Friday, 30 September 2016

He did not sin with his lips

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 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 2.9-10

Job’s wife was amazed that he stuck with God and that his integrity was not swayed. Job lost everything but his God and his wife, and here his wife turns on him.

‘Are you still holding on to your silly integrity Job? Curse God and die!’

That must have been a hammer blow to Job. ‘I’ve lost everything and now my wife has turned on me.’

At this stage I think I may have just given up. There are many times when Mary has been the one person who has picked me up when I am down. She has been faithful and when my faith weakens or I start to doubt or fear or get anxious or down or depressed she is there to pick me up and set me back on track.

And yet, even with this setback, Job would not give up. We are going to be privileged to hear Job’s despair and innermost thoughts as he talks to his friends. He is going to ask God and his friends plenty of questions, but he doesn’t blame God for what happens.

In all this Job did not sin with his lips. That’s quite a statement when we read what James says about how the tongue is the one part of the body that no man can tame.

How do you and I do when adversity comes? Is our integrity shaken? Could it be said of us that we ‘did not sin with our lips’ even when things get desperate?

Thursday, 29 September 2016


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 2.3

Job passed the first test with flying colours. He was indeed a man who feared God and hated evil. He would not blame God. Indeed he blessed God even in his trials.

So Satan came back to God and God asked Satan if he had seen the test. ‘Have you considered Job? He still holds fast to his integrity despite all the troubles he has faced.’

Integrity seems to be a vanishing trait.  Job was a man of principles. He could not be bought or sold or persuaded to turn from his principles by fear or pragmatism or offer of reward. ‘Everyone has their price’ some say – men of integrity like Job do not have a price.

How precious do we hold out integrity? Could we maintain it even through the trials of Job?

I want that kind of integrity in my life. I want to hold to it no matter what may come my way.

God, give me that kind of spirit.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Blessed be the name of the Lord

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 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.”
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. – Job 1.18-22

When I was in speech class a LONG time ago I did a comic reading called ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.’

It was all about a little boy who had the worst day possible. Everything went wrong and the day went from bad, to worse, to worst.

Well Alexander had nothing on the day that Job had. Satan had come to God and God had asked if Satan had heard about Job and his fear of God and hatred for sin. Satan told God that Job only did what he did because he had it made. So God allowed Satan to afflict Job.

Within a matter of minutes and after hearing from several messengers Job discovered that he had lost everything. His buildings, his crops, his livestock, and eventually even his family had been wiped out.

That would be enough to make anyone turn from God and doubt Him.

But Job could not be shaken.

‘The Lord gave and the Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’

Oh for that kind of heart. When bad news happens I fear that Job’s response is not my first response. His response proves the point that he ‘feared God.’ Job’s awe of God’s power allowed him to recognise that all the trouble he faced did not change the fact that God was still God. He didn’t have to ‘get it.’ He refused to blame God because he trusted God.

I doubt (hope) I never have a day like Job’s. May his response challenge me when my bad days come. 

Indeed, blessed be the name of the Lord. God is good, every day, all the time. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Job as a father

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 1.5

The things that Job did without the spiritual helps we have today amaze and challenge me every time I read them. He was truly the family patriarch. He knew that he was responsible for all the family’s needs.

He knew amongst other things that among his responsibilities was the spiritual needs of his family. After days of feasting and celebration Job sanctified his family, and every morning he got up early and offered sacrifices for them just in case they ‘sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’

Obviously that doesn’t sound a lot like what we imagine as godly fathering today, but the basic fact that he took responsibility for his family’s spiritual is a great challenge to me.

As time goes on this fatherly responsibility will be seen under the law as father’s are told to teach their children diligently. In the church age fathers are still instructed to bring their children up in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.’

I trust that Christian fathers today have the same kind of heart for their families today as Job did. I hope that we can all pray like he did for his family.

My children are all grown, but I still strive to pray for them daily. I have grandchildren for whom I could do nothing more important that to pray for them.

Please Lord, make me a Job-like father and grandfather.

Monday, 26 September 2016

There was a man

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 1.1

Job lived long before man had the law, or the Bible, our a local church, or any of those blessings that we have today. How can we expect someone who lived all that time ago to have any kind of relationship with God?

I don’t know it happened, apart from direction intervention of God, but here we find an example of a man from those early days of history who ‘feared God and shunned evil.’

