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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nehemiah 9:38-10:1-38: A Binding Promise To God

9:38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”[d]
  
Israel had such a revival of repentance and desire to obey and please God that they wanted to make a binding agreement with Him.  They had read the Word and found his decrees, they had recalled their history of turning from Him and they wanted to avoid a repeat of that at all cost. Let's take a look at the things they felt were important to promise.  Examine your heart and see what things God would have you promise and decree.  Remember knowledge of God's decrees and repentance came before they formed their promise.  


Overview of Israel's promise
  • Marriage:  We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the people of the surrounding people's and not to take the daughters of the surrounding people's for their sons.  They saw the importance of not allowing the influence of those who did not serve God come into their families.  They realized that this was a prime tool of the enemy to draw them away from faith in the true God.
  • Sabbath:  When the people's surrounding us try to sell things on the Sabbath we will not.  We will remember the Lord.  When people today try to get us to forsake God's house are as determined.  When we are tempted not to have a day of rest do we remember God rested as an example to us.  
  • Offerings, tithe, and first fruits, storehouse The people wanted to bring a prescribed offering that would sustain the temple.  They also wanted to bring the offerings that the law required.  The tithes and offerings and the first fruits of their crops.  They wanted to trust God with their finances and have a heart toward God in their giving so the ministries of the temple would go forth.  Do we have that same enthusiasm toward giving for the right reasons.  Keeping the ministry of the temple would keep the nation on track with God, it would reach out to those who would seek the living God and it would give Glory to the living God.
The last few days we've talked about their confession of sin and repentance.  Joshua got some worship cd's for us all to worship along.  Here is a song that talks about the very same thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bytbtZ5EVpc

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nehemiah 9:7-38 A History Lesson that brings joy

History was one of my favorite subjects in school.  The often repeated phrase, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it" would have been well received on this day of worship.  We've read about the revival of the Word of God as Ezra and the scribes read and explained and a great spirit of repentance and confession came over the people in our recent studies.

Today we'll see that a history lesson was used to solidify God's object lesson.   Some of you might not share my passion for history...maybe you don't find  yourself enjoying the History channel or documentaries...but you can still get the picture of how God works in our lives and in the life of a nation.

This History lesson begins with Abram and brings to remembrance how God brought him out of Ur and found a faithful heart in him....to Moses who is used of God to bring deliverance to his people, to the kingdom of Israel, to the time when they were dispersed to foreign lands.  It was a story of a people following God and being greatly blessed to a people who forgot God and become stiff necked.  It is a story of the grace of God even in the midst of disobedience.    The story...their very own story....brought the people of Nehemiah's day to a a place of decision.  Chapter 9 ends with the following promise.   9: 38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”  Tomorrow we will look at that agreement.  Today....take a look at your own History and see how God has lead  you to where you are right now.  I pray you will be taken with the heart of the people of Israel and that you will have your own awakening which brings worship, confession and repentance.  


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nehemiah 9:1-6 Revival of the Word and Repentance

Nehemiah 9:1-6 Revival of the Word and Repentance

Revival of the Word and Repentance
The Israelite's had just celebrated the feast of Tabernacles where the emphasis was to remember all those things God had done for them and their people throughout their history. They recounted the blessing of the Lord in the wilderness. All of this along with the heartfelt desire and obedience to build the wall put the people of God into a position to hear God's voice. They took steps to listen clearly. First they gathered together to hear God's Word read. Men, women and children who were old enough to be able to understand spent a quarter of the day listening as the Word was read. They responded to the Word with confession and repentance. They realized that they and their fathers had fallen short of the glory of God, of the calling of God for their nation, but mostly of failing to stay in proper relationship with their God. There was weeping as they began to truly see these things and worshiped before the Lord.

