wanting to do this work. He prays by recounting God’s promises, both the ones for punishment due to sin and the ones when people return to him. He isn’t leaving anything out of his prayers.
            When he finally faces the king, he is prepared. His preparation is clearly seen by his answer to the king. He knows exactly what he needs to get the wall rebuilt. However, before he opens his mouth to the king, he shoots up one more prayer to God.
            This is probably one of the most well-rounded descriptions of how a man of God, who is completely dependent on God, acts. It is a good example for all of us. When we pray, we can make plans being assured that the Lord will act. However, we don’t want to be presumptuous that he will act without our being ready for the answer. We should also be very thankful when the plan comes together. Even while working out the plan, we need to keep on praying.
            Psalm: The first thought in David’s mind when he realized he was in a besieged city was not that he was in physical danger but God couldn’t see him or had perhaps abandoned him. He must have cried out to the Lord for help at that time.
            When we have a difficult situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if we cry out in our alarm also. But I would be surprised if our call is to the Lord. Our first reaction should be like that of Nehemiah before the king and make a quick prayer to the Lord. If we do that, we are less likely to swear or utter something else that a Christian should not say. After all, he does hear us and we are never out of his sight. Shouldn’t he be the first person we call to for help?
            Proverbs: There are some people who show their contempt of others by the way they look at them. They have haughty eyes and are stuck up. The problem is in the heart and that the person thinks he is better than others. Paul warned us not to be conceited (Rom 12:16). Like a lamp, it is usually obvious to others. The only way to really get rid of conceit is to be in humble submission to Jesus. Jesus was not afraid to associate with sinners but he did it without being conceited or becoming like them. We need to be imitators of Jesus when we submit to him.
            1 Corinthians: The premise of Paul’s argument to not change social status after becoming a Christian is in the statement that this is the life God assigned to us (1 Cor 7:17). The little phrase is more important than we may suspect. If we believe we are in total control of our lives, then we are not just sadly mistaken, we are sinfully mistaken. When we think we are in control of our lives, then we believe we know better than God what is best for us. While we may be living what we think is a Christian life, we probably aren’t doing a good job of it because we are working for what we want and not what God wants. Sometimes they are the same but our attitude is still wrong. Only one person can be lord of our lives at a time and that should be Jesus.
            Looking back on my life, both before becoming a Christian and after, I can see where God has assigned me particular places and those eventually led me to becoming a Christian. Then after becoming a Christian, I tried things my way as well as his. When doing things his way, it was important for me to listen to people wiser than myself when it came to job decisions. They worked out better than trying to do what I thought was best. God’s positional assignments often came through others.

Application

             I want to make sure I pray and am working toward being available for whatever God chooses to do in answering my prayers. That is a way to be where God assigns me.

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