That sounds so basic doesn’t it?

If indeed it is so basic, why do so many of us struggle with it today? Job had it right without the benefits of the thing mentioned above. He had no Bible to read. He had no pastor to preach. He had no church to fellowship with and encourage him. He had no Christian friends to edify him.

But he still knew enough to fear the awesome power of God and to turn away from evil.

We have all those things and all our theology and Bible teaching and outreach and all those good things we know and do, but we still can struggle with fearing God and shunning evil.

Actually the two go hand in hand. If we truly fear God for who He is we will shun evil. If we do not shun evil we have to question if we really fear God.

Fearing God and shunning is a good start for all of us.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

If I perish

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “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 4.15-16

The courage of this woman Esther is astounding. Here she was, a young Jewish woman thrust into the role of the queen of Persia. She must have had mixed feelings. After all she was living in the palace in the lap of luxury. But, her people were being threatened by new laws. No one knew that she was a Jew and the law exterminating Jews would have resulted in her death if anyone found out.

She was the only one who could save her people. ‘Who knows if you are here for such a time as this?’

How did she reply? ‘Gather the Jews and have them fast and pray with us. Its against the law for me to go to the king like this. But, I go, and if I perish, I perish.’

What an example of courage and bravery and faith and reliance on prayer Esther was. She knew that she might be killed, but still she was ready to go for her people.

How many of us can honestly say that we have this kind of ‘if I perish’ attitude? That’s quite a question isn’t it? Can we honestly say that we hold our life so loosely that we can say ‘if I perish, I perish’ for the cause of Christ? Or, do we hold our lives so dear that we cannot honestly present ourselves to Christ for whatever He calls us to do?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

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 4.14

The book of Esther may be best know as the answer to the trivia question ‘what book of the Bible never mentions the name of God?’

Even though the book never mentions God’s name that doesn’t mean that the work of God is not seen in the book.

At this stage of the book we find Esther, a young Jewish woman, as queen of Persia. Persia was one of the more powerful kingdoms in the world at this time and Esther had come to be queen through an unusual set of circumstances.

A plot designed to wipe out the Jews had been uncovered and the king was on the verge of approving the plan. Esther’s uncle became privy to the plan. He knew that Esther was in the place to do something about it so he approached her about approaching the king.

Esther’s uncle asked her one of great questions of all time. ‘Who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’

That classic question is one that we all need to keep in mind. We may find ourselves in situations where we don’t know what to do. We may wonder why we are where we are, how we got there, what we are supposed to do about it.

The question put to Esther is one we always need to ask ourselves in those situations. Who knows if God put us in this situation ‘for such a time as this?’ Who knows what great work might accomplished because God has allowed us to be where we are and when we are?

If we are willing to follow God and obey Him who knows that God might do in such a time as this?

Friday, 23 September 2016

Thanksgiving choirs

So the two thanksgiving choirs stood in the house of God, likewise I and the half of the rulers with me; - Nehemiah 12.40

At the end of this long beautiful song that was sung we see the nation at worship. Nehemiah was there with half the rulers.

Right there with them were two thanksgiving choirs – not just any choirs, but two choirs dedicated to giving thanks.

I am often challenged by Bible calls to give thanks. I am afraid that sometimes I get used to things and grow accustomed to God and His goodness. Yes, I fear that I can even take God for granted.

What a horrible thing to get used to God.

Instead, we ought all to keep a constant attitude of thankfulness. The thanksgiving choirs were there to make sure the people did not forget that God is worthy of our gratitude.

‘In everything give thanks’ we read as well as ‘giving thanks for all things.’ It was important enough to Nehemiah that he appointed two full choirs to sing songs of thanks.

How important is it to you and me?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

You are faithful

Now therefore, our God,
The great, the mighty, and awesome God,
Who keeps covenant and mercy:
Do not let all the trouble seem small before You
That has come upon us,
Our kings and our princes,
Our priests and our prophets,
Our fathers and on all Your people,
From the days of the kings of Assyria until this day.
However You are just in all that has befallen us;
For You have dealt faithfully,
But we have done wickedly. – Nehemiah 9.32-32

The last two lines of this segment really sums things up well – ‘You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly.’