The Word, Confession and Repentance in Your Life
As I read the book of Nehemiah I'm reminded of what the Holy Spirit has done and is continuing to do in my life. I see those areas that He desires to help me in and that I need to confess have been wrong in His sight. The Word of God tells us is that it is like a mirror that shows us the reflection of what is truly in our soul. The choice of what we do with that reflection is up to us. The Word tells us not to look at the mirror and do nothing about the image we see. God is the one who forgives, He is the one who gives us the strength and ability to change, but our confession, acknowledgement, and willingness to listen to His Word is what opens the door to His ability to bring the transformation of our life. When we put the Word in our heart, when we confess our sin, when we humbly obey the Word He gives us the power to overcome the vilest of sin and change our lives forever. He puts us in position to live a life pleasing to Him

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nehemiah 8:13-18 Feast of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles

The people began reading the Word and realized that they should be celebrating one of the feast days. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time of remembrance. Tents or huts were made to remind the people of their time in the desert with just a tent or hut. The reenactment was to remind them of God's love and protection during the wilderness wanderings. They had rediscovered the God's command to remember and they wanted to start fresh in obeying God's Word. The feast days have always intrigued me with the food and object lessons. Can you imagine what it would be like as a child to build a hut and have it be your temporary home. The stories of God's provision and deliverance from slavery would be recounted. Even adults would be touched as they told of how Israel's needs were provided for in the midst of the hard ache they went through. Maybe you don't want to camp out for a week or so in a hut but there may well be some ways you can walk down memory lane and recall just how often God has met your need and helped you. Take some time today to examine God's goodness to you.


13 Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. 14 And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, 15 and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” 16 Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. 17 So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. 18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nehemiah 8:1-11 "Learning the Word'

The Word
The people were unified desiring to have the Word of God read and explained to them. There had been a time when the word of God had been laid aside, but this people had a passion to seek the Lord with all of their heart and obey His commands. Reading chapter eight was encouraging to me in light of all the things that happened in earlier chapters with enemies from without and within. It the midst of such circumstances one could get cynical about everyone around them. Nehemiah understood that there were many good people who desired the things of God.
Ezra and the scribes read the Word

Ezra and the scribes read the Word
The people both men and women came to listen to Ezra read the Word of God. The scribes broke down the word and explained in such a way the people would understand. Everyone was willing to spend time listening and learning. They wept perhaps because they realized all they had missed with a lack of knowledge about the Lord and His Word. Ezra and Nehemiah had a different take on the situation. They advised the people to rejoice with rich foods and gifts because it was a day when the people gathered to hear and understand the Word and their heart was after the Lord.

We can have the same passion
I get so blessed when I go to the studies and see people hungering after the Word and after the presence of the Lord. Don't let the Word and His presence be put on a shelf...God desires to ignite a fire within us that will bring joy and peace to our lives. This revival of spirit is more than a head knowledge it is a passion to know God with the heart. Some days it may seem like a sacrifice to come into His presence and read His Word....yet we can come with joy because God honors those who diligently seek him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nehemiah 7 "Guard what you've built"

Guard what you've built.

When God first puts something on our heart and gives us a dream to go forward we often don't realize the sacrifice and struggle that is involved in doing the work and trusting God to make it happen. It takes grit to complete the task. Today I pondered all the obstacles Nehemiah faced as he rallied the people to complete this huge task. He had to overcome the discouragement that had settled over Jerusalem, the removal of great amounts of rubble from the old wall, the fierce threat of enemies, and finally the unholy actions of the nobles who should have been in sync with God's plan but instead were "in bed" with God's enemies. Finally the task was complete, but that didn't mean it was the end of the work. Nehemiah knew that the wall had to be guarded and the people had to remain diligent. He assigned his brother Hanani along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress to govern the city of Jerusalem. He also arranged for the people to guard the wall both from century post and from their homes. He had the people register their heritage so that they would be properly placed.

What are you guarding?
God gives us some pretty understandable things to guard and keep tract of in our life. Just because a task is completed doesn't mean all is completed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nehemiah 6:15-19 "Disloyal leaders"

Nehemiah 6:15-19
15
So on October 2[d] the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.17 During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. 18 For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.

