Monday, August 14, 2017

August 14: Nehemiah 8 – 9:21; Psalm 33:13-22; Proverbs 21:11-12; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18


            Nehemiah: The people gathered in the square below the water gate and Ezra the priest brought the book of the Law. All stood when he opened it to read. Other officials were with him and other Levites helped the people understand as they read from the book. Nehemiah along with these told the people the day was holy and not to weep (the wept when they heard the Law) but go and eat and drink and give to those who didn’t have anything ready. They then rejoiced.
            On the next day, the heads of families came to be taught and they discovered that the Festival of Booths should be celebrated in the seventh month. So, they did. It had not been celebrated that way since the days of Joshua son of Nun.
            On the 24th day of the month, they assembled with fasting, sackcloth, and earth on their heads. They separated from foreigners and confessed their sin. They read from the Law ¼ of the day and confessed and worshiped ¼ of the day. Names of Levites who led and praised God are listed. Their prayer proclaimed God to be everlasting, glorious, Creator, he chose Abram, made his covenant with Abraham and give the Promised Land to his offspring. God saw the affliction of Israel in Egypt and brought them out with signs and wonders. He spoke to them on mount Sinai giving the Law by Moses. He fed them and gave them water in the wilderness.
            They rebelled and didn’t go into the land when told but wanted to go back to Egypt. But God is forgiving, gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and has steadfast love. He didn’t abandon them even when they make a gold calf to worship. He sustained them for 40 years in the wilderness.
            Psalm: The Lord’s omniscience and omnipotence is described in this portion of the Psalm. He fashions our hearts and see our deeds. Salvation doesn’t come from armies or horses. His love and salvation is for those who fear him. Our souls wait for the Lord and we are glad.
            Proverbs: When a simple person sees that scoffing is punished, he gains wisdom. When he is wise, he then gains knowledge. God is righteous and he sees the wicked and will punish them.
            1 Corinthians: Paul defends his apostleship. He has seen Jesus. The Corinthians have become Christians as evidence. Other may not think he is an apostle but they do. He asks rhetorical questions in his and Barnabas’s defense. They should have the same rights to eat and take along believing wives like other apostles, James, and Cephas. He has the right to be supported by his work as an apostle. He cites Scripture to prove that a minister of the Lord has the right of physical support when they have provided spiritual support to others.
            Though they have these rights, they have not used them so that they would not hinder the gospel. He points out that the temple servants get their food from the temple by sharing in the sacrifices. So, those who spread the gospel should get their living the same way. However, he would rather die than demand these rights because he can boast he hasn’t taken money for spreading the gospel. In fact, he would suffer if he didn’t preach because he is a steward of the gospel. He does it willingly and will receive his reward for presenting the gospel without cost.

What Stood Out

            Nehemiah: “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh 8:8).                    
            Psalm: “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (Ps 33:20).
            Proverbs: “The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked; he throws the wicked down to ruin” (Prov 21:11).
            1 Corinthians: “We endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12).


            Nehemiah: This may be the first example of expository preaching in the Bible. They read from the Word then they “gave the sense” (Neh 8:8). This is what verse by verse preaching of the Bible should be like. The scribes should be knowledgeable of the whole of Scripture so that when difficult meanings are encountered, they can put it all into context. That keeps people from going off the deep end when they find or hear an obscure passage and apply it without understanding.
            The problem during Nehemiah’s day was that only the Levites or more wealthy people had direct access to Scripture. Common people were not able to feely read the Word for themselves. Today, the problem is that most Christians have several Bibles but don’t read any of them. So, they go to church and the preacher gives the sense of the passages that he reads. That is what you might expect, but that isn’t the norm. We have churches that do this and on the other end of the spectrum there are churches where they might read one verse then talk about whatever the preacher wants to say guided by anything and everything except the Bible. They have no ability to discern whether the preacher is guiding them in righteous living or leading them astray.
            Psalm: If we have preachers who don’t even speak from the Bible, how can we ever learn about God’s gracious provision for us? How can we know about his omniscience and omnipotence that is described in this Psalm? How can we ever have souls that wait on the Lord knowing that he is our help and our shield if we don’t read about it for ourselves? How can we ever learn to trust in him and not in armies and government leaders who make many promises and seldom deliver if we don’t let our souls wait on the Lord? We can’t, we can’t, we can’t.
            Proverbs: We all want to see justice but it often seems to be elusive. It doesn’t seem right for some people to have riches and comfort at the expense of others. We have the assurance that God is righteous and he sees all that is going on with people who oppress others and gain wealth by means that is illegal, immoral, or condoned but otherwise tainted by the oppression of others. God will not let that person off the hook for his actions except for one reason. If that person repents and turns to Jesus for salvation, then he will be saved. Otherwise, his ruin will come in eternity if not also during this lifetime.
            1 Corinthians: What are you willing to endure to make sure that you don’t put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. Paul was willing to work and support himself instead of taking a “free will” offering when he taught and proclaimed the gospel. Complaints about preachers asking for money didn’t start recently. It has been going on ever since the church was founded and probably before with every religion that has ever existed. Most of us never have to worry about that, but if we examine our lives, we will probably find other obstacles to the gospel.
            The most obvious obstacle we place before the gospel is living a sinful lifestyle. The charge of hypocrite fits and turns people off. Our own fear of rejection is an obstacle because we won’t share the gospel when we are afraid people will reject us or ridicule us. The obstacle of busyness is one that prevents us from responding to opportunities to share because we have something to do that we think is more important. There is also an obstacle of ignorance because we haven’t taken the time to even know what the gospel is or how to share it. All these obstacles can be summarized in the word, “me.” I am an obstacle to the gospel if I am not sharing it for any reason.


             I want to be able to understand the Bible to the best of my ability and depend on the Holy Spirit to enlighten me about it. I want to be able to convey that to others as well. In that, I don’t want to be an obstacle to the gospel either, though I’m far from what I should be.

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