Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 26 July 18:
1. Nehemiah 1:4 – “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah’s focus was on God’s people and God’s plan. Nehemiah lived in prosperity but wept bitterly over the plight of other believers. Do you have this sort of heart for distant believers?
2. Nehemiah 1:6 – “I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.” Nehemiah took personal responsibility for the current situation rather than blaming others such as political leaders. Nehemiah’s plea for help from God included confession of sin, repentance, and a request for God’s forgiveness, both for himself and for the nation.
3. Nehemiah 1:7 – “We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” Sin is measured by God’s word, not by popular opinion or current standards of morality.
4. Nehemiah 1:8, 9 — “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” Like Ezra, Nehemiah was heavily convicted by the state of God’s people who were in “great trouble and shame,” because they “acted very corruptly against [God] and [had] not kept the commandments” of God. They had denied their own holiness and their “wall” was “broken down” – a physical manifestation of their spiritual condition. Rather than standing as a “priestly kingdom” among the kingdoms of the earth, God’s people remained “scatter[ed]… among the peoples.” Like Ezra, Nehemiah was driven to lamentation, personal repentance, fasting, prayer, and career changing action. Like Ezra, Nehemiah new it was time for action, not primarily because of the physical threat to God’s people (which was very real), but because he saw that God’s people had been enslaved by their sin and their compromise with the world (Ezra 9:9; see Jeremiah 13:17; ). Their problem was, above all else, a spiritual problem. In our New Testament readings today, Jesus proclaims, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…. to proclaim liberty to the captives… to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Our hope is in Christ and Christ alone. In today’s readings, Jesus says to Satan, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Colossians 2:8-10 warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” It is time to rebuild a wall of holiness and to faithfully serve Christ as KING.
5. Nehemiah 1:11; 2:2, 3 – “Now I was cupbearer to the king…. And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’”
– Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer, a trusted confidant and advisor to the king. Nehemiah’s position was one of great responsibility, power, and honor in the Persian Empire. Nehemiah couldn’t ask for a more successful, prosperous, rewarding life. However, when Nehemiah heard that God’s people in Judah were in great distress he “sat down and wept and mourned for days, and… continued fasting.., confessing the sins of the people.” His heart was so stirred that, though he tried to conceal his emotions, the king could see he was sad and questioned him. With a bold request to the king, Nehemiah put his life on the line to help his people. He put his career on hold and personally led the effort to help the people in Jerusalem. I can’t help but notice the stark contrast between Nehemiah’s response to the plight of God’s people and the American churches response to Christian persecution around the globe. Last year, Fox News reported, “over 900,000 Christians have been martyred in the last 10 years.” However, the church in America, the most blessed of God’s people on the planet, remain largely silent on the issue.
6. Nehemiah 2:4 – “Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Nehemiah prayed before answering the king. Do you seek answers before answering?
7. Nehemiah 2:8 – “And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” Nehemiah knew that it was God that moved the heart of the king, not Nehemiah’s words.
8. Nehemiah 2:16 – “And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.” Nehemiah knew he was protected by God but still used wisdom to keep security. He was careful not to let the word get out about his plans until he was ready.
9. Proverbs 26:9 – “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” People often use God’s word inappropriately to justify their foolish thinking, decisions, and behavior.
10. Proverbs 26:11 – “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Do not continually repeat your sins of the past.
11. Proverbs 26:14 – “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” A lazy and undisciplined person’s actions are very predictable.
12. Luke 4:1 – “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Jesus, our example, was led by the Spirit, not merely by perceptions, intellect, or emotions. Only the Spirit knows the complete picture.
13. Luke 4:2 – “…he was hungry.” You are vulnerable to temptation when you are physically weak.
14. Luke 4:3 – “If you are the Son of God….” Satan wants you to doubt your status with God.
15. Luke 4:3 — Temptation occurred person to person. A personal evil one exists, Satan.
16. Luke 4:5-7 – “… it will all be yours.” Temptations targets personal desires you might have for personal accomplishments rather that accomplishments for the Kingdom. Satan looks for any selfishness or self-centeredness in you, wants you to make something a priority in your life other than God, and wants you to pursue your own goals.
17. Luke 4:9-12 – “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…. And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Satan wants you question God’s protection and control in your life or presume upon Him support for your selfish desires. God does not support your goals but empowers you to serve His purposes. Many people are tempted to view God as their genie in a bottle.
18. Luke 4:18 — “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed….” The Spirit leads you to help the lost and the needy.
19. Luke 4:26-27 – “Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Sidon and Syria were foreign nations. God worked there, to the dismay of those in Israel. What can we learn from these verses?
20. Luke 4:31-41 — Jesus’ mission involved attacking demons, diseases, and doctrinal ignorance.
21. Luke 4:34 — “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The demons know who Jesus is, but they refuse to follow Him. James said, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19) Many self-proclaimed Christians don’t even have demon-like respect for Jesus, unable to shudder. Believing in Jesus is not enough; you have to believe in Him enough to obey Him and follow him.
22. Luke 4:42-5:16 — Jesus had to choose between prayer, healing, preaching, and moving on. How do you decide between these things?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 July 18: Today, commit to being not just a believer in Jesus but a disciple of Jesus, a follower who obeys at all costs.