Wrong Allegiances
This portion of Scripture is so sad to read. Yet that same thing happens today. Some of the leaders of the people had connections to a person who did not want God's people to succeed in building the wall. Marriage connections to powerful families had caused some Jews to be willing to align with a man who really had no love for their people. He endeared himself enough to make some extol his supposed good deeds to Nehemiah. Not everyone who appears to do good things has the best interest of God's people in mind. His actions against the wall should have shown these powerful men his true character. The wall represented protection against enemies. It would protect the city from attacks. They sent letters back and forth and telling him what Nehemiah said. These people were blinded by this man and his sideline "good deeds" that they could not see his disdain for the wall confirmed his true character and thoughts about God's people. These people actually hurt the cause of God for their own people because of their connections and because they allowed themselves to believe a lie.

Connections
We need to be careful about our connections too. While I'm not advocating we go about accusing people or looking for trouble, we must be careful and know the plan of God being aware of those who do not promote it. Even if we have connections because of marriage, friendships, or the recommendations of someone we respect it is so important to look at character and listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Disloyal Leaders

The sad part of this reading is that these leaders seemed duped by those they allowed to have power in their lives. They didn't seem the kind that would out of the blue reject the blessing of God upon their own people. Instead they were fooled by supposed good deeds and connections to important people.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nehemiah 6: 1-14 But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

In today's world we need Nehemiah's to rise up and pray in the midst of plots, lies, and attacks against the gospel as he did. "Now Strengthen my hands" (vs 9)

More Threats
We find Nehemiah and the people steadily working on the wall. The enemies of God, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were still getting angry about it. They sent message after message asking for a meeting. An unsealed letter was also sent (so others could read it and become afraid) accusing the Jews of desiring to make Nehemiah king so they could revolt against the king. They threatened to get word back the king of this plot.

They just want to scare us into backing down.
Nehemiah's assessment was that these enemies were doing their best to scare both he and the people from finishing God's project. So he sent them a reply by messenger. Kind of reminds me of email. "8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” I want you to think about a few things here. First, Nehemiah had to rely upon his character that he had built with the king during his time of service. Our everyday life of hard work and loyalty really do matter and will effect our mission. Second, Nehemiah wasn't fooled. He knew their plan and he prayed against it. They wanted him to become weak...his prayer was that his hands be strengthened. We need to pray and declare the opposite of what the enemy is trying to proclaim over us.

Prophets of Doom hired by enemies
Folks who called themselves prophets called Nehemiah and tried to get him to go to the temple for sanctuary because that was the only way he could protect himself against those who wanted to kill him. It was not God but a trick. It is a sad state when sometimes even those who use a cloak of spiritually really are hirelings. Nehemiah's prayer life caused him to see this for what it was. We hadn't heard about it throughout the book, but apparently these prophets had been trying to intimidate him all along.

Prayer.
Father, we ask in Jesus Name that we would discern the plots of the enemy like Nehemiah did. We pray along with him, "Strengthen our hand".





Thursday, January 19, 2012

Remember me O God: Nehemiah 5

Some rabbi's and commentators get a little upset with Nehemiah's closing remarks in chapter 5. They think he was presumptuous about God's blessing and his works.

He says,
Nehemiah 5:19
Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.

I'm taken with Nehemiah's life of prayer, his treatment of others and his desire to see righteousness in his people. Nehemiah was willing to speak for those who were being mistreated and didn't have the power to change things on their own behalf. He saw things in society that were wrong and addressed them. While some folks may not like his words to me they confidence in God's blessing upon righteousness.

