Friday, 31 December 2010

Things past finding out

He does great things past finding out, Yes, wonders without number. – Job 9v10

And so another year draws to a close. 2010 is coming is done and dusted. This is my 56th New Year’s Eve and my 37th New Year’s Eve as a child of God. Every year that goes by is full of ups and downs. 2010 was no different.

I find that we have no problem understanding how the ups work out God’s plan. That is easy to see and understand God’s blessing and benefits in those times.

It is a little bit harder to understand the downs. I look at those sometimes and wonder how they can possibly be good.

Job was no different. At this stage he was in despair. Things were going so bad that he could not figure it out. Eliphaz was putting the blame on him. By the time we get to this chapter we find him trying to get his act together and get his focus back on God.

God is and mighty. He shakes the mountains; He controls the sun and the stars. He spread out the heaven and walks on the seas. He laid out the constellation. He does great things past finding out.

What motivates us to try and figure out the God’s whose ways are far above our ways? He is the one whose ways are far above our ways and whose thoughts are far above our thoughts. He is the God who sees and knows all. I am a puny man who is limited by being in this place at this moment in time. That is all I can see.

God does many things past finding out. He does wonders without number. When I try to second guess him I am making myself His equal.

Oh that I would do a better job in 2011 of realising that I am not always going to figure out what He is doing. May I simply learn to trust Him in those times.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Miserable comfort

"Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. - Job 5v17

A few years ago we had a situation arise that was a real blow to us and the ministry here. We had some really devastating news that seemed to wipe out the work that God had allowed us to begin here.

At the same time we had visitors staying with us. They were hardly even acquaintances, just someone visiting the country and staying with us.

When we heard this crushing news the wife had a question – ‘Is their sin in your life that you need to deal with?’

I have to say that this is not what I wanted or needed to hear at the moment. It might have been a fair question and something to consider, but it seems to presume on God and know what He is doing.

Job had his own visitors, one of whom was called Eliphaz. When he saw what Job was going through he figured that Job must have done something wrong in order to be ‘punished’ in such a way.

This reminds me of people who try to figure out the mind of God every time something bad happens to a person or a group of people. When earthquakes, storms, or other disasters happen they try to figure out why God is judging them. When someone gets sick or has a setback they figure that there must be some sin that God is dealing with.

The problem is that Eliphaz was wrong. We cannot decide what God is doing or why He is doing it when things go wrong. While there may be sin in the life of the person we are not the ones to try and judge them.

If we see sin the life of a friend then we need to deal with it. If we are just guessing then we need to just keep our mouths shut and let God deal with it.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

You have strengthened

Surely you have instructed many, And you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees; But now it comes upon you, and you are weary; It touches you, and you are troubled. - Job 4v3-5

There is a pretty common saying that I use quite often. I mostly use it when I am dealing with something that I have been preaching or teaching about when the issue becomes personal. It goes like this – ‘It preaches easier than it lives.’

It is good to know that I am not the first one to experience this. Job’s supposed friend Eliphaz that Job had taught people, strengthened them, picked up the stumbler, and helped people along their way.

What a great thing to learn about Job, by the way. He was a great help and a blessing and an encouragement to people around him. He was a Barnabas type character. When people had problems they knew that could come to him. He was always there during the tough times that others went through.

But now Job was going through his own tough times. He seemed to forget how he had helped others. This is one thing that makes me think that despite everything Job’s friends said, they may have had the right motivation. In essence Eliphaz was just telling Job to remember what he had told others and apply them to himself.

Actually, this is a pretty good reminder for all of us who try to help others. If we give godly advice to others, it might be a good idea to remind ourselves of those truths when we are in trouble.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Trouble comes

I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes." – Job 3v26

In Job chapter 3 we find out that as good and strong and righteous and God fearing as Job was, he was not perfect. The simple truth is that none of us are.

Job struggled with his troubles just like we do. At this point he us so miserable that he wishes he had never been born. He bemoans everything about the day of his birth. ‘Why didn’t God just kill me then?’

I am not at ease. I have no peace. I have no rest. For trouble comes.

Things can be so bad at times that we can feel just like Job. Sometimes it feels like trouble follows trouble that follows trouble that follows trouble. Sometimes the bad news just comes day after day after day.

The hard thing to accept is that trouble does come. It is part of the sin cursed world we live in. People get sick. Loved ones die. Natural disasters happen. Wars and famines come. Bad stuff happens. It just does.

The great truth is that when trouble comes we have a God who is there with us. We don’t have to face it alone.

Let’s not be too harsh on Job as we work through this with him.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Ya gotta take the bad with the good

But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. - Job 2v10

I think I mentioned a day or two ago that during this time of testing Job had lost everything in a matter of hours. This wasn’t quite true I suppose, he still had his health and his wife.

In the second stage of the trial he lost his health. Satan was permitted to afflict Job’s body. As a result he was afflicted with horrible oozing sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.

One would think that his dear wife would do all she could to comfort him and help him through his troubles. One would think that she would by his side treating the sores and trying to alleviate his pain.

One would be wrong.

‘Curse God and die!’ she said.

What great comfort from the one who is supposed to be there for you.

But still Job would not be shaken. ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Can we expect only good from God and not expect bad as well?’

Even now Job did not curse God with his lips.

