The Shack of Your Choice

Nehemiah 7-8

Nehemiah’s vision is complete.  The wall of Jerusalem has been repaired and the Jews reestablished their home, yet there is much to contemplate.  It would be easy to focus on what isn’t present at this moment.  Generations have passed away in captivity and exile, to close their eyes in death as slaves.  The present state of a skeletal city is a reminder that there is still so much work left to do to bring Israel to its former glory.  There are fears of the future and the foes taking camp around a city that is trying to put itself back on the map.  Instead of being driven by doubt, regret, or worry, Nehemiah and the priest of Israel establish the completion of the wall as a time to celebrate the return of God’s people.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

As God’s timing would have it, the completion of the wall shared a seam with the Festival of Tabernacles of the Feast of Booths and the words shared from the Laws of Moses.  You may be familiar with this week-long celebration from your earlier reading this year, but this might be a good time to summarize the origin and purpose of this festival.  God had redeemed his people, the Hebrews, out of enslavement in Egypt.  He did this through sending a series of plagues to Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and giving his commandments.  There were a few bumps in the road.  The Jews spent a great deal of time wandering in the desert because of their lack of faith and disobedience, yet he remained with them wherever they were, and he still blessed them with receiving the Promised Land, the very place where Nehemiah and those who followed him out of exile had returned.

We don’t serve a God who is solely responsible for the harvest.  We don’t serve a God who is solely responsible for the rain. We serve a God who works in the harvest, and works in the rain, but also works on the days that are in between. We may endure a great deal of prosperity or adversity, but ultimately, we take count of the blessings and realize that compared to eternity and the Kingdom of God, we are just living in booths, moving, temporary structures built from our feeble attempts to gather a few sticks or a few bricks.  After a long journey, we may seek to call it home, but it won’t be, right?  It is only a place to eat a few meals and get some rest until we no longer want it, it is destroyed by the elements, or someone else is enjoying it because we are pushing up daisies. 

The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great. Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. – Nehemiah 8:17,18a

Therefore our home as we wait is not established in a certain location, but is rooted in the Word of God – in our Savior Christ Jesus, The Word and Cornerstone. Additionally, His Word, is the saving knowledge of the Gospel testified to by the Living Word, that is meant to be shared with all, especially those who have not prepared (v.10).  The harvest has not yet come, so we could be freshly stepping out of captivity, like the Hebrew or those returning from Babylon.  If this be the case, there is a lot to do to ensure our initial success – like create some solid boundaries.  Maybe we feel as though we are in exile, we are a far cry from the person who was once called Christian. Listen to God’s calling.  Recognize his blessings.  There is a promised land, even for those who wander (and truly, only for those who wander).  No matter the season, God is there, and the greatest of harvest is coming soon.  Enjoy this spectacular vista from the shack of your (but really, God’s) choice.

-Aaron Winner


Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 7-8 and 1 Corinthians 10

Just So You Know

Joshua 3-4 & Psalm 53-55

Yesterday, Makayla wrote about God’s plan and how perfectly Jesus accepted and fulfilled his part in allowing his body to be sacrificed and overcome by death – for 3 days. And she challenged us to consider how we will each respond, how will we play our part in the unfolding of God’s plan and His will. For each generation, and indeed each individual throughout history has the opportunity to choose how they will respond. Some have chosen very wisely.

Since January first our Old Testament reading has been in one of the first 5 books of the Bible – the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses. We have seen God’s plan unfold from His spectacular creation, the beginnings of life, to the the flood, the rainbow, and the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We saw how God provided for every generation including food during famine and a miraculous family reunion for Jacob and Joseph. And that was all just in the book of Genesis. Next came 4 books and 120 years of God leading and protecting His people through His man Moses – from the basket in the river to the Pharaoh’s palace, from Moses’ stumbling speech at the burning bush to the far side (the safe side) of the Red Sea, from the gift of the Ten Commandments to that wretched Golden Calf, from the mountaintop to the tabernacle God has shown His faithfulness and how He deserves to be followed. He led the Israelites right to the door of the Promised Land, but then ten of the twelve spies chickened out and the people forfeited their chance to be led by God into the land flowing with milk and honey. Instead, that generation would die in the next 40 years as they were wandering in the desert wilderness. Meanwhile, their children were growing up, preparing to wear their dead parents’ sandals (the same ones God made sure didn’t wear out) into the good land promised to the grandchildren of Abraham. Every generation, every individual gets to choose their response to God and His faithfulness.

So, here we are reading the first book of the Old Testament books of History – the book of Joshua. Moses has just died and the reigns of leadership have been passed on to the man who has been Moses’ sidekick for years. Before Moses’ death he had written out the early history of God’s people and God’s laws so that Joshua and those who would follow would know and remember. Moses and God had instilled into Joshua the need to return daily (day and night) to God’s Word as recorded by Moses: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9 NIV)

This, too, is the key to our response. Stay daily in God’s Word (all 66 books now – what a treasure trove). The world is still a scary place, just as the 12 spies discovered. And, without a daily dose of God’s Word it is easy to lose sight of God’s provision and lose the strength and courage that comes only from a solid foundation in God’s power and promise.

As Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land it is still the land of giants and fortified cities that had scared away the generation that came before him. But, armed with God’s Word he has the courage to go with God. And God does not disappoint. The first obstacle is the Jordan River at flood stage. Not a problem. Once the feet of the priests touch the water’s edge the waters stop flowing and the people walk across on dry ground. God has Joshua select one man from each tribe to carry out a rock from the middle of the Jordan and these 12 stones are erected to form a monument to God’s miraculous provision, so they can remember and tell the next generation.

It is part of our response to His goodness. Remember. And tell the next generation. I have never seen that pile of rock. But I have seen God at work in my life and at work in the generations before me. And, I have a great gift that lasts longer than the greatest pile of rock – God’s Word. It has been given that I might know the Almighty Father and what He has done. Without it, my memory fails me, and I am fearful. Without it, I lose my courage in a scary world of giants. But, with it, I am armed with strength and courage that only God can – and has – provided. In a scary world – turn to His Word daily.

In our Bible reading today we also have a portion of the Psalms written by David. It reminds us everyone won’t have a wise response to courageously step out and follow God’s plan in a scary world. Every generation also has the fools who say in their hearts that there is no God. (Psalm 53:1) The noise of evil can be loud and distracting and scary, but like David and Joshua and Jesus and every generation and individual we have a choice who we listen to and how we respond. Be in His Word and follow His Way. He knows the way into the Promised Land and He knows how to do the impossible. There is no obstacle too great for our God. Arm yourself with His Word daily. Remember. And tell the next generation.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Joshua 3-4 and Psalm 53-55

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