Mistreatment: Nehemiah 5
Smack in the middle of all of the problems with enemies fighting against the building of the wall and the discouragement among the ranks we find some disturbing facts about the officials and nobles of the people. The rich were charging high interest to other Israelite's who needed help to pay taxes. Some of their children had been sold into slavery. They cried out to Nehemiah and declared that their children were just as important as the children of the rich. Homes and lands were lost to the profiteering of the nobles. Nehemiah rose up and decried this injustice....and demanded that they stop mistreating the poor and give back the money and lands that they wrongfully had taken.

Nehemiah 5:9-11
9 Then I pressed further, “What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations? 10 I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of charging interest. 11 You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. And repay the interest you charged when you lent them money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”

Nehemiah was a man that would not let go whether against foreign enemies or Jewish nobles who took advantage of their countrymen. When we are trying to do God's will and there are ungodly issues in our lives that we have not dealt with God brings those things to the surface. The wall which would bring protection was God's plan...but sin against others would hinder what God was doing. When something comes to the surface in your life it may well be that God is helping you to repent and walk uprightly both to safeguard you and to bring about greater blessing. The officials and nobles repented. What areas to do you see in your life....What areas are you willing to address in your circle.

Nehemiah talked to God and others about about how he did not exploit the people as other governors had. He ends with this statement.
Nehemiah 5:19
Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Nehemiah 4:10-21: Remember the Lord

Nehemiah 4:10-13
Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” 11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” 12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”[e] 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.


The enemy wants to swoop in and the local news is broadcasting "Attack is imminent". I don't know about you, but sounds like a scary problem. The enemy must have surely thought he had them just where he wanted them. Nehemiah set guards according to families. Let's take a look at his reaction.

It must have been disappointing to Nehemiah to have come so far only to come to this place. He'd done all the right things. He had prayed for favor to come and received it, he accessed the situation and cast the vision to the people and gained approval and cooperation and unity, and the wall was half done with the gaps being filled. He'd spoken directly to the enemy and informed them that they had no part in Jerusalem and its inheritance. Yet now it could all be lost and the people were becoming discouraged and afraid. It was a turning point. He could have given up...after all there were very real threats for the safety of the people. Instead of throwing in the towel...he called the people together. Here are the inspirational words he spoke.

Nehemiah 4:14
14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

He looked the situation in the eye and declared. God is with us...Don't let this throw you...fight for your families. God brought us this far so he will take care of us. The road to God's will often has obstacles placed by the enemy of our soul...but those w ho complete the course please Him.

Strategic Plan
Nehemiah 4:15-23 and hard work

15 When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. 16 But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!” 21 We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. 22 I also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. 23 During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.[f]



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nehemiah: What to do when things get heavy.

Nehemiah: 4:7-8 Intensified Attacks

7 [d]But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. 9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.

The Jews had been working together in a spirit of unity repairing the wall of Jerusalem. They believed God was doing a work and put their heart into doing their part. They had endured the ridicule of enemies who spoke against them and God's plan. Steadily these enemies put more pressure on the workers in order to keep them from completing the wall. Completion would cause these enemies to lose power and show God's hand toward His people. When intimidation didn’t stop the work the ante was raised to threats of physical confrontation that could result in deaths and confusion. The Jews prayed and began to guard the city day and night.

Wow. Things sure heated up in Jerusalem. Sometimes that happens in our lives too. We start a the path that God has set before us trusting Him to help us do our best to honor Him. When obstacles come it can grow harder to remain steady to the course. The Jews prayed and set a guard.

Nehemiah 4:10

10 Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.”

Sometimes feelings can lead us astray. The workers became tired and overwhelmed with the tricks of the enemy. There was a choice to be made. The task seemed way too big for them and discouragement and disappointment threatened to derail progress. What would they do? Sometimes we just want things to go smoothly without a hitch, but the real test is what we will do when the pressure comes. Nehemiah wisely prayed and remained steady and gave the workers a good example. Whether we are the lead or a worker on the line we can learn from this. Maybe we’ve fallen prey to the enemies tricks in the past but when we know the plan of God we can remain steady despite attacks. Brush off feelings of failure and lack of confidence and listen for the voice of the Lord. It may seem like a battle at present, but Jesus always has a plan for success when we listen to Him.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Intensified Attack.

