Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 31 July 18:
1. Nehemiah 11:1, 2 – “And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.”
– The Biblical method for selecting equally interested parties for a requirement or an opportunity was to cast lots in order to ensure a fair, unbiased decisions and to avoid potential strife.
– God’s work requires people who are willing to make life-changing sacrifices. Those who are willing deserve special support from those who are not willing.
– Many gave up their homestead to serve God elsewhere.
2. Nehemiah 11:8-14 — God’s people approach God’s work in a well-planned and very organized fashion, each person having clearly understood responsibilities.
3. Nehemiah 11:22 – “The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God.” Singing was a responsibility assigned to specific people — it was as important and as well managed as other responsibilities.
4. Nehemiah 11:22, 23, 27, 31 – Singers played such a critical role in church and society that they were under the king’s orders. Music with instruments has always been an important part of worship.
5. Nehemiah 12:27-47 – “And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres…. Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks…. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”
– The security of the nation rested not in their defenses but in their faith and fidelity to God. Worship was seen as vital to national defense. A people truly united in faith in God are mighty.
– Worship was carefully organized and carried out to plan.
– Revival brings obedience, unity, and joy among God’s people.
– “God had made them rejoice with great joy.” Worship, prayer, and Bible study are true interactions or dialogues with God – He is intimately involved and responsive. Through these spiritual activities, God enlightens, brings peace and joy, and glorifies Himself before both God’s people and a watching world.
– “…the women and children also rejoiced.” Worship is intended by God to be a family endeavor that unites a family and brings joy to a family. Worship is also intended to be an organizational endeavor and a national endeavor where the people give great thanks and proclaim, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
6. Proverbs 31:2 – “What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows?” God intends parents to model integrity and fidelity for their children.
7. Proverbs 31:8, 9 – “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” God expects us to speak up when we see evil.
8. Proverbs 31:10, 11 – “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” Character earns the trust and confidence of others.
9. Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” The quality of your life will be determined by your Christ-like character, not your charm or looks.
10. Luke 7:2, 3 – “Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant.” Christians stand out for their compassion for others, which is active and tangible. The centurion, a powerful person, went out of his way to take care of a servant. Prayer is our first, most important step, but we must also take action, which is a demonstration of faith.
12. Luke 7:4, 5 — “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” The centurion was a great model of Christian professionalism. He worked diligently in his profession to serve as an instrument of common grace to all people while also specifically serving God’s people and the church. For a Christian, there is no secular job. All work is done with God and for God.
13. Luke 7:7, 8 – “But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” The centurion, a person of authority and power, recognized Jesus’s superior authority and humbled himself before Jesus. The centurion understood authority. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission, He reminded us that we are making disciples under His authority and through His power. How does that truth impact how you live your life?
14. Luke 7:9 – “When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” Faith has no racial or social limits. Few would have thought that a Roman, gentile, soldier would receive such a commendation from Jesus, ahead of the Jewish religious leaders.
15. Luke 7:13 – “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Jesus has compassion and desires to bring comfort to those who are suffering. Jesus, who loves you unconditionally, loves you compassionately, understands what you are going through and is there to comfort you. The shortest verse in the New Testament is found in John 11:35 as Jesus observed Mary’s sorrow over the death of her brother Lazarus — “Jesus wept.” And “the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” Life in this broken world is painful, but you are not alone – God is with you and will never leave you or forsake you. The Bible says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).” For those who love God, even the worst of live will be brought to good through Jesus.
16. Luke 7:20 – “And when the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” Jesus said that there was “no one greater than John,” yet in prison, John doubted. Take heart in the fact that God understands the limits of your faith and does not abandon you in your doubts. When you face doubt, go to the Lord and ask Him to strengthen your faith. Trust Him to reveal Himself more fully in your life over time. He will never leave you our forsake you, and nothing can separate you from the love of Christ.
17. Luke 7:22-24 – “And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.’ When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?’” Our faith is validated by actions, not arguments, and we witness to what we have seen and experienced personally from God, not just what we have read about Him. In a court of law, witnesses testify to their first-hand experience; anything else is hearsay. Your testimony is more than doctrine; it is your story of your genuine encounter and relationship with Christ. As you step out in what little faith you have, you experience the power of God in your life more fully, your faith grows, and you have the confidence to step out even further. The more you truly experience Jesus, the more excited you are to tell others. Sharing your personal testimony is no longer awkward.
18. Luke 7:24-28 – “Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.’” John the Baptist was no people pleaser, and it cost him his life. John was no politician or careerist who proclaimed only what was most popular; he did not conform to popular opinion or statistical morality (what the majority said was right). He did not make a living off of telling people what they wanted to hear. John spoke the truth to please God, regardless the opinion of others or the personal cost. He rejected the trappings of the world. His lifestyle revealed the truth of the man and earned Jesus’ highest praise – “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.” Jesus gave John the Baptist His greatest endorsement because John refused to comprise at any cost. Jesus also condemned the rich, prosperous leaders of society who compromised themselves to get there.
19. Luke 7:29 – “When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John….” John prepared people to receive God’s Word, Jesus.
20. Luke 7:30 — “…but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.”
– Jesus was obedient to God in all things, even when it seemed to defy all reason, such as when He, the Son of God, submitted to the Baptism of John. Of Jesus, the Bible says, “Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) The Bible says that we are to “have this mind among [ourselves], which is [ours] in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) In the mind of Christ, we are to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) Let that sink in today – nothing out of selfishness or pride, counting ourselves as least among others in complete humility! This is something the Pharisees would not do – in their pride and selfishness, they “rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” Our problem is not that the Bible isn’t clear about what God wants us to do; our problem is that we don’t want to do it. So, we muddy the waters in an attempt to justify our disobedience. God’s plan for us does not fit our plan for ourselves, so we look for a second opinion, someone who can find a creative way of making God’s word say something it doesn’t – “Did God really say…? “ Jesus was obedient to the point of death. Philippians 2:3 tells us that God’s plan for us is for us to die of self, emptying ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit, living not by selfish ambition but rather by the Holy Spirit, walking joyfully in obedience and love regardless the personal cost. Will you do that, or will you play the role of a follower of Christ? Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” which meant “stage actors.” They acted religious but in truth “rejected the purpose of God for themselves.”
21. Luke 7:33-35 – “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Sinners have countless justifications for refusing to accept Christ. People also find all sorts of reason to criticize those who proclaim truth, and they use personal attacks to distract from the message of the messenger, but the truth will vindicate the messenger in time. People who cannot stand to hear the truth have no argument against the truth, so they can only attack the messenger.
22. Luke 7:36-38 – “And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” This woman completely and publicly humbled herself at the feet of Jesus, anointing Him with very expensive ointment – a truly shocking display. When you are in love with the person of Christ and in His presence, nothing else matters.
23. Luke 7:47 – “But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Love of Christ comes from truly knowing Him and appreciating His sacrificial love for you. The more you appreciate the forgiveness you have received, the more you will love God and others. If you have trouble loving someone, you have yet to fully grasp the love you have received through Jesus.
24. Luke 7:48-50 – “And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” Jesus provides forgiveness, salvation, and peace you can never receive from society. He gives a peace like no other. He gives freedom like no other. The world cannot take away from you what God has given you. If you have been freed from judgment through Jesus, you are truly free, regardless of what others might say.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 31 July 18: Rejoice and have confidence in the forgiveness you have received in Jesus, and love others the way God has loved you. (Luke 7:47-50)