After forty some years of being a Christian I think this is also a perfect summation of my life. All these years, even though I have failed God, He has never failed me. When I have been unfaithful He has remained true. When I have ignored His way He was kept loving me. When I have played the prodigal He has played the role of the loving Father watching out for me and running when He saw me. When I have sinned He has lovingly corrected me to work our righteousness in my life.

God has been faithful while I have been wicked.

The Bible nails it when it says ‘it is only by the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.’ We deserve nothing from Him – but that doesn’t stop Him from giving. My life is proof that I could not be good enough to be saved. My hope only comes because God is faithful even when I am wicked.

‘Great is thy faithfulness, Oh God my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not.
Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.
As Thou hast been thou forever will be.’

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Many times

Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies,
Who oppressed them;
And in the time of their trouble,
When they cried to You,
You heard from heaven;
And according to Your abundant mercies
You gave them deliverers who saved them
From the hand of their enemies.
“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 9.27-28

This reminds me of the time of the Judges where there wee many cycles of sin. The Jews were delivered into the hands of their enemies. They were oppressed. They called out to God. God delivered them. And then, after a time, the same thing happened over and over again.

Through all of this we see the wonderful truth that ‘many times God delivered them according to His mercies.’

How many, many time have you and I failed God? How often have we slipped here or there? How often have we neglected God? How many times have we gone through the same cycles Israel went through? How many times have we neglected Him?

And yet, just like Israel, God has delivered us many times according to His mercy.

Where would we be without God’s mercy? If God had cast me off the 1st, or 2nd, or 3rd, or 15th, or 32nd, or 193rd time I would be without hope.

But God’s mercy extends to the 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 15th and 32nd and 193rd times and beyond.

Thank God for His ‘many times’ mercy!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

They threw God's word behind their backs

Nevertheless they were disobedient
And rebelled against You,
Cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets, who testified against them
To turn them to Yourself;
And they worked great provocations. – Nehemiah 9.26

This whole section amazes me. Over and over God’s people blow it. They were disobedient. The rebelled. The cast the law behind their backs. They killed the prophets. They provoked God.

And yet God was still there.

We might wonder how God could be there even when they ‘threw God’s word behind their backs.’ We can look at them in a very judgemental day and just condemn them for their rebellion and rejection of the word of God.

But how often do you and I ‘throw God’s word behind our backs’ as we doubt His word and His promises? How often to we ignore His word when it gets in the way of our plans and ideas? How often do we fret and fear about the future because God has promised provision but we just ‘throw His word behind our backs?’

It is easy to condemn them – but what about you and me? Is God’s word any more important to us than it was to them?

Monday, 19 September 2016

God provides

Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness;
They lacked nothing;
Their clothes did not wear out
And their feet did not swell. – Nehemiah 9.21

Not only did God meet the spiritual needs of the people, He also met their physical needs. He provided manna. He provided water. They lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out. And, I love this, their feet did not swell.

God took care of everyone in the nation as they travelled. He continued to meet their needs even as they turned from Him.

This world is so wicked and so full of sin that God would have been righteous and just and holy if He had just decided to wipe it all out. The world has rejected God and all that He stands for. It has rejected His ways and His plans. God has offered light and the world chooses darkness.

God is a God of patience who regularly pours out His goodness even when people don’t deserve it.

God is good and kind and loving and patient and providing. Man still rejects Him. I am grateful that He is who is and not like man. I am grateful that He provides even when we don’t deserve it.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

God gave His good Spirit

You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth,
And gave them water for their thirst. – Nehemiah 9.20

As Israel wandered in the wilderness God did not leave them alone. He met their needs for all of the forty years they wandered.

And while they were there God gave them His good Spirit to instruct them.

Things may be a little different now – but one of the things that has not changed is the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible tells us now that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. He breathed His word into the hearts of men so that we have His word written down for us. The Good Spirit of God is the Teacher for the Jews in the Wilderness and He is our Teacher today.

The key verse of course is John 14.26 – ‘But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.’

God does appoint human teachers. It is part of His plan to equip us for the ministry. Our ultimate Teacher though is the Holy Spirit. Without Him we would know nothing. Human teachers always need to be examined and their teachings checked out.

But the Holy Spirit, our Helper, can always be relied on as the perfect and infallible Teacher.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

They hardened their necks, but...

