Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for May 24, Neh 1-3

Today’s readings are Neh 1-3. 

Nehemiah followed Ezra in returning to Jerusalem. He led a third wave of returning Jewish exiles who were sent by Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. This era of Jewish history is commonly known as the post-exilic period. It begins when Cyrus sends the first wave of people back in 538 B.C. While Ezra focuses on the rebuilding/re-establishing of the religious practices of the Jews, Nehemiah details the governmental/political/physical restoration.

In Neh 1:1-11 Nehemiah hears of the sad state of Jerusalem and prays for God to help him restore the city. One significant aspect of his prayer is that he confesses his personal shortcomings as well as those of his countrymen (Neh 1:6-7). Praying for forgiveness for the sins of your country is noble. It is humbling to include yourself in that prayer. Watch what God does with Nehemiah’s transparency and humility!

King Artaxerxes sees Nehemiah's despondent face and grants him extraordinary privileges, protection, and provision to return to Jerusalem and begin work (Neh 2:1-8). Notice a common theme in the post-exilic era. The Jews have lost everything, including their homeland. God uses pagan nations and a pagan king, not only to send His people back to the land He gave them, but also to finance the reconstruction of the city and the temple.

Nehemiah clandestinely inspects the walls then reveals the nature of his visit to the local leaders who are unanimously supportive (Neh 2:11-19). Sanballat, who may be governor of Samaria, and Tobiah, another Samaritan, and an Ammonite are not happy (Neh 2:10; 18-20). Their presence and opposition will be a factor in how difficult Nehemiah’s job will be.

In Neh 3:1-32, work begins. Nearly everyone joins in.  

The people are buoyed by the presence and blessing of God. As we will see, it can be easy to get caught up in the emotions of a moment. But, enduring devotion has to stem from a commitment that transcends whether the calling is easy or hard, whether the working conditions are comfortable or dangerous. Israel is about to be tested concerning their sincerity in doing God's work. Will they still be devoted when the going gets rough? How will the leaders react when the pressure increases?

It's a good question for us to ask ourselves concerning the work of the church and our calling to portray the gospel. Are we fair weather Christians or are we in it because we love our Lord and are willing to do whatever is necessary to please Him?

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