New Beginnings—filled with fresh hope and enthusiasm! But also filled with obstacles. People from every tribe were returning to Jerusalem looking to make a fresh start. But a few groups wanted to be there, but faced an issue concerning their heritage.
Nehemiah 7:61 (NLT): Another group returned at this time from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon, and Immer. However, they could not prove that they or their families were descendants of Israel.
Nehemiah 7:63-65 (NLT): Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name) They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. The governor told them not to eat the priests share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.
I am working on my genealogy, and it would be quite easy to lose a person! But what I find as frustrating, is to know in your heart that you belong, but can’t prove it. Also, scary is the thought that a pair of stones (Urim and Thummim) could determine your future. It is my understanding that Urim meant guilty and Thummim meant innocent. I am so glad my heritage is not determined by a stone, but by the Rock of My Salvation, Jesus Christ.
Later, when the Israelites were settled in their towns, Ezra called for an assembly of the people in the town square and read from the Book of the Law of Moses. The people started to weep as the Word was read. But they were told not to weep, on such a day as today, for it is a sacred day before the Lord their God.
Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT): And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
I struggle with this a little. I think there is a time for tears and sadness. Sometimes tears are cleansing. Sometimes tears bring us closer to God. It’s kinda like the verse in the New Testament, “give thanks in all things”. But, in taking on the joy of the Lord, and giving God thanks, no matter what, it does strengthen my core and gives me courage to take the next step. That part of it I get! As it says in Ecclesiastes there is a right time for everything. Evidently this was not the right time for weeping, but celebrating.
As they were assembled, all of Israel reviewed the goodness of God towards them from the beginning to that day of their history. They remembered God guiding their steps, protecting them from their enemies, feeding them, clothes that never wore out, no blisters on their feet, and giving them generous boundaries. He made them as numerous as the stars. But, when Israel got comfortable, they forgot about the goodness of God. And God had to remind them again and again and again.
But, because God is a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, compassionate, patient, slow to become angry and rich in unfailing love He never turned his back completely on Israel. And He never turns his back completely on me either. Verse 33 in the message version says: You are not to blame for all that has come down on us; You did everything right; we did everything wrong. Then they drew up a binding pledge, a sealed document. Am I willing to write up a document and sign my name to it?
Psalms 140 6,12-13 (The Message): I prayed, God you are my God! Listen, God! Mercy! God my Lord, Strong Savior
I know that you, God are on the side of victims, that you care for the rights of the poor. And I know that the righteous personally thank You that good people are secure in Your presence.
I love to say God is my God! It makes it so personal. God is always listening and protecting and watching over me. I cannot see Him, most times I cannot feel Him, but I am secure in my knowledge that He has me under the shelter of His wing!
Revelation 7:15-17 (NLT): That is why they stand in front of God’s Throne and serve Him day and night in His Temple. And He who sits on the Throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the Throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Now that fills me with hope and a desire for a fresh beginning!
Father God, how can I say anything except that you are a good God? You do all things right. All blessing, and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving, the honor and power and strength, to You, God forever and ever! Amen and Amen!