Nehemiah 9-10

I love it when we arrive at a speech about God’s faithfulness in spite of us. His perfect record of righteousness is the solid rock we can stand on in all circumstances. What are some of the things He is directly/indirectly called in chapter 9?

  • Glorious 
  • Exalted
  • The Only God
  • Creator
  • Giver of life 
  • Chooser of Abraham
  • Fulfiller of promises
  • Righteous 
  • Compassionate 
  • Powerful
  • Leader
  • Communicator
  • Giver of just and true laws
  • Giver of rest/sabbath 
  • Provider of food/water/clothes 
  • Wondrous 
  • Forgiving
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in loving kindness
  • Never forsaking
  • Guide
  • Instructor
  • Subduer of nations
  • Giver of land/fruitfulness/fertility 
  • Good
  • Deliverer
  • Rescuer
  • Admonisher
  • Patient
  • Mighty 
  • Great
  • Awesome 
  • Keeper of the covenant 
  • Just 
  • Faithful 

He is all of these things and He does not change. He has not changed. All while we change constantly. I have to be so very proactive about not being ruled by my ludicrous emotions and I still lose those battles constantly. He is the anchor of my soul and I NEED HIM DESPERATELY. 

I am eternally grateful to know and remember my life, righteousnes, joy, hope and peace depend on Him and not on me keeping myself in line. 

Oh LORD, I love you. Thank you for remaining faithful, good and just, providing even as I complain and fret. Thank you for staying true to your promises and sending Christ, the descendant of David, to be our King and Priest, leading and sanctifying. 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

-Bethany 

Nehemiah 7-8

Chapter 8 is such a holy picture of what it should look like to engage in God’s word. Here are a few things I was reminded of as I read it: 

-The reading of God’s word deserves respect. I’ve visited a few churches lately that request you to stand when they read from the Bible. It might feel formal or religious, but it’s a good way to posture yourself and remember you’re reading divine words. What a precious gift we have in front of us! Let’s remember that. 

-The Bible was interpreted as it was read to the people. For the past five years, I’ve started reading a bible with a lengthy commentary on it. I use to be oppposed to them and wanted to give myself space to sort out Scripture for myself, but I’m so thankful for what it adds to my knowledge. Especially books or topics I’m not very familiar with. 

-Keep a humble heart of where you stand. The people wept and mourned as they listened to the words of the Law, realizing how far they were from what God was requiring. 

-Stay joyful! Don’t let shame overtake you when you read God’s word. Instead, celebrate what a loving God we have and all the ways he’s taken care of his people. And in our case, celebrate that we get to receive the gospel and extend it to others. 

“And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!’ ” 8:10

Nehemiah 5-6

I think I’ve mentioned this before, and those of you who also grew up in the church may relate. I’ve had to refrain myself from treating people mentioned in the Bible as story book characters. Flannel graphs have a way of making someone seem like a Aesop fable. “Slow and steady wins the race”, don’t “cry wolf “, etc. Nehemiah and company are real historical figures. I think I said this when we were reading about David: Just because he’s a “man after God’s own heart” doesn’t mean he always does the right thing and is a reliable moral compass. If you’re looking for a moral compass, read Deuteronomy. That’s how Nehemiah knows the Israelites aren’t supposed to be collecting interest from each other. Much like David, Nehemiah has some great qualities and work ethics which foreshadow Christ, but he’s also flawed.

Luckily, today’s readings are mostly great examples of leadership. He doesn’t heavily tax the people so he can live large. He puts his own hands to the work, even though other nobles wouldn’t. He reminds me of the Apostle Paul being a tent maker, even though he had the right to be paid for his ministry. This is a lovely, Christlike, self sacrificing model, but not the requirements of the Law.

This reminds me of some great leaders I’ve seen throughout my life in ministry. Jeff Nelson is a YWAMer with an insane work ethic. The man is a machine and also full of grace and generosity. He and his wife rent a room to me when I live in Salem. I’ve worked with Jeff in the US, but also in Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica. He is a man of consistent integrity, which I can attest to because I also live at his house. He is a also real person, not an Aesop fable character. His wife Sue also gives sacrifically of her time and resources. I am very blessed to have them in my life and I’m also incredibly blessed to say they are just one example among many godly leaders in my life.

