Open the Book

In order to know the words, the acts, and purpose of a book one must open that book.  It does not matter if the book is historical, study, a novel of fiction, historical fiction, etc., educational that book must be opened.  Even an e-book must be opened to know its contents.

The Bible, the word of God, is no different in that way.  A lot of Christians say they believe the Bible, yet they rarely if ever open it.  In their homes it is a decoration on a bookshelf or on a table, but is never picked up and opened, except maybe on Sunday as the pastor opens it to read, and they might follow along.  How can a Christian grow without opening Scripture?  Growth would be a non-event in such case.

Hear from the book of Nehemiah…

“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”  Nehemiah 8:5-6 (KJV)

This event for Nehemiah took place following the return of God’s people; after seventy years, from Babylonian captivity, and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall.  The people’s only access to Scripture was through the scrolls, and usually read by the priests and prophets of their day.  That is no excuse today.  Not too many people have or can legitimately say, “I do not have a Bible, neither do I have access to one.”  There are millions of copies of God’s word throughout the world.  Most people; if they want a copy they can get one.

At any rate look at what happened when Nehemiah opened the book.  Out of respect for the Word, the people stood up. It does not say they were asked to do so.  It does not say that anyone motioned for them to do so.  It simply says, “…All the people stood up”.  Then we are told they heard Nehemiah bless the LORD, and they answered “Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands, bowing their heads, and worshiping with their faces to the ground”.

O for the respect, reverence for the word of God from God’s people today.

I have attended many worship services where the preacher asked people to stand in reverence to the word of God.  Nothing wrong in that.  I do believe, however, if we the people had a real reverence for the word of God, when anyone in a meeting opens the word of God in our midst we ought to stand without a prompter.  The prompter should be the opening of the Book.

Most of all: be sure you open, read, and study the Book for yourself.  And notice how through the Spirit of God He will read you too.

Joyous, Glorious Salvation

“Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.” Nehemiah 12:43 (KJV)

The rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, and their return to Jerusalem was cause for great joy. It was celebrated by the sacrifices; great numbers of lambs, bulls and the bringing of the first fruits of the fields were offered. There was much music and singing.

The celebration was filled with joy. It was the “joy of Jerusalem”. The people had returned after 70 years of captivity.

Everyday the Christian should celebrate the deliverance which Jesus Christ has provided for us through the sacrifice of His own blood. There were many sacrifices offered that day in Jerusalem, but all that blood was only a portrayal of the blood of the one sacrifice that could eternally take away sin.

When an individual trust in Christ as the sacrifice for sin we can rest assured that our salvation; our redemption is secured for all eternity. There is “Great Joy” in the heart of the follower of Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus will never occur again.

See these verse: 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 7:17 – 27

The Word of God at Work

“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:5-8 (KJV)

The book Nehemiah speaks of in the verses is the Word of God, the law, the commandments. Of course it was in the form of a scroll. When he opened the book in the sight of the people, they stood to their feet. It was a matter of respect for God and His Word. They were believing it. God had told them through the prophets that they would go into captivity, and then return after 70 years. Thus, they had indeed.

The temple had been rebuilt. The wall around Jerusalem was restored. They would worship, and glorify the LORD.

There is much need today for the people of God to believe the Book; the Word of God. We need for the people of God to respect the Book. We ought to stand when it is read. Even more importantly we need to hear what is read, and apply it to our daily lives. It is the Word of God that gives us life. It is by the Word of God that we are to live.

Notice that the spiritual leaders read “distinctly” = clarify; “gave a sense” = explaining the meaning; and “caused them to understand”. These are matters of responsibility of every pastor and preacher of the Word of the LORD. And to teach the people to do so too.

Hide the word of God in your heart that you might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

A Finished Work

“So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.” Nehemiah 6:15-16 (KJV)

The enemy had perceived that the Hebrews would fail in their work to restore and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. For fifty two days they labored; and after their days of labor the wall is finished.

The enemy is down hearted “cast down”. By restoring this wall God was glorified. They were fulfilling the word of the LORD.

The enemy had even tried to stop the work, and had failed. We as people of God, Christians, need to realize that when God calls, God meets the needs; we are to follow Him in obedience due to love.

There is nothing like finishing job you have started.  There was another work that started and was finished; and that was the work or our salvation upon the cross of Calvary.  Jesus Himself said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30).  Therefore it was. It is.  It forever shall be finished.  Meaning God will take it to His expected end for all who believe Him.