There is a great lesson for us. If we are going to accept the good from God, we have to expect that the bad is going to come as well. Life goes on.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

He still holds fast

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause." - Job 2v3

This somewhat ties in to yesterday, but has a slightly different tack. We saw yesterday that in all of this troubles Job did not sin. But it goes deeper than that. Not only did Job not sin, but in all this he ‘held fast to his integrity.’

Jehovah and Satan met once again. The Lord asked Satan if he had seen how Job was doing. He mentioned all of the things that He said before, plus He added the words ‘he still hold fast to his integrity, even though you did everything you could to turn him against Me.’

This takes things up a notch. Job blessed God, he did not sin in all of these troubles, but even above and beyond that he ‘held fast.’

Some people give the impression that living for Christ is always moving forward, scoring victory after victory, always at the ready, onward Christian soldiers, hip hip hooray hallelujah.

There is some of that, sure. But the longer I live and serve the more I learn that much of our Christian service is just about holding on and holding on and holding on. Sometimes all we can do is dig in our heels and hold fast. The sad thing is that sometimes we don’t even do that.

I have to say that I have not always been so great at this. There are times when I fail to even hold fast. There are times when things get bad that I weaken and fail.

Sometimes I need God’s help and His strength just to hold fast.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Job did not sin

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. – Job 1v22

Job had lost everything. It was all gone. Family, land, livestock, and possessions were wiped out in an instant.

I think about myself in situations where things go wrong. I am challenged by Job all through all of these references in this section of Job. He said ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ He did not sin. He held fast to his integrity.

For today we look at the words ‘In all this Job did not din.’

I wonder how often it could be sad of us, when hard times come, that we did not sin. This is said of Job from God’s perspective. That means that Job did not only not sin visibly, but he did not even sin in his heart.

I think the focus here is that Job did not sin, because no matter how bad it was, he did not blame God.

How do we do in times of trouble? Are we able to avoid sin in both action and attitude? Is it sad of us that, for example, ‘In all this Roger did not sin nor charge God with wrong?’

Happy Christmas to everyone! It is a beautiful snow covered White Christmas here in Naas.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Blessed be the name of the Lord

And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." - Job 1v21

We pick up here after yesterday’s account. Satan claimed that Job only served God because he had it made. But God knew his servant so He allowed Satan to put Job to the test.

I have mixed feeling about that to be honest. It doesn’t seem right that Job had to go through all he had to go through to prove a point.

But it goes much farther than that. God lets us in on this little situation to teach us that we are not the only ones who go through hard times. When things get tough we can always look here and see that there is a purpose in what we face.

Things got really, really, really bad for Job. In one day he literally lost everything (except his wife and friends, but more on them later). His property was destroyed. His children all died. He lost his livestock. Talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day!

So how did Job respond?

‘I came into this world with nothing. I will leave with nothing. God gives and God takes away.’

That’s great. It sounds a little fatalistic maybe, but a good attitude.

What makes it really special is what he says next – ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’

How often have you or I said ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’ when disaster strikes? Even more telling how many of us say that with sincerity and honesty?

It’s been a little bit of a tough week. Oh for the faith to say – ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’ at times like this!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Have you considered my servant Job?

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" – Job 1v8

This is yet another one of those Bible accounts that I don’t really understand, and will have to wait until I get to heaven to understand it. Somehow, after Satan and his minions had been about wandering the earth they came into God’s presence. It almost seems like a casual conversation from our perspective. ‘Where have you been Satan?’ the Lord asked. ‘We’ve been wandering around the earth seeing what things are like.’ Satan replied.

The question must have been for our benefit because we know that God already knew.

God carried on the conversation. ‘So, Satan, while you were out there did you notice my servant Job? You know, the one who is upright and blameless and fears Me and shuns evil?’

I am going to look at Satan’s response later. I want to look at just one aspect of this today. Notice how God described Job – ‘Have you considered my servant Job?’

I cannot imagine a greater honour than for God to call me His servant. It is a title that Paul uses for himself. To serve God is the ultimate privilege.

The rest of the book is going to be a test of Job’s servant hood. In the next part of the conversation Satan will claim that Job only served God because he had it made. We are going to find out just how much of a servant Job really is.

We like to call ourselves servants of God. We are going to learn how Job does as a servant when things go bottom up. This will be a great chance for each of us to examine our own servant hood.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Job did regularly

So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, "It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did regularly. – Job 1v5

Chapter one of Job is packed with lessons based in Job’s character. Job was dedicated to his family. He was a spiritual leader. He was consistent and faithful in his service to the Lord.

Every time I read through this book I like Job more. And every time I read it I am more and more challenged by my own life.

As far as Job knew his family was okay. However, he was concerned that they might be harbouring sin in their hearts. He felt responsible for his family’s spiritual condition so he offered sacrifices on their behalf just in case.

Let’s remember the situation. Job knew nothing about the word of God like we do. He knew that God was holy and that sin was wicked so he did all he could to protect his family. I guess the closest thing that we can relate to this would be our responsibility to pray for our families.

It is not a matter to be taken lightly. Interceding for our families is a vital responsibility. The Bible seems to make it clear that it is the special responsibility of fathers.

Our family is the one group that we can too easily take for granted. If we are not careful we tend to only pray during crisis times or when things get really bad.

