Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 25 February 2023:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nehemiah 8:17 – And there was very great rejoicing.
Community camping, fellowship, and worship brought great rejoicing.
Psalm 22: On the cross, Jesus recited Psalm 22:1 (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Psalm 22:12-18 is an incredible description of the Crucifixion. Psalm 22 is very exciting to read, an OT prophecy of Jesus’ work on the cross.
The below observations on Psalm 22 are from Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, chairman of Ligonier Ministries:
“Psalm 22 begins with the most anguished cry in human history: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are the words that Jesus took on His lips at the depth of His suffering on the cross. His suffering was unique at that point as He offered Himself up for the sins of His people. And so, we have tended to see this cry as unique to Jesus. But such an approach to these words is clearly wrong. Jesus was not inventing unique words to interpret His suffering. Rather, He was quoting Psalm 22:1. These words were first uttered by David, and David was speaking for all of God’s people. We need to reflect on these words and the whole psalm as they relate to Christ and to all His people in order to understand them fully.
The psalm begins with a section dominated by the agonized prayer of David (vv. 1–21). David is expressing in the first place his own experience of feeling abandoned by God. Here is the most intense suffering God’s servant can know—not just that enemies surround him (vv. 7, 12–13) and that his body is in dreadful pain (vv. 14–16), but that he feels that God does not hear him and does not care about his suffering. And this is not just the experience of David. It is the experience of all God’s people in the face of terrible trouble. We wonder how our loving heavenly Father can stand idly by when we are in such distress.
Yet, even in this extreme distress, David never loses faith or falls into complete hopelessness. His anguish leads him to prayer, and the first words of the prayer are “My God.” Even in his suffering and wondering about the ways of God, he does not let go of his knowledge that God is his God. In the midst of his anguish, he articulates that faith. He remembers God’s past faithfulness in Israel’s history: “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (vv. 4–5). Then, David remembers God’s past care in his own personal life: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (vv. 9–10). A recurring spiritual remedy in the Psalms is to fill the mind with memories of God’s past faithfulness to assure us of His present faithfulness.
We see David’s hope also in the earnestness of his prayer for present relief. He knows that God can help, and he turns to God as the only one who will help: “But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!” (v. 19). We must never stop praying, even in our deepest distress.
John Calvin in his commentary concluded that a sense of being forsaken by God, far from being unique to Christ or rare for the believer, is a regular and frequent struggle for believers. He wrote, “There is not one of the godly who does not daily experience in himself the same thing. According to the judgment of the flesh, he thinks he is cast off and forsaken by God, while yet he apprehends by faith the grace of God, which is hidden from the eye of sense and reason.” We must not think that living the Christian life is easy or that we will not daily have to bear the cross.
This psalm is not only the experience of every believer, but it is also a very remarkable and specific prophecy of the sufferings of Jesus. We see the scene of the crucifixion especially clearly in the words, “A company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (vv. 16–18). Here we see that indeed this psalm comes to its fullest realization in Jesus.
Jesus knew this psalm and quoted its first words to identify with us in our suffering, since He bore on the cross our agony and suffering. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus does deliver us by becoming our substitute and the sacrifice for our sins.
In the second part of this psalm, the mood and tone change dramatically. Agonized prayer turns to ardent praise. The psalmist comes to be filled with praise: “In the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (v. 22). He calls on his brothers to join him in praise: “You who fear the LORD, praise him!” (v. 23).
This ardent praise is for the success of the cause of God. The failure that at the beginning of the psalm seemed certain is now swallowed up in victory. This success will not just be personal or individual but will be worldwide. The praise rests on the abundant promise: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you…. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust” (vv. 27, 29). After suffering comes the glory of a worldwide kingdom.
God’s success will not only affect the whole world, but will also span the generations: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the LORD to the coming generation” (v. 30). The picture here is not of a brief time of success for the cause of the Lord, but the assurance that the time of suffering will lead to a time of great spreading of the knowledge of God throughout the earth. And surely, since the time of Pentecost, we have seen the fulfillment of this promise. All around the world today, Jesus is known and worshiped. Even while suffering continues in this world, we have seen Christ’s promise realized: “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
This success is the Lord’s doing, “for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (v. 28). He is the active One who ultimately gives victory to His cause. The Lord achieves His triumph through the instruments He uses. And David sees himself as an instrument especially in his proclaiming the goodness and mercy of his God: “I will tell of your name to my brothers” (v. 22). Jesus also is the speaker in verse 22, as we are told in Hebrews 2:12 (this citation shows again how fully the New Testament sees Jesus speaking in the Psalter).
The psalmist, indeed, proclaims the name of God, particularly in terms of His saving mercy: “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (v. 24). Such proclamation is vital to the mission of God in the world. As Calvin wrote, “God begets and multiplies his Church only by means of the word.” Those who have experienced God’s mercy must tell others about it.
While God uses instruments to accomplish His purposes, the glory is His alone, for it is He who acts through them and ensures their success. For that reason, this psalm ends with this firm certainty: “He has done it” (v. 31). Our God hears our prayers, fulfills His promises, and fills us with praise. “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
As we seek to understand Psalm 22 so that we can appropriate it and use it, we need to see in it the direction of the history of the church: first suffering and then glory. We also need to see something of a pattern of piety for the church and for the individual Christian. The pattern is this: The real and inescapable problems of life in this fallen world should lead us to prayer. Prayer should lead us to remembering and meditation on the promises of God, both those fulfilled in the past and those that we trust will be fulfilled in the future. Remembering the promises of God will help us to praise Him as we ought. As we praise Him, we can continue to face with grace and faith the problems that come daily into our lives.”
Proverbs 25:4 – Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel….
Remove sin from your life that you may be usable by God for special matters.
Proverbs 25:6, 7 – Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
Don’t be a self-promoter. Do not assume positions of spiritual leadership or lift yourself up as a spiritual leader. If God wants you to lead, someone else will confirm it.
Proverbs 25:7, 8 — What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame?
Don’t be too quick to judge. Your observations are very limited and clouded by preconceived notions and sometimes emotion. Be careful not to judge a situation or person from a position of self-interest. You represent Christ, not your own interests.
Proverbs 25:8, 9 – …do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret….
Handle conflict quietly, at the lowest possible level.
Proverbs 25:15, 16 – With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone. If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
Be patient; don’t come on too strong. Even a good idea can be rejected if it forced upon someone too quickly without gentle persuasion.
Proverbs 25:21, 22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
When we obey God and respond to evil with kindness, we are trusting God to cover our losses and give us what we didn’t rightly receive from others. He will more than make up the difference.
Proverbs 25:26 – Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
Jesus is the Pure, Live Giving, Living Water. Always let His pure water for through you to others by remaining faithfully obedient and pure.
Proverbs 25:28 – A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
Again, Proverbs reminds us that self-control through the power of the Holy Spirit is critical to our security in life.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 February 2023: Today, do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything, and praise the Lord all day, even if you don’t feel like it at the moment. If you “feel” God is not there, trust the promises of God over your feelings, and keep praying and praising with anticipation that the perfectly loving Father in Heaven the Sovereign Creator of all things who loves you so much He gave you His Son, will never leave you or forsake you and will answer all your prayers, in the way you would want Him to if you understood everything He understands.