May all the labors which we do be seen as the work that is “Wrought of our God”. May we attempt in faith those works that only God can do. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only power that saves. May we proclaim it; may we ever lift up the crucified, buried and risen Saviour.

No Matter What; Stand

“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before Thee: for they have provoked Thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.” Nehemiah 4:1-6 (KJV)

The enemy will always try and thwart the will, way and word of the LORD. It was by God’s direction that God called Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. It was those who did not believe God, hated Him, and His people who tried to stop it.

Even so it is today. While the people of God stand upon the word of the LORD, and declare righteousness, justice, and peace through knowing Christ Jesus and His love through His word and the Spirit; there are those who call us the evil ones.

Are we to buckle under and let them have their way; or are we to stand in the truth of God, His word, His way, His truth and His life? We are to stand with God. We are to pray for the enemies of God and His people.

If the evil people persist in their rebellion against God, their sins will not be blotted out, not forgiven; and their iniquity will not be covered.

Let be said of the followers of Christ that we never stopped building the wall of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as the wall of Jerusalem protected the city from her enemies; so too the gospel of Jesus Christ separates and protects the Believer from the liar, the deceiver, the unjust; from the wicked.

Day 31 – The King’s Cupbearer

I only wrote a bit of Nehemiah yesterday, so since my reading this morning was the rest of Nehemiah this writing will only deal with the King’s cupbearer.

My reading today began in Nehemiah 5 and extended to Esther 5.  I will deal with Esther, the Lord willing, in tomorrow’s commentary.

We are told that Nehemiah was a captive of Israel in Shushan the palace (1:1) of king Artaxerxes of Persia.  Nehemiah was the king’s “cupbearer (1:11).  This task was more than just simply carrying the cup of the king’s wine and drink.  Nehemiah was to taste the drink, then if he did not die from drinking it; because someone might be trying to assassinate the king; then, he would know that it was safe for the king.

Nehemiah was a man who had a heart for his home and people.  We see in verse 3 of chapter one that he had received word from Hanani who had returned from Judah that the remnant who had been left of the captivity were in great affliction, and it crushed his heart.

“And they said unto me, ‘The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.’  And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, ‘I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments: let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel Thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.'” Nehemiah 1:3-6 (KJV)  (This prayer continues to the end of the chapter).

One day as Nehemiah is serving the king his countenance was sad (2:1-3).  He receives the king’s favor, and is allowed to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.  When he arrives in Jerusalem he arises in the night and surveys the walls of the city to investigate the walls condition, and the work that would be needed to restore them.  When he tells the people of his plans.  There is some reluctance to the plan, and some outright mockery of the plan (2:19).  He tells them that “The God of heaven, He will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in  Jerusalem”; the latter part speaking to Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, of course.

The work is started with the gates and the wall.  One of the things that must be doe when rebuilding something is to get the trash out of the way (4:10).

Once the work was squared away, and assignments made, and materials gathered the work on the wall was done in quick order.  They had to work with weapons on their sides and nearby.  They had a trumpeteer with Nehemiah at all times.  Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem hated the work of the Lord and His servants; and they were set to stop it.  That is the case with the servants of the devil in every age.  He is like a lion walking about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

The wall is finished in 52 days (6:15).  They had a heart to work and to get the wall erected.

We need to remember that Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra, and we find Ezra present in the reading of the Law,

“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”  Nehemiah 8:5-6

In the 10th verse of chapter eight we find a verse which is very familiar to many Christians,

 “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The people had heard the Law of the LORD, and began weeping, and mourning; and they are told to not weep nor mourn, but to rejoice in that day.  It was a day to celebrate because they had returned to the worship of the LORD of hosts.

There is a need among Christians today to rejoice in the wonderful grace of the Lord.  His work of grace is more than amazing; it is glorious.  We have much to rejoice in.  The joy of the LORD is our strength.  That is what The King’s Cupbearer was rejoicing in.

Nehemiah’s final prayer is short, but shows his dependency on the God of grace and the grace of God; “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).

Come to the grace of God through the death, burial and bodily resurrection of His Son Jesus.  There is the source of joy and strength.

-Tim A. Blankenship

 

Day 30 – Inspirational and Encourageing

Today marks the thirtieth day for the journey through the Bible in ninety days.  I have been thoroughly blessed, inspired, and encouraged.  I have also learned things I did not know, helping me to realize even more that “The more I know; the more I realize I do not know.”  I am now one third of the way through this journey and looking forward to the next 6o days.

I was greatly inspired and encouraged by reading through Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah this morning; thus, the title for today’s post.

