What a special time of revival we read of here amongst the Jews. There are some things we can glean in this “church-type setting.”
1. They were as “one man.” When they came together – priests, Levites, leaders, and households they were united as one. (Nehemiah 8:1)
2. The “congregation” of those present consisted of “those who could hear with understanding.” This is part of the reason we have a children’s ministry at our church services. Everyone needs to learn the Bible at their level of understanding. (Nehemiah 8:2-3)
3. “The ears of the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” (Nehemiah 8:3) Whenever I sit in a study, I do my best to give the Lord 100% of my attention. I want to hear His Word, what it means, and how it applies to my life. Unfortunately we live in a time when many people don’t have that type of heart/hunger.
4. Ezra stood on a platform, not so everyone could see him, but so everyone could hear him. God and His Word was the centerpiece of the service. (Nehemiah 9:4)
5. Ezra read the Bible from morning till midday. The other priests then came amongst the people and “…they read distinctly from the book, in the law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.” This is the job of Bible teachers. It’s a blessing to also have those amongst the people who can offer further explanations and answers to questions the people may have (Nehemiah 9:8)
6. The people responded to the Word. There were the “Amens” (Nehemiah 9:6). There was the weeping (Nehemiah 9:9), and there was the celebration of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) obedience.
There’s much more to glean. As the people heard the word of the Lord they were moved with emotion. They wept, perhaps with sadness and conviction that they had not been faithful to God. Ezra tried to encourage them NOT to weep, that this would be a turning point in their lives. Conviction is good, but not condemnation. Ezra told them something beautiful – to go and enjoy their lives…eat the fat, drink the sweet, give generously…do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
Some Christians think we should hang our heads and live lives as monks, but God created us to enjoy Him – that joyful life, is actually a strengthened life.
The people went on to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, for seven days. Each day they read from the Book of the Law of God, keeping the Feast of God. This led to another special day where-in for one-fourth of the day they read the Bible and one-fourth of the day they confessed their sins and worshipped the LORD. Imagine that! I’ll bet it was amazing!
Then the helpers of Ezra rose up with a wonderful testimony, prayer, and praise to God of the way He had been faithful to Israel, even though Israel had not been faithful to Him.
God made everything and preservers His creation. He chose Abram and redeemed Israel out of Egypt, making a name for Himself – the LORD. For forty years He led them in the promised land, intimately and personally. Nehemiah 9:12 is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible.
Nehemiah 9:12 (NKJV) “Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the road which they should travel.”
God gave Israel His Word, He met their every need, even in the wilderness, and then told them to go forward. He had a Promised-Land for them, but they just couldn’t come to that place of consecration as a nation – they refused to obey, were not mindful of God’s wonders, and appointed a leader to go back to Egypt (imagine that). This leads to another beautiful passage revealing the heart of God, in the midst of all that rebellion:
Nehemiah 9:17b (NKJV) “…but You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.”
God was gracious to them as He is to us. He continues to travel with us, instruct us by His Spirit (Nehemiah 9:20), provide for us even food from heaven (Jesus). What was true of Israel for forty years has been true for us – all our lives.
Nehemiah 9:21 (NKJV) “Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”
1 Corinthians 9:1-18
Paul had planted the church in Corinth, something we read about in Acts 18. Unfortunately there was a portion of the congregation who had turned against him. Certain men had come in and wooed and won their hearts, to the point that Paul writes two more letters to try and deal with this issue (1 letter is lost; 2 Corinthians is the other). From a human perspective, the church at Corinth was Paul’s work in the Lord – they were the seal of His Apostleship, but they made it difficult for him.
We never have the right to relinquish our freedom, but we do have the freedom to relinquish our rights, and that’s what Paul had done for the Lord and the Corinthians. He changed his diet for them as well as his traveling partners; although they worked unceasingly, they did not receive any money for their labor as ministers, they had forfeited that right, even though there is solid Scriptural basis for pastors to be paid (Deuteronomy 25:4) and Jesus had commanded that those who preach the gospel live from the Gospel ( 1 Corinthians 9:14). But Paul chose not to receive a salary while ministering in Corinth. While Paul was in Corinth he labored with his hands, and was also supported by other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8).
Paul was a true shepherd; he wasn’t in it for the money. If the church couldn’t afford to pay him, or for some other reason struggled to do so, he still ministered, because he had been called personally by Jesus Christ. Paul essentially says, “I can’t brag about preaching, I must preach, I need to; woe is me if I don’t preach the Gospel.”
I’m not 100% sure about verse 17, but the way I see it (and identify with it) is that sometimes we “feel” like preaching and want to give that message and when we do so we’re rewarded; but other times we preach almost unwillingly. In all honesty, I don’t consider myself to be worthy or able to preach very well, but every time I do, I only do so because I believe the Lord, in His grace, has put me there (God chooses the foolish things of the world).
What an amazing Psalm written to impact us nationally:
Psalm 33:12 (NKJV) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”
Of course this is in reference to Israel, but I believe it is also applicable to the United States of America, and even the church…we are His inheritance (Ephesians 1:18).
What an amazing Psalm written to teach us – not just as nationals, but as individuals:
Psalm 33:15 (NKJV) “He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”
We ponder the fact that salvation and deliverance comes both nationally and individually – and only from God. It’s not armies, or horses, or tanks, or jets, or missiles; it’s not men or the things that men might manufacture; it’s not the pastor, politicians, or physicians we look to (although God can use any and all of those aforementioned) ultimately we look only to God.
Psalm 33:20 (NKJV) “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.”
Proverbs 21:11 (NKJV) “When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.”
When the naïve, simple, inexperienced in life see others punished, they can learn from their sentences, the consequences of their sins…even the simple can be made wise.
But all the wise man really needs is instruction. Give him the passages, precepts, and principals of God’s Word, and he gets even wiser.
Proverbs 21:12 (NKJV) “The righteous God wisely considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked for their wickedness.”
The word wicked carries the connotation of hostility against God. It’s a result of the fall of angels, the fall of mankind and the massive mess they’re in.
1 John 5:19 (NKJV) “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
Here we read that God takes note of the house of the wicked, He will overthrow it. One day justice will be served whether it be my house, your house, our House of Representatives, all 435 seats…God is taking notes, He’s wisely considering it all.
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.