Some of the leaders and Levites had taken it upon themselves to offer up a public prayer to the LORD, acknowledging their sin as a nation and the goodness of God (Nehemiah 9:4-5). We pick it up in the middle of that proclamation pondering the way God had blessed Israel. God gave them kingdoms, God had multiplied their descendants from three people to millions of people. God gave them the land, with houses already built and filled with possessions, cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees already planted and productive. They grew fat and delighted themselves in God’s goodness.
In spite of all that God had done, they rebelled against Him. They turned from the Word of the Lord and killed the prophets who tried to speak truth to them, to bring them back to God. The LORD would then discipline them in various ways, including devastating defeats at the hands of foreign nations. This would bring them back to God for a season, but they faithfully returned to their evil, time and time again. It became a vicious cycle.
Nehemiah 9:28b (NKJV) “…and many times You delivered them according to Your mercies.”
God wanted to bless them – if only they lived lives of gratitude and obeyed His Word – but they shrugged their shoulders, stiffened their necks and would not hear (Nehemiah 9:29). For YEARS God was patient with them…until there was no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16). God judged what was left of Israel, He gave the southern kingdom of Judah over to the Babylonians. Jerusalem was burnt to the ground, the people were slaughtered and the rest were carried off into captivity. Only a few remained to farm the land. The LORD disciplined them severely, but did not destroy them. We read in:
Nehemiah 9:31 (NKJV) “Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful.”
The men now bring it to a close. Their present position as a people is one of being servants in the very land that God had given to them.
Nehemiah 9:36b–38 (NKJV) “Here we are servants in it. 37 And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle at their pleasure; and we are in great distress. 38 “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”
They had expressed everything beautifully and accurately. So the people entered into a covenant willingly with God. They even put it in writing and signed the paperwork as they entered into a covenant with God to walk in His law, not to marry non-believers, to honor the sabbath day as well as the sabbath year; to give to God their tithes and offerings in order to maintain the temple and support the priests who served there.
And we read those wonderful words in:
Nehemiah 10:39b (NKJV) “…and we will not neglect the house of our God.”
May today we have that same heart of repentance and renewed commitment to God!
1 Corinthians 9:19–10:13
All of what we read in this section of Scripture is God’s heart through Paul to do all that he can to win the lost to the Lord. Paul became a servant to all; even when he could usurp his authority, he chose not to, but the people interpreted it as weakness. Paul’s heart beat for the lost, so he became all things to all men, that he might win them to Christ. When he was around Jews, he gravitated to their Jewishness; when he was around Gentiles, he had no problem chopping it up with them, eating their foods. If someone was a little more on the legalistic side, he would meet them there (to the weak, he became weak), and even those who had no law, he reached out to them, not to the point of compromise or sin, but Paul was a wise fisherman. How about us? Does our heart honestly beat for the lost? Do I care? (Matthew 9:36-37)
Paul closes 1 Corinthians 9 with his running illustration. We’re in a race, so we’re all running – but the question is, “Am I in it to win it?” I need to run in such a way that I might receive the prize. We see these athletes training excruciatingly hard to receive a perishable crown, why am I not doing all that I can to receive the imperishable one? I must travel light, discipline my body, and deny myself, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified (see also Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 2:5).
1 Corinthians 10 begins with a heavy warning, as Paul uses the stories of the Old Testament, applying them to us as Christians. God had done an amazing work in redeeming the nation of Israel out of Egypt, they experienced God in a very personal way. Redeemed from Egypt, “baptized” in the Red Sea. Imagine God as a “cloud” by day and a “pillar” of fire by night (Nehemiah 9:12) to lead you every step of the way. They ate manna (angel food), they drank water from the Rock and that Rock was Christ! But 1 Corinthians 10:5 informs us that even though they experienced all that, with most of them God was not well pleased for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
It’s a heavy warning to us.
I am not to lust after evil things (they lusted after the food of Egypt). I am not to become an idolater in any way (put anyone or anything before God). I am not to commit sexual immorality (Jesus also taught us not to lust – Matthew 5:28). I am not to complain about my lot, for in doing so I “test” God and “tempt” Him to deal with me. All these things are written for our admonition – it’s God’s counsel and warning to us.
1 Corinthians 10:12 tells me I’m not to be overconfident. Yes, I can easily fall.
1 Corinthians 10:13 tells me that I never, ever have to sin; it’s interesting how the promise of God is that with every temptation, there will always be an escape ATTACHED to the temptation – I just need to look for it and run to it.
The background to this Psalm can be found in 1 Samuel 21:10-15. David put himself in a dangerous situation before the king of the Philistines, and in order to get out of it, he pretended to be a mad-man.
How low he had sunk, but God rescued him, again, delivering him from death. This Psalm was written in response to God’s “salvation.” David wrote in:
Psalm 34:6 (NKJV) “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
Isn’t this true for all of us? It will always be His way of merciful protection over our lives until that day when we’ve finished the race.
In light of this, let’s magnify the Lord together (Psalm 34:3). Let’s bless Him always, praise Him continually, let’s boast about Him, seek Him, look to Him, cry out to Him, let’s taste and see that the LORD is good. Let’s fear Him and trust Him and hold tightly to His beautiful promises:
Psalm 34:4 (NKJV) “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 34:10b (NKJV) “…but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.”
Proverbs 21:13 (NKJV) “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.”
Again, we’re reminded of our responsibility to help the poor. Not those who won’t work, but those who can’t work; there are many people out there in our world who are legitimately poor.
What we read here is that a closed heart to the poor, leads to a closed door when we pray.
A while back I read about a group of ladies who passionately pondered the poor. They found out that more than 1/3 of the world’s population did not have access to clean drinking water, so the Lord laid it on their hearts to sell their wedding rings and fund African water wells.
Now, I’m not too sure if God wants you to sell your wedding rings, but He does want us to listen to His leading and be open. What can I do to alleviate poverty in the world? It actually affects my prayer life.
1 John 3:17 (NKJV) “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
Proverbs 19:17 (NKJV) “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.”
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.