Category Archives: Nehemiah

Nehemiah 13:23-31; Esther 1-4

I enter the story that introduces Esther to me with a king, King Ahasuerus, who was parading his magnificence for 180 days before everyone. His glory and honour were on full display and there must have been a lot of oohing and awing.

 For six months he put on exhibit the huge wealth of his empire and its stunningly beautiful royal splendors. At the conclusion of the exhibit, the king threw a weeklong party for everyone living in Susa, the capital—important and unimportant alike. – Esther 1:4 MSG

There was no end to his extravagant generosity towards those in attendance as he must have felt proud being the top person in the kingdom, a place of absolute honour.

The king did something next that he would not have done if he was not drunk. He dishonoured himself as a husband (called to protect the modesty of his wife). He diminished himself as a king when he asked her to do something that she would refuse because of her own virtuous honour. What he would ask her to do was against the custom of the Persians for women to appear in public.

 On the seventh day of the party, the king, high on the wine, ordered the seven eunuchs who were his personal servants (Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas) to bring him Queen Vashti resplendent in her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the guests and officials. She was extremely good-looking. – Esther 1:10-11 MSG

Bad news for the queen for there was a law, as opposed to a custom, for not honouring the king. I am amazed at the brazen advice the king received on how to deal with her.

Lot’s of words describing what honour and dishonour looks like. They did not get the idea of what real honour looked like. In fact, it was the wrong way to gain honour – laws do not promote honour, relationships do.

The king and the princes liked this. The king did what Memucan proposed. He sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: “Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes.” – Esther 1:21-22

While I learned a lot about how not to treat my wife and a lot of what it would look like to honour her – the story sets up the most dramatic events of honour that put this book in the Bible even though God’s name was not mentioned once. Honouring God was deemed the same as mentioning His name.

I love the reminder that when I honour God, am bold in the tasks that I have been called to do, in the positions I have been placed, then God is honoured and His deeds remembered for eternity.

Father, thank You for the kind reminders of what honour does not look like. Thank You for the kind reminders that You control the destiny of the world. Thank You for the kind reminders that Your plan is constantly unfolding. Thank You for the kind reminders that I need to seek to do Your will and follow Your plan.

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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 Nehemiah 1-3; Revelation 5

Nehemiah is one of those leadership books that I never tire of. As a person in fund development, I particularly like chapters 1 and 2. However, through the lens of love and unity, I see Nehemiah also about promises and protection as well as prayer. I see God’s faithfulness and that includes His faithful love towards those who are called by His Name.

What makes faithful love so dynamic is that this love is true despite what I have done in my past, what I am doing right now in the present and what I will be doing in the future to disobey Him. Oh to tell of the stories of His faithful love in our lives.

Then again, it might be a song…

And they sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because You were slaughtered,
and You redeemed[e] people[f]
for God by Your blood
from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You made them a kingdom[g]
and priests to our God,
and they will reign on the earth. – Revelation 5:9-10 HCSB

God is love and He can love me because He made me in His image. Sometimes I wonder how he reconciles His justice and love. I heard a story once, of course it involves humans and so I in no way want to ascribe the story to Jesus’ love but it is a resemblance of possibilities.

There is a story of a king who was righteous, loving and generous. One day he found that someone had devastated his kingdom’s economy. For his people’s good, he issued a decree that whoever had done this must have his eyes plucked out. Sometime later, the culprit was discovered. It was an unintentional act of the beloved crown prince. The king was in a dilemma. If he did not keep his own decree, his kingdom would be corrupted by injustice. But keeping the decree meant blinding the crown prince. After much agonizing, he found a way. He offered one of his own eyes to be plucked out in place of one of the prince’s. Then both would still have one eye.

I will never understand the depth of God’s holiness, nor can I understand justice and love with human reason. But this one thing I do know – God loved me, even when I was a sinner, and Jesus died for me. By His death, Jesus reconciled God’s justice and love perfectly and brought honour and glory to His Father.

Father, Your faithful love amazes me everyday. Every day I am grateful for it sustains me in my walk with You. While I cannot explain everything, it matters that Your love is present for there I find myself safe. Thank You!