Intensified
Is the enemy getting angry because his attacks are not keeping you from moving forward? Sometimes the attack will intensifiy with greater attacks. It is important. Nehemiah and the Jews faced the same thing when the wall was at half height. Intimidation didn’t stop the work and that made their enemies furious. You will sometimes see and intensification of the battle in such cases.

Nehemiah 4:6-9
6 At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm. 7 [d]But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. 9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.

Sanballat increased his assault as well as influencing more groups of people in the surrounding area to join with him in his attack and hatred towards the Jews. They were incensed that their intimidation didn’t stop the wall from going forward. So they plotted together to physically attack the city and bring great confusion. Today was like this for me and it took me awhile to see what was happening. I’d overcome attacks and the devil’s whispers….so he launched an all out attack . I missed the truth of it for awhile and fell prey most of the day, but God in His Great Mercy kept speaking to my heart. The Jews had to guard the city….we need to guard our heart.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nehemiah 4:1-6:Tactics of the enemy Part 1

Nehemiah 4:1-6
Tactics of the enemy and ways to overcome

Nehemiah's book reminds me of real life and the spiritual battles we face. Throughout the book we will see core enemies again and again. It will become apparent that these enemies have intertwined themselves in such a way that one would never imagine. Yet God gives wisdom to Nehemiah and those who will work toward God’s plan for Jerusalem. The enemy has many weapons that we need to be aware of in our walk with God.


Intimidation
Nehemiah 4:1-3

1 [a]When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”

Sanballat and his team were human beings, but they give us information about how the enemy of our soul works to bring destruction. The first thing we see here is intimidation and the casting of doubt. He calls the Jews feeble and mocks their ability to accomplish the task. He intensifies weakness instead of what unity under God can do. Think about this a moment. Are there things that God has placed in your heart that have been set aside because of the enemies tactic of ridicule and doubt casting? Don’t brush over this question. You may well find yourself realizing that you laid down the dream because of the enemies voice of intimidation. He may use people or simply plant a thought of inability in your mind. The question is what are we going to do with those voices the enemy yells in our ear?

Nehemiah 1:4-6

4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of[b] the builders. 6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

The people worked with all of their heart despite the insults and mockery thrown their way because they trusted God and Nehemiah’s leadership of steadfastness. Nehemiah’s response was so important because it would determine what those under his leadership would do. If he gave up and accepted the seeds of doubt and inability it would funnel down to the workers. He had to stand firm in what God told him and in God’s ability. You see it wasn’t just what he thought he could do…it was about what God could do through yielded vessels who understood the need to reject the tactics of the enemy and believe what God said to be true. Notice the prayer of Nehemiah. Basically, “Lord, I trust you to deal with these enemies.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nehemiah 3: Putting Your Shoulder to the Work.

Unity
Chapter 3 is an amazing chapter that relates to any project God asks you to undertake. It gives the names of groups of people who worked on the wall. People of differing social standings began to work together on the wall that was near their dwelling. Priest, perfumers, sons, goldsmiths and even a father and his daughters worked on the wall. When we get in line with God's vision, God's leader, and work together God will bless the work of our hand.

Unfortunately we also read in this chapter about some nobles (leaders) that refused to put their shoulders to the work. The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.[a] We don't know why these leaders didn't take part. Perhaps they didn't want to be under Nehemiah's direction.>>> Whatever their reason they lost the blessing of God and surely were not a good example.

Whether our current God project involves church, home or community it is important to follow His lead, His leaders, and put our shoulders to work in a spirit of unity. All those who willingly do this are surely leaders to be admired.