Look at the last part of the verse – ‘Thus did Job regularly.’ I think this is the most important lesson of all. It is vital that we, especially we fathers, have a responsibility to regularly pray for our family. This doesn’t stop when our kids grow up and leave home. In fact, I find that that is when the responsibility increases. When our kids are young we have some measure of control. We can make them do the right thing. They come to church because that is what we do and they really have no other choice.

But when they get to be adults and go out on their own we don’t have that anymore. They make their own choices. Even when we see them making mistakes we really can’t do anything more than offer advice.

And pray. That is one thing we can always do. We can always intercede for them. We can do this regularly like Job did.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Feared God and shunned evil

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil. – Job 1v1

Although Genesis is the beginning of history and is the first book of the Bible, it is probably not the oldest. Most Bible scholars tell us that Job was the first book of the Bible to be written down.

With that we mind we enter what has become a very personal book of the Bible to me. At one point I knew about Job and could apply a couple of verses, but I really didn’t get it. Over the last few years we have been through a few experiences that have helped to understand Job just a little more than I had before.

The very first verse of the very first book of the Bible every written down introduces us to Job. He was a man from the land of Uz. His name was Job. He was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil.

What a tremendous introduction. I would love to have that kind of a testimony. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

Not only that, Job’s description is one that should characterise the people of God all through history. Though written probably 6000 or so years ago these character traits are ones that should suit us today as well.

Blameless. Upright. Fearing God. Shunning evil.

We could study each one of these words, but packed together they are quite a challenge. Any yet here we meet a man who did not have one word of the written Bible who qualified in each area.

That makes his life even more challenging. How would we do if this simple four item list was used as a measurement of our lives? Job had nothing. We have the complete revelation of God in our hands.

How are we doing?

Monday, 20 December 2010

If I perish I perish

"Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" – Esther 4v16

Once Esther decided to do right she decided it with all her heart. She was going to do what needed to be done. She and her maids would fast and she asked all the Jews in Shushan to fast for them to fast as well. Then she said – ‘I will go and violate this law about speaking to the king. And if I perish I perish.’

On a bit of a side note I think it is interesting to see how she chose to break the law. She knew how serious breaking the law was, yet she was willing to suffer the consequences.

But let’s get back to the main point. Look at Esther’s attitude toward doing the right thing. She knew in her own well-being came second to doing the right thing. She was willing to give her all to do what had to be done. If she died, she died, but she had to say something.

Her dedication reminds me of missionary Jim Eliot. In his college days he wrote something that would one day be tested. ‘He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’

This is the attitude of total abandonment in service which should dominate our lives. Just do it. Just serve God. Our lives belong to God. He is our master. We can’t be concerned with all the here and now stuff.

This doesn’t mean we serve with foolishness. It doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of ourselves. We can’t serve if we destroy our bodies, minds, and spirits.

However, we can’t let our personal fears keep us from our service.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

For such a time as this

For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" – Esther 4v14

The book of Esther is an interesting story. Though God’s name is never mentioned we see His hand at work throughout the book.

Through a series of unusual circumstance Esther, a Jew, had become queen of the land. In the meantime a plot was being hatched to totally wipe out all the Jews. Political scheming was taking place. Haman was a self-aggrandising plotter who was trying to rise to a position of favour in the kingdom. He convinced the king that the Jews were enemies and that they should strike first before the Jews caused problems.

Esther’s uncle Mordecai was a noted person. At one point he refused to bow down to Haman so he was officially under his own death sentence. Certainly something had to be done.

Only one person was in a position to do anything about this and that was Queen Esther. Mordecai came to her and told her that she needed to talk to the king about this situation. Of course she was afraid to act. Who would not be?

But Haman pointed out that no one else could help. If she did not act not only was he dead, but so was the nation was in danger. He told her, ‘If you don’t do this God’s people will survive. Somehow they will be delivered.’ That was good news and it did show his faith, but he went on – ‘But who knows if God has put you in place for such a time as this.’

Esther was in a place to make a difference. Sure, God could have used someone else, but she had a unique opportunity to be the one to do it.

I wonder how often we find ourselves in a similar situation. There is always something to do. God is going to see His work done. But, like the situation with Esther, who knows if God may have put us in this place and this time to do a special work for Him? It is easy for us to sit back and wait for someone else to do it. But is that God’s plan? Who know whether or not God has put us ‘in such a time as this’ to do a work for Him?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Remember me God

and to bringing the wood offering and the firstfruits at appointed times. Remember me, O my God, for good! – Nehemiah 13v31

If Nehemiah was anything he was faithful to his task. When the job was all said and done he remained faithful to his task and brought in his offerings. I like his last recorded words – ‘Remember me, O my God, for good.’

This reminds me of the thief on the cross who also cried out – ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

One guy did everything right. One guy, from all appearances, did everything wrong. Yet, at the end, they could both call out, ‘Lord remember me’ and the wonderful thing is that God heard both of them who called out to Him in faith.

As believers today we can always rest assured that our God remembers us. He has promised that He will not forsake us. We never have to be afraid that He will forget us. We are forever locked away in His ‘memory.’

For us, ‘remember me God’ is a done deal!

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Thanksgiving choir

The other thanksgiving choir went the opposite way, and I was behind them with half of the people on the wall, going past the Tower of the Ovens as far as the Broad Wall, - Nehemiah 12v38

I don’t have a whole lot to say this morning. I just found this account a great reminder of the importance of giving thanks. Here we find that the people of Jerusalem had a choir dedicated to thanksgiving.

