November 30, 2016

Nehemiah - 
Separating life into distinct categories of “sacred” and “secular” damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life...Such a concept as this surely wasn’t from the Bible.  The Holy Scriptures, from beginning to end, strenuously resist such a separation.  

Work, by its very nature is holy.  Nehemiah started out as a government worker in the employ of a foreign king.  Then he became a building contractor called in to rebuild the walls  of Jerusalem.  His coworker Ezra was a scholar and teacher, working with the Scriptures.  Nehemiah worked with stones and mortar...Neither job was more or less important or holy than the other...God’s people needed the work of both of them.  We still do.

Nehemiah 1-3 - 
Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews in the month of Kislev in the 20th year....They told me “The exile survivors who are left in the province are in bad shape...

When I heard this, I sat down and wept.  I mourned for days, fasting and praying before God.  I said,...”Look at me, listen to me.  Pay attention to this prayer of your servant that I am praying day and night for your servants...We’ve treated you like dirt!... All the same, remember the warning you posted to your servant Moses...if you come back to me and do what I tell you, I’ll gather up all these scattered people from wherever they ended up and put them back in the place I chose to mark with my name...O master, listen to me, listen to your servant’s prayer...and make me successful today so that I get what I want from the king.”  I was a cupbearer to the King.  

At the hour for serving wine, the king asked me, “Why the long face?”.... So Nehemiah told him of his concerns and the king inquired, “So what do you want?”  Praying under my breath to God, I said, “If it pleases the king, and the king thinks well of me, send me to Judah to the city where my family is buried so that I can rebuild it.”  The king, after inquiring how long it would take, approved to send him along with letters authorizing his travels and requests for materials.  ...The generous hand of my God was with me in this and the king gave them to me...When Sanballat and Tobiah, Ammonite officials, heard about this, they were very upset, angry that anyone would come to look after the interest of the People of Israel.  

And so Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem.  After he had been there three days, he got up in the middle of the night to investigate the walls and overall situation...the local officials had not idea where I’d gone or what I was doing-- I hadn’t breathed a word to anyone else who would be working on the job.  Then I gave them my report and told them, “Come-- let’s build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer.”  I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up.  They said, “We’re with you.  Let’s get started.”  They rolled up their sleeves ready for the good work.   When Sanballat and Tobiah, Ammonite officials, heard about this, they laughed at us following which Nehemiah shot back that God will make sure they succeed while warning them to keep their noses out of it.

The high priest Eliashib and his fellow priests were up and at it at the Sheep Gate.  The men of Jericho work alongside them.  The Fish gate was built by the Hassenaah brothers,...... and so on went the recording of the various groups/families assigned to rebuild a certain portion of the walls.   

2 John 1 - 
Let grace, mercy and peace be with us in truth and love from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, son of the Father.  

I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth...that we love each other.  Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love.  This is the first thing you heard and nothing has changed...  

Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God.  But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.  If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place.