They refused to obey,
And they were not mindful of Your wonders
That You did among them.
But they hardened their necks,
And in their rebellion
They appointed a leader
To return to their bondage.
But You are God,
Ready to pardon,
Gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger,
Abundant in kindness,
And did not forsake them.
“Even when they made a moulded calf for themselves,
And said, ‘This is your god
That brought you up out of Egypt,’
And worked great provocations,
Yet in Your manifold mercies
You did not forsake them in the wilderness.
The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day,
To lead them on the road;
Nor the pillar of fire by night,
To show them light,
And the way they should go. – Nehemiah 9.17-19

God’s people have not always been faithful to Him. Here we read of all the wrongs Israel committed in the wilderness. We even read how the people ‘hardened their necks’ against God. One would think that this would have been enough to have God give up on them and turn them away.

There is a difference though. We are not talking about a man. The psalm carries on with:

But You are God,
Ready to pardon,
Gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger,
Abundant in kindness,
And did not forsake them.

God is not man who can be easily provoked. He is God. He is always ready to pardon. He is gracious. He is merciful. He is slow to anger. He is abundant in kindness.

But that's not all – He did not forsake His people.

I am glad these things are true. I am glad for my own sake that God is ready to pardon me and is gracious and merciful and slow to anger and abundant in kindness.

And I am especially glad that He will not forsake me. I certainly would deserve it. Every time I doubt God I show my lack of faith. When I worry it is because I think that I am in control. When I am drawn away by my flesh I replace God on the throne one my heart. I other words I harden my neck to His word.

Praise God for His grace and mercy in my life. Praise God He will never, ever, ever leave me or forsake me.

Friday, 16 September 2016

You preserved them

You alone are the Lord;
You have made heaven,
The heaven of heavens, with all their host,
The earth and everything on it,
The seas and all that is in them,
And You preserve them all.
The host of heaven worships You. – Nehemiah 9.6

This next section is a great song of praise to God for who He is and what he does. A regular theme that runs through it is that God’s mercy and grace are stronger than the man’s errors.

As the writer describes God we read that ‘You preserve them all.’ Despite all their errors and mess ups God kept preserving His people.

The same thing is true today. A lot of people worry and fret about their eternal salvation. Folks sometimes worry that if they are not quite good enough they may miss eternity. Folks think that their eternal fate depends on them.

But it is not us who preserve or keep our salvation. Peter wrote that our heavenly inheritance is kept by Christ, not us.

And it’s a good thing because if preserving my salvation relied on me I would never pass the test.

Christ saved me. Christ preserves my salvation. Christ will save me at the end. 

Thursday, 15 September 2016


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 worshipped the Lord their God. – Nehemiah 9.3

These folks had some kind of attitude of worship, didn’t they? Day after day they listened to the word of God and starting getting things sorted. God it said and as they learned about it they obeyed.

But as they heard the word of God day after day they realised how far short they had fallen. They knew their only recourse was to put out their hearts to God and confess and repent of their sins.

So they read from the Book for one fourth of the day and they confessed their sins another fourth of the day.

I am challenged by this because I don’t know that I have ever taken confession of my sins that seriously. When we read that if we ‘confess our sins Christ is faithful and just to forgive our sins’ it is easy to think that all we have to do is say ‘I’m guilty and I’m sorry’ without any change of heart and go on our way all will be grand.

That’s not how these folks confessed. Their confession was serious and they made sure they dealt with all their sins. They confessed because they saw their sin the way God did – and that is how we must see our sin.

Unconfessed sin is nothing to be toyed with. Let’s get as serious about it as these folks were. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Day by day

Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.  – Nehemiah 8.18

Once they had obeyed God and gathered the branches and built the booths for the festival they observed the festival according to the things laid out in the word of God.

Also, day by day during the feast, Ezra read from the word of God to the people. In this case it is only that they heard the word of God every day during the festival, but I think there is a lesson for us in the importance of spending time day by day in the word of God. It is not something that can be served by a hit and miss attitude.

Our spiritual disciplines need a consistency. They need to become habits and then they need to become our life. Our walk with God and our time with Him should not be based on ‘if I have time’ but it ought to me our priority. We ought to commit time day by day for hearing from God and talking to Him.

We don’t normally skip meals. We don’t normally skip anything in our daily routines. A lot of us don’t skip our Facebook fix(es).

