August 11

Nehemiah 1:1–3:14

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. He had an extremely comfortable, if not lavish life, but he also had a burden for his people, the Jews. When Hanani his brother returned from Jerusalem, Nehemiah asked his brother about the state and condition of the city. Hanani informed his brother that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were broken down, having been burned with fire…this would be dangerous and embarrassing, for the walls protected the city and represented the people whose God was the LORD.

When Nehemiah heard the report it broke his heart. It must have – for him to fast and pray for four months! Nehemiah was a man of prayer. We will find ten prayers of his in this book. You can also see it in the content of his prayer. Exalting God, identifying with the sins of the people, standing on Scripture. Nehemiah reminded the LORD about the promise of His Word.

Nehemiah 1:9 (NKJV) “…but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.”

Nehemiah 1 contains the main points of Nehemiah’s prayer. Somewhere along the way the LORD laid it on the heart of Nehemiah to not only pray, but be an answer to the prayer. God eventually gave him vision and plans, the only question now, was would God give Nehemiah favor with the king?

And it came to pass…after four months, Nehemiah couldn’t hid it any longer. For a cupbearer to be sad in the presence of the king might cost him his life, so Nehemiah was “dreadfully afraid.” But he lets it out, the condition of the land of his ancestors.  God touched the king’s heart, “What do you request?” Then Nehemiah offers up a quick prayer under his breath, and takes that step of faith.

Nehemiah 2:4–5 (NKJV) “Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.’”

I’m not sure how you feel about that request, but that seems like a pretty big request, if you ask me. Leave your post? Go to a foreign city, far, far away? Rebuild it – the walls? 

But God gave Nehemiah favor with the king and queen. Letters were given, permits and material were granted for the work.

Nehemiah 2:8b (NKJV) “…And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”

Of course wherever and whenever a man of God rises to lead the people in a work for God, the enemy will oppose. We will see this vividly throughout the book of Nehehmiah, especially in these characters Sanballat and Tobiah.

Nehemiah 2:10 (NKJV) “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.”

It’s not just a construction project, since the motives are the glory of God and the good of His people. It’s not merely an act of benevolence, or a political maneuver, this is spiritual warfare…and we need to be ready for it – expect it. The enemy is deeply disturbed whenever we rise up to seek the spiritual well-being of anyone.

Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and first surveyed the scene. I like the way he describes his mission as something God had put in his heart (Nehemiah 2:12). God will put things in our heart as we yield it to Him, as we give Him the keys to every chamber. Eventually Nehemiah rallied the people to rise up and build the walls, that they would no longer be ashamed. He told them of the favor God had given him with the king. The people responded well, and even that is a miraculous thing, when people begin to catch the vision.

Again there was opposition. The enemy tried to weaken their faith through discouraging words of mockery. But Nehemiah responded, the people paid no attention to the words of the enemy, and in an amazingly cooperative work the repairs and building began. Any work of God might begin with one man, but it can never be accomplished by one man – it takes a team, side by side, laboring, toiling, and putting their shoulders to the work. Not everyone is willing to work (Nehemiah 3:5) but thank God for those who are.

1 Corinthians 7:1-24

Apparently, the Corinthian Christians had written to Paul with questions about marriage. We don’t know the details of their inquiries, but Paul deals with a myriad of issues.

Personally, Paul preferred singleness. He said, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1b). He wished all men were like him (1 Corinthians 7:7a). His reasoning was when we’re married, a large part of our life is living to care for and please our spouse (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). Paul knew that single men and women could serve the Lord without distraction (1 Corinthians 7:35). But – Paul also knew that singleness is a gift (1 Corinthians 7:7b) that most people didn’t have. 

For some, this whole idea of being celibate comes a lot easier than others…the Lord will lead us individually. I do encourage single people to take advantage of that time, that season of their lives, to serve the Lord with a “reckless” abandon. Attend those studies, get involved in ministry, if at all possible go on mission trips, even if you know you don’t have the gift of singleness and are praying to be married one day, don’t focus on being married (1 Corinthians 7:27b) focus on the Lord. Remember that saying, “The only thing worse than being single and wanting to be married, is being married and wanting to be single.”

Paul knew the challenge of sexual temptation so he said it is better to marry than to burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:9b).

In marriage, we are to render to our spouse the “affection due” to one another. We are not to withhold sexual intimacy from our spouse unless there is a mutual agreement for a brief time of prayer and fasting. There is never, ever, ever rational reasoning for an affair, but often-times men or women have affairs because of the fact that there is not a healthy sexual intimacy in their marriage.

In Corinth, there may have been some of the saints who were under the impression that since their spouse wasn’t saved, they were free to divorce, but the truth is, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). If the unbelieving spouse is willing to stay married, the believing spouse was/is not to divorce. A believer sanctifies the home; his or her prayers, godly words and behavior, provide a daily witness for the unsaved spouse and children (see also 1 Peter 3:1-6). If the unbelieving spouse leaves (moves out and moves on) the believing spouse is free to divorce, as God would lead.

In verses 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Paul talks about the overall concept of God’s calling on our lives. God can use us wherever we are in life, married, single, circumcised, uncircumcised, slave or free, doesn’t matter. His point is to seek the Lord, to put Him first, to not get distracted with any of this – if God wants to change something in our lives that’s fine, but don’t be obsessed with anything or anyone but the Lord.

Psalm 31:19-24

All things work together for good, to those who love God (Psalm 31:19, 23).

David was one of those who loved the Lord, so God hid him in His pavilion, in the secret place, in the strong city, from the plots of men – even when he was surrounded.

God will protect us.

May David’s story of triumph through all the trials be an inspiration for us, as we go through the many heartaches and heartbreaks. Trust Him, and know, God will keep you from the strife of life (Psalm 39:20).

Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. Be blessed by God’s word through David:

Psalm 31:24 (NKJV) “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:4

Proverbs 21:4 (NKJV) “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin.”

It’s not a mistake or a mishap, and it’s not a disease…it’s sin.

That mad dog look is sin, that heart of pride inside, is sin.

We see all this plowing of the wicked – the turmoil and turning of the soil to plant their “seeds” – it’s all sin.

When you use the word “sin” you bring God in. It’s not a civil, national, or global offense, it’s actually an offense against God. It’s just good to know what it is, that we would avoid it, run from it, and that we would seek Him for forgiveness.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

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