I just think that is fantastic. Thanksgiving is a vital part of living for God and serving Him. The only thing that keeps us from giving thanks is a self-centred attitude, even though it runs all the way through the word of God.

The Old Testament talks about a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Time after time we have people starting their prayers with an attitude of thanksgiving. We are told to be thankful in every situation. We are told specifically that giving thanks is the will of God. Thanksgiving is the key to letting the peace of God rule in our lives.

The nation has a choir dedicated to giving thanks. Shouldn’t part of our lives be dedicated to the same?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

In Your great mercy

Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful. – Nehemiah 9v31

It is only because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not all consumed by His justice and His wrath. Every sin deserves His wrath. Every time we sin we deserve to be cast off, separated, judged, and even destroyed.

He are these people who had been right with God, had done all the good work, had worshipped God, and then returned to their sin. They deserved to be wiped out and God start over again. He could have done that with Adam and Eve. He could have done it with the world of Noah’s time. He could have done it with Israel in the wilderness. He could have done it any number of times when His people turned from He didn’t. His mercy shone through.

I will admit that I don’t understand mercy. It doesn’t make any sense to me. How can a perfect, holy, righteous, and just God who cannot tolerate sin still choose to show mercy?

I don’t know, but He does. He is God, gracious and merciful.

Maybe the fact that I don’t ‘get it’ is part of the reason that it is so truly awesome.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

They again did evil

"But after they had rest, They again did evil before You. Therefore You left them in the hand of their enemies, So that they had dominion over them; Yet when they returned and cried out to You, You heard from heaven; And many times You delivered them according to Your mercies, - Nehemiah 9v28

The temple was built. The walls were raised up. Worship was restored. There was great rejoicing. Everything looked great.

Then they had a period of rest.

Then ‘they again did evil.’

It reminds me of the time of the judges. Seven times the people went through this same cycle. They had a problem. They repented and turned to God. God answered and delivered them. They had a time of rest and peace. Then they sinned again.

The same thing happened in the Wilderness. Paul had the same experience.

And so do we.

I think we can all identify with this. We have a sin we are battling with. We realise it, confess it, and forsake it. God delivers us and we coast along for a while. Then we do the same thing again.

Why is this the case? Why is it so hard to break the cycle?

It’s pretty simple. We are delivered, free, reborn new creatures. But we still have to live in our flesh. When under control our flesh is capable of great service for our Lord. When left run riot it will turn to its old ways.

The ‘problem’ for us is that all of our excuses have been knocked out from under us. Sin has no power over us. We have been delivered from sin’s control. We have a new Master. The cycle can be broken.

Paul expressed it this way ‘Oh wretched man that I am! Who can deliver me from this body of death?’ But the Paul has an answer – ‘I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Our lives are going to be a constant struggle and a constant series of cycles. We cannot escape the flesh, but through Christ we can control it.

Our goal should be that the cases of ‘he again did evil’ become less and less as the years go by.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Something to consider

And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God. – Nehemiah 9v3

This verse was worth a second look just to see how these folks acted while they were ‘at church.’

We saw yesterday that they spent half the day in church. I mentioned what they were doing but want to just look at that for a moment. Half of the service was hearing their Bible and half of the service was spent confessing and worshipping the Lord.

It is obvious that the main purpose of their getting together was to get things right with God. The focus was on Him.

Now I realise that in the New Testament church a major part of our fellowship is to edify each other and build each other up, but at the same time I think we can glean from this that we need to use the time together to hear God’s word, search our hearts and confess our sins, and worship Him.

In Christ we have a new kind of relationship with God. We have become His sons. We have confident access to Him. We have the great blessing of an ‘Abba’ relationship.

At the same time God is still God and His word is still His word. His word is worthy of our awe and undivided attention. Our sins need to be confessed and repented of. He is still worthy of our worship.

Our sweet fellowship and communion is based on and only possible we are our in proper fellowship with the One who makes is possible.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Serious about worship

And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God. – Nehemiah 9v3

Sometimes we can get very lackadaisical about cooperate. A lot of folks think nothing of spending an entire day getting to an attending a football match or shopping or going to a popular show or concert or whatever we can think that church has to fit into it nice little hour slot or it is too long.

These folks were serious about worship. Here they spent one fourth of the day hearing their Bible read and another fourth of the day confessing and worshipping the Lord. In other words they spent half the day in church!

How does that compare to our modern concept of ‘going to church?’

How many of us would be willing to spend half the day in church? In many churches if the preacher goes beyond his half hour or forty-five minutes people start getting anxious. If prayer time carries on too long people start getting bored. Without being too judgemental and realising that times and customs change it certainly seems that there is something wrong here!

Seems like we have a lot more time for us than we do for God?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Being doers

And they found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, "Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written." – Nehemiah 8v14-15

In the New Testament James reminds us of the important truth that we are to be doers of the word, and not only hearers. If we only hear the word of God without doing it then we are only deceiving ourselves. We know that lesson – it is never enough to just hear God’s word.

Here in the story of the rebuilding of the temple and the walls we find out that James is not expressing a new idea, but something that God’s people should have known all along. We read yesterday how all the people rejoiced when they heard the word of God. They had the right response. They fell down and worshipped in awe and reverence of God’s word.