Why then do we think it is okay to just skip hearing from God for the day. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

When they heard

Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law. 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 8.13-15

As they read and studied the word of God they came across things that they were supposed to be doing. There were things they were neglecting that needed to be sorted.

I think we can all identify with that. We might be doing our Bible reading or devotions or listening to a message or see a spiritual post on Facebook or whatever and the Holy Spirit speaks to our heart and we know we need to do something about it, but what do we do next?

These folks were hearing these words and they realised that they had not been keeping the feast of booths. They could have done a lot of things. They could have discussed what to do. They could have said ‘oh well, we do to do something about that.’ The could have said ‘it's too late, we’ll do it next year.’ Or they even could have just ignored it.

But they didn't do any of that. They saw what the needed to do – so they starting gathering materials to build the booths. They did what they needed to do as it was written in the word of God.

What a great example for us. When we read our Bibles or do devotions or are challenged with scripture by a friend or hear preaching in church and the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts we ought to simply trust God and obey His word. When God’s word is clear it is simply time to just do it.

Think of the grief we would save ourselves if we obeyed as soon as we heard about our need.

Monday, 12 September 2016

The joy of the Lord is your strength

Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." – Nehemiah 8.10

Following on the words about not weeping we find the reason why we don’t have to weep. Sure, when we see our sin and our weakness in the word of God we ought to be sorrowful and remorseful for our sins, but we don’t need to dwell there because the ‘joy of the Lord is our strength’ to get things sorted and be victorious over our sin.

‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ Paul writes. We can rejoice because greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. We don’t have to walk in misery and despair but Jesus has paid the price for our sin and we don’t have to live in them.

We have all the power we need to live in the joy of the Lord. It is all the strength we need to live a victorious Christian life.

That also means that we do not need to live some type of sad-faced, miserable, woe is me, Christian life. The joy of the Lord should be clear in our actions and our attitudes. We only lack joy when we lack the faith to believe God’s word.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

They wept

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep." For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. – Nehemiah 8.9

The people were moved when they heard the word of God. In fact they were moved to the point of weeping. ‘The people wept when they heard the words of the Law.’

Though the leaders are going to tell them nor to weep or mourn, I am impressed by the fact that the word of God spoke to their hearts in such a powerful way. Gods’ word was real and powerful and alive. It was strong enough to move their hearts and bring the the realisation of how far short they fell.

When was the last time the word of God moved us in such a powerful way? I am afraid that too many of us have become complacent to the word of God. It is ‘old hat.’ We ought to be going to hear God’s word begging God to touch us and stir our hearts like he did for the people of old. We used to call the place for prayer at the front of the church a ‘mourner’s bench’ because people were broken and mourning over their sin. Do we see that kind of response in our churches today?

But that's not all – the preachers had good news. You don’t need to weep because God is a holy God and He is able to deal with your sins.

So yes, God’s word should move us – but not only to weep over our sins and do nothing. We can weep with joy because He has provided the solution.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

From the book

Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. – Nehemiah 8.7-8

Not only did the people hear the word of God read. Nehemiah appointed a team of thirteen men plus the Levites to teach them them word of God. The importance of good Bible teachers is nothing new. God has always provided teachers to teach His word.

I think this is a great lesson on what Bible teachers are supposed to do. We are supposed to:

Read the word clearly
Give an explanation of what we read
Help the people understand the word

I think that is what it really means to ‘preach the word.’

If we look at this we see there is only one focus – ‘what saith the Lord?’

Our pulpits have become in too many cases the place where preachers take there own personal agenda and then find a few verses to prop up what they want to say. That's not what our pulpits are for – we read the word and talk about the word.

It is easy to let politics creep into our pulpits. But that is not our job. We are to read the word, explain it, and help people understand it.

The church needs true Bible teachers. We need to be in our pulpits clearly preaching and teaching and explaining God’s word – and nothing else.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Amen and amen

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 8.6

How were the people going to respond to the reading of the word of God? What would they do?

I think before we look there we ought to ask ourselves how we respond to the word of God. What happens when we read it or hear it read? Sadly, for some who are been saved a long time there can be a temptation to click off and say ‘oh yeah, I know that passage. I’ve heard that a dozen times.’

Remember, Ezra had simply read the word of God to the people and blessed the Lord. Look what happened next.

The people lifted up their hands and said ‘Amen! Amen!’ So be it, I agree, yes, let it be!!’
The bowed they heads in worship with their faces toward the ground.

