Jerusalem’s Walls & Enemies

Nehemiah 6

March 26

Today’s reading (Nehemiah Chapter 6) begins  with these fellows you might remember being mentioned in yesterday’s reading:  Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.  Who might these gentlemen be? In simple terms, enemies. But a little more context, gives us:

Sanballat:  A Horonite

Just this name makes me thinks of hornets, but apparently he was called this since he was from Beth-Horon, and  was a Samaritan leader in the Persian Empire. Samaritans had mixed Judaism with pagan beliefs and intermarried with pagan societies, and had some distinct conflicts with some Jews because of this.

Tobiah: An Ammonite

If you didn’t read about the Ammonite folks earlier in the week in our II Chronicles study, I’ll tell you they were not known for their warm fuzzy tendencies. They were created via an incestuous relationship of Lot and his daughter which didn’t start things well apparently, worshipped pagan gods including Molech, and were known for infant sacrifice and cruelty. Just who Nehemiah needed hanging around on the job-site I’m sure.

Geshem: an Arab

An ally of Tobiah and Sanballat, general antagonist to Nehemiah. Did not worship the one true God.

At the start of Chapter 6, things are coming along nicely with the wall rebuilding project in Jerusalem. In fact, it sounds like pretty much just the gates were left at this point. If success was going to be prevented for Nehemiah and the Jews, it was time to act.  

First, Sanballat and Geshem extend an invitation in verse 2 to hang out on the “plain of Ono.” Sounds nice enough. But, Nehemiah was able to discern this was not progressing God’s work and was a distraction at the time. He declined. And declined again. And again. And again. If a person declines your invitation to join them four times with practical reasons, you could take a hint….or ….you could disparage him or her on social media. 

And that seems to be the next tactic in verses 5-7. Before the days of the internet, there were these things called papyrus scrolls, and because of obvious reasons, they were typically SEALED prior to delivery. Ahh,but this time….Sanballat must have forgotten to seal it tightly. Almost like he wanted everyone to read it and start gossiping? Sounds familiar. And in this case it wasn’t just gossiping, but information in the untruthful message could have definitely gotten Nehemiah in trouble claiming there was another king in Judah. And I had to laugh at “Geshem says it is true” in vs. 5.  Certainly if Geshem “liked a post” it must credible?!  I love verse 8 when Nehemiah responds because it sounds like it could be completely fitting in 2022 as well “. . .you are just making it up. . .” Nehemiah denies the claim and calls out the lie. But, he doesn’t stop there, and he doesn’t let the lie distract him from the work or from the source of sovereign guidance He needs. 

 Being a man of prayer, we see him in a dialogue right away with God in verse 9. He discerns what is going on and the battles around him, and asks God to strengthen his hands.  (I’ve got to say, as a hand therapist, I really tried to work some fun analogy here….but I didn’t want to insert drivel into a meaningful text…and I got nothing other than. . .you want your hands strengthened, you need your upper arm/core strong to support it. If your hands are tired, you’d better make sure further up the chain is working because everything is connected. And in this case, Nehemiah knew how high up the chain to go. GOD would strengthen his hands and he didn’t even need to go buy a  stress ball.)

In verse 10 our troublesome trio seems to have acquired more assistance in their unrelenting efforts to mess up Nehemiah. And this time they involve someone close enough to have access to the temple.  Maybe a priest? We also see Tobiah mentioned toward the end of the chapter and get a feel for how “important” and influential he was in their community as he was actively seeking to intimidate Nehemiah also. What a mix of people, purposes, deceit, selfishness, and fear we see working against Nehemiah.  And yet, how easy it is for the “church” to get caught up into politics and popular agendas, for “Christians” to be bought out and deceived, for the things of God to be muddled by the plans of man. How essential it is that we demonstrate discernment, prayer, and scripture as the source of our truth and gauge for success and ambitions like Nehemiah shows us. 

Despite opposition, verse 15 tells us that in 52 days (minus Sabbaths I’d presume), the walls were re-built.  With modern technology and equipment, this still seems impressive. 

And while this story wasn’t my favorite to go out on with all its corruption and negativity, verse 16 is great stuff:

And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Nehemiah’s re-built walls didn’t last either, and the Romans made sure to destroy them along with everything else they did. But, scripture tells us that the New Jerusalem, the city of God, will have walls and gates. If we seek first this city, this hope, living a life as a follower of Christ, we have a wonderful eternal promise of a city with streets of gold. And intact walls. 

-Jennifer Hall

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Have you ever been intimidated by others while you were at work for God?
  2. What can we learn from Nehemiah regarding how we deal with our enemies, those who want to stop us from doing God’s work?
  3. How do you seek first God’s kingdom?

