Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13: Nehemiah 5:14 – 7; Psalm 33:1-12; Proverbs 21:8-10; 1 Corinthians 8


            Nehemiah: When Nehemiah was governor for 12 years he and his brothers didn’t use the right to tax the people to feed his officials because the burden was too much for the people. He took that out of his own funds. He had to feed 150 people besides visitors. He and his servants didn’t acquire land or lord it over the people as other governors had done. He did it out of fear for the Lord and asked that the Lord remember him for what he did for the people.
            Sanballat and Tobiah tried to lure Nehemiah outside the city to meet at Ono. Their intention was to kill him there. He refused to go saying he had too much work to do. They then tried to frame him claiming he was setting himself up as king. He replied that they were crazy. He knew they were trying to frighten the people to stop the work on the wall.
            He visited Shemaiah who was confined at home. He tried to get Nehemiah to hide in the temple prophesying that people were coming to kill him. He replied he would not sin by entering the temple and realized that Shemaiah had been hired by Sanballat and Tobiah. He asked God to remember them and the others prophet who wanted to frighten him.
            They finished the wall after 52 days. The enemies and nations around were afraid and didn’t think so much of themselves anymore. They realized God had aided the Jews. Many nobles in Judah were connected to Tobiah because he had married Shecaniah’s daughter. Tobiah’s son had married Meshullam, Becrechiah’s son. These were spies in Nehemiah’s presence.
            After finishing the wall, Nehemiah established gatekeepers, singers and Levites. He put his brother, Hanani over Jerusalem along with Hananiah because he feared God more than others and was a man of integrity. He dictated when to open the gates and shut them. He appointed people as guards at their posts and near their homes.
            Because the city had plenty of room he assembled the people and inquired by genealogical records about them. The numbers of people are listed and it was 42,360 people along with 7,337 servants, singers, horses, mules, camels, and donkeys. Some of the heads of the families contributed to the work and treasury. The people who lived in other towns went home.
            Psalm: We are to praise and worship God because he is upright. We should do this with music and shouts. We do it because God’s word is upright, he is faithful, loves righteousness, justice, and the world is full of his love.
            He has created all things and we should stand in awe of him. He commands creation, nations, and our plans. What he decides happens.
            The nation he chooses is blessed, the people that are his heritage.
            Proverbs: Guilty people do crooked things but upright people have good conduct. When one has a cantankerous wife, it sometimes pays to hide in the attic. Wicked people like to do evil. You will not get mercy from one like this.
            1 Corinthians: The Corinthians also asked about eating food that had been offered to idols. Paul answered by letting them know that what we know can make us proud but we really don’t know everything. However, if we love God, God know us.
            We know idols are not gods because there is only one God. There are many spiritual beings but there is only one God, the Father and Jesus, they have made all things and we exist for and through him.
            Not everyone knows this and they used to offer food to idols. When they eat this food, their conscience convicts them that it is sinful. We know that eating this will not bring us closer to God or take him away and so, we can eat it. However, doing this may cause others to stumble because they may see us eat this food and then do it themselves but still feel guilty. This is how knowledge makes another person stumble. Therefore, don’t eat the meat offered to idols in a temple restaurant.

What Stood Out

            Nehemiah: “And I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’” ( ).     
            Psalm: “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord” (Ps 33:5).
            Proverbs: “The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes” (Prov 21:10).
            1 Corinthians: “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1).


            Nehemiah: The social and political drama surrounding Nehemiah while the wall was being rebuilt sounds like something out of TV miniseries. Who is who and who is saying what about others and why are they doing it? There are many people in the Bible who are godly but screw up. Nehemiah is not one of them to this point. God is good to Nehemiah as he continues to be steadfast in his purpose and his integrity. The Lord gave him insight into the plots and schemes to get him killed, sin, and destroy his character.
            In the face of personal insults and physical threats, how do we respond? I don’t think very many of us can say we would keep our eyes on God’s calling for us. We want to defend ourselves and make sure everyone knows we are innocent. Nehemiah should be an example for us to trust the Lord, ignore threats, and how to briefly respond when necessary.
            Psalm: Sometimes when we take our eyes of God and look at all the stuff going on in the world, we can lose our perspective as people of God. We forget that God loves righteousness and justice. Because of the evil, we forget this and can’t fathom how the earth is full of his steadfast love.
            God’s steadfast love is clearly demonstrated in the cross of Jesus Christ. If he didn’t have steadfast love for us, he would not have let Jesus die for our sins and lack of righteousness and injustice. If it were not for his steadfast love, he would not have spared Adam and Eve but would have killed them on the spot. End of mankind, end of God’s love for us. If he didn’t love us, he would not have spared Noah and his family. End of mankind, end of God’s love for us. Instead, he didn’t spare his own Son, the future of mankind and the continuing exhibition of his steadfast love.
            Proverbs: It is said that we sin because we want what we want and will sin to get it. Proverbs 21:10 goes a step beyond in describing the heart or soul of a wicked person, one who is not saved. They desire evil. It isn’t just a matter of wanting something, but they get a perverse pleasure out of doing what is wrong. When you run up against a person like this, don’t expect any favors unless it directly involves satisfying their desires. This is one reason we can’t expect to hear the truth from liars, be spared by murders, or have thieves leave behind sentimental objects of value. Gossips will gossip and slanderers will slander because that’s what gives them pleasure. The only solution is to have a soul cleansing encounter with Jesus Christ. Until that soul has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we can only expect them to do wrong. That’s why we need to be read with the gospel and let them know about Jesus.
            1 Corinthians: Here is another chapter where knowing context and the customs of the day makes a big difference in how to read the passage. I’ve heard people quote part of 1 Corinthians 8:1, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” completely out of context to imply if not openly state that getting a lot of Bible knowledge only serves to make people conceited. Paul was speaking about a specific piece of knowledge about idols. He was not talking about all biblical knowledge. If I look at the knowledge I can gain from this chapter, it will help me be a more loving person, not a more conceited person.
            The whole point is to see how theology can hurt or harm another person when we apply it without love. Being of a Calvinistic mindset, I remember talking to a person and wanting him to see the more theological correctness of it versus Arminianism. The issue was whether a person could lose his salvation or not. This person answered that the thought of losing his salvation was what kept him from sinning. I stopped and thought about it. Why would I want to convince this person that he couldn’t lose his salvation if that was a prime motivator to living a holy life? While that didn’t change my position, it did stop me from trying to convince him my belief was better, especially if it meant taking my position would make it easier for him to sin.
            Love sometimes tells us to shut our mouth.


             I want to be more like Nehemiah. I want to be without fear and without retaliation against anyone who would try to defame me. I don’t know if anyone has, but if they do, I want to turn it over to the Lord. I want to have wisdom to what to do if it happens. I also don’t want to cause another to sin because of my freedom in Christ.

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