Let’s thank God for these examples today. Share a story of someone who comes to mind when you think of a leader like Nehemiah.

-Bethany

Nehemiah 3-4

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to today mentioned that they were tired, rundown or overwhelmed. Myself included! It was even something I came across in today’s chapters.

“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.” 4:10

Nehemiah brings his people’s focus back to God’s purpose. He reminds them that God will fight for them as they feel people closing in on them.

What is overwhelming you right now? Look past the logistics and remember God’s purpose for it all. Offer up your worries and anxieties to him, and ask him to make it clear what your part is. And as Bethany mentioned yesterday, good work involves other people! Ask for help. Invite others into it. Delegate, when you can. But above all else, find rest and peace in the only One who can provide it. Even when there’s not sleep, or answers, or solutions, there’s always rest available in Him.

 

-Carly

Nehemiah 1-2

Everybody likes Nehemiah. Ultimate leader guy. He has the king of Persia on his side because also, “The good hand of my God was upon me.” (2:8) Double whammy.

I can just picture him, upon his noble stead, scoping out the situation by night. The run down people of Israel don’t know he’s been sent, with the blessing of Artexerxes, to do exactly what they’ve been praying for.

The LORD loves to answer the prayers of His people. All throughout these chapters Nehemiah is praying for forgiveness, opportunity and the words to express what is in his heart. Look for leaders who pray first. Be a leader who prays before planning or speaking; leading with repentance and interceeding for your teammates. 

Allow God to put dreams and goals into your heart. These things will most likely be way beyond you, so be ready to humbly depend on the Lord for every step. Also, get ready to assemble your team, rarely is something worthwhile done alone.

These are major things to keep an eye out in this book: Nehemiah’s example of leadership and the importance of community. What stood out to you?

-Bethany 

Ezra 9-10

I love what my Bible commentary had to say to sum up the book of Ezra:

“The book of Ezra opens with God’s Temple in ruins and the people of Judah captive in Babylon. Ezra tells of the return of God’s people, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the restoration of the sacrificial worship system. Similarly, God is able to restore and rebuild the lives of people today. No one is so far away from God that restoration is not possible. Repentance is all that is required. No matter how far we have strayed or how long it has been since we have worshiped God, he is able to restore our relationship to him and rebuild our lives.” (NLT Chronological Bible pg. 1202)

As we read in today’s chapters, there are dark moments when God is rebuilding something. To rebuild, first you have to tear down. For the people of Israel, it was relationships they weren’t suppose to be in.

Is there something in your life that needs to be torn down and restored by God? 

I could relate to the reading today. I’ve had those moments when I’m shivering in the cold and looking at the mess I’ve made by being disobedient to God. All he’s waiting for is a repentant and willing heart. Which often goes hand in hand with an overwhelmed, down-trodden and weary heart. He handles it all.

Take time today and ask God if he will help rebuild what needs to be torn down.

 

-Carly

Ezra 7-8

“The good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach His statutes and rules in Israel.” (7:9b-10)

The LORD is motivated by His love for us. He sets Ezra up for success, because Ezra is someone who is going to tell Israel about Him.

“Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going out is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

I love this verse because it encapsulates much of the purpose of life: to know God.

It’s not about structures and edicts and how much treasure He provides. He wanted Israel in that land to know Him and be in the way of the nations on the world’s most crossed trade route. 

The enemy is always trying to get me to believe my life is out of control, that God doesn’t care where I live or what I do. This, I’m learning again, is simply not true. He has moved me (and moved mountains and governments and treasures to get me here) into the lives of people who need to know Him. He has put me in their way. And yeah, sometimes that’s going to be intimidating, inconvenient, complicated and possibly dangerous. But it’s also going to be worth it. 