In yesterday’s reading, finishing 2 Chronicles we were left with Judah going into Babylonian captivity, Jerusalem being destroyed, the walls broken down, the temple destroyed, and all the vessels, gold, silver, bronze, taken to the storehouses of Babylon; just as the prophet Jeremiah warned and foretold.  The prophet Isaiah had warned of this destruction, and captivity at least one hundred years before it happened.

Some may ask, “Why do you put so much stock in the Bible?”  and my answer to that is, “Because, when God speaks, it comes to pass; just like He says it.”  There is not one word God speaks that has been diminished, is being diminished, or will be diminished.  That is why I was so inspired and encouraged by Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah.

Someone has said, and I believe it was written by Charles H. Spurgeon; “God will not allow His children to sin successfully.”  Reading the Bible sure helps us see that.  God pulls no punches.  We can see clearly that God deals with sin.  We see also that He is gracious, and slow to anger and wrath.  He is also merciful in not giving us what we truly deserve.

According to Jeremiah’s prophecy the nation of Israel would be in Babylonian captivity for seventy years.  At the time of Ezra that seventy years has been fulfilled, and we read –

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, ‘Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.  And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place helpa him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”  Ezra 1:1-4 (KJV)

Now here is a catcher for you.  The prophet Isaiah names the king that will do this probably 150 years or more before Cyrus is born.  How can this be?  The prophet, being inspired by God; God who knows all things; who knows the past, present and the future, and knows your name; and knew you before you were born; told the prophet what was going to happen, and to write it down.  Isaiah did –

“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.’ Isaiah 44:28

‘Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.  For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.”  Isaiah 45:1-4 (KJV)

In Ezra God has  put it in the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia to fulfill His word of promise to Israel/Judah and have the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt, even to providing the precious metals and all necessary costs at Persia’s expense.

God’s purpose in the captivity was to drive Israel from her sins, and to give rest to the land for the sabbath years the people had avoided to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21), and to restore their faith in Him.  In reading Ezra we read of much opposition from people of the area, even putting the work of the temple to a standstill until the king finds that it had been ordered by Cyrus years before, then the work is continued with the approval of Persia.  Haggai, and Zechariah were two prophets  who prophesied during this time, and encouraged the people to continue building without the approval of the king of Persia, until they did receive it (chapters 5 – 6).

Ezra went to encourage and lead in the temple’s rebuilding and to teach the word and law of the LORD –

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”  Ezra 7:10

There are some things I read in Ezra about their divorcing the foreign wives and sending them away that poses some problems. However, the problem was their sins and disobedience to the word of God, not God’s causing.  How seriously should God’s people take the matter  of holiness?  Very seriously.

Nehemiah had a burden for the building of the walls of Jerusalem.  He is sent by the king to go and rebuild the city.  He surveys the city walls, the city (chapter 2:12-20), then he challenges the people and they comply joyously with his requests.  Now see what God has wrought in the Old Testament with Judah.

Now, think of what God can do with you if you would surrender yourself to the way of Salvation which is found only through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, His burial where all our sin, guilt and condemnation was carried away as far as East is from West, and then He arose bodily from the grave; and is today seated by the Father’s right hand as our Great High Priest.  There is no one but Him who can deliver you from your sin.

Inspirational and Encourageing?  To me it definitely is.

– Tim A. Blankenship

Broken Down Walls

There has been talk of tearing down walls; too many walls; high walls; low walls; brick walls; rock walls; all kinds of walls.  Maybe there are some walls which need to be torn down, but not the walls of protection.  Not the walls that are there to keep us from the enemy, those who would destroy us; those who desire to see us cease to exist.

It was when the nation of Israel had sinned against God, broken His law; His sabbaths, and committed lewd acts against the Most High, that He sent the enemy to destroy their walls.  The wall was destroyed and for seventy years in captivity the walls lay in ruin, trampled by wild donkeys, and wild beasts of all sorts.

There was a man by the name of Nehemiah who had a burden for Jerusalem after he had received report of the city’s condition.  His heart was broken, and the king gave him leave to go and lead in the rebuilding of those walls.  Here is what Nehemiah has written,

“Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.  Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.”  Nehemiah 2:17-18 (KJV)

As Christian men and women; let’s keep the walls that protect us, and restore some of those walls that have been broken down. And like Nehemiah let’s lead our family, our churches, communities, and nation in building those walls that call us back to God – correct doctrine, right worship, pointing people to Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God; and living by the Word of God.

The wall of God’s protection is quickly coming down.  We can pray, read and study God’s Word; and then apply it to daily living to strengthen those walls.

-Tim A. Blankenship