Know God’s Plan

Micah 3-4

Yesterday, we read about God’s words to a people who were on the breaking point. To be fair, Israel had seen a lot– civil disputes, mass religious wars, a kingdom divided. But here, Israel is facing its final days as an independent nation.

So we read Micah’s desperate attempts to warn his people– Israel and Judah both– that their only hope is to return to the LORD. Chapter 1 talked about the coming destruction. Chapter 2 talks about these “oppressors,” who are likely people of political or financial power that are abusing the people around them.

In chapter 3, Micah now addresses two groups of people: the political leaders and the prophethood. Micah tells the leaders that they “hate the good and love the evil,” (3:1). The prophets that Micah confronts were likely professional “prophets” that lived in the king’s court. They may or may not have been followers of the LORD and they were not like the prophets that God chose for Israel. Micah says they prophesy peace when it gets them something to eat (3:5) and teach the masses when it gets them paid (3:11). 

On and on, Micah confronts everyone in the nation who has shown corruption, greed, selfishness and evil. He closes chapter 3 by saying  these ways are going to leave Zion, God’s holy city– flattened to a plain. 

And then Micah’s message does a complete 180-degree turn. In chapter 4, he starts giving some really good news. He says that the house of the LORD will be a meeting place where everyone turns to know God (4:2). He says that God is going to bring the weak, lowly, hurt, sick, and anyone who’s been abused, and He is going to personally make them strong (4:6-7). 

And here we begin to see what we call “God’s redemptive-historical plan.” That’s a fancy way of saying that God’s plans span thousands of years. And although Israel rejected and resisted God, He would not give up so easily. God sent His Son Jesus into the world to be an atonement, a light, and a leader for all of humanity. And in this way, every good thing that God has promised to mankind will be made true in Jesus our King.

If this isn’t good news enough, wait until tomorrow, when Micah is going to have even better things to say! 

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to the Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Micah 3-4 and Revelation 9

Growing

2 Peter 1


As we begin reading Peter’s second letter we find that he is writing “to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” That means he is writing to you and I as well! 

We find that God has granted us knowledge of Him along with “precious and magnificent promises” allowing us to escape the corruption in the world. As we look around we can see corruption at every corner. We see corrupt leaders, corrupt organizations, even corrupt friendships.

How do we escape the corruption of this world? Peter tells us in verses 5-8 we are to be diligent to allow our faith to supply moral excellence. However we do not stop there. We are to be in constant growth and that will lead us through to knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love! This is a truly amazing list that can guide you through the troubles of each day. 

Although we each fall short and make mistakes, we are told that if we practice these things we will never stumble. It isn’t too difficult to show brotherly kindness, self-control, and even perseverance on occasion, but to maintain these things constantly is much more challenging. When we struggle we should expect our brothers and sisters to remind us of the calling that has been given to us.

Tomorrow we will look at what Peter has to say concerning the behavior of many and how it affects the judgement of others. 

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 9 & 10 and 2 Peter 1

The Responsibility of Godly Leadership

Micah 1-4

micah 1

Monday, April 17

            Micah, in line with his fellow minor and major prophets, has been given a message of judgment and warning. Micah is prophesying to the northern tribe of Israel. After king Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took over the nation of Israel but due to his poor leadership the nation split into two tribes. The northern tribe-Israel, and southern tribe-Judah. Micah’s audience is Israel-the northern tribe in the eighth century BCE.

Chapter three sheds light onto why judgment and wrath will come upon Israel if she does not change her ways. The rulers and leaders of Israel have led in a manner that is not in line with God and his standards and statutes. Instead of loving justice and hating evil, the present leadership have been accused of “hating good and loving evil” (Mic. 3.2). God had placed certain officers to lead his people, and the people in these positions were failing. Chapter three continues to say that leaders pronounced a judgment not based on truth but on bribery, the prophets would prophesy for money and speak falsely concerning God. Corruption was through the whole leadership and the victims of the corruption were the common people themselves.

In our world it’s not uncommon to see leaders fail and look out for their own interests before the interests of the people they’re leading. If you and I can be outraged with failed leadership how much more is God displeased and upset with his leadership when it fails? Whether we serve in an official leadership position at a church or Christian organization, or you’re a student leader at your school or church, you are a leader to someone. The best way to lead is to do it God’s way: pursue his heart and truth, practice servant leadership, stand up for justice, obey, and don’t be a coward with God’s truth. Leadership is something God gives and so it’s something he can take away if those whom he has called are not being faithful with it. We can see from Micah that God takes seriously a failure to obey God when leading. Are you being faithful with a leadership position God has placed you in?

-Jacob Rohrer

 

And Another Thing…

Hosea 5-9

susan mon

Monday, April 10

Have you ever experienced this?