Take a minute to read Nehemiah chapter three and ponder how God can use unity and the hard work of individuals to fulfill His purposes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nehemiah: Sharing the Vision

Yesterday we talked about being careful about sharing the vision the moment God gives it to us or the even when we are in the midst of the people God has called us to. There is a correct time and sometimes we are called to survey the situation and seek God's timing. After Nehemiah accessed the situation and had a better appreciation for what needed to be done he knew it was time to cast the vision to the leaders of his people.
Nehemiah 2:17-18
<<<<18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. >>>>
In ancient days a wall around a city was protection against enemies who would invade and plunder at will. Nehemiah told the leaders what they already knew about the potential for plunder and encouraged them to rebuild the wall so that they would no longer be sitting ducks for their enemies and publicly disgraced. Sometimes we know the problem but don't know how to solve it...God brought Nehemiah to show God's plan. Nehemiah shared with them the story about how God had given him favor with the king and provision for the job. The plan was accepted and the work was to be started.
Enemies Mock: Nehemiah responds
Nehemiah 2:19-20
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

Get used to seeing these enemies throughout the story of Nehemiah. They hate the people of God and anything that would help give courage and peace to Israel. Nehemiah's reactions keep everything going according to God's plan. Remember your reaction to the devil and his assaults can make or break a situation. First of all, remember God's plan is to prosper His people and to see their good come about. Remember also that even things that seem impossible are possible with God. Nehemiah's enemies try to claim they have a right to the land...Nehemiah lets them know that in reality they have no historic right to the land. The enemy of our soul tries to destroy God's plan....I'm convinced we can like Nehemiah stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nehemiah: When not to broadcast your vision.

Have you ever had a time where God spoke to you and you couldn't wait to tell folks about it. It is truly amazing when God places vision in the heart of a person. It might be vision for your future or some needed information and wisdom about a situation in your life. The Word tells us that, "His sheep know His voice." Nehemiah knew what it takes awhile for many of us to learn. We are not necessarily suppose to blab the vision the minute the Lord reveals it too us. So far in Nehemiah's journey he had only told the governors of the Trans-Euphrates by giving them a copy of the kings letter on his way home. His enemies had learned of his plan this way and began scheming. One would think as long as he had given the governors the letters he should just tell all the home folks as well. Nehemiah didn't do that. He wanted to get a first hand look at the problems himself rather than rely on second hand information. So he went throughout the route of the wall and accessed the damage himself. When Nehemiah did speak with the elders it would be with knowledge.

Has God shared something with you? Ask him what if anything you should share with others at this moment. Perhaps there is a waiting period. You can use that time wisely by allowing the Holy Spirit to help you be prepared for the task and how best to present it.

Nehemiah 2:11-16
11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. 13 And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. 15 So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nehemiah 2 : Enemies Revealed

Nehemiah had been given the favor of the Lord. The king had given him favor and help for his mission. This of course became known to others.

Nehemiah 2:10

10
When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.

Doesn't it baffle the mind that when God gives favor there is often an enemy that emerges? Sanballat's name means the god of sin (moon god) . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sin_(mythology) We will see these enemies as the story continues. They have no desire to see God's people succeed. Nehemiah fights the enemy with God's power and so can we. When ever we do some thing great for God we will see resistance from God's enemies.

Whenever we have a God given dream in our heart the devil fights. He uses people, intimidation and a whole arsenal of weapons. The Word tells in Ephesians 6:12, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
As we read we further we will see how Nehemiah fought this and how he avoided getting entangled with the enemies plans. Sometimes our own flesh can bring hurt to God's plan.  The enemies introduced understood clearly....they didn't want Israel to be blessed of God or succeed in anyway. We will learn the difference between enemies and the uninformed as we read this amazing book of the Bible.



God is still able and is greater than any enemy.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Nehemiah: The Favor of the Lord

Last week we completed chapter one of Nehemiah. We find Nehemiah accepting God’s call to help his people and praying for the favor of the Lord upon him. It is revealed that Nehemiah was the kings cup-bearer.

