Friday, February 23, 2018

Year 8, Day 54: Nehemiah 7

Theological Commentary: Click Here

As Nehemiah completes the wall, the next thing he does is set a guard.  There are some things we can learn from this process once we understand the steps that he takes.  First, he orders the city’s gates shut while the sun is still up, before the shadows can get near the walls and hide enemies.  Second, he posts a watch during the night.  Third, some of the watch is over the gates, some of the watch is near their homes.

What can we learn from this?  First of all, we need to be careful that we guard what is valuable to us.  I’m not talking material possessions here, I am talking about our character and our morals and our spirit.  We need to be careful who we grant access to our being, especially with respect to things like mentoring, teaching, and other means of influencing us.  We need to make sure that we don’t give the enemy an easy route into our being.

Second, Nehemiah posts a watch.  Nehemiah doesn’t assume things will be fine and his wall will keep out threats.  Nehemiah posts a watch to ensure things stay secure.  The same should be true with us.  We shouldn’t assume that our relationship with God will be okay, or our love for His ways won’t change.  We shouldn’t assume that our character and our ethics will never be compromised.  We need to guard those things, watching out for them and protecting them!

Third, Nehemiah appoints some guards who live close to their homes.  Nehemiah knows a simple fact.  When guards are protecting their own house, they will do a much more thorough job.  The same is true for us.  When we invest ourselves into the things about which we care the most, our performance will usually be better and more thorough.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Year 8, Day 53: Nehemiah 6

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today we see one of the hardest kinds of opposition to resist: subterfuge.  In this story, we see subterfuge from the outside through Sanballat and his attempts to scare Nehemiah.  We see subterfuge from the inside as Sanballat gets to Shemaiah and pays him to set Nehemiah up.

The reality is that when we do anything important we should expect opposition.  Quite often, the more important it is the more likely the opposition will be hidden.  When we do something people care about, the opposition will often be subterfuge: wolves in sheep’s clothing.  That’s what Nehemiah faces.  He goes to someone who should be a friend for a little advice and he gets set-up.

Fortunately, Nehemiah is listening to God.  Nehemiah is a thinking man, using the wisdom that God has already given to him.  Nehemiah recognizes the set-up for what it is and calls Shemaiah on it.  He stays out of trouble because God is with Nehemiah.

Ultimately, this shows us the role of faith.  There is no way that we can keep ourselves from every pitfall.  But if we rely upon God, we can trust that either He will protect us from evil or deliver us out of it.  In Nehemiah’s case, God protects Nehemiah from it.  In plenty of other cases in the Bible, God delivers.  One way or another, faith allows us to step up in righteousness and know that evil will come our way.  We can step up because we have a God who is bigger than our enemies.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Year 8, Day 52: Nehemiah 5

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today we see how Nehemiah handles internal issues.  Many of the poor common Hebrew people come to him with complaints.  They don’t have enough food.  They are having to ask the wealthy for money and are being charged interest.  They are having to sell their land – their inheritance – in order to get money.  They are even having to sell their own family in order to buy food.  Because of the interest, it is even harder to get back out of debt once they are in it.

We see Nehemiah deal with this threat, too.  Nehemiah could tell the poor that this is just how the world works and that they need to accept it.  However, in this case Nehemiah understands that there is an error happening. God’s people should not take advantage of one another!  We should not be caring more about the things of this world than we do about the people of this world!

Therefore, Nehemiah goes to the leaders and tells them that they are misbehaving.  Nehemiah stands up for what is right.  He doesn’t take the popular route, he takes the righteous route.  That’s what leadership does.

The people listen and follow.  They recognize Nehemiah’s wisdom and his solid footing according to God’s ways.  They back down and make restoration.  This time, the people are willing to give up their worldly gain to do the right thing. 

It doesn’t always happen this way, but one thing is for sure.  If nobody stands up for righteousness, people will think of themselves more often than not.  Leadership must be willing to stand up for what is right or nobody will.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Year 8, Day 51: Nehemiah 4

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today we get to see how Nehemiah deals with external criticism.  The people who are living in the land – especially since the Hebrews were deported by Babylon – aren’t happy to see them return.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the progress on the wall.  The first card they play is the easiest one to play.  They criticize and threaten the work.

We face this all the time.  We meet with people who don’t believe we can do it.  We face people who would rather see us fail than succeed.  We meet competitors who are going after the same goal.  There are all kinds of people who stand in our way.  We face external threats all life long.

Look at what Nehemiah does to combat the external threat.  The first thing he does is to plan and then share the plan.  Education is key to fighting the external threat.  When we educate ourselves against the threat, we can plan for it so that it doesn’t defeat us.  Once we have a plan, we need to share the plan with others so that they can benefit from the plan and if necessary hold us accountable. 

