Tuesday, August 15, 2017

August 15: Nehemiah 9:22 – 10; Psalm 34:1-10; Proverbs 21:13; 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13



Overview

            Nehemiah: The prayers of the Levites continues as they recount God’s goodness to Israel in putting kingdoms under them and brought them into the Promised Land giving them provisions. The people rebelled, rejected the Law, and killed the prophets. God punished by their enemies and they cried out to God. God heard and because of his mercy saved them from their enemies. This continued many times.
            They then asked God to look at their current hardship. He has been merciful and righteous in all this dealing faithfully but they have acted wickedly. So now they are slaves in the land God gave their fathers. It is because of their sins, so now, they are making a covenant and putting it in writing with names of the princes, Levites and priests. A list of the names follows.
            The prayer continues explaining that the rest of the people also join these with a curse and oath to obey the Law. They agree not to intermarry with non-Jews in the land, not to buy or sell on the Sabbath and observe the seventh year of rest for the land and forgiveness of debt. They agree to pay the tax for the temple and its needs for offerings, bring wood for the sacrifices, bring firstfruits, tithes for the Levites. They will not neglect the temple.
            Psalm: The superscript for the Psalm says David wrote this after he changed his behavior before Abimelech. This is a Psalm of praise to the Lord and David invites others to join him. The reason is God’s answer to his prayer. He challenges us is to taste and experience God’s goodness when we fear him.
            Proverbs: God will not help those who call for help if they don’t help the poor when they ask for help.
            1 Corinthians: Paul continues to explain his attitude toward spreading the gospel. He says that he will do what he has to do to win people to Christ. Around Jews, he will follow the Law though he doesn’t need to do that because he is not under the Law. To Gentiles he doesn’t follow the Jewish Law as they do though he will not violate God’s law. He shows his weakness to the weak. He becomes like the people he wants to save so that he can share the gospel and see some saved.
            Since only one runner comes in first and gets the prize, he will be like an athlete and be self-controlled to get the imperishable prize and not mess up after preaching to others.
            He explains to the Corinthians that their ancestors experienced Christ in the cloud, passing through the sea, eating the manna, and drinking from the water out of the rock. The Rock is Christ. However, most of them died in the desert. All his was written as examples so that we would not have the same evil desires their ancestors being idolaters, engaging in sexual immorality, and grumbling. We should be careful because we could fall in the same way. But God always gives us a way out of temptations. We don’t have to yield to them.

What Stood Out

            Nehemiah: “But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies” (Neh 9:28).
            Psalm: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps 34:1).
            Proverbs: “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Prov 21:13).
            1 Corinthians: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

Insight

            Nehemiah: The Levites briefly recount Israel’s spiritual yo-yoing between obedience to the Lord and apostacy. Take notice that during this time, God’s favor was shown in prosperity and his anger was shown in suffering. This is the foundation of God’s old covenant with Israel. When they obeyed he would provide abundance. When they disobeyed, he gave strength to their enemies. When Jesus came and introduced the new covenant, he explained that it would not be this way. In the Beatitudes, he explains that we are blessed when we are persecuted (Matt 5:10-12).
            Why do you think he made this radical change? Of course, it was his plan all along but the history of Israel teaches us that prosperity corrupts those who don’t have a heart for the Lord. That is made evident because they turned back to their idols as soon as their oppressors were defeated. Part of the new covenant is to give us a new heart (Ezek 36:26), so that we will obey the Lord willingly because his Spirit is in us. Then we don’t need to have prosperity to know and love God. Our new heart is tested in fire to make sure our faith is genuine (1 Peter 1:6-7). Christians who are still trying to operate under old covenant concepts of blessings for faithfulness fall apart when trouble comes their way. They are devastated because they think they should be blessed. Those who recognize God is dealing with us differently under the new covenant will welcome difficulties because they know they are there to make us more Christlike and bring glory to God (Rom 5:3-5, 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).
            Psalm: In David’s Psalms, he is quite consistent in his praises to the Lord. Here, he says he will always praise the Lord. It will be a continual activity. This is seen when David flees from Absalom. His hope is in the Lord by sending the Ark back to Jerusalem, entrusting Zadok, Abiathar, and Hushai to be spies, and sparing Shimei who cursed him. He believed the Lord was in control in all these things. It sounds good until Absalom is killed, then David falls apart. There is no evidence that he is praising the Lord when he cries out for his dead son. Joab shows more faith than David does at that point (2 Sam 19:4-7). I only point this out to show that we can all vow to praise the Lord at all times and have him always on our lips but it is harder to actually do it. When we recognize our inability to do it, we can do better when we depend on the Holy Spirit to work through us to praise the Lord. Without his help, we would do much worse than David.
            Proverbs: This is very much the same as Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness after the Lord’s prayer. If we don’t forgive others, the Lord will not forgive us (Matt 6:14). It is reflected in his teaching in Luke 6:38, when we give it will be given back in the same way we have given. Paul said that when we sow sparingly we will reap sparingly and when we give generously we will reap generously. The world calls it karma but we know that the Lord is in control and he is just.
            1 Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 10:13 is one verse that any Christian should commit to memory. It can be life changing when a person knows that every temptation he or she will face is common to others as well. Teenagers should know this because they face changes that they may be afraid to discuss with their parents and end up getting some bum information from friends or off the internet. They aren’t alone and can talk with wise Christians who will be understanding.
            However, it is also important to see this verse in context with the beginning of the chapter. The Bible is full of experiences that demonstrate godly and ungodly living. They are there for our education. This is important because we don’t have to make the same mistakes and sins to discover that the consequences are disastrous.
            Then there is verse 12 as a warning that when we think we’ve gotten really good at avoiding temptations or escaping from them, we can fall into spiritual pride. Spiritual pride will blind us to our vulnerabilities and we will end up just as the verse says, we will fall.
            This brings me back to verse 13 again because we must not think we are something when we are escaping temptations. We need to remember that it is God who provides the way out. We may find a way out of sin but it may be another “lesser” sin rather than God’s way. When we take God’s way out of a temptation, he gets the glory. God has given us everything we need to live godly lives, we need to remember that and not give up. We don’t have to be spiritual yo-yos but we can progress in sanctification as we look for God’s way out of temptations. We can avoid those temptations as we read the Word and learn from it.

Application

             I want to learn from the Bible how to live a godly life. When tempted, I want to draw upon what the Lord has taught me to find his way out and take it. I don’t want to be a spiritual yo-yo.

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