Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 29 July 18:
1. Nehemiah 7:2 – “I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.” The first prerequisite for choosing a leader should be fidelity to God.
2. Nehemiah 7:1-4 – For any organization or program to be successful, it must have a clear plan to develop D.O.T.M.L.P.F: Doctrine (the beliefs, and rules which guide the organization); organization (how the organization will structured to accomplish the mission); training (how the organization will prepare everyone for the mission); materiel (what resources the organization will require to do the mission); leadership (who will be appointed to guide the organization); people (who will run the organization and participate); facilities (what infrastructure does the organization require). Leave any of these elements out of the plan or fail to develop any of these elements equally, and the organization will fail to do what God intended, whether it be a church, a business, or a family. According to God’s will, Nehemiah accounted for all of these elements.
3. Nehemiah 7:7-60 – “The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of…. 2,172…. 372…. 652…. [etc].” Again, accountability of every single person is critical to God’s plan and way of doing things. Every single person is important to God and plays an essential role within the body of believers. God expects His people to know everyone within the family of believers and disciple everyone intentionally. Note also in today’s verses that God organized His people by families. The family is the most important institution on earth; the family is the school house for character development and is the building block of society. Godly community is a collection of godly people that were raised in godly families. The most important leadership roles in the church are father, mother, brother, and sister. Does your church account for every person within the church? If you didn’t show up for church today, would someone call you or, better yet, come see you to check on you? Does your church prioritize development of the family? Do you account for everyone in your personal extended family? Will you pray for everyone in your family today?
4. Nehemiah 7:64 – “These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.” We live in a very entitled generation. Everyone thinks they should be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. However, the authority to appoint people to positions, roles, and responsibilities rests with God. If God did not assign the person to the position, then that person is and illegitimate leader. God places restrictions on leadership. For example, God’s word says that a deacon cannot be divorced. That restriction doesn’t mean that person is any less loved by God or that there isn’t another place in the church for that person to serve; he just can’t be a deacon. Still, in our all-accepting culture, many churches reject this instruction and appoint divorced deacons anyway; God will not honor that disobedience.
5. Nehemiah 8:1-8 – “And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law…. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” Nehemiah developed and implemented a discipleship program to ensure everyone understood the word of God. The success of the nation depended upon everyone following God’s word in unity. Unfortunately, most churches today are very careless about both accountability and systematic discipleship.
6. Nehemiah 8:9 — “’This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.” Don’t be consumed in guilt about the past, simply rejoice in God’s forgiveness and move forward in repentance. Recommit to fidelity and be renewed in the grace of God. For example, over half of the church in America today is impacted by divorce. God strictly forbids divorce except for in matters of infidelity, where remarriage is not permitted. Many have disobeyed that clear instruction. What to do? Repent, except forgiveness along with the consequences, and move forward in humble, submissive, joyful obedience.
7. Nehemiah 8:13 – “On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.” God’s plan for the church places the first level of leadership with parents. Parents raise their families to be faithful to God, and parents of faithful families join together with their families in congregations to obey God together as a community of believers.
8. Nehemiah 8:14 – “And they found it written in the Law that the Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month.” God wanted His people to camp out every seventh month in order to remember God’s provision in the desert, to sustain their survival skills, to facilitate focused worship and fellowship, and to remind them that they could live on very little if necessary.
9. Nehemiah 8:17 – “And there was very great rejoicing.” Community camping, fellowship, and worship brought great rejoicing.
10. Proverbs 29:6 – “An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.” Obedience to God leads to joy.
11. Proverbs 29:7 – “A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.” The righteous care about the poor.
12. Proverbs 29:10 – “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.” Good people will never be at peace with bad people. There will be no earthly peace until Christ returns.
13. Proverbs 29:13 – “The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.” God as Creator gives equal worth to the rich and the poor.
14. Proverbs 29:15, 17 – “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother…. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” External discipline is required where there is not internal discipline.
15. Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The law helps preserve order and fight the consequences of human nature.
16. Proverbs 29:19 – “By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond.” The law is powerless without self-control which is a fruit of the spirit.
17. Proverbs 29:26 – “Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” God is the only source of justice.
18. Psalm 86:3-5 — “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are a forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.” Today’s readings from Nehemiah and Psalms show us a pattern of repentance in the lives of God’s people and the joy that comes from living by grace. God was at work in the hearts of His people to draw them to Him and to His word. In fact in the Book of Nehemiah, we see that God’s people were willing to listen “attentively” to the Book of the Law for hours. Likewise, we see in Psalm 86:11 David’s eagerness to learn God’s “way” from God’s word. Convicted by God’s word, the people were driven to godly sorrow. This was not “worldly sorrow” which is self-centered and produces tears of self-pity having experienced the consequences of sin. This was godly sorrow that recognized that God’s love had been treated lightly and that behind their disobedience was a problem with their hearts. There was no excuse making or blame-shifting, only honest self-examination that produced tears of true humility. In fact, so great was their sorrow that the people had to be calmed down. The people had to be reminded of God’s mercy and grace that David speaks of in Psalm 86 – “I will praise you O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me for the depths of the grave…. You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.” Recognizing his “poor and needy” state before the Lord, David trusts in the Lord (Psalm 86:2) to forgive him, to give him strength (86:16) and to build in him an “undivided heart” as David continues to “walk in [God’s] truth” (Psalm 86:11). In continual repentance, David rejoices in God’s love. When the Levites explained the nature of God’s love to the people, “Then all the people went away… to celebrate with great joy because they now understood the words that had been made known to them (Nehemiah 8:12).”
19. Psalm 86:7 – “In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.” The more you pray to God and see His faithfulness in response, the more confident you become in prayer and in God’s protection.
20. Psalm 86:11 – “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Knowing the word of God is essential, but it is not sufficient – you also need the power of the Holy Spirit to teach you to walk in the word and to walk in unity with Jesus. Disobedience to God’s word grieves the Holy Spirit, quenches the Holy Spirit in your life, and causes you to get out of step with the Holy Spirit. In disobedience, you could have the whole Bible memorized and still be powerless and joyless. Don’t let continued sin rob you of the blessings God intends for you.
– John 14:26 — But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
– John 20:22 — And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
– Acts 2:38 — And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
– Acts 5:32 — And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” [who obey Him]
– Acts 7:51 — “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
– Ephesians 4:30 — And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
– Galatians 5:25 — If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:19 — Do not quench the Spirit.
21. Psalm 86:12-13 – “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” You should be thankful in all circumstances because you know that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ and that He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 July 18: Do not wallow in guilt and dwell on the past. Learn from your previous sins, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward. Do not continue in the sin God hates and for which Jesus died to release you from. Joyfully accept God’s discipline for sin, and don’t get hung up with regret over the consequences of sin. Allow God to restore you in the way He sees fit. Trust Him through the circumstances, that He will use even the negative things for your good and, more importantly, for His glory. (Nehemiah 8:9)