God’s hand was upon Ezra and His hand is upon me, even when I don’t feel it. He has very lovingly and purposefully moved us into time periods boundaries of inhabitance (Acts 17:26).
Where has He placed you? Who’s way are you in? Let us press on to know the LORD. He will come to us, just as certainly as it will rain in Portland again.

-Bethany 

Ezra 5-6

“Therefore, if it pleases the king, we request that a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to discover whether King Cyrus ever issued a decree to rebuild God’s Temple in Jerusalem. And then let the king send us his decision in this matter.” 5:17

I love the way God takes care of his people here. A paragraph found in a pagan library offer the exact legal clause they needed to continue their work. God is sovereign over all historical events, laws and legal matters, and will carry out his will no matter what. This is greatly encouraging!

We often tend to separate God’s kingdom and the earthly kingdom, as if they coexist simultaneously. But nothing is outside of his scope. He can deliver us from anything. 

What’s something you’ve designated for Man, but is ultimately operated by God?

I am constantly reminding myself that ultimately, God puts leadership in authority, not man. I tend to fall into the mindset that politics are politics. But God is sovereign over them, and can be trusted. He has ultimately placed leaders in position, not us. (Er, sometimes he just gives us over to our own choices. But even then, he’s in control!)

What’s something you need to hand over to him and trust him with?

 

-Carly

Ezra 3-4

This book confuses me. Sometimes I really wish the Bible was more black and white. God, seemingly, wants the temple rebuilt. He makes a way, through Cyrus, but then the temple sucks and His presence isn’t there, so what’s the point? Then the same government who originally decrees construction (by the hand of God) halts construction (by the hand of God)? What does God want to happen? Why are His leaders inconsistent? I think this confusion is underlined in the verse:

“The people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” (3:13)

Is this happy or sad??? Even the eyewitnesses couldn’t decide!

Theologically speaking, God’s evasive will and debated levels of sovereignty, circle around to moments like these. What does God want? What are we supposed to be doing? What’s the lesson we should be learning here? Can we look to other slogan verses for this?

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

So is the Lord not building this house? Why were they released to build it?? Just because God said time-out would only last 70 years?

We know Zerubbabel’s temple doesn’t last. We know Herod builds a bigger temple, which also doesn’t last. We know Jesus said His body would be the new temple. We know the Jews aren’t currently thrilled with the lack of a present day temple. We know Revelation ends with:

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”‭‭ (Revelation‬ ‭21:22‬)

So what is the point of this story?! It’s like God is saying, “Israel, you blew it. Sure, try to do better this time, but you clearly don’t have what it takes to bless the nations. I’m going to let you go home, but I’m not going to talk to any of you for 400 years, in which time I myself will come and show you how it’s done.” It kind of seems that way.

This section of history births the factions we see in the gospels, namely the Pharisees. When people go without the word of the LORD, it enviably spirals into legalism or chaos. Either you claim God is behind something He isn’t, or you tighten up on what you know He said once and add a few rules on top, just to be sure.

You guys. We don’t live in that moment of history. This is not the beginning of 400 years of silence.

We are in the age of the Kingdom of God, in which the temple is within us and God speaks to us and promises to be with us.

I don’t know about you, but I needed this reminder today. Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.

-Bethany 

Ezra 1-2

You can watch a great overview of the book of Ezra here.

This book opens around 50 years after Nebuchadnezzar took over Jerusalem and carried the Jews away to hold them captive. Eventually, Babylon was overthrown by Persia. In these chapters, the king of Persia, Cyrus, decides to loosen the leash a little bit on the exiles and allow them to return home to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.

I love the part where he gives back all their Temple items (1:10) that Nebuchadnezzar took when he ransacked the Temple. Valuable, holy items.

When has God allowed something to be taken away from you? 

When’s a time that he’s allowed that to be restored or returned? Maybe it’s a relationship, a job, a title, a feeling or personal belongings. Don’t allow discouragement to take over you during traumatic events! Look for the examples of God’s protection, care and mercy.

-Carly