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Genesis 23; Matthew 22; Nehemiah 12; Acts 22

When I was in seminary a rather famous religious figure turned his life over to Jesus in a new and fresh way. Then he felt as if he needed to learn the Bible and theology from a whole new perspective so he came to seminary. Well all at once they wanted this person to be speaking in chapel and representing the seminary in many venues. He had been a true follower of Christ for only eighteen months where I had been one for some eighteen years. I felt belittled and not appreciated for what I brought to the table in that seminary.

In today’s reading we have another dramatic conversion in the person of the Apostle Paul. We read it below:

6 An intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light,
10“I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’
11“Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. 12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, 15 since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:6-16 [CSB])

Now Ananias could have been like me and sulked because he was a devout follower of Jesus and here’s Saul, one who had persecuted and killed Christians, yet, no he went and even called Saul his brother.

We all have stories. Some are dramatic while others are quiet and deep. What is your story? How has God brought you to himself? Knowing where we were before Jesus — even if we were five or six years old when it happened — it’s a dramatic and awesome story to tell. Tell your story to someone today. I’m sure it will be an encouragement and may even draw someone into the kingdom.

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Genesis 16; Matthew 15; Nehemiah 5; Acts 15

How many times I have struggled with something and called it my “thorn in the flesh?” Abram’s wife, Sarai was no different.

Abram’s wife Sarai had not borne him any children. But she had an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar, and so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Why don’t you sleep with my slave? Perhaps she can have a child for me.” Abram agreed with what Sarai said. – Genesis 16:1-2 GNT

Though I try to hide it, there is pain from not seeing the hand of God moving in my life. If I leave it unattended, even the hope of prayers not yet answered leaves me. If I have been vocal, there is public shame. Then I come to the place where I blame God and that brings a different kind of pain in my life.

So I walk around and from time to time speaking audibly – “Lord have mercy on me” – just to clear my soul. No different then the woman looking to Jesus for healing.

Jesus left that place and went off to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.” – Matthew 15:21-22 GNT

It is a form of intercessory prayer.

That is what Paul and Barnabas wanted to do in their missionary journey – visit all the church plants, see what was going on, and then deliver a report so the whole church could be praying for them.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in every town where we preached the word of the Lord, and let us find out how they are getting along.”  – Acts 15:36 GNT

Am I rejoicing, am I secure in who I am in Christ, am I weeping and am I experiencing comfort in my salvation?  The offer is to come and pray together.

Father, even when I think You are not there, may Your Holy Spirit remind me of Your promise to always be there. Do let let me think too long or too hard on myself so that it hardens my heart towards You. I need Your mercy and if that is all I cry out to You for, give it to me in the largest measure possible. As long as I have You, You are all I need. Being strengthened, I can walk alongside others You send my way that need encouragement and hope just like I did. Thank You that I can talk to You at anytime. Amen

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

 

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Genesis 15; Matthew 14; Nehemiah 4; Acts 14

“Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can.  That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.  Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession” But Abram replied, O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it? So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River.”  Genesis 15:5-8;18 NLT

In the midst of his faith, Abram still doubted.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage.  I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.  “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” Matthew 14:26-31 NLT

Jesus reached out for Peter in the middle of his doubt.

“While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet.  He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked.  He was sitting and listening as Paul preached.  Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.  So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.” Acts 14:8-10 NLT

Oh, to have faith like this man had.  To believe when everything in me is telling me to doubt.  How do I rise above the distrust that threatens to steal my hope?  I choose to remember God’s goodness.  His past faithfulness.  His unchanging character.  I cry out to him, knowing that he hears me.  I stay in his word and listen for his voice.  My faith has been tested this past year.  But, when I change my perspective, there is a shift in how I see.

“Faith is a prism we need to see hope when all seems lost, to survive the furnace of suffering, to grow despite the pain.  Faith is the prism we need to see hope when all seems lost, to survive the furnace of suffering, to grow despite the pain. Faith allows us to see that it’s okay to have doubt, but we doubt the doubt more than the promise of the One who never breaks his word.”(When it’s So Dark All You Can See is Faith,  Dr. Lee Warren, Jan 10, 2020, annvoskamp.com)

Dear Father, thank you that you are with me always.  Thank you that you are fighting for me and my family.(Nehemiah 4:20).  I praise you for who you are.  Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

 

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