Once Nehemiah has shared, the next thing that he does is ensure the cohesiveness of the community.  Nehemiah makes sure that nobody is left isolated.  Like most prey, we are most vulnerable when we are alone.  Nehemiah makes sure that doesn’t happen.

Finally, Nehemiah makes sure that the people are equipped.  People work with spears by their sides.  The builders work with their swords at hand.  A rallying trumpet is kept by Nehemiah’s side at all times so that help can be called if necessary.

This is what leaders do.  We expect opposition.  We work a plan to avoid it.  We invite community.  We equip the people around us.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Year 8, Day 50: Nehemiah 2 & 3

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In Nehemiah 2 we hear about Nehemiah’s journey to the wall in order to help.  It starts with Nehemiah being humble in the presence of the king.  Instead of going in and demanding assistance, Nehemiah takes the place of a servant and simply allows his trouble to become visible on his face.  The king notices his trouble and inquires about it.  In that act, Nehemiah has gained both opportunity and a sympathetic audience.

We need to understand why this tactic works, though.  Nehemiah is not a manipulative man.  He has not gone in and deceived his king into caring.  Rather, Nehemiah has been humble and genuine in years of service.  Because of his humble and genuine lifestyle, the king has gotten to know Nehemiah.  The king has learned to care enough about Nehemiah to know when he is upset.  It isn’t Nehemiah’s craftiness that makes this story happen, it is his genuinely humble servant nature that allows Nehemiah to be in the position that he finds himself.

This pattern of behavior continues when Nehemiah finds himself inspecting the wall.  When he arrives, he doesn’t do so with fanfare and bold declarations of what is going to change.  Instead, he simply goes out at night, looks at what is happening, looks at what needs to be done, and then sets forth in making preparations.  He then goes the next day and talks to the leaders about what he discovers.  A plan is set up and the repairs begin.  The people are willing to follow a humble leader.

One more comment should be made prior to signing off for the day. Notice how thoroughly the work is spread out among the people.  Families take on parts of the tasks.  Towns take on other parts.  Groups of priests even get together to work.  The work is embraced by a variety of all people.  Many people are willing to get behind the manner in which God works through Nehemiah.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Year 8, Day 49: Nehemiah 1

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Nehemiah gives us another perspective of the rebuilding effort, from a different perspective in a slightly different timeframe.  Nehemiah isn’t a priest like Ezra was.  Nehemiah was a servant to the Persian king.  He had the kings ear; but he was little more than a royal servant taken from a captive nation.  It is this man that God calls upon to help the rebuilding efforts back home.

What I love about Nehemiah is that he is a man of action.  When he asks about the rebuilding effort, he hears a grim report.  Immediately he is troubled.  The first thing that he does is to go to God in prayer.  He goes to God and asks what can be done.  He goes to God and seeks how he can be obedient to God’s will.

Nehemiah goes to God and confesses his humanity.  He goes to God and reminds Him of His promise of protection.  He goes to God and asks God to watch over His steps and to prepare the path that Nehemiah knows he must take.

Nehemiah is a man who is willing to step up to the plate.  He is a man who is willing to step up and find resolution for a problem.  But he is not a rash man in doing so.  Nehemiah is calculating, pausing to make sure that the path he is on is the path that God has ordained for him to take.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Year 8, Day 48: Ezra 10

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Ezra 10 contains some teaching that is hard for us to here.  Ezra and the leaders of the Hebrew people tell those who have returned from exile that they have a choice to make.  Either they put aside their foreign wives and their foreign gods or they forfeit their inheritance in the land.  The Bible doesn’t tell us what would happen if a foreign wife gave up her foreign gods and chose to become a God-fearer, but in such a case I expect they would have allowed the marriage to last.

That being said, there are some interesting teachings that we can make out of this passage.  First of all, following God may occasionally lead us to hard choices.  Following God is not easy, especially the more time we spend thinking about what a faithful life really looks like.  We will need to examine parts of our life that we have come to enjoy and appreciate and occasionally be asked to let those parts of our life go.

Second, notice that God does not force the choice.  The people can continue in their marriages as long as they let go of their inheritance.  The comparison to us in our sinfulness is astounding.  We can continue to cling to our sin and pursue it with our heart – even after God confronts us with the knowledge of our sinfulness.  We have the freedom to relinquish our inheritance in Him and hold onto our sins if we desire.

Third, notice that getting rid of sin takes longer than desired.  Ezra wants the choice and the decision to be over and done in a matter of days.  The people know that just isn’t possible.  It is going to take time to explain the circumstance, have the delicate conversations, explain the consequences, give people time to decide, and then enforce the decision.  That takes time.  The same thing is true about us.  It takes time for God to convince us of our sin and prove why it isn’t in our best interests.  It takes time for us to let go of our sin and follow God more faithfully.