Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 28 February 2023:
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.
Nehemiah 11:8-14 – Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city…. and their brothers who did the work….
God’s people approach God’s work in a well-planned and very organized fashion, each person having clearly understood responsibilities.
Nehemiah 11:22-23 – 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. For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required….
Singing was a responsibility assigned to specific people — it was as important and as well managed as other responsibilities. 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.
Acts 14:2, 3 – “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time….”
When to stay and when to go? Paul and Barnabas did not shy away from a challenge or conflict. When the unbelieving Jews stirred up trouble, Paul and Barnabas doubled-down their efforts. However, when they saw that the situation was getting dangerous, they “fled to Lystra and Derbe.” (Acts 14:6) However, there they went right back to teaching.
Paul and Barnabas fled Iconium, not due to fear, but rather so that nothing would hinder them from continuing to spread the Gospel. In fact, Paul was still stoned in Lystra and left for dead. But immediately after his stoning, Paul went to Derbe and continued to preach the Gospel without hesitation. Paul was bold in proclaiming the Gospel, but he avoided persecution whenever possible, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible. Even then, he didn’t let persecution slow him down.
How do we decide when to stand up against challenges to the God’s word and when it’s best to walk away or remain silent? First, we should prayerfully seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit. If direction remains unclear, we should seek to do whatever seems most profitable for the advancement of the Gospel overall – “anything but denial of the truth.” “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 115:17, 18)
Once again, concerning when to face persecution and when to leave, John Bunyan’s 1684 comments shared previously are well worth review:
“Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. … There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word.”
Acts 14:5-7 – When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled…. and there they continued to preach the gospel.
The disciples stayed until their lives were at peril and then fled but continued to spread the Gospel. Do you have that kind of commitment?
Acts 14:15 – We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God.
Christians always point to Jesus Christ, giving Him all glory, not to themselves a particular denomination or church or to anything other than Jesus Christ.
Acts 14:19 – But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.
There are only two recorded stonings in the Bible: Stephen’s, facilitated by Paul (Saul), and now Paul’s. God treats you the way you treat others.
“God has many ways to deter us from sin. One is to provide reminders for us so that we never take disobedience to Him lightly. Before his conversion, Paul assumed that he was righteous before God. In reality, Paul was so disoriented to God that he arrested and executed Christians in order to please Him! Paul was so blinded to God’s will that when he watched Stephen being brutally murdered for his faith, Paul’s heart was hardened, and he became even more determined to imprison other Christians.
It is significant that there are two occurrences of stoning mentioned in the New Testament: Stephen’s and Paul’s. Was it coincidence that God allowed Paul to be stoned in the same manner as Stephen had been? God had certainly forgiven Paul for his involvement in Stephen’s death, but God also left him with a reminder of what his arrogance had led him to do. If pride could blind Paul to God once, pride could do it again. Perhaps Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was a direct result of this stoning. It may have served as a visible reminder to Paul, and to others, of the terrible consequences of sin.
God is absolutely just. He loves, and He forgives, but He does not compromise His righteousness. God deals with us uniquely. He draws upon our experiences to teach us about Himself. God will forgive us of our sin, but He may provide stark reminders of the ugliness of sin. Let us thank God that He loves us enough to remind us of the destructive consequences of sin in our lives.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Acts 14:21, 22 – When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned… strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Christians go through tribulations for sake of the name of Jesus. If your proclamation of the Gospel has not caused you many tribulations, you might want to consider whether or not you are actually fulfilling your mission.
Acts 14:23 – And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Once again, Christian assignments are made through prayer and fasting.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 February 2023: Pray that God will give you a heart truly receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leading when sharing the Gospel becomes potentially risky. Pray that God will give your boldness and strength when required to stand, and the wisdom to know when to disengage, and pray for confidence, fidelity, joy, hope, and peace in any case. There is always an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone somewhere – God is at work all around you.