What happened here? The people gave their whole-hearted support. The people lifted up their hands in praise. Then worshipped God in humility and couldn't even lift their heads in the presence of the glory of God.

And all this – just because the Bible was read out loud.

When is the last time the word of God affected you and me that way? How often does a simple reading of the Bible elicit praise, humility, and worship?

Oh let's open our hearts when we read or hear God’s word. Let's remember that it is God speaking – and respond accordingly.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Ezra stood and read

So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 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.- Nehemiah 8.4-5

Now that all the physical work was done it was time to deal with the spiritual state of the nation. The task turns to Ezra the scribe. The Temple is built and the city is secure and it is time to restore proper worship to the people. This is an amazing section and I think there are principles we can learn here for ourselves and our churches today.

The city has all gathered together to see what Ezra had to say. He was up on a platform surrounded by other leaders to support him.

You can almost sense the anticipation of the crowd and a silence falls over them. Ezra steps up and he carrying a scroll with him – the ‘book of the Law of the Lord.’ It was their Bible, which still today makes up a part of our Bible.

Everyone was watching.
Ezra opens the scroll and starts reading.
And everyone stood up.

I like that sense of reverence for the word of God. This was vital. This reading could not be taken lightly. This was a rare day for them. They knew that God was speaking to them – so they stood and listened.

A lot of the world is still like this. Just watch a video of a town or village that gets a Bible in their language for the first to see the joy and awe at getting it – I think that gives a sense of how these folks must have felt.

So God’s word was read. They stood in awe. We’ll see more tomorrow, but I wonder if we still have that same kind of awe and respect for the reading of God’s word?

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A faithful man who feared God

Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. – Nehemiah 7.1-2

It was finally done. The enemies were defeated, the Temple was built, the walls were finished, and then the doors were hung. The officials were appointed. Now it was time to pass the reigns on to a new man.

The man chosen was Hanani, Nehemiah’s brother. At first look this might seem like the ultimate act of nepotism. Of all the men who could have done it, Nehemiah chose his own brother.

The reason though was not because he was Nehemiah’s brother. The reason he was chosen is given here.

He was a faithful man and he feared God more than many.

Being faithful and fearing God should be the mark of God’s people. If we are faithful to God’s word and faithful in our and attitudes and our actions are guided by an awe of God’s power we are going to be the kind of servants who can effectively serve Him. God requires that His servants are faithful, not popular or famous, or even ‘successful’ in the world's eyes.

Hanani is typical of what most of us can expect. He is is forgotten man in most of our eyes, but he was a success in the eyes of God. That is all we need to be.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Letters to frighten

Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me. – Nehemiah 6.19

I have found through the years that just because the job is done and we have a victory and we get excited and encouraged that doesn’t mean that the troubles are done.

In fact, sometimes it is just the beginning.

When Tobiah heard about God’s good works and about how Nehemiah had finished building the walls Tobiah sent letters to frighten Nehemiah.

It seems sometimes that we never can get ahead. Every time we move forward someone is there to discourage or hurt us. There is that letter or email or text message or phone call that can easily make us afraid. We never seem have time to rest on our laurels because the next opposition seems right around the corner. The enemy never admits his defeat.

But we can rest assured that the eventual victory is going to be ours. Discouraging and frightening news does not need to batter us, because we have already won.

So when those ‘letters to frighten’ remember that that fear we experience is nor from God. It is just another attempt to frighten us off the task before us. But the enemy will not prevail because greater is He that is in us than anything the world can throw at us. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

God did the work

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. 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 6.14-16

Here is why staying on in the work is so important. It is not about making a name for us. It is not about for the glory of our country. We don’t stay and fight so everyone will say what a great Christian we are. We do the work not to make a name for us – but so that the world might know that God did the work.

The wall was done. Because Nehemiah would not be deterred after fifty-two days they accomplished their mission.

And the enemies we disheartened.


Because they ‘perceived that the work was done by God.’

Even the enemies knew that this was an impossible job. But Nehemiah and his men did the impossible because ‘nothing is impossible with God.’ What a testimony to a doubting world!

Our world mocks us today. We are ridiculed by the media and by the entertainment. Christians are often portrayed as dolts who even as the enemy. I realise that there are some who feed that notion, but that is what the world thinks about all of us.