They truth is though that anyone can do that much. Anyone can go to a worship service and go along with everyone else. Anyone can go and hear the word of God and rejoice in its teaching. Anyone can be and do and act right in church.

But the test comes after we leave. How do we apply God’s word when we go home? These folks here showed us how we should respond. They realised that they were not observing some of the rituals that God laid out in His word. That would only make sense because they had been gone for a long time; a lot of this stuff would have fallen away.

So what did they do when they found out what they had been neglecting what they should be doing? The next verse tells us that they went out and did what they were supposed to do. They were doers of the word, and not hearers only.

They rejoiced at hearing the word of God. But they did what they were supposed to do. They followed through and did it.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

And Ezra opened the book

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. – Nehemiah 8v5-6

The temple was built. The walls were done. All the preparation was laid. Now it was time to restore the spiritual aspect.

So Ezra gathered all the people together. He assembled them and stood up before them on a raised platform. When all was ready he opened the Book of the Law. It is what he had of our Bible.

When he opened it the people all stood. Ezra prayed. The people shouted ‘Amen and amen’ lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and fell to the ground in worship.

I love their attention to, respect for, and awe of the word of God. God’s word meant so much to them that it had a real, even visible, impact. They had an awe of the Bible that we so often can lack. We are so accustomed to having the Bible every place we can just get used to having it.

Oh that we had a heart for ‘the Book’ like these people had. Every time we open God’s word for ourselves or heart it preached it should have the same impact it had on these people so long ago. May God give me such a heart and such an awe!

Friday, 10 December 2010

To frighten me

Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me. – Nehemiah 6v19

While the walls were built the enemy was not. Wicked Tobiah continued to send letters to Nehemiah to try and frighten him from doing God’s work. It must have seemed like they couldn’t really catch a breath.

Fear can be absolutely debilitating. We can all understand that emotion that grips us by the throat so that we can hardly breathe. We all know that tightening in our chest and sick feeling in our gut that comes with absolute fear.

I have several fears. I fear heights. Actually I fear edges at heights. I fear rats. I fear snakes. I fear those arrows and hidden doors at Ikea. Some writers build stories around the idea that hell is the place where everyone must live forever with their worst fears. If that is the case I would have to live for eternity on a 100th floor of Ikea with an open wall surrounded by rats and snakes. Even typing that gives me the feelings I mentioned above.

I also fear failure. I fear making a fool of myself. I fear rejection. I fear mockery. I fear ridicule.

If I am not careful this second list of fears can affect me even more than my first list.

It is wonderful that the Bible addresses the whole concept of fear. Fear is not of God. He has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.

Our service for God should never me limited or hindered by fear. Nehemiah knew the truth of Psalm 56v11. It is a truth that we would do well to remember. ‘In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’

Thursday, 9 December 2010

They knew this was God’s work

And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God. – Nehemiah 6v16

Finally the enemies and the opposition realised that people in Jerusalem were serious. Despite all of the taunts, the mocking, the attacks, the lies, the deception, and the treachery the people in Jerusalem continued the work. After 52 days work the wall was finished.

When the work was done the enemies and people of the land heard of the completion of the work they were discouraged because then they knew that the work was done, not only by men, but by God.

The relatively mundane work of rebuilding some city wall was enough to convince people that the God of Judah was real and that He was actively involved in the lives of His people.

No one can argue with dogged determination to carry out a task until it is finished. There was an advantage here that all along Nehemiah and the others had been telling everyone that this was God’s work. They said they had to stay at it because the work was not theirs, but His.

People watch our lives today. When we try to live for Christ there are going to be sceptics and mockers. People are going to question the reality of God’s working. Some are going to say that it is just a passing phase. Some will question our motivation. It will often be tempting to quit and go back.

Only by enduring and sticking to it can we show people that the work in our lives is God’s work. We must stay at it. We must continue to trust God and let Him work in our lives. Then people will have to say of us that the work done in our lives was done by God.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

What kind of man do you think I am?

And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!" – Nehemiah 6v11

Today is just something of a follow-up to yesterday. The taunting and intimidation had continued. They just would not let up. Every morning Nehemiah woke up to find the pressure still there. No there was a spy in the camp, an insider, or joined in trying to get him to quit. ‘Let’s just meet in the temple and lock the doors so they won’t kill you.

Yet Nehemiah would not quit. ‘What kind of man do you think I am? You think I am going to run into the temple to protect myself? No way!’

This is a mark of a true leader. He would not ask his people to do what he would not do. Nehemiah did not believe in leading from the rear. Nothing inspires a people to a task more than seeing their leader right by their side.

True leaders lead by example. True leaders say ‘follow me.’ They don’t say ‘go out and do it.’

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

I can’t come down

…Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono." But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" - Nehemiah 6v2-3

Sanballat and Geshem, two of the bad guys in this story, sent a notice to Nehemiah. ‘Come out and meet us in the village.’ Nehemiah would not be deterred however. He knew they were up to something. He would not go. To quote one a character in one of my favourite comedies, he could not be bothered with ‘trivial trivialities.’ He had important work today and nothing was going to distract him.

Sadly, I am one of those guys who has a problem with distractions. It doesn’t take much to get me off track.