1 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Favor can come in the midst of our daily life. Nehemiah didn’t barge in to the king and demand anything. God prepared the kings heart. You may not be in a palace, or work for a politician like Nehemiah but God can still bring the right person into your life. It is not always quite what we expect. Nehemiah was afraid when the king noticed his sadness because a cup-bearer or advisor of the king was not to show his own cares….he was to concentrate on the needs of the king. Yet God prepared the kings heart to care about Nehemiah and Israel. Nehemiah…spoke up when asked and began to share his heart about why he was sad and what God had put on his heart. We have to be careful not to let fear keep us from favor.

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.

Have you ever thrown up a quick prayer in the midst an important situation? He hears.  (Remember though Nehemiah had already been seeking God and fasting )When we have prayed and believed He is in the midst and can help us say and do the right things. The queen sat by the king that day (a practice that was employed to bring mercy) Nehemiah was asked what he wanted. He could have just asked for permission to take time off to go to Jerusalem and access the situation. Instead he went beyond the obvious and asked for more. His request was granted.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nehemiah: Bold in Prayer

Bold Prayer
Sometimes we are afraid to pray bold prayers. Maybe we've been disappointed. Perhaps we are not confident we can succeed in the en-devour the Lord has put before us. We cannot do it on our own. This week as we've studied Nehemiah we've seen God place a burden upon his heart, we've seen him pray day and night and fast before the Lord, We've seen him humble himself before the Lord and admit his sin, the sin of his family and the sin of his nation. He positioned himself for favor. Nehemiah's boldness involved a prayer to bring favor before the king of Persia. He was the kings cup-bearer.

Nehemiah 1:10-11

11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cup-bearer to the king.

Influence
Nehemiah was in an influential position. His job was to keep the king safe from poisoning by tasting the food first. Cup-bearers also became confidants and advisers to the king...no doubt due to the access they had and their willingness to risk their lives. However, that didn't mean that the kings heart would honor God and Nehemiah's heart's desire to help his country. Thus the bold prayer in the natural was a risk. Nehemiah bold prayer may be called presumption by some...but to me it spells faith.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nehemiah: If you confess your sin.

Nehemiah 1:5-11

7We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. 8Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 9But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. 10Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

Nehemiah knew the history of his people and that they had not kept God's commands. He realized that their present situation was based upon their past behavior of disobedience. The New Testament tells us, James: 4:7 ; When we yield to God in obedience the devil must run in Jesus Name when we resist him. Sometimes we are waiting for a huge revelation about how to have the power of God in our lives and we miss the obvious promise to those who obey. Nehemiah reminded God that when the disobedient turn from their way and obey God he will gather them to Himself. He promised the Jewish nation that He would gather them back to Jerusalem. I mentioned yesterday that Nehemiah prayed for the nation and admitted both personal sin and national sin. God has an assignment for you...He is in the process of revealing it to you. Take an inventory and ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything that needs repentance in your life. Obedience from the heart and out of love for God brings power and victory. It doesn't mean there will be no problems to overcome...but it does mean God will be with you.

Here is a promise that gives great comfort.

I John 1:9
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

9

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Nehemiah: God Keeps Covenant and is Merciful

Nehemiah 1:5-11

Nehemiah’s prayer takes up the rest of chapter one. Go ahead and read the whole prayer and we will discuss portions of it the rest of the week.

God Keeps Covenant and is Merciful

5And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
6Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.

A covenant is an agreement. God doesn’t break His word. He keeps covenant…take a minute and ponder that. He remembers what He has said and promised. He works this divine trait in us as well. Psalms 15:4 talks about how we are to keep our word even when it hurts. Perhaps the Israelites wondered if God was still willing to remember them. Things were not looking good for them at the moment. Nehemiah’s prayer reminds us that we serve a merciful God. When we love Him and are obedient His mercy overflows towards us. Verse 6 starts a very important part of the prayer. Nehemiah asked God to listen to his prayer and then he confesses that he and his people have sinned. Nehemiah is placing himself and the nation in a position of receiving God’s mercy. Tomorrow we’ll see Nehemiah getting more specific about what went wrong…but today we will simply ponder the fact that sometimes our situation has to do with disobedience….and that God hears a repentant heart. Notice also that God can use one of His people to begin repentance for a group.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nehemiah: Allowing God to make His heart's desire our heart's desire

God's Heart desire.

