December 1, 2016

Nehemiah 4-6   
 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he exploded with anger....Nehemiah prayed, “Oh listen to us, dear God.  We’re so despised.  Boomerang their ridicule on their heads....they’ve insulted the builders.

We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall.  The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a heart for their work.  When Sanballat and Tobiah heard of their progress, they were furious.  They put their heads together and decided to create as much trouble as they could.  We countered with prayer and set a round-the-clock guard against them.  But soon word was going around Judah that the workers had tired and they were in over their heads....So Nehemiah stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall then spoke to everyone saying, “Don’t be afraid of them.  Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes...From then on half of my young men worked while the other half stood guard with lances, shields, bows and mail armor. 

A great protest, however, was mounted by the people against their fellow Jews.  Some said, “We have big families, and we need food just to survive.”  Others said, “We’re having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving.”  And others said, “We’re having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards...Nehemiah got really angry when he heard their protests and complaints.  After thinking it over he called the officials on the carpet and said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother.”  Then he called a big meeting to deal with them by stating that “gouging one’s fellow Jews with interest needs to stop.  “Give them back their foreclosed fields and homes right now and forgive your claims on them.  They said they would  then Nehemiah called the priests together and made them promise to keep their word...

...For 12 years, Nehemiah and his followers didn’t use their food allowance nor tax the people for it....All my men were on the job to do the work.  We didn’t have time to line our own pockets.  Nehemiah fed 150 people at his table in addition to those who showed up from surrounding nations.  

Then Sanballat and Tobiah sent a messenger for Nehemiah to come and meet with them.  “I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I replied, I’m doing great work, I can’t come down...4 times they sent the same message then Sanballat sent a letter accusing Nehemiah of plans to start a rebellion after finishing the wall. Nehemiah replied the there was nothing to what they were saying and that they made it all up in an attempt to intimidate the Jews into quitting.  Then he prayed, ‘Give me strength.”  Nehemiah then met secretly with Shemaiah who recommended that Nehemiah hide out in the Temple of God....Nehemiah sensed that God hadn’t sent this man.  The so-called prophecy he spoke was the work of Sanballat and Tobiah, they had hired him.  So Nehemiah declined this advice and asked God not to let his enemies and false prophets undermine his work and confidence.

The wall was finished on the 25th day of Elul.  It had taken 52 days to build.  When all our enemies heard the news, they totally lost their nerve.  They knew that God was behind this work.

3 John - 
Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make faith visible....It is good work you’re doing, helping travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself.  

Earlier I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel.  If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us...he not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians, but tries to stop others from welcoming them...instead of inviting them in he throws them out.  Friends, don’t go along with evil.  Model the good.  The person who does good does God’s work.  The person who does evil falsifies God, doesn’t know the first thing about God.  Everyone has a good word for Demetrius.