That is a terrible weakness. It is quite the character flaw. Modern technology has done little to help in that regard. Facebook, Twitter, news stories, television programmes, the radio, and such are always right there to get my mind off what I am doing.

Sure, I could quit those things, but that would not solve the problem. The problem is one of heart and character. Distractions are always going to be there. They were there before Facebook and will be here when the next one comes along.

Although the subject today is me, I think most readers can identify. Sure, it is wise to take steps to minimise the distractions, that just makes sense. But what we really need is a right view of God and our responsibility to Him. The details of our service vary, but we all are called to serve Him at work, at home, at school, at play, or wherever. Let’s ask God to help us develop a character like Nehemiah’s that says ‘I have work to do – I cannot come down!’

Monday, 6 December 2010

Taking advantage of a situation

Then I said, "What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! – Nehemiah 5v9-10

Several years ago we had a young man over for a mission trip/survey visit. He was a roofer my profession and was considering Ireland as a field of Christian service. He was from a state that had a hurricane hit while he was here. When his company phoned him to tell him what kinds of rates they were getting to repair roofs he fly back immediately to take advantage of the exorbitant prices that they could charge.

This has always bothered me. If I could remember his name and way to contact him I would probably have to confront him. He claimed to have a Christian business, but was willing to take advantage of a terrible situation to make more money.

When I read Nehemiah I realised that this is nothing new. Jerusalem was under something of a siege. Supplies were cut off from the outside. The result was a famine and a great lack of resources. Some of the people were loaning money or food and charging outrageous interest. The poorer people were forced to sell themselves and their families into slavery.

Nehemiah was outraged. ‘What you are doing is not good. We brought you back from slavery in Babylon and now you are making slaves out of other people here! Stop it!’

Fortunately the people obeyed and sorted it out. They paid back the extra interest. They released the slaves. They made things right.

Instead of taking advantage of desperate situations we ought to be seeing these times as a chance to help and support others. We can not only help out each other, but we can reach out and help others as well. We might ask ourselves, ‘What would Christ do in a crisis situation?’

Sunday, 5 December 2010

So we laboured

So we laboured in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared. At the same time I also said to the people, "Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day." So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing. – Nehemiah 4v21-23

This phrase is so summative of the entire situation of building the wall and of our duty today. It is clear, concise, and direct. It doesn’t need a lot of explanation.

‘So we laboured in the work.’ Despite the fears, the discouragements, the anxiety, the opposition, the back aches, the blisters, the sore muscles, the sweat, and everything else that hard work brings – they laboured on.

We can often think that living for God and serving Him is a life of luxury and ease. We are surprised when things get hard. We think that we are really ‘suffering for Jesus’ when all we are really doing is our reasonable service.

The work has to be done. Just like Nehemiah had to build the walls we have to do our work. So we labour. We know that our labour is not in vain so we are steadfast and unmoveable in our labour. We abound in our labour.

So we labour. We just do it. May we always keep that in mind.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Rally here

Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, "The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us." – Nehemiah 4v19-20

The people continued to build the wall while they armed themselves and kept an eye out for the enemy. Sometimes as they did so they got further and further apart. They needed a rallying point. They needed a place to come together and be unified in their fight. They needed each other.

Nehemiah’s plan was simple – when you hear this trumpet use it as a rallying point and everyone come together.

Every group of people need a rallying point. We all need a place where we can come together, encourage one another, and be strengthened to continue our work. One of the original purposes of banners and flags was to give troops a rallying point in the midst of a battle. For some nations the national flag is more than just a piece of cloth. It is a reminder of their nation, its history, those who have sacrificed for their nation, and all their country stands for.

I contend that Christians have such a rallying point. I think that we have a place where we can come apart from the world, from our everyday battles, from the influences of the ungodly, and rally together.

That place is the local church. As we spend the week apart and dealing with all the stuff that is out there we have a place where we can unite to jointly worship our God. That alone will bring about a sense of unity of purpose and remind us that we really do have a purpose for going on and doing what we do for Him.

There is another purpose however. We rally together at church to encourage and support each other. We come apart from our service in the world and unite together. We come apart from the defilement of daily life for a cleansing and refreshing. We come together to pick each other up, dust each other off, and send each other back into the fight.

Each of us should have a clear priority to rally together and church where we can be reminded that ‘Our God fights for us.’ Note the word ‘us.’ It lets us know that we are not fighting along.

Tomorrow is Sunday. Let’s be sure that we use this as an opportunity to rally together. We really do need that rallying point.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A sword and a trowel

So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. – Nehemiah 4v16

Nehemiah really was a great leader. He was not about the let the construction of the walls cease because of his opponents. At the same time the enemies posed a very real threat. Nehemiah came up with a great solution. He divided his men into two groups. One group kept working on the wall. The other group put on their armour and picked up the swords and their shields. The walls of Jerusalem were built with a sword and with a trowel.

There is a great picture here of building our own Christian lives. As I heard in a message Sunday we are to diligently build Christian lives with faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. That is our everyday work. That is our own construction work.

That is great. That is clearly how we are to build and keep building. That is the task before us and it is a lifelong priority. .

At the same time we too need to be aware of the enemy. While we have our trowels to the task of building the wall, we need to be aware that our enemy is still out there. While we are using God’s word to build our lives we need to use His word as a sword to fend off the enemy.

We can’t fight to the neglect of growth and we can’t work on growth while we neglect guarding ourselves.

