Nehemiah had a healthy fear of God. The nation was struggling economically so he declined financial dividends during his twelve years as governor, for the people already carried a heavy burden.
It’s interesting to see the contrast in that Nehemiah feared God – but he refused to fear anyone or anything else. Did you notice how many times the enemy tried to strike fear into Nehemiah’s heart?
Nehemiah 6:9 (NKJV) “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.”
Nehemiah 6:13a (NKJV) “For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid…”
Nehemiah 6:14b (NKJV) “…who would have made me afraid.”
Nehemiah 6:19b (NKJV) “Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.”
The enemy knows that fear and faith are mutually exclusive, so we have that repeated command, “Do not be afraid,” and it’s equivalent, 365 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year. The only valid fear is the fear of God.
We mustn’t fear their threats, we mustn’t fear death, it will only weaken the work and sometimes even stop the work.
The enemy tried to meet with Nehemiah, notice his response:
Nehemiah 6:3 (NKJV) “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?’”
Being a leader requires discernment. Nehemiah knew they weren’t sincere, he knew they were trying to hinder the work which he refers to as, “a great work.” Why was it a “great work?” Some might say the reason it was great was because it was so big, it was the walls of Jerusalem, for protection and the glory of God. This is true, but I also believe that any work done in obedience to God, is a “Great Work,” simply because God is great.
Undercover agents tried to make Nehemiah run away, but he didn’t. Nehemiah just kept his hand to the plow, he just kept working, warring, and praying, and God did something so amazing that even their enemies perceived God’s hand in it all. We read in:
Nehemiah 6:15–16 (NKJV) “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 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.”
May this be the goal of our lives. Some never even start. Others never finish. But God help us to finish what we start, the work He’s given us to do. If it’s done in His wisdom and strength it will be obvious to all – even our enemies will see that it was truly a work of God!
Nehemiah would spend some time away as he traveled back to Persia, in the meantime he gave charge to his brother Hannah, “…for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.” (Nehemiah 7:2)
Another concern that Nehemiah had was that there wasn’t enough people living in the city of Jerusalem, they were outside the city walls. So, once again, God put something in his heart (see also Nehemiah 2:12), to gather the people and challenge those who had returned, to live IN the city of Jerusalem. He started with the same list found in Ezra 2.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Paul addresses another question, this time it was about food offered to idols (this is also dealt with in Romans 14).
From a purely theological perspective, he knew that idols were “nothing in the world,” but not everyone had that understanding. Some Christians had a hard time disassociating the meat that had been offered to idols; their conscience struggled with eating such meat. This created a tough situation.
If I went to the “meat market” and purchased meat that had not been offered to idols the meat would be much more expensive; but if I purchased from the temple after it had been offered up, the price would go down. What if you were invited to a celebration and a weaker brother saw you eating that meat? Paul informs us that this liberty of mine can actually cause my brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:9) and even perish (1 Corinthians 8:11). Paul informs us that if I cause my brother to stumble, I not only sin against him, I sin against Christ. So, he concluded clearly in:
1 Corinthians 8:13 (NKJV) “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
This is how love trumps knowledge.
As I live my life as a Christian I first consider my witness before God, I secondly consider my witness before others. There’s something special about that promise in:
1 Corinthians 8:3 (NKJV) “But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.”
If I love God, I will love others. This may mean that at times I choose not to exercise my liberties – for knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1b).
I’d like to leave you with some very wise words written by Warren Wiersbe having to do with our conscience, “LIFE IS CONTROLLED BY CONSCIENCE. Conscience is the judge within that commends us for doing right and condemns us for doing wrong (Romans 2:14–15). If we sin against conscience, we do terrible damage to the inner person. CONSCIENCE IS STRENGTHENED BY KNOWLEDGE. As we grow in spiritual understanding, a weak conscience becomes stronger, and we appreciate our freedom in Christ more and more. The weak believer must not run ahead of his conscience, and the strong believer must never force him to do so. KNOWLEDGE MUST BE BALANCED BY LOVE. Your spiritual knowledge can be either a weapon to hurt people or a tool to build people. If your knowledge puffs you up, it will tear others down. Love knows when and how to yield to others without compromising the truth.”
The Psalmist encourages the people to sing praise to God. Music is beautiful and I believe its primary purpose is praise. It’s most important to sing to the Lord from the heart, but if we’re worship leaders, it’s good to cultivate those talents and gifts – to play skillfully (Psalm 33:3) (practice).
This Psalm is evangelistic in nature, inviting all the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world to stand in awe of Him (Psalms 33:8).
Psalm 33:9 points back to Genesis 1:3, “Then God said…” we read that phrase repeatedly in the creation account. Doesn’t it blow your mind to realize that God simply spoke the universe into existence?
Psalm 33:8–9 (NKJV) “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”
It’s critical and even encouraging to see that the counsel and plans of the nations will come to nothing (Psalm 33:10), but the counsel and plans of the Lord will stand forever…as beautifully expressed in:
Psalm 33:11b (NKJV) “…the plans of His heart to all generations.”
Proverbs 21:8 (NKJV) “The way of a guilty man is perverse; but as for the pure, his work is right.”
A simple contrast between perversity and purity (those are big words). It’s all rooted in who we are and what we do!
Proverbs 21:9 (NKJV) “Better to dwell in a corner of a housetop, than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
Back there and then, roofs were flat (it’s still like that today in various parts of the world) more like patios. You could go there to pray, hang out, hang the laundry, there’s a better view, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
A contentious woman might push a man to that point.
Proverbs 19:13 describes the contentions of a wife as a ”continual dripping.” In time it takes its toll, it does damage. We’ve probably heard it too many times that the only thing worse than being single and wanting to be married, is being married and wanting to be single.
That can happen with a contentious woman or man.
William MacDonald, “This Proverb says that it would be better to live alone in a cramped corner of one of those roofs, exposed to heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, and hail, than to live in a house shared with a nagging cantankerous woman. The storms from without would be more endurable than the tempest inside.”
So, husbands, wives, communicate, yes – contend, no. Single people, be careful; don’t marry for looks, money, or desperation, wait on the Lord, or one day you might find yourself craving a cave to hide in, a roof to rest on, a permanent patio might be your preferred pad.
Proverbs 21:10 (NKJV) “The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no favor in his eyes.”
His soul desire is wickedness, it’s deep within. His neighbor and all those God brings into his path, find no favor…don’t even ask that wicked man for a favor, it won’t happen.
Believe it or not, there are some people like that.
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.