But that’s okay. They mocked Nehemiah too. It was only when he kept going that the people realised that it was not Nehemiah and the people who did the work. It was God.

And one day the world will realise that all this time God has been at work. Our names will not be remembered – but God's name will.

That is all that matters. 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

I won't run!

For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”
Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”
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!” Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. – Nehemiah 6.9-12

Nehemiah could not be distracted by a chat. That seems like kind of a nice distraction. No threat, just come and have a chat, but Nehemiah would not go and meet with the enemy.

So now they changed tactics. If Nehemiah wouldn’t meet them so decided to increase their threats and their taunts. ‘The Jews are going to weaken. They are not going to get the job done.’

Plus, the enemy had a mole in the Temple. A plant. An informer. A secret agent.

‘So Nehemiah, come into the Temple and we will shut the doors so you will be safe when they come to kill you' he said.

Pretty sneaky approach, huh?

But that wouldn't work either.

I can’t come to your meeting, and I won't run and hide. There is a job to do.

I really like this guy. If I could have a hero Nehemiah would be one of them. No matter what the circumstances or what the opposition or what the problems he was not going to quit.

Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Just don’t quit – no matter what.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

I can't come!

Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that 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 6.1-3

Nehemiah was one of those guys who just wouldn't quit. It simply wasn't going to happen. He had determination. He had doggedness. He had tenacity. He had resolution. He had steadfastness. He had stick-to-it-ivenss. His opposition tried everything to get him to stop.

Here they tried a nice little tactic. ‘Let's have a meeting and talk this out. Surely we can come up with a solution.’

Here we see his strength of character – ‘I am doing a great work! I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?’

He just wouldn’t be deterred for anything. There was a work to be done and he could not stop.

This is a challenge to me. I think about how easily I can be distracted I am ashamed. It takes nothing to get me off track. The slightest bauble or glimmer or excitement can grab me and hold my attention and keep it from the work that needs to be done.

I long for Nehemiah’s kind of devotion. I long to be able to keep my eyes on track and not be drawn away. There have always been distractions, but today it seems like they are around every corner. Sports and entertainment and news games and politics and Facebook and so many things are enough to keep us busily distracted for days on end. None of those things are evil on their own, but when they keep us from the important things it is time to be reminded of men like Nehemiah.

Redeem the time because the days are evil

Friday, 2 September 2016


And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, “We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live.”
There were also some who said, “We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.”
There were also those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards.”
And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. – Nehemiah 5.1-6

Of course trouble is going to come. The workers kept persisting and persisting and going and going so of course the devil is not done with them.

Out of nowhere it seems like we find the nation divided. ‘There was a great out cry among the people against their Jewish brethren. To put it simply some of the Jews were trying to profit off the others. They were charging ridiculous rates on loans. They were being forced to remortgage their properties to buy food. Some of their children were being sold into indentured servitude. The Jews who were being taken advantage of could do nothing about it.

Nehemiah was a little upset, ‘I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.’

Division is destructive. No nation divided against itself can stand for long. Destruction will come. It is good for brethren to dwell together in unity. Be of one mind. We can’t do that when there is division and it is even worse when one segment is causing the division by taking advantage of the other. Paul wrote about how the early church was wrong when it corrupted the table when the rich went and feasted while the poor went hungry.

We have enough to fight without fighting each other. Division is always sin and it ought to anger us. Love each other. Take care of each other. Be one in Christ.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

On God's side

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.”
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 4.19-23

This was serious work. They knew that if the walls were not put up there would be major problems. As the work continued on the wall they noticed that that the workers were getting farther and farther apart. They need a unifying call in case there was a problem so Nehemiah said ‘when you hear the trumpet gather here.’ And then he gave them the encouraging words ‘Our God will fight for us.’

The people knew they had a job to do. They also knew that it was not their job alone.

I like their balance. As they trusted God they knew they still had a part to play and they took it seriously. They worked so hard that hey were always at the ready. They never even took time to change clothes unless they needed washing.

It sounds a little funny to say it, but our work is a partnership with God. It is a partnership with one very obvious senior partner, but we do partner with Him in the work. We are to work – but we do it in the realisation what any success we have comes because of who God is.

I don’t think it is too much for us to say that God has graciously chosen to partner us with Him.

How can we fail on that kind of partner?