The sword and the trowel – both are vital.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Responding to discouragement

Then Judah said, "The strength of the labourers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall." And our adversaries said, "They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease." So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, "From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us." Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses." And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. – Nehemiah 4v10-15

The problems continued for Ezra and the people of Judah as the set about rebuilding the city walls. The workers were tired. They were getting discouraged. There was such a mess that they felt like they could never get the wall built. The enemy was still taunting them.

Sometimes it may seem that everything is against us. Sometimes it seems that no matter what we may try it goes wrong. Discouragement can be a very real part of life. These folks were in desperate need of something. Fortunately, they had a leader who can get redirect them.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ Ezra said, ‘Remember who the Lord is, great and awesome. Remember that you are fighting for your brethren, your families, and your homes.’

The folks, like we do so often, lost their focus. They saw the huge amount of work. They saw the great opposition. They saw all the bad. They had forgotten who they were serving. They had forgotten what they were fighting for. They needed the call for focus that Ezra brought them.

Ezra’s advice would apply to all of us today who are tempted to be discouraged. We have no need to be afraid; God is never the source of fear. We need to remember just how great and awesome our God is. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. There are people depending on us to keep going.

So what did the people do? They did the same thing that we need to do – ‘We all returned to the wall to do our own work.’ We do have a great work to do. When we get off focus and see the difficulties of the ‘seen’ we must refocus and see the blessing of the ‘unseen.’

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Responding to opposition

Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. – Nehemiah 4v7-9

Few places in the scriptures do more to just purely inspire me than this section of Nehemiah. Still trying to decide who should play Nehemiah in my film. He was quite a guy. The bad guys were doing all they could to stop them. Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls were being rebuilt they got angry. Nehemiah and his men were filling in the gaps. The Alliance of Evil conspired to come and mess up the work.

So now it is time to be daunted and stop working, right? I mean, after all, what hope was there against all of these enemies. Surely they got discouraged (we will see that tomorrow), but look at their first response. ‘Nevertheless, we made our prayer to God and set up a watch against them!’

They prayed. That was a great idea; the best idea in fact. But they did not stop there – they also set up a watch.

Watch and pray. What a great combination! When we get out of balance we can think it is good enough to do just one or the other. When we try to live for the Lord and try to build spiritual walls of protection in our lives the Enemy is not going to like it. Satan is going to get angry. He is going to muster his forces to come up and try to confuse us. What do we do? Quit? Roll over and play dead? Just give up?

How about ‘Watch and pray when you enter temptation, because while your spirit may be willing your fresh is week.’

The next time, probably today, that we face opposition, let’s remember Nehemiah and his wall builders. Let’s make out prayer to God and set up a watch!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Responding to mockery

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?" Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, "Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall." Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. – Nehemiah 4v1-6

Nobody thought they could do it. The people of the land were angry when they saw a new work crew come in to rebuild the walls of the city. Their response was one which we see so often; they mocked them.

‘What can these weakling Jews do? Can they really fortify this city? Do you really think they can offer sacrifices again? Do they think they can build the city in a day? Can they build a wall from this rubbish? If they build a wall even a fox will be able to knock it over!’

How would we handle that kind of opposition? That kind of mockery hurts and can easily inspire a lot of self doubt. We don’t like to made fun off. Often this kind of verbal opposition is enough to put us off the work. Sometimes this is more difficult to deal with than physical opposition.

So how did these ‘feeble Jews’ respond?

‘God, these folks have despised us! Please deal with them!’ First of all they let God deal with the taunters and mockers. That in itself is pretty good advice! We don’t have to deal with that kind of stuff. We need to let God deal with it.

Then they did the right thing. I love this – ‘We built the wall…for the people had a mind to work!’

They didn’t let the pundits get to them. They didn’t let the mockery dissuade them. They had a mind to do the work and they got to it!

More opposition is on the way, but how wonderful to see an example of how we should respond when people tell us it can’t be done.

Everybody says you can’t do it? Leave them to God and get busy!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Next to them

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. Nehemiah 3v1-2

The whole story of the wall building is really great. It would make a brilliant film and it would surely be a blockbuster. There is so much here that it is hard to try and capture even a fraction of it. Matt likes to come up with actors to take starring roles in Bible stories. I don’t know who I would like to take Ezra’s role. I would say Charlton Heston, but he is Moses! Maybe someone like Denzel Washington?

Anyway, here we have a problem. The walls need to be built, but they face the challenges of the very real work that needs to be done, along with the opposition of the people in the land.

Ezra does a great job of organising as recorded in Ezra chapter 3. The whole chapter tells how the men of the families lined up side by side all along the wall to get the job day. This guy stood by this guy. This guy did this and this guy did that. They lined up from gate to gate until the whole wall of the city was under construction.

Everybody had a role to play. Everyone had a part to do. Every single job was necessary. The old saying goes ‘many hands make light work.’ How true that is. There was no room for slackers in Jerusalem. That kind of work has the added benefit that it unifies the people.

Where is our place on the wall? Are we doing our part in God’s work? Can we afford to leave a gap in the wall?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The God of heaven will prosper us

So I answered them, and said to them, "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem." – Nehemiah 2v20

Any work for God is going to face opposition. Even though Ezra had the backing of the king the people in the land did not like the fact that he was going to rebuild the city walls in Jerusalem. They had become might accustomed to wandering in and out among the ruins salvaging building materials and whatever else they could find, Surely they had heard from their parents what a powerful force Judah had been.