Yesterday we found Nehemiah in the palace in Persia. We will see as time goes on in our study that the Lord had Nehemiah placed where he could make a difference concerning the problems in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 1:3-4 says,

3And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.4And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,


Nehemiah's brother tells him that things are not good in Jerusalem. This passage reminds me that "the steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord". Here is a man that as we will soon see had an important job in a large kingdom. He was in the palace , a place of luxury, and a place of influence. He grew up knowing that the God of Israel had plans to restore what was lost to them. Knowing all of this didn't mean he had to act. He could have excused himself of caring too much about the condition of his people's home land...after all he was a busy man and could have even reasoned within himself that his current position was too important to give up not just for himself, but for his people.

Think about this for a moment. We all have times when we have to discern if something we've learned about is meant to be our passion. Nehemiah knew within his heart that God wanted him to do something, but he wasn't sure what his role would be yet. He started at a place many skip altogether. Prayer and fasting. Some people would get stuck with the weeping and the mourning and go nowhere, some would shake off the weeping and mourning and go on about their business. Nehemiah determined to seek the wisdom and revelation of the Lord. He cast this great care upon the Lord and asked God to make clear what he was to do. I'm convinced we can do the same thing. We can cast the burden on Jesus and seek His council about what to do about what is presented to us in our everyday life. He can help us find our passion and make a positive difference in our world. Take time to pray and fast this week if even only a meal seeking His goals and passion for your life.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nehemiah: News From Home

The last several days the Holy Spirit has prompted me to read the book of Nehemiah and let it speak to my heart. I’d like to share some of the wonders of the King of Kings with you. Nehemiah was originally included with the book of Ezra. So after you read Nehemiah you might be interested to read Ezra which actually is chronologically before Nehemiah. Let’s not be in a hurry to get through the book. This week we will concentrate on chapter one. Feel free to read the chapter everyday as we go through it step by step. Write down your own insights as the Holy Spirit speaks to you.


Nehemiah’s family line had been taken to Persia in the dispersion when disobedience towards God had caused the Israelites to be taken captive. Daniel was one of the captives who was used of God at the beginning of the captivity and is still an example of trust in God. Jeremiah had prophesied about it and declared it’s length would be seventy years. In Ezra’s time God gave favor to the Israelites and many were allowed to go back to the Holy Land and repair the temple. Nehemiah opens with Nehemiah in the palace (citadel) in Persia when he receives a visit from a brother with news of Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s name means Yahweh comforts (comforted of the Lord).

News From Home: Nehemiah 1:1-3

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.
It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan[a] the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”

The splendor of the palace could not hold Nehemiah's heart when his brother Hanani (God is gracious) explains to him that city of Jerusalem is in great distress with the walls which are meant to be a protection are instead broken allowing enemies to have a foothold to bring destruction. So many times when we are shown a need that grips our heart it is God giving us opportunity to make a difference in this world and fulfill His plan for our life. Chapter one reveals how God places in Nehemiah’s heart a burning desire to bring help to his country as well an understanding that God would show him great favor. As we read we will see that we all need the wisdom and revelation of the Lord. Perhaps there are area’s in your life where the walls are broken down, where the enemy wants to get a foothold and cause destruction and reproach. Rising to the call of the Lord is not always an easy road, but God brings joy in the fulfillment of His plan. He sees and He always has a wise plan. Keep reading to see how Nehemiah walked out the plan of God and helped his nation.