With Great Joy

Nehemiah 11-13 & Psalm 126

Now that the wall’s been built, the city secured, and they’ve read from the Book of the Law to relearn God’s ways, it’s time to dwell in Jerusalem and the

cities.  The leaders were designated to live in Jerusalem and the people cast lots to see which one out of every 10 would dwell in Jerusalem.  The rest would dwell in cities surrounding Jerusalem.  I lived in Israel 25 years and for most of the time we lived in a little village 10 miles west of Jerusalem.  It’s a mountainy and rocky area forested with some trees.  Most villages and Jerusalem were built around a water source, perhaps some type of spring.  Pictured is a photo of ruins of a Nehemiah period fortress in the hills of Judah near Jerusalem. (This photo courtesy of Israel Department of Antiquities.)

            It was a time of rejoicing.  Singers had built themselves villages all around Jerusalem (12:29). Also, two large Thanksgiving choirs with specific names and place locations are listed.  It’s amazing the record we still have today of the detailed descriptions of their locations. Also, great sacrifices were offered for God had made them rejoice with great joy.  The joy of Jerusalem could be heard from afar.  It’s amazing on the quiet of a shabbat or holiday when places are closed the noise that can be heard from a greater distance.  Psalm 126 says with singing they returned from captivity.  There must have been a joy to be back in the land of Israel again after being exiled. Though they “sow in tears, they’ll reap in joy.” At our oldest daughter’s wedding I told this to people as I wept, that I sowed in tears (such hard work raising kids overseas) and now I was reaping and weeping in joy, not out of sorrow but gladness that we made it to that day!! 😊

    

        Nehemiah returned after some time to Jerusalem and like a good parent had three firm corrections to make.  First, Eliashib, the priest, allowed Tobiah (Ammonite official) to have a large storeroom for himself, where articles and supplies for the Levites, singers, gatekeepers, were to be kept.  Thus, he threw out Tobiah’s things and cleansed the storeroom for proper use.  Then he asked God to remember him. (13:14) Secondly, he contended with the people for buying and selling on Shabbat and commanded the gates be shut and not open until after the Shabbat.  In current the state of Israel, every Friday afternoon stores, including all the malls shut down all over the country and remain closed until after sundown on Shabbat (Saturday), once two stars are visible.  Some weeks with holidays, the malls are closed for THREE full days!… Nehemiah prayed that God remember him. (13:22) Lastly, he contended with some of them, cursed them, struck some of them, and pulled out their hair, and made them swear not to give their children to foreigners!  That’s quite aggressive and zealous. Imagine the uproar he’d receive from all kinds of people and media today for those actions! But he prayed and asked God remember him for good. (13:29,30)

-Stephanie Schlegel

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 11-13 & Psalm 126

Tomorrow’s reading will be our last book of the Old Testament – Malachi – as we continue on our 2020 Reading Plan. God has great things in store! Come follow along!

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