So they rose up in opposition to Ezra and his work. Ezra could easily have been afraid or daunted by the opposition, but if he was he sure doesn’t show it.

‘The God of heaven will prosper,’ Ezra said, ‘therefore we, His servants, will arise and build these walls.’ ‘You,’ he went on, ‘have no right to Jerusalem.’

‘God will prosper us’ is a motto that we need to keep in mind as we strive to serve Him today. The principle carries over to the New Testament and God’s instructions to the church. We know that our labour for Him is not in vain. We know that if we don’t quit we will reap in due time.

No matter how bad it gets. No matter how great the opposition seems. No matter how powerful the enemy is. We can take confidence in the great truth that our God WILL prosper us!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The king granted

Furthermore I said to the king,"If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, a that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, a for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy."And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me. – Nehemiah 2v7-8

The more I read scripture and study man’s interaction with government leaders the more convinced I am that we have a responsibility to walk in submission to their authority. The king had already given Nehemiah permission to return to the Jerusalem to build the city walls, but now Nehemiah presses the issue and asked for a letter promising protection and even supplies to do the work.

There seems to be a tendency amongst God’s people to see human authority as our enemy or has something that we just naturally stand up to and oppose and go against. We can think that doing God’s work can never go hand in hand with being good workers or good citizens.

The truth is that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. Though we cannot always understand all the ins and outs and workings God uses human authority.

Nehemiah was not only subject the king as a subject of his kingdom, the king was also his boss. So many of us might have just run off to ‘God’s work’ and forget about our ‘secular’ responsibilities. Instead, he carried on with his job and asked the king for permission to do what God wanted him to do.

I like this picture of submission and respect for human authority. Image the impact that Nehemiah had on the king as opposed to if he had just told the king, ‘I am going to so what God wanted me to do!’

Does God have the power to bless our submission to human authority?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Your servant

Your servant
O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king's cupbearer. Nehemiah 1v11

When you read this verse you might think that Nehemiah sounds a bit over the top with his use of the words ‘servant’ and ‘servants.’ It seems like he is trying to convince someone that he really was a servant.

I don’t think that is too far from the truth. Being a servant goes against the grain. We don’t really like the concept of being a slave or a servant. Being a servant mans there is a resigning of our will to someone else’s. It means that our goals and plane are subordinate to the master. We become subject to the the master.

Nehemiah knew that his relationship to a holy God was indeed one of servant-hood. He knew that he really deserved nothing. Everything he asked from God he asked on the basis that he was the servant and God was his master.

Paul had the same concept of servant-hood. He often referred to himself as the doulos of God.; the bond-servant, the slave.

I read this in the Valley of Vision this morning - ‘ Let thy will bind our wishes.’ That sentiment clearly expresses the attitude of service that both Nehemiah and Paul spoke of. We need to remember, especially in tough times, that we are the servants and that God is the perfect, benevolent, caring and loving Master.

Indeed, may His will bind our wishes.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Making it right

Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. – Ezra 10v3

I will admit that I don’t understand this whole situation. I don’t understand the putting away of these pagan wives that the men had married. It is one of those things where I just have to trust God that He knows and does and directs rightly in every situation. But I will have to lay that aside until I get to heaven when I know it will all make sense.

Now, the key point here is clear. God had convinced the nation that they had sinned. Ezra acknowledged it and shared it with the nation. He went on and prayed on behalf of the people. He admitted the guilt and made no excuse for it.

But then they went a step further. They decided to set things right. Since marrying these pagan women was a violation of God’s instructions they decided to put them away.

Their actions manifest a real truth. True repentance is always reflected in action. Repentance that only takes place in the mind is not really repentance. How many times has God dealt with our hearts about something, we decide we have to do something about it, and then we end up doing nothing?

When that happens have we truly repented? If we don’t act do we really repent? It appears to me from the teaching of scripture that faith that produces repentance also produces works worthy of that repentance.

When Ezra and the people repented they set about making things right. They set the perfect example for us.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

We stand before You guilty

And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, since You our God have punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and have given us such deliverance as this, should we again break Your commandments, and join in marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until You had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant or survivor? O LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!" – Ezra 9v13-15

Guilty. What a hard word to hear. What dreaded words these are in a trial. ‘We find the defendant guilty.’

Ezra did not have to wait for a verdict. In prayer he stood before God and pled guilty to all the charges. He even acknowledged that God had not punished them enough for their sin. He could only go to God hat in hand and acknowledge the nations guilt and seek God’s forgiveness.

This guilt did not only apply to Judah. We read in Romans 3v19 – ‘Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’

Guilty is the word that describes all men. No matter what our excuses or reasons or rationale or finger pointing we are the ones who are guilty.

There is no hope for our guilt. There is nothing mankind can do to satisfy the perfect and righteous Judge.

But the wonderful news is that Jesus Christ, the great Guiltless One, has paid the price for our guilt. Jesus stood in our place and took our guilt. He paid the penalty and took our sentence. Now, by faith in Him and His sacrifice we can stand before the Judge and hear ‘not guilty.’

No man can stand before God because of his guilty, but Jesus could and did and paid the penalty for our guilt.