Your parents are lecturing you about something you’ve done wrong.  Really laying into you.  It seems to go on and on and on.  Finally, they pause and take a breath and you think they’re done.  But instead, they start in again with a new wave of, “And another thing…!”

In chapters 4-6, we see God get riled up.  He’s mad.  He is laying it all out in phrases like:

  • You ignored the law of your God
  • You exchanged glory for disgrace
  • Your deeds do not permit you to return to God
  • You’ve moved boundary stones. (I love this phrase, would be an interesting one to dig into)
  • Your love is like a mist…here one minute, gone the next.
  • God has withdrawn from you.

Yeah, He’s mad.

Then He pauses, takes a breath, and starts the second round, where he lays out the consequences of all of this (9:7-9):

The days of punishment are coming,
    the days of reckoning are at hand.
    Let Israel know this.
Because your sins are so many
    and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
    the inspired person a maniac.
The prophet, along with my God,
    is the watchman over Ephraim,
yet snares await him on all his paths,
    and hostility in the house of his God.
They have sunk deep into corruption,
    as in the days of Gibeah.
God will remember their wickedness
    and punish them for their sins.

Don’t miss these phrases:

  • Punishment is coming.
  • The days of reckoning are at hand.
  • God will remember.
  • Punish them for their sins.

We are so fortunate that, because of Jesus, we don’t have to have our sins remembered by God.  They can be wiped away.  Forgiven here and now.  That doesn’t let us off the hook, though.  Jesus calls us to continued repentance and obedient living.

But what wonderful news that we get to choose if our parental lecture ends with punishment or forgiveness.  When does THAT ever happen?

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bearer of Bad News

Ezekiel 24-26

ezekiel 24-26 amber

Sunday, March 26

When I think of Ezekiel, the phrase “bearer of bad news” comes to mind.  After completing numerous acts of valor such as eating a scroll, becoming mute, laying on his side for over a year, shaving his head, and scattering his hair among the Earth, Ezekiel continues to be one of the few servants of God in his time.  As a major prophet, he does not have news of prosperity and victory to recount to the people.  Instead, he continues to call the rebellious people in exile (and in the surrounding nations) to repentance, ultimately forewarning of their destruction and the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

To me, Ezekiel is no “easy read”.  At times, these scriptures seem abstract and I have a hard time finding application to my daily life. Therefore, I have created a visual to help me, and hopefully some of you understand some of the main concepts in these passages.  I hope these illustrations help some of the content “stick” and become real for you.  If my amateur doodles aren’t your thing, I completely understand that too J

 

Here are a few of the main points/interpretations and moments of personal application that I picked out in our passages today as noted by the visual above:

  • Parable: Jerusalem as a Cooking pot
    • Pot = Jerusalem
    • Scum = corruption of the people *notice this corruption is visible; it cannot be hidden from God.
    • Choice meat = God’s chosen people
    • The meat (God’s people) is thrown out because it is ruined from the scum (corruption/sin)
    • The pot must be set on coals until it’s impurities are burned away (Jerusalem must be destroyed).
    • Application to our lives: Don’t let the scum of your life keep you from bearing good fruits. Find your peace and fulfilment in God, not in the approval of others, your work, sin, the media, and other worldly influences. These things will fail you, God will never fail you.

 

  • Death of Ezekiel’s Wife
    • Ezekiel is told not to mourn, but “groan quietly” (24:17)
    • Interpretation: God instructs Ezekiel and the community not to mourn as he tries to give them perspective into their behaviors. The rebellious people do not mourn when the temple, which should be “the object of their affection” (25:21), is destroyed.  Therefore, they ought not mourn when something of lesser tragedy takes place.  God should be the top priority of all men.
    • Application to our lives: Where are your priorities? Do you value the gifts of this earth more than you value the glory of God? Do you worship the approval of others, celebrities, idols, your children or spouse on accident?

 

  • Prophesies against nations near Judah
    • Because the nations of Ammon, Moab, Tyre, Philistia, and Edom did not care when the temple was destroyed or when the people of Judah went into exile, they will also be punished. The entire nation will know that HE IS GOD.
    • Application to our lives: Earlier in Ezekiel we read that Ezekiel will be held accountable for the sins of others if he fails to spread God’s word. Here we see that other nations are held accountable to a similar degree. We too must spread the good news to ALL nations! What a blessing and a privilege!

 

Do you allow yourself to accept the peace that only God brings?

-Amber McClain

 

Amber McClain cannot wait for the Kingdom.  If she won the lottery she would 1.) Buy a helicopter so that she could spend weekdays learning and teaching in the USA and weekends with our brothers and sisters abroad.  2.) Pay for her fiancé, Josiah to get his helicopter-flying license, and 3.) Throw a world-wide pizza